So, We Sold our Home and Ran Away to the South Pacific

CHAPTER 1: BARBECUING WITH CANNIBALS

We arrive in Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands, just before dawn.  Raro, as it is known locally, sits like an uncut emerald in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, some 2,500 miles south of the equator.  Like the Hawaiian Islands, it is volcanic in origin; its steep, basaltic cliffs thrusting out of turquoise waters.  And, like the Hawaiian Islands, it is blessed with a comfortably benign climate year-round, broken only by the occasional cyclone.  But that is where all similarity ends.  Where the city of Honolulu is a large, modern metropolis stretching over several square kilometers, Cook Island’s sleepy capital of Avarua boasts perhaps 2,000 souls, including several hundred chickens.

We disembark from the international airport terminal and make our way to the taxi stand.  The stand is occupied by some of the country’s most ambitious citizens, their primary distinction being they are up before everyone else on the island.  Tony, the Edgewater Hotel’s taxi-driver, is unrepentantly cheerful as he herds travel-weary carcasses into his van.  “Welcome, welcome,” he greets us, offering the warm smile that is the trademark of all Cook Islanders.  “I will take you to the hotel, shortly.”

Although we don’t realize it at the time, this is our first introduction to the Cook Islander’s most famous invention, ‘Maori time’, an adaptation of Einstein’s theory of relativity.  In the Cook Island version, time slows not so much as you approach the speed of light, but as you increase the amount of suntan lotion.  The nicer the day it is, the later anything gets done.  On truly fine days, time has been known to stand still.

Not that we are aware of any of this yet.  We take the disappearance of our driver as a welcome opportunity to recover from the flight, a 12-hour incarceration with screaming babies and gaseous grandfathers that left us bleary-eyed and breathless.  As we stretch our legs and gaze upon the morning light illuminating the nearby cliffs, we suck in the warm, moist air, admire the bird-of-paradise flowers growing wild beside the airport tarmac, and thank our lucky stars that we have finally arrived.

A premature blessing, as it turns out.  Our brief sojourn at the taxi stand turns into a half-hour wait; we quickly begin to lose any equanimity engendered by the tropical setting.  I approach another cabbie standing nearby, wearing a shirt with the name PawPaw written on it. “Excuse me, can you tell me what happened to Tony?”

“He had to go to work,” says PawPaw.

“He was at work.  He was supposed to drive us to the hotel.”

Pawpaw breaks into a radiant smile.  “No, he only does that at night.  In the day, he drives the ambulance.”  He turns and points to the rising sun.  “It is now day.”

We drag our luggage out of the abandoned taxi and reload it into Pawpaw’s, who soon has us on the doorstep of the Edgewater Resort.  The hotel consists of several wings of walk-up rooms radiating out from the reception area, all within easy staggering distance of the beach and frond-covered bar.  Our room, priced at $150 per night, is on the third floor of one such unit, the only wing devoid of an elevator.  We gamely lug our bags up the stairwell, all the while surrounded by a less-than-floral odour.  “What did you eat on the plane – dead dog?” asks Linda.

The room turns out to be a large efficiency unit, complete with hot-plate, kitchen and three-piece bath.  We drop our luggage on the floor and flop into the comfortably-firm, queen-sized bed; within seconds, we are absolutely, blissfully unconscious.

I awake several hours later, refreshed but still somewhat disoriented.  I cross the room and open the large curtains facing west, and am greeted by a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean.  The sun burns brightly down upon placid blue water stretching to the curved horizon.   Palm trees frame the pool, the bar and a large refuse bin, coyly camouflaged by coconut-wood logs.  Linda is still fast asleep, so I don a pair of shorts and sneakers and walk down to the carefully-groomed beach.

The entire island is encircled by a living coral reef.  At the Edgewater Resort, it comes to within about 50 meters of the shore.  It is low tide, and the water has receded out to its edge.  I wander out, picking my way between inlets of shallow water.   The first thing I note is a loud clicking sound coming from the cracks within the coral.  “Crabs,” explains a young boy walking barefoot along the reef edge.  He pulls several large specimens from a white plastic pail.  “My mom boils them for supper.”

I wish him a hearty meal, then lean over to more closely inspect the tide pools.  Tiny blue starfish slowly clamber their way across sea cucumbers, which resemble a large sausage that has been left to soak in water for a week.  The cucumbers are considered an island delicacy; judging from their proliferation, it is a delicacy that is infrequently treasured.

