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Home > Places

Incident in Rarotonga

By Jonathan Harwood, our fearless South Seas correspondent.

27 September 2003

First a bit of background - Rarotonga is the largest of the 15 Cook Islands which are scattered across some 2 million square kilometres of the south Pacific Ocean, 2,000 miles from the nearest city. Raro (as it's known) is lush and green, draped in rainforest and fringed with white sand beaches, which disappear into a turquoise lagoon inside a fringing coral reef that keeps the mighty ocean at arms length. The peaks of the inland mountains are often obscured by cloud, palm trees sway in the leisurely breeze and the scent of frangipani drifts gently from garden to...

...well you get the idea.

The people, Polynesians, are uniformly friendly and scoot around the circular coastal road that runs right round the island on mopeds and in pick-ups - generally at around 30mph. It is also seemingly obligatory for the scooter riders to carry large containers of fruit, gas cylinders and / or small children while making their way from one place to another. They drive slowly because the pace of life is slow. People walk slowly too, it is generally to hot during the day to try and rush anywhere.

The unhappy lot of the scooter rider is something of an issue in Rarotonga at the moment. They are under assault from the island's wildlife. Rarotonga is blessed with a staggering number of stray dogs - 2000 is a rough estimate. These skinny creatures congregate after dark and fight in big bundles by the side of the road, often erupting out of bushes in a frenzy of canine enthusiasm, and generally in front of motorists. More annoyingly a sole dog will often lurk in a bush and will wait for a passing moped, at which point it will leap forward teeth bared, barking manically.

Sometimes the dogs are so determined to cause mayhem that they actually dive under the wheels of the bike, this kamikaze action is guaranteed to unseat the rider and is probably the greatest source of work for the doctors up at the hospital. The dogs are generally put down for this stunt. Partly because they have gone a bit too far this time, and secondly because they have been run

As yet, I have escaped dog attack, but the other day I was attacked by a herd of eight pigs.

There I was, happily picking some chillis from my chilli bush, when out of the undergrowth emerged the herd of slavering hogs. Unusually for me I had a couple of rather old avocadoes about my person - which, in a gesture of friendship between man and beast, I tossed to the porkers.

They wolfed them down and then decided that I was to be approached for more. I shuffled backwards as they jostled ever closer and then, sniffing my fear, began trotting right at me. I picked up my pace and started for the door. They broke into a run too.

Fortunately, seeing as they were all piglets and only came up to my ankles, I was able to outrun them over the 10 feet back to the safety of my flat and slam the mosquito screen in their sweet little faces.

Then they hung around snuffling loudly outside for a while - if it had been a TV show it would have been "When Babe Attacks". I was tempted to grab one to fatten up for Christmas. But I knew if I'd done that I would have given it a name and housetrained it and had it sleeping on the bed before the month was out. So I shooed them off and went back to my empty, lonely house.

I hope I did the right thing.

A lovely pic of a Rarotongan pig:


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