Pa the medicine man

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Rarotonga, Southern Cook Islands, Cook Islands
15/10/09 Day 6 Muri Beach, Rarotonga cross island walk, Avarua

Spectacular morning . Al went down on to the rocks to photograph the sunrise. Came back up after a while and said he'd been sat there for ages wondering why the sun wasn’t getting any closer to the horizon. Mmm….

Van picked us up right on 8.30 for Pa’s Mountain walk. Already six others in the van and we picked another two up before picking up Pa.

He is a Rarotongan, and possibly Polynesian, institution. He was barefoot, wearing a nappy thing, frond arm bands and frond knee bands and a singlet that was on back to front.

Drove up around the island and as we came around the corner into Avarua a Holland America ship is anchored off shore. It’s Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Pa is surprised to see it there as he knows the schedule of ships visiting and this one isn't expected. He suggests maybe it’s been diverted from Samoa or Tonga. Seeing the ship there just out there makes me want to stow away. I think maybe it’s on the world voyage .

We head inland at Wigmore’s Superstore. Doesn’t really look that super but maybe it’s a context thing. Headed up a winding road, past the power plant that just looks like a big shed, to our drop off point.

Pa stopped to do a bit of a bush/jungle medicine demo and then we all introduced ourselves. Two couples from the US - one on their honeymoon, a couple from Auckland who are getting married this weekend, and us two Aussie couples. The other couple is from Sydney but he has an accent like Rupert Murdoch that he explains he got when they lived in Atlanta.

The trek starts up easy enough but it’s soon very obvious that the description of rigorous exercise is correct. A lot of it is scramble and quite muddy, so very slippery. Amazingly, Al and I avoid going over although we are in the minority.

Pa points out lots of plants that have medicinal qualities including one that he gets lots of us to chew that has some kind of anaesthetic quality . Also shows us the King banana. It’s bizarre - instead of the spikes hanging down and the bananas growing up, the spikes grow up along with the bananas. They have a beautiful purple flower on the top of the spike. Talking of things growing up. Everyone was amazed at the number of natural remedies for ‘putting more lead in your pencil’. Gee were there a lot. Seemed to be a bit of a recurring theme for Pa.

He also recommended bee pollen for arthritis, something I’ll give a try when we get home. Also filling yourself with natural light and not dark light. The list was quite extensive. Although I sound just a tad sceptical, he looked bloody amazing for 69 years old.

The highlight of the walk is getting to the base of the Needle. The last part of the walk was along a very narrow ridge just below the Needle. I’m not one for heights so this was a bit of a challenge. Definitely worth it though. You could see both sides of the island form up there . Just before the final climb there is a palm tree that Pa explains was planted on the 94th birthday of an English lady who did the climb 14 years ago. She’s a bee pollen convert and is still going at the age of 108!

The walk down was supposed to be easier but if anything it was harder. More slippery. More places where you either grabbed tree roots to support yourself or took a big slide. Lots of backing down in places. Even walking through creeks. Was glad I wore sandals. Finally got to a beautiful stream where we sat on the rocks and had lunch. Little fresh water prawns in the creek that Pa called yabbies.

Got to the bottom and we were supposed to have a swim in the pool at the base of Wigmore’s Falls but Michael our driver had a 1pm pickup so we had to go. It had been a terrific morning.

One of the other people asked Pa if he could get dropped off in Avarua so we asked if we could too . I wanted to take some pictures of the ship. When we got up there it was actually the Amsterdam. I think it might be on the world cruise. Looked great just sitting off shore. Lots of little old Americans wandering around looking a bit lost. Took a photo for a couple and forgot to ask if they had been diverted here.

Had another couple of beers at Trader Jacks and then went down and caught the bus back to Muri. One Amsterdam passenger tried to pay the bus driver with USDs and the driver said to him "I’m not a bank". Some comment from him along the lines of “I don’t want any change, what would I do with your money? “  Bit of a tense moment but he got on. Didn’t realise he wanted to ride the 500 metres to the wharf where the Amsterdam’s tenders were docking. Lazy old ratbag. Some people just shouldn’t leave their holes, especially old “bow-to-me-world” Americans like that guy. Stay calm Rarotonga, they’ll be gone soon.

This is really such a beautiful place and every time we ride the bus around the island it just reinforces it .   Seeing how calm the bus driver was just makes the case even stronger.

We picked up some school kids on the way back. The first little guy to get on was really tiny. Don’t think he had any money. The bus driver wanted to know where his mum was so she could work out where to drop him off. Not sure she could get anything out of him so when all the other kids had got on she asked back down the bus “Where’s the boy in red going?” and one of them told her the stop. In Brisbane they would have left him beside the road.

As soon as we got back we headed over to Gwen’s with the $40 for the change to the bigger cottage and to ask if we’d booked a transfer to the airport in the morning. We hadn’t, but she offered to take us to the airport on her way to work. She didn’t want to take the money for the change but I insisted as she hadn’t needed to let us move without at the very least charging us a cleaning fee.

We wanted to get out in the motu for a last swim and snorkel and to have a look on the motu itself . Gwen asked us back for a glass of wine on the way out to dinner.

The water was crystal clear again but a bit deeper than the first time we went over. Was much better with goggles and snorkels as we could keep sticking our heads under and see what was happening under there.

Saw a big school of parrot fish, literally hundreds of medium size goat fish and all sorts of other fish. Got up onto the motu and of course I slipped over. Miracle it hadn’t happened yesterday but at least on the walk I would have fallen on to soft mud or bush and not hard volcanic rock. No major damage, no doubt the bruises will be there tomorrow.

We just needed another couple of days here so we could have explored the other motus in the lagoon. Maybe we’ll come back.

Al wouldn’t go to Gwen’s without taking a bottle of wine so he raced down to the servo to get one.   Was wonderful sitting out on Gwen’s verandah watching the light fade across the lagoon . What a view!! She’s just the loveliest lady and has the most amazing stories. We’ve arranged to go in to town with her in the morning early , have a coffee and some brekkie and then get dropped off at the airport.

Had booked dinner at Sails for 6.30 and eventually got there at nearly 7.30. The manager had just kept our table, no biggy, we’re on island time. No mozzie issue for me tonight cos I’d coated myself with Aerogard but Al had forgotten. Didn’t seem to be the problem they’d been the last time we were at Sails. Another really good meal.

Was a bit sad as we walked back to the cottage because we’d come to our last night on Raro.
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