The tide begins to turn around supper time, and I return to the shore.  By then, Linda is awake, and the smells emanating from the restaurant area are very tempting. “You are in luck,” our hostess informs us when we arrive under the large, open restaurant palapa.  “Tonight is our Famous Island Night.”

The Famous Island Night consists of a rather large buffet and a floorshow.  The buffet is amply stocked with pork roast baked in pineapple glaze, fish marinated in coconut cream, a starchy tuber called taro root, and deep-fried breadfruit.   The dessert, we are disappointed to see, consists of canned fruit, which is a bit like dishing up biblical comic books in a monastery.  We settle in at our table with an umbrella-topped cocktail made of pineapple liqueur and orange juice.  The entertainment consists of  men and women dressed in local costume and singing traditional songs.  The women wear half coconuts tied over their breasts and grass skirts that shimmy and undulate in a most inviting manner.  A little too inviting; a group tour from Australia begins waving their Foster beer cans in the air and shouting lewd suggestions.  The drummer, a large, bare-chested warrior wearing a brightly colored sarong, diplomatically deals with the intrusion by leaping to his feet, screaming in a most blood-curdling fashion and rushing the table with his battle spear.   This causes a general retreat by the unarmed Aussies, much to the amusement of the rest of the crowd.

We take that as our cue to depart before the floorshow reaches the re-enactment of the first meeting between missionaries and cannibals.   We wander back through the grounds, admiring the beautiful, star-lit sky and the waft of ocean breeze, until we once again came within range of our room.  Linda wrinkles her nose. “Haven’t you gotten over that airline food yet?” It isn’t until we spot a back-hoe parked near our unit that we realize that all was not well in paradise.  We approach cautiously, noses tweaked, and confirm that some sort of large, concrete container is being unearthed.  “Looks like a septic tank,” I offer.  “Make that a leaky septic tank.”

We retreat back to our room, but the ripe odor follows us in.  I open the patio doors to let in the ocean breeze, but the band has by now swung into a reggae version of Que Sera, Sera, and the cacophony is enough to rattle the fillings from my teeth. “This is awful,” says Linda.  “We have to get out of here.”

I couldn’t agree more.   Fortunately, we had brought along a guidebook.  It contained a lovely map showing the location of all the motels and hotels around the island.   The prices listed for most were well below the $150 rate we were paying in the Edgewater.   With the help of a moped, we were assured, the visitor could make an easy tour of the road circling Rarotonga, an ideal way to find some accommodation more amenable, and less abusive, to the pocket book.

After a fitful night alternating between eau-de-toilet and Doris Day meets Bob Marley, we arise the next morning, determined to find alternate lodgings.  A gas station near the resort offers to rent us a scooter for $15 a day.  This is a bargain, the mechanic informs us, as the normal rate is $25, plus mileage.  “Don’t let the looks worry you,” he reassures us, stubbing out his cigarette with a bare foot then energetically kicking the small motorcycle to life.  “You can pass a Mercedes with this baby.”

I silently wonder if Mercedes ever made a tractor.  Donning sunglasses and tightly-fitting caps, we set off in search of the perfect lodgings.

True to the mechanic’s word, and much to my surprise, our scooter has some pep.  We sail along the main road past huge cedar trees,  brightly-painted buses, decrepit old lorries stacked with hay and ample women perched side-saddle on moped pillion seats, their straw hats fluttering in the wind as their husbands drive them to market.  We sing Born to be Mild and wave to everyone as we sail past.

Flying along on a scooter is very different from being chauffeured in an hermetically-sealed tour bus.  You become part of the environment, not only figuratively, but literally, as tiny bugs stick to your teeth.  That didn’t stop us from enjoying the countryside.  Plots of land in Raro are neatly laid out along the roadway, here a horse pasture, there a taro patch, each separated by a little dirt road exposing the rich, red volcanic soil beneath.  Every few kilometers, a local village appears on the road verge, marked by a petrol station, complete with hand-cranked pumps, and invariably accompanied by a local grocery, distinguished by tin signs advertising ice cream and canned fish.  We pass many family cemeteries,  the cement crypts festooned with garlands of jasmine flowers.

