On one of those windy days on Rabi we hiked across to the north tip of the island escorted by Tabeta and her young brother Taipau. Tabeta chatted with confidence while Taipau competed silently for hike leader, grabbing the machete and swiping at bothersome vines or branches along the way. Sometimes he would dart off the path to bring us edible treats like cocoa pods. We sucked on the fleshy pulp around the seeds inside and found it very refreshing. The taste reminded me of lemonade. Some of the pods were too mature, the seeds already sprouted and quite dry, so we threw these away. It was interesting to see the different stages of growth. We have kept some seeds to dry and roast for making "cocoa tea", brewed local style by boiling the roasted seeds and simmering for a while. The trick is to add lots of sugar and milk!
The trail climbed up a hill, passed beside a kava patch belonging to Tabeta's family and then through a taro patch planted by Tabeta's cousins. We went down into the valley on the other side and came out at a small sandy beach beside an ancient tree. The wind was blowing right into the bay and the sea was full of whitecaps. There was a woven palm shack at the other end of the beach but no sign of life. Three hammocks hung limply from a large tree beside a little freshwater stream. Tabeta led us across to a neat looking field of taro and showed us how they use a sharpened branch to dig a hole for planting. It is hard work keeping the field cleared as the jungle takes over very very quickly. The family who owns the land here come over from the main village and must work very hard to maintain their plantation. There was a wooden cradle built in the shallow water for drying copra.
Little Taipau shimmied up a very tall leafless fruit tree and shook the branches, raining custard apples all around us. He did not climb down until the very last fruit had fallen to the ground! We used the machete to peel the fruits and enjoyed munching on them while swinging in the hammocks. Our feast continued on the return trail to Albert Cove as Tabeta opened up some young sprouting coconuts for us - their sweet spongy centres make a delicious dessert. She also picked some tiny purple berries on bushes growing beside the path and I found a chilli bush. All in all it was a lovely nature walk.
|A grand old tree along the trail|
|Rani planting taro with Tabeta's help|
|Can you see Taipau in the tree?|
|Taipau breaking open Indian almonds|
|edible purple berries|