Monday, March 12, 2012

 The two faces of Pa, the Cook Islands
Within minutes of our arrival for an eco-tour with Pa, the Cook Islands herbalist had taken exception to my companion Amanda's T-shirt. "That symbol disturbs me" he said pointing at the "Day of the Dead" skull emblazoned across its front. "It's not a loving symbol Amanda and I would like you to take it off. " But it was not quite as bad as it sounded. Pa was happy to provide an alternative. After much haggling when Amanda refused to make a swop, but offered to turn the T-shirt inside out or back to front to keep the peace, Pa gave us a huge infectious grin, the matter was dropped, a prayer was recited, and off we went on our eco-tour.

Pa and Amanda on the Cook Islands
Pa, 72 years old, a herbalist and mountain guide - and from all I had heard, a very successful one-man publicity machine for the local promoters of the Cook Islands - was dressed in little more than a pair of baggy shorts, with spliced palm fronds fastened to his arms and legs. He had a bunch of flowering thyme stuck behind his one ear and a tattered frangipani blossom behind the other. 
Not only was our Cook Islander a respected herbalist among the locals and visitors, he was also a darling of celebrities. 
Pa's shampoo remedy on the Cook Islands
Dread locks in skinny strands knotted here and there covered his head. Taking a prickly red fruit from a nearby bush he squeezed the juice over his head. "It's the best shampoo you can use" he said. Pa claims to have cures for virtually every ailment including cancer and we sampled a plethora of traditional medicinal cures on a walk that took us along winding dirt roads, through the bush, across streams and to the foot of craggy mountains covered in dense jungle foliage. 
Honeymooners, Maria and Robert on the Cook Islands
Honeymooners Maria and Robert from New Zealand persevered to the very end while we, Amanda and I, left a little earlier and duly got lost.
Images copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday, 12th March, 2012.


At March 18, 2012 at 1:09 PM , Blogger Nicola Gordon said...

Quite a character - would love to go on one of his 'herbal hikes'.


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