Several miles south of the Edgewater, we come to the Manuia Beach Motel, our first stop.  We park our transportation, by now christened Easy Rider, and inspect the premises like seasoned, world-class travelers.   The motel is a well-maintained lodge featuring thatch-roofed huts overlooking a peaceful lagoon.  Out near the breakers, fishermen in their boats pole along like gondoliers, and on the horizon, white, fluffy clouds march majestically south.  We don’t have to say anything to each other – the place is gorgeous.

I approach the young clerk at the reception.  “This is a lovely motel,” I say.  “How much do you charge to stay?”

“Three hundred dollars.”

“What, for the week?”

“No, for the night.”

I gape like a hick from the sticks; the clerk’s asking price is at least double the amount listed in the guidebook.  We hastily drive out of the motel before we are charged for breathing the air.  We continue counter-clockwise around the island, stopping at numerous hotels, but our journey confirms our worst suspicions; all of the lodgings feature rates that are almost as ludicrous as the Manuia.  We finally stop to have lunch on the beach and take stock of our grim situation.  “They want more than we paid to stay in downtown San Francisco,” laments Linda.  “How could the guide book be so wrong?”

I somberly chew my sandwich.  Something had caused hotel prices to inflate dramatically, and I had no idea why.  Suddenly, foul septic tanks and noisy bar bands and drunken Aussies didn’t seem so bad.   We finish our meal in silence and continue our journey back to the Edgewater.  We had just reached the edge of Avarua when Easy Rider suddenly begins to cough and sputter.  I angle the scooter to the shoulder where it gives one last spurt, then dies.  I spend several minutes kicking the starter, but our ancient cycle refuses to cooperate.  Finally, I heave it up onto its stand.

“Maybe it’s out of gas,” offers Linda.

I shake the bike, and the tank swishes.  “No, it sounds like it’s still half full.  Besides, we’ve only gone 25 kilometers.  It can’t possibly be out of fuel.”  We decide to call the mechanic and have him come pick us up.  I look around for a phone and spot a woman, perhaps 40, with blonde hair and a green sarong, coming our way.  She glances at the scooter, then introduces herself as Karen.  “You having a problem?”

“It won’t start,” I lamely explain.  “We rented it from a station near the Edgewater.”

Karen shakes her head.  “I’m surprised you got this far.  Come on, I’ll call and have them pick you up.”

We walk along the edge of the road, me pushing the bike, until we come to a small hotel.  Karen is the manager of the Paradise Inn, an old, converted dance hall that has been painted a bright pastel peach.  A riot of red bougainvillea clambers up trellises and spills across the arbours that cover the side verandahs.  While Karen chews out the mechanic on the phone, Linda and I inspect the hotel.  A dozen or so spacious rooms open out through double doors onto the verandah that extends all the way down the building.  The back of the lodge features a large, teakwood bar and a patio that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.  I nudge Linda.  “Have a look in the guidebook.  How much does it say a room costs?”

Linda thumbs through the accommodation section.  “Sixty dollars a night.  That means it must be about $200 by now.”

Karen finishes on the phone and hangs up.  “He’ll be around in about 20 minutes to pick you up.  Whatever you do, don’t pay him a cent to take you back.”

“Thank-you for helping us,” I reply.  “Tell me, what do you charge for your rooms?”

“Sixty dollars a night.”

“What?  That’s what the book says.”

“That’s what I charge.”

“But everyone else on the island is charging at least double.”

“I know.  They all got together last winter and jacked the rates up.”

“Why?”

Karen points out toward the Pacific Ocean.  “Where else you going to go?”   The manager lights a cigarette and adjusts her sarong.  “I told them, you’re aiming to shoot yourself in the foot.  If you want to keep people coming back, you have to charge what it’s worth, not what you can squeeze out of them.”

I look at Linda, then back at Karen.  “Do you have a room for the next month?”

Karen smiles.  “Number 7, on your right.”

By supper that evening, the Edgewater is history, and we are firmly ensconced on the Paradise Inn patio, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean.  A pair of steaks sizzle enticingly on the hotel’s barbecue grill, their marinade sauce wafting in the evening breeze.  As the sun dips below the horizon, silhouetting the surrounding palm trees in silky black, we toast one another with a glass of chilled Kiwi sauvignon blanc and listen to the symphony of surf crashing against reef.  We had found our little corner of paradise.

