13th of August 2015, Nassau Island
Sorry folks, somehow I missed this blog from Ben, it’s out of sequence but here it is now (Mama KWAI)
During our one day stay in the enchanting island of Nassau I went ashore to have an interview with Papa Topetai Neao. “Jerome is my christian name”. Here is his story.
Papa Topetai descends from a strong race. He is 70 years old, has 10 children and 60 grand children. In 1974 he moved to Nasau to become the catechist for the Catholic church. He also fulfilled the function of Agriculture official. At that time there were 120 people on the island of whom many were involved in the production of copra. When the trade in copra came to an end in 1986 many people left the island to find work in New Zealand and Australia. Only 70 odd people stayed back on Nasau, creating a tight bond. Even today you will find a community that will welcome any stranger as a long lost friend.
The island is more elevated than other pacific islands and thus protected from the waves. In 2005 during hurricane Persey the people had to find shelter in the local school building. When they came out they found their island in shambles. Plenty palm trees didn’t survive the destruction so since then many trees have been planted and nowadays you will find an island that flourishes. There are no motorcars, only some tractors and motorbikes. The timber houses are nicely painted and have modern toilet and shower facilities. This year the government of the Cook Islands installed a solar energy plant (3 panels per capita!) and built an electricity distribution network with public street lighting. Life is good on Nasau.
Papa Topetai showed us his house surrounded by dwarf palm trees with huge drinking coconuts. I asked him if I could take one of the sprouted nuts back home to Christmas island. No more climbing trees for me.
Later during that day half of the Kwai crew went over to see the shipwreck of the M.V. Manutai that’s buried in the dense palm tree forest on the west coast of the island. A tropical storm had swept it onto the elevated island decades ago and there the rusty monster has started to assimilate with nature. John, one of our passengers told me he used to sail on this ship when he was a kid. Similar to the Kwai the cargo ship carried local passengers between the islands. John told me that there were two sister ships owned by Silk and Boyd and at that time the Manutai was already a stinky old wreck of a ship bound to go down sooner or later. Boy, that wasn’t far off the ship’s final destination.