I get in the car in the Rarotonga airport carpark next to Joe/Joey. He was the right Joey. I'm just about to put my seatbelt on and Joey quickly stops me (he says everything quickly) “We never wear seat belts here”. "I'm sure Joey. I'll just need a bit of time to get used to that" I reply, clicking myself in. To prove his point the belt leaves a diagonal line of dust along my top. He drives me the 20 mins or so to their smallholding off the Matavera back road at the foot of the deep-green covered volcanic peaks that form the centre of the island. Hens and roosters are everywhere. Plus a couple of goats, some cats and a pig.
Joey’s German wife, Odette is a generous powerhouse of a woman who manages to keep up her job in an insurance company while looking after up to 7 Airbnb travellers at a time. I very nearly step on a baby chick running around the deck that was separated from its family and now thinks Odette is its mother. It goes everywhere with her, running around her desk at the insurance company and along the kitchen counter while she’s cooking.
Nights are noisy. Crickets, dogs in the distance, the odd fly or mosquito close by.. It reaches a crescendo in the early hours of the morning when life screams itself into existence. And even all of those sounds are drowned out by a sonic Mexican wave of what sounds as if every rooster on the island (quite possibly more roosters than people) is in some kind of a competition to see who can ‘rooster’ the loudest. I start to identify different individuals on the farm, one rooster who has a hilariously unselfconscious pathetic little croak. The first Rooster-Off begins about 2am, then returns at 4am, 5am.. by 6am the day is pretty much up and running and the sounds of the other island birds can be heard again.
We have long extended breakfasts all together on the deck, talking about island life and travellers tales. Joey finds me fresh coconuts. The heat swells. It rains on and off.
An ME/CFS Thriver