For the next few weeks, our life in Raro revolves around walking distance of the Paradise Inn.  Unlike holidayers trying to cram every minute full of water skiing, authentic sausage buffets and souvenir shopping, our priority is to do as little as humanly possible.  For Linda, that involves arising at a suitably late hour every morning, helping herself to a cup of fresh-brewed coffee in the bar then pulling a lounge chair to the edge of the patio and ensconcing herself in a Jackie Collins novel.

I am too fidgety for such inert luxury.   Too many years spent chasing after a story for the evening deadline had left me with a regrettable surfeit of energy, and after an hour or so of doing a crossword puzzle, I am invariably seized by the desire to leap up and explore.  Linda, understanding my weakness, charitably waves me off.  “Just don’t  do anything foolish, like buying a sailboat,” she warns.  I wander off in search of adventure and thrills, or at least a decent newspaper.

I have traveled around the world, journeying by train across Malaysia, by hovercraft through Greece and across Yugoslavia by bus, but I have discovered the most enjoyable method of travel, by far, is by foot.  By this, I do not mean hiking the Himalayas with everything but the kitchen sink strapped to my back; rather, I prefer a destination that is compact and interesting enough to encourage pedestrian exploration.  There is nothing more enjoyable than spending the day walking the bustling streets of London, for instance, poking in haberdasheries, trolling for discount theatre tickets at the numerous agencies and smelling the curries that endlessly emanate from the corner shops.   For the traveler wandering the byways at a leisurely, unstructured pace, the world is a succulent oyster, indeed.

Avarua stretches some three kilometers along  Rarotonga’s north coast, encompassing the harbour, the house of parliament, the main shopping district, several ancient churches and the airport.  The harbour draws me like a cigarette butt to a beer bottle.  In addition to several rusty freighters disgorging cargo, the dock area is filled with yachts from around the world.  Most of the sailboats bear the flags of New Zealand or Australia, reflecting the proximity of these countries, but American, Canadian and even one Irish flag flies from the stern poles.

It is the Irish boat, a 60-foot teak yacht named the Rover, that catches my attention.  As I inspect it from the dock, two men disembark in a rubber dinghy and head my way.  “Do us a favor, and tie the line,” shouts the rower to me as he reaches the dock. I secure the line and help the men ashore.  The rower is an Irishman of sixty, his face ruddy from the tropical sun.  His mate was an American, perhaps ten years younger.  I introduce myself.

“Thank-you, lad,” replies the Irishman. “My name’s Captain Billy, and this here’s Colonel Mike.  Care to join us for a grog?”

It being just after noon, I agree that this is an excellent idea and accompany the two men to the Banana Bar.  The Cook Island’s principal watering hole is a low, tin-roofed complex of buildings modeled after a missionary’s station, albeit one that favours beer over anointed water; the teak-paneled rooms are dark and well-ventilated and the Cook’s Lager draft is chilled to perfection.  We find a comfortable table and I soon learn their stories. Colonel Mike was a US army officer who served for thirty years in military intelligence with all the distinction that occupation implies.   Tall, grey-haired and possessing the retiring nature that Americans are famous for, Colonel Mike decided to settle on Raro to enjoy the tranquil life, though not necessarily contribute to it.

Immediately upon landing in Raro the week before, Mike hooked up with Captain Billy, an Irishman out of Belfast.  Billy is an overweight Protestant who loves to brag about his yacht.  For the last six years, he has been sailing the Seven Seas and avoiding paying alimony to his former wife, a discerning woman.  “We’re looking for a little action,” explains Captain Billy with a wink.  “Know any lively girls?”

I doubt if Captain Billy’s definition of lively includes choir practice.  After several more quarts of lager and a plate of fried bananas, I eventually leave the bar and stagger back toward the Paradise Inn.  The kilometer-long walk serves to clear my head somewhat, and by the time I reach my neighborhood, I am starting to think of supper.  A grocery store sits right next door to the Inn.  It is run by Papa Manu, a short, bald butcher who favors his profession’s universal uniform, a bloody white apron.   In the few days that we had been living at the Paradise Inn, I had already noticed the impressive amount of garbage that had accumulated on Papa Manu’s property.  Outboard motor carcasses, washtubs and pie-bald tires were to be expected, of course, but he had augmented this effluvia with bamboo scaffolding, oil drums, basaltic boulders and ice cream carts to create a veritable playground of Eden for his herd of children and scrawny chickens.

Today, I notice a large pillar of smoke rising into the palm trees on his property.   It is too large for a cook-out, unless, of course, the chef was reverting to traditional cuisine.   I go into the grocery store and introduce myself as a new neighbour and ask what the fire is about.

