Thea Pijpers


(23 April, 2010)
Around 7.30am yesterday morning I saw what I thought was a monster stuck in the creek which runs alongside my house. However, on closer inspection I realized that it was an immense orange-coloured object about 2m long and 80cm wide. I didn’t really know what it was at the time but was later advised that it was a fishing float or buoy, which had probably detached itself from the wreck of a Japanese fishing trawler that had foundered on the reef years ago and had broken up on the motu (small island) opposite my property. The buoy had presumably floated free and eventually ended up in ‘my’ creek.
Not knowing exactly what to do, I stopped a passerby on his scooter and asked him to have a look in the stream, which he did. His advice was to simply leave it where it was, before he left the scene and disappeared into the distance, probably to buy bread for his breakfast. I knew the man, a local villager who was rather taciturn and not too friendly. Our brief relationship was probably one of mild mutual dislike.
I then climbed down into the creek and tried to get this thing refloated, but it was extremely heavy, since it was probably full of water and was firmly stuck in the sand. I was concerned that when the tide came in it might block the culvert through which the creek flowed, and since it had been raining for two days it could cause severe flooding. I decided to call the Environment Department who initially suggested that I approach Papa Kapu, an 85 year old man, who might help me. But I didn’t think that Papa Kapu should delegate the matter, so they then told me to go to the pastor of the local Cook Islands Christian Church and explain the situation. They felt that since he lived nearby he would surely know some very strong men who could lift the buoy out of the creek. But I didn’t feel like approaching the pastor, since I always thought that a clergyman was responsible for other worries related to the salvation of the souls of his flock. Normally the Environment Department is responsible for the whole island, but in this instance I got the impression that they were not taking the problem too seriously.
I felt stranded, wondering what should be my next step, when I saw a police vehicle approaching. I waved it down and explained the situation to the two officers, a man and a woman. The policewoman insisted that I should call the Health Department, while the policeman opted for the Environment Department. I told them I’d already contacted the latter and rather timidly suggested that perhaps it was within their sphere of duty, and would be more effective, if they contacted these departments on my behalf. The policewoman considered this for a moment and agreed to do so when she returned to her office at police HQ in Avarua.
About two hours later I saw two strong men, weighing around 100 kilos each, trying to wrench the buoy free. But the task was impossible. They thought that the float might have come from Tahiti but, in hindsight, I think it more likely that it came from the wreck of the Japanese fishing boat mentioned above. But the question of its origin did not resolve the immediate predicament until one of the men asked if I had a strong rope. Fortuitously, I’d earlier retrieved a length of rope from the creek, so I gave it to the men who tied one end around the monster and attached the other to their truck. Probably using an elephant would have been easier, but eventually, with a lot of noisy, labouring revving from the truck’s motor, they succeeded in hauling the offending object out of the creek and onto the tray of their vehicle. It was a relief and a picture for the gods to see them departing with the buoy on board to a destination unknown and no longer a hazard in ‘my’ creek.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Thea Pijpers.
Published on on 12/16/2011.


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