The moment I even got on the tiny plane to Aitutaki I breathed a sigh of relief. This place called me all those months ago. And the place just, well, it ‘works’ for me and my body... which isn't hard considering it’s one of the remotest and laid back versions of island paradise you could find on this earth. I almost don’t want to write too much - I almost want to allow this place be a bit of a secret..
I have had moment after moment of bliss half camping in my tree house-beach hut. It’s basic and perfect. A balcony of palm leaves looking out to the sea, a washing up bowl of fresh water to get the sand off my feet. A small gas stove and a comfy bed with a mosquito net. Mosquito nets surround my open windows so I really do feel as if I’m in the trees, coconuts banging off the steel roofs in higher winds. I’m buying fresh fruit and vegetables from Sonia who grows them a couple of plots of land next door. I’m living off that and the supermarket shop (the one I had an ME crash in) and cooking my own meals most of the time.
Moment after moment of bliss.
Walking out of the sea, pulling off my snorkel mask, cracking open a coconut, feeling its juice drip down my wet sea-salty arm as I drink it. The views of the sunsets every night, the fire on the beach while people sit and chat around it under an infinity of stars. On a full moon the beach is crawling with the moving shells of hermit crabs. I walk slowly wearing my head torch as I cross the sand to the shared toilets, making sure I don't step on anything.
But it isn't only the picture perfect turquoise lagoon, the white beaches and palm trees and how quiet and cut off it is here; it's the people too. It's just about the most relaxed place I've ever been to. I feel at home here in a way I wasn't able to even on Rarotonga.
I'm sure that living, and certainly growing up, on a tiny remote island has its challenges. The cost of living is incredibly high for some basics. The local tap water isn't drinkable and the authorities need to turn it off without warning intermittently throughout the day to conserve it. The shelves of the grocery store don't have much on them until the container ship arrives once a month. Occasionally you'll find a bulk stock of something laughably cheap on the shelves - because it's only just out of its sell by date. Young people talk of being busting to leave, to get out and head to New Zealand or Australia. But I can also see why so many islanders choose come back and settle here permanently again if they do leave. After just a week I start to recognise people... there's the grandfather from the christening in church the other morning, that's the lady who sold me a paw paw.
I love turning up in a place like this without knowing anyone. I didn’t assume it would happen but as has usually been the case, I met other solo women travellers who I immediately hit it off with. Jenny the local massage therapist who has been living in The Cooks for over 15 years has also become a firm friend and wants to know when I’m going to be moving to the island (!). It crosses my mind that perhaps that’s what she asks a few clients a week, most probably when they’re in a putty-like state of helplessness on her massage table.
I know that something very special is happening here. Even if it's no more than the power of being on a few tiny bits of rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I can feel something charging me up with what I can only call a life force. This is now the most energised, well and peaceful I have ever felt in my body and mind since I fell ill. The giant sense of relief after the Rarotonga crash, is that it seems I can now recover relatively quickly in the right environment - ten days this time. From Anahata in New Zealand I am still doing small amounts of restorative yoga, chanting on the beach most mornings and sticking to Yoga Nidra (the sleep meditation that has become a daily essential). I’m not being so good at meditating - unless you count snorkelling!!??
I feel as if my world has exploded open with possibility. Who would have thought, less than a year ago when it was uncertain if I could even cope with a mobility scooter for Glastonbury, with strict physio limits and learning to live with constant flu, that I would be here feeling like this now. Freely scootering around an island in the South Pacific, snorkelling, swimming and walking. Not quite up to climbing the hill to the lookout, but I feel more or less ‘normal’. I feel healthy. Incredibly alive. I am here. I made it.
An ME/CFS Thriver