Saturday 27 February 2010

Paradise being regained

And we were - made very welcome, by everyone we came across, even though they had so much else on their minds. Poor battered island: coconut palms leaning and lop-sided, huge mahogany and mango trees on their sides, bright yellow and red grasses uniformly brown, flame trees stripped of not only their bright orange flowers but also their leaves. And debris everywhere: roofing iron wrapped around trees, broken glass and nails, houses without roofs, with windows boarded up, with collapsed walls; and overlaying the lot, palm fronds, leaves, twigs and