Papa Manu beams from behind the meat counter.  “I’m cleaning up the yard – my son turns 21 today.”

“Congratulations.  Are you planning a party for him?”

“Come with me, you will see.”  Journeying out through the back door, we pick our way across a muddy patch to the back yard.  The oil drums and old washtubs had been shoved onto his neighbor’s property, and a large bonfire of coconut husks and shipping palettes accounts for the rest of the missing mess.  In addition, several pits are dug in the soft sand and lined with rocks.   A large tent has been erected over one corner, and several buffet tables set up under the shade.  Five piglets are tied to the palm trees adjacent to the lagoon, where they munch on corncobs.

Papa Manu leads me to the pigs.  “See how fat they are? They will be delicious.  It will be a bloody great party, you will see.  You must join us.”

“Thank-you,” I reply.  I admire the pigs, who in turn nervously eye a large oil drum filled with simmering broth.  “I am sure it will be a delightful celebration.”

We part company, and I scoot through a bamboo patch, back to the Inn, where I find Linda in our room.  “We’ve been invited to a party tonight!”

Linda is bent over the hot-plate, fiddling with the controls.  “Does it include supper?”

“Fresh roast pig.”

“Great.  I can’t figure out how to make this cooker work.”

Our room is a delightful contradiction of comfort and idiosyncrasy.  It has been artfully designed to take advantage of the high ceiling and roof vents, a legacy of the dance hall; the sleeping loft was placed near the overhead fan to ensure cool breezes during the night.  The toilet is housed in a little closet, and the shower area is large enough to allow two to bathe.  A compact kitchenette area, complete with fridge, sink and countertop, leaves sufficient room for a small dinner table and sofa.

Some of our room features are unpredictably annoying, however.  The huge palm trees that grow adjacent to the verandah supply much-needed shade during the day, but the fronds noisily drag across the corrugated roof during windy nights, and, once, a coconut landed on the tin roof at 3 a.m. with the impact of a mortar shell.  The portable tape deck that serves as our entertainment centre only plays tapes backward, which is only slightly worse than the daily polka hour on the official government FM radio station.

But our lodgings’ shortcomings are more than compensated by its charm; the planet already has more cookie-cutter Holiday Inns than it will ever need, and I will gladly trade all the paper toilet sanitizers in the world for the gecko that eats the bugs in my room.

Our supper plans settled, I retire to the patio, there to admire the Pacific Ocean.   For those people fortunate enough to live by the ocean, I suppose it is no big thrill.  The water is often too cold to swim in, storms erupt without warning and cool mornings are tinged with a dampness that cuts right to the bones.  But for those who spend their lives parked in the middle of the continent, it is a balm, indeed.  There is nothing so relaxing as sitting by the beach and listening to the surf wash endlessly on the shore.

I had no sooner sat down when I spot a spray of mist emanating from the ocean about 100 meters past the coral reef.   I grab the hotel binoculars and focus on the region, hoping to spot a dolphin.  To my amazement, the waves part and a whale the size of a bus hurtles forth, splashing down again to one side.

I quickly shout for Linda.  Karen, hearing the commotion, emerges from her quarters.   “Looks like a Humpback,” she explains, shading her eyes.  “She’s got a baby, too.”  The whales, once nearly extinct, have regained their former numbers and are now seen quite frequently around the Cook Islands.  They spend most of their summer months feeding off Antarctica, but when the cooler weather creates ice cover, they journey north to the equator where they mate or give birth.  By September, they begin their long journey southward again, traveling in small packs with their young.

Karen is right; the first small plume I had seen belonged to a baby whale.  We can clearly discern two pointed humps periodically breaking the water as they troll adjacent to the reef.  At one point, the five-meter off-spring breaks the surface half a dozen times in a row.   “Nobody knows why they do it,” says Karen.   “There’s no biological or feeding reason.”

“Maybe they’re just happy nobody’s trying to kill them anymore,” offers Linda.

We are interrupted in our musings by a blood-curdling scream next door; Papa Manu is dispatching the first of the pigs.  Amid much squealing and agony, the main course is drained and degutted in an old bathtub and shorn of its bristles in the coals, then dunked in the oil drum of simmering water to cleanse and soften the exterior.  The carcass is then wrapped in banana leaves and wet cardboard and buried in a barbecue pit.  Linda and I cringe at the spectacle, but Karen merely shrugs.  “How can you stand it?” I ask.

“Ever wonder how they get  your breakfast bacon into those tidy little packets?”

An elderly German couple appear on the hotel patio, inquiring about lodging.  “You’ve got a choice between which side you want a room on,” offers Karen. “You can stay on the east side, which features roosters, or you can go with the special events on the west side.” She cocks a thumb over her shoulder as another one of the porkers passes on in a particularly spine-chilling demise.

“Got anything on the other side of the island?” asks the husband.

That night, just before the big celebration is about to begin, Colonel Mike and Captain Billy show up at our door.  Colonel Mike, a born opportunist, has heard about the makings of a free feast,  and wangled an invitation.  “Really great of them, especially when they asked me to bring Captain Billy along,” he enthuses.  Both Linda and I are more than struck by the similarity between Captain Billy’s flushed face and the evening’s main menu.  The pair soon depart, eager to be first in line at the buffet.

They are wise to leave early.  By the time we arrive,  the smell of roast pork wafting along the shore has attracted a horde of revelers, and the food area is a mad scramble for plates and meat. “Everyone line up,” hollers Mama Manu, who resembles Papa Manu in a dress.  “There’s enough for everyone.”

Captain Billy has been partaking from a keg of free beer.  “You heard the old sow,” he shouts.  “Line up, you lazy bastards.”

Papa Manu, in the midst of slaking a baking pit with a pot of water, takes offense to the portly mariner’s insult.  “Hey, fatty,” he challenges.  “You want to eat supper, or you want to be supper?”

Captain Billy puffs out his large gut.  “What you going to do about it?”

Papa Manu grins widely in much the same manner his forebears no doubt greeted the first missionaries that ventured onto this beach.   He turns and shouts something in Maori that bears a striking resemblance to “Come and get it!”

The result is dramatic.  In addition to being a butcher, Papa Manu is also the captain of the local rugby team, and those few short words bring half a dozen stout lads running.   The hapless sailor has only a few seconds to scream before his vocal chords are choked off by a pineapple and he is unceremoniously tossed into the pit.  Fortunately for Captain Billy, Papa Manu has over-doused the pit and he suffers little more than damage to his dignity.  With the aid of Colonel Mike, he clambers out of the soggy pit and quickly scampers off, amid gales of laughter.

After dinner, plates and tables are cleared to make way for the band.  A group of local musicians play an impromptu set of reggae, as well as numerous island numbers featuring complex vocal harmonies and an electric ukulele.  Regardless of the music, everyone favors the traditional island dance, which involves a lot of hip gyrations and arm movement.  I heartily recommend avoiding doing ‘the bump’ with any woman weighing over 300 pounds.

By midnight, it seems that half the island is in attendance, and the joint is heaving.  The adjacent main road is backed up for several hundred meters as revelers abandon their cars and walk to the party.  Empty bottles of Cook’s lager roll about underfoot, laid to rest where they have been consumed.  Sonny the birthday boy dances the night away with a pretty woman named Tiunu.   They are obviously very much infatuated with one another and are just about to depart for some lip wrestling in the bushes when they are interrupted by the arrival of Sonny’s fiancée.  Sweet Susan, who shares the same dimensions as an upright piano, has arrived from the nearby island of Aitutaki as a birthday surprise.  To say that Sonny is surprised is an understatement; horrified would be more accurate.  When Sweet Susan charges in his direction, I am impressed by his mobility in reverse gear.  Unable to catch his rapidly retreating form, Sweet Susan instead turns her attention to Tiunu, grabbing a healthy fistful of her thick raven black hair.

To her credit, Tiunu gives as well as she gets.  Although over-matched by a good 50 pounds, she is quick with her fists and the pair roll energetically in the dirt, kicking and screaming, much to the delight of the mob.  It is, in fact, the cheering that eventually attracts the attention of the police.  Suspecting a cock fight, which has been declared illegal by parliament, the cops arrive with motorcycle sirens blazing, igniting the crowd into another traditional Cook Island celebration, the Saturday-night riot.

We decide it is time to retire back to the Paradise Inn and cut through the back of the Manu’s yard.  We find Papa Manu resting beside an empty barbecue pit, a quart of ale tucked tenderly in the crook of his arm.  “What did I tell you?” he muses as we walk by.  “Isn’t it a bloody great party?”

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