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    quokka
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Train Whistle Blowing - 6. TWB Ch 6

As we neared the end of our last flight, Mum whispered to me, “Look out your window, and welcome home,” Mum said in Cook Island Maori, and I stared out the window as I saw the island below, and a reef that forms a large clear water lagoon, and I smiled broadly.

Once we had arrived, we went through customs, and as we stepped outside, the air was fresh, with a slight breeze and the sun was just nice and warm. “Come along boys, your Grandmother has arranged for us to tag along with the resort bus, and from there she will meet us with the outrigger canoe, to get us to our family home,” Mum said to us, as she carried a few of the cases, and I carried the rest.

After meeting grandmother, who is tall and strong, which surprised me a little, we loaded our luggage onto the outrigger and climbed onboard, and Fraser was getting excited about taking a boat ride, but it was not long after our departure, that the expressions on his face told me that he was not happy.

“Mother, Fraser is about to be sea sick,” I called out, as she was the closest to my little brother, and quickly Mum grabbed Fraser at the back of his shirt, and swung him over to the edge of the outrigger, where he began to vomit into the sea.

I was at the back of the outrigger with one of the paddles, and grandmother was at the front with the other, as we continued our journey down the coast. I was not sure how far we had travelled, but when Grandmother stopped paddling, she turned back to me.

“Do you think you can uncover that outboard and get it started?” she asked me in Cook Maori, as I looked behind me, and suddenly realised that the outrigger had a motor, and it was not long before we were cruising along and a nice steady pace. We started to pass small islands with thick forests of tropical trees and palms, and I was starting to wonder how far exactly is the family island of ours.

“That is Akaiami Island, and our nearest neighbours, there are two accommodation lodges there for guests,” Mum said to me in English as we passed an island that looked like a teardrop with a slight hook on the end of it.

We passed one more very small island, before we came up to a much longer island, and suddenly we saw some people appear from the jungle and they started to wave to us. “That is your Aunty Hauku, and three of your cousins, Tui, Ruru and Aroha,” Mum announced and I waved back to them, as we continued onwards.

“Grandson, slow down, as there is a large sandbar, you need to go out into the lagoon a bit and there you will see a channel to follow in, there is a beach on the south end of the island,” our grandmother said to me in Cook Maori.

A few minutes later we were in the channel with a much smaller island on the starboard side, what on earth is that Grandmother?” I asked as I spotted an unusual floating barge of some kind. “That is our emergency storm shelter, which is a fibreglass coated aluminium barge, that has six sea anchors that keep it in place, go closer so we can have a look,” our grandmother replied.

I shut off the motor as I turned and drifted towards the barge, and I scurried across the cross beam to get to the side float, and I grabbed hold of the rope that is attached in a line, to the six bollards on the side of the barge.

After stopping the drift of the outrigger, I tied a rope to secure it to the barge, before stepping onboard the barge. What was very unusual about this huge barge is that it has steel planter boxes all along the sides and ends of the barge, with two-metre spaces to gain access to the barge.

I had already noticed that narrow slots near the bottom of each planter box to allow good drainage, with each planter box being two-metres wide and either two or four metres long. The planter boxes have a mixture of tropical plants, ranging from small palms, ferns, tree ferns, asparagus ferns and shrubs like hibiscus, bamboos, strelitzia and philodendrons.

I paced out the area, and worked out that the barge is 56-metres long and 14-metres wide, and midships on each side, there are two steel two-metre diameter boxes, that are two-metres high, with aft facing sealed doors.

I opened the nearest door, which leads down to the lower level of the barge, and as I climbed down, I was very surprised at what I saw. After a quick look around, I headed back to the top deck, where we found Grandmother, Mum and Fraser standing around the barge, which has a synthetic lawn to give the deck some insulation, and stop from getting feet burnt.

“What do you think of our little family storm shelter?’ Grandmother asked me, “Very impressive Gran, I especially like this top deck with the plants and the turf,” I replied. “I am glad to hear that, we have had this for three seasons now, and had to use it at least once each season, including one category 3 cyclone last year,” Gran replied, who had already swung the Outrigger around so the aft is now resting against the barge.

With two side mooring ropes keeping it in place, this made it easier to climb back onboard, which we did, before paddling to the large beach, and I jumped off in waist deep water to pull the outrigger high up the beach.

With the outrigger now beached, I turned to face a large group of relatives, who I was meeting for the first time ever, and I was not sure what to do.

“Hello Hunter, I am your Aunty Mere, Rangi’s wife, and these are my children, your first cousins, Ari he is 15, Kaia she is 13 and Kauri he is 11,” one of the women said. “I am your Aunty Hauku, and this is my husband Mateo, and our children, your other first cousins, Tena she is 14, Range he is 12 and Arlena she is 10,” the second women said to me.

“Wow, hello,” I said before turning back to my grandmother who had just finished helping Fraser onto the beach. “Gran, I thought you said there is a jetty on the island?” I asked, “There is nephew, it is located near our home on the north end of the island, and it is where your Uncle Rangi secures this outrigger,” Aunty Mere said to me.

“Oh, ok. So, where will the Dragonfly be moored?” I replied, “I guess next to the outrigger, it depends on what Rangi has planned. We are sorry for the recent loss of your husband and father,” Aunty Hauku responded, “Thankyou dear sister, it is still a bit of a shock that he is gone,” Mum said as she tried to fight back some tears.

With the help of our uncle and cousins, we had our luggage carted up to the main house, using the built raised boardwalk to get there, which is located about 400-metres inland from the beach. “Is everything ready?” I heard Gran ask, “Yes mother, it is all prepared, and Rangi is due to arrive home late tomorrow,” Aunty Mere replied.

When we entered the upper level of the main house, we saw that there was a feast laid out on the dining table, and Gran asked us all to take a seat and enjoy the feast, with plenty of singing and dancing, which was very enjoyable.

Fraser soon drifted off to sleep soon after dinner was over, and I carried him to his bedroom and put him to bed. After having a shower, I said goodnight to everyone before I retired to my new bedroom and I soon fast asleep in our new home.

In the morning, it took me a few minutes to remember where I am, as I dressed and headed out to the living room, “Good morning Hunter, can you wake up your brother please, and get him dressed,” Mum asked me as I entered the main living area.

Ten minutes later, I had Fraser dressed as we entered the living area, where Mum and Gran were seated in the dining area, and we joined them at the table. “What are the plans for today?” I asked, before I began to eat.

“Well, your cousin Range will be coming over to show you around the island, and since he is your age, he wanted to get to know you while showing you around. As for Fraser, he will stay with us here at the main house. Uncle Rangi is on his way home from the capital and will be arriving at about 2pm, and he will be coming to the beach first, after dropping off his friends at Arutanga,” Mum announced.

“What are the other cousins doing?” I asked, “Well the older three have taken the Outrigger out, to do some fishing for all three households, as fish is our main meat source, all though we also have domestic pigs on the island, so we have plenty of pork to keep us all well fed,” Gran replied.

“I hear that we also have free range chickens that supply us with plenty of eggs, although we don’t always know where they lay them, resulting in the occasional group of chicks following their mums,” Mum added.

“Yes, but they do tend to nest under the boardwalks that we have on the island, which makes it a little easier,” Gran said.

What is the distance from the beach were we landed to the main house Gran?” I asked, “I think it is 300 metres, and the western beach is just 160 metres away,” Gran relied. “Does it have a boardwalk to get there too?” I asked.

“Yes it does cousin, and Gran prefers that we keep to the boardwalks when travelling around the island, came a voice as we herd footsteps. “Good morning Range, you are a little early,” Gran said, “Yes, well I wanted to get an early start, if I am to be a guide today,” Range said smiling.

“How far is it from your home to this house?” I asked, “We have a boardwalk that goes nearly the full length of the island, which is 1.9 kilometres long, Uncle Rangi and Aunty Mere’s home is just 200 metre south-west of the main jetty, which is on the north-east side of the island.

Our house is pretty much in the centre of the island, and it is 750 metres from here to our home, and it is another 700 metres to the northern house,” Range answered. “That is some distance. Do you walk to get between houses?” I asked, “Yes but if we need to cart any supplies, each house has a quad bike to make life a little easier, and each of us kids have a mountain bike if we need to get from one house to another in a hurry,” Range replied.

“Each house has a wind turbine, plus solar panels and batteries to keep us well supplied with power all year long, and we have two way radio’s at each house, plus on the three quad bikes, which makes communications easier,” Gran informed us.

“I had to sell my mountain bike, when we sold up and moved here to the Cook Islands,” I said sadly, and I was surprised to see Mum smiling.

“You will find a new replacement downstairs, so eat up then you can go with Range to explore the island,” Mum said to me, and smiling I finished eating, before putting my dishes in the sink and I followed my cousin downstairs, where we found my new bike in the foyer area.

It took us only a few minutes before we arrived at Range’s home, which looks similar in design and size as the main house, and while there, Aunty Mere gave us an ice cold drink, and instructed us to remember to keep up the fluids.

Back on the boardwalk, I saw another path that headed in a different direction, “Where does that go to?” I asked my cousin, “To the beach, follow me,” Range replied as he sped off and was soon out of sight, as the tropical forest was very thick, as I started to follow him, and when I saw Range again he was at the end of the boardwalk, with the beach only just visible about ten metres away.

“Wow, this is a great little beach, small and very private,” I commented, “It is, and it is our families own little private beach,” Range replied. “What is with those trenches that come up close to the boardwalk?” I asked, “That is my dad’s and my project; we are building a lagoon, which will eventually be the location of the safety barge, so it is in a protected area,” Range explained.

“Ok, that sounds interesting,” I responded, “It will be great when it is finished, and it will include a small palm island in the middle, where there will be two bollards to secure one end of the barge, while the back end will just have the sea anchors,” Range informed me.

Looks like you have already removed a fair amount of palm trees,” I commented, “Yes the bare minimum, so as to make the lagoon, and make space for the barge, and also room for the Dragon Fly during storms,” Range replied.

“What is it like attending high school here in this district?” I asked, changing the subject completely. “Not too bad really, we even get to go on a one week excursion each year, and because we are a small high school, it is usually two years together.

Copyright © 2021 Preston Wigglesworth; All Rights Reserved.
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Great chapter. A great introduction to the new family for Hunter. The island sounds an amazing place.

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Ah...to leave the impending snowstorm that will hit tonight here in New England and to rest on such a beautiful spot as the island....I may just have to re-read this tonight after the walks are clear!!!

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18 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. A great introduction to the new family for Hunter. The island sounds an amazing place.

I have to agree @chris191070. The climate and geography of these islands sounds magnificent (photographs on the 'net appear to confirm this). I checked on the 'net as I know little about the islands. I thought they may be a group that is in danger of "sinking" due to rising sea levels, but this appears not to be the case.

Unfortunately, they are not a suitable locale to visit or live as a gay man. As is the case in a number of other Polynesian nations e.g. Fiji, male homosexuality is illegal and punishable by a maximum of 7 years imprisonment. I don't know if the people themselves are violent in their opposition to gay men as they are in Jamaica.

I recalled a number of years ago an Australian tourist was imprisoned in Fiji for consensual sex with a Fijian man. Such acts in Fiji were at the time (2005) illegal and could land you in jail for up to 14 years.

It appears the introduction of Christianity into these nations has led to this, with many fervently following their religion of choice. 

@quokka although the information I have presented may "spoil" the story for some, I do enjoy a story such as this which encourages the reader to learn more of the locale in which it is set, or where some of the action takes place. Being an Australian myself, I had certainly heard of the island group, but really had no idea where they are (apart from somewhere near New Zealand), or that they are as developed as they are. 

Edited by Summerabbacat
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Quokka, just a small correction, you mention Hunters little brother as both Fraser and Fletcher in this Chapter.Just saying. LOL.

 

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54 minutes ago, Jondon said:

Quokka, just a small correction, you mention Hunters little brother as both Fraser and Fletcher in this Chapter.Just saying. LOL.

 

Thanks mate

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