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Trials in Paradise
Last Updated: Jul-04-2015, Hits: 2,883, Rating: 0.00, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Trials in Paradise
In 2002, my wife and I accompanied several friends on a group trip to the Cook Islands. We had been to Hawaii before, but were completely unprepared for the beauty, fun, and drama that we would experience in the South Pacific. For those who have never been to the Cook Islands, it is simply gorgeous - literally heaven on earth. Our itinerary had us staying a few days on Rarotonga with a short 3 day jaunt over to Aitutaki and back to Raro for about 8 more days.

One of the first things a couple of my friends wanted to do was find these Indian burrito things (Rotis) that they had eaten on their last trip here. We arrived at a place that they thought they had purchased them before. They asked the lady if she sold them and all she could tell us was "they are on the other side of the island". So we took a 20 minute scooter ride to the other side of the island and asked a couple of people there that responded, "they are on the other side of the island". After a lot of driving around we eventually found them. The point is that people on Rarotonga, while friendly, aren't particularly helpful. Their pace (island time) is much slower than ours and their degree of helpfulness is very different than what most of us are used to. Or maybe it is just that they are trying to be helpful, but don't know the answer and make something up. Hard to say, but it is a theme that was pretty common during the trip. For example, when in a restaurant you might ask what the meat dish is and they will answer, "its just meat". "What kind of fish are you serving?", might be answered with "its fish". I suppose it was a little annoying at first, but became pretty funny as the trip went on.

We flew over to Aitutaki and on the first day there, we took a boat ride around the lagoon which left us to spend the night on One Foot Island. Unfortunately, we forgot most of our food that we had bought. Keep in mind that One Foot Island has no electricity or phone and you are literally stranded on a deserted island. Fortunately, we remembered to bring several liters of Gin and drank our dinners. That night there was a massive storm like nothing I have seen back home in Oregon. It was like a typhoon with buckets of rain, howling winds, and tons of lightning strikes. I experienced the storm first hand because I had to sleep in it due to my friends kicking me out of the lodge because of my horrible snoring. I really can't blame them, but I was soaked to the bone when I woke up the next morning.

While in Aitutaki, the limited food options forced me to survive on a diet almost exclusively made of fruit. Most places we went only had parrot fish which I didn't like and is a reef fish that contains neurotoxins that are bad for westerners. So fruit it was and I ate a ton of it. Unfortunately, due to years of abstaining from fruit, this led to a form of travelers diarrhea that can only be described as explosive and completely uncontrollable. And it truly was travelers diarrhea because it made the trip back to Rarotonga with me.

Everytime I tried to leave the house and go eat with everybody, I would have to turn around half-way there to go back to the toilet at the house. One day, I thought I was feeling better and decided to go golfing. First of all, this was the most FUBAR golf course you can imagine. There were metal power line towers all over the course and you had to try to drive the ball through them. Other times you would be teeing off aiming at someone who was teeing off aiming at you. It was complete madness. So there we are on the 4th hole and I start percolating again. I know that I only have a matter of moments to get to the toilet so I take off running.

I get to the bathroom and there are 2 stalls, one of which is already taken. I enter the stall and there is no damn toilet seat and it looks like there is poop on the walls and AIDS growing in the bowl. We later named this bathroom, "The Candyman Toilet". For those of you that have seen the movie, this will make perfect sense. Anyway, I am propping myself up by squatting and bracing my arms against the side walls trying not to touch anything, especially the toilet. Being out of shape, my arms and legs eventually gave way and I collapsed in the toilet. Needless to say, that was the end of golf for me.

I was finally able to find some Kaopectate and just enough dignity to rejoin the group for the remainder of the vacation with the exception of one momentous day. This was the day that the others decided to climb to the top of the mountain. I knew if I didn't have the strength to hold myself out of the foulest toilet in the South Pacific, there was no way I was going to be able to climb a mountain. I honestly don't remember what I did while they were on the mountain, but I was away from the house for at least part of the time.

When we met up back at the house, we discovered that it had been broken into. A carton of cigarettes and my wife's backpack were missing and as luck would have it, my passport was in my wife's backpack. I had no idea how screwed I was.

We discovered the theft late thursday night and were to leave on Saturday morning so time was of the essence. On friday I called the police and had one of the most insane conversations that I have ever had in my life. I explained to the police officer that my passport was in my wife's backpack which was stolen. Due to whatever mental defect she was suffering from, she wouldn't believe that my passport was in my wife's backpack, called me a liar, and accused me of stealing my wife's backpack. I got pissed and tried using that thing known as logic with her. "Why would I steal my wife's backpack?", I yelled. "I don't know. Why don't you tell me?", she replied. I thought I was losing my freaking mind. It took an hour for her to finally be convinced that I had not stolen the backpack and she opened a police report.

After that ridiculous call, I called Air New Zealand and told them what happened. They said I would not be allowed to board a plane under any circumstances without my passport. I then visited the Cook Islands department of tourism in order to ask them about getting a replacement passport. They had absolutely no idea how to do this. I then called a friend back home to look up where the closest U.S. consulate was located and found out that it was in Auckland, New Zealand. I then had to call their emergency number and spoke with the first person so far that was interested in helping. The man told me that I needed to get to Auckland to get a new passport. I explained to him that the airlines wouldn't let me fly to Aukland without a passport. Furthermore, after spending $3,500 on this trip, I couldn't afford to purchase the $2,000 ticket to New Zealand and back home anyway. The man said that he would call the airlines and see if they could work something out, but it was late Friday and my plane was supposed to leave in the morning. It was becoming more and more clear that I was the first person to ever lose a passport in the Cook Islands.

It was saturday morning and I had still not heard from the consulate in Auckland which was officially closed. Time was up, I was defeated, and had no where else to turn. I told my friends and wife, "I guess I live here now". Meanwhile, one of my friends was getting his CSI on and reconstructing the crime in his head. He figured the thiefs were probably kids and asked, "if you were a kid that just stole a backpack from a house, what would you do?". He answered his own question by saying that he would probably find a nearby secluded spot and rifle through the backpack to remove the stuff he wanted to keep and ditch the rest. He immediately took off running up the beach by himself. We all stood there thinking that it was an odd time to go for a run, but a few minutes later, he came running back with the backpack and my passport in hand. Just as he had thought, the kids had found a jungly spot right off the beach to go through the backpack.

I completely freaked out and nearly started crying. The previous 2 days had been so frustrating and surreal.

So what is the moral of this story? I can't wait to go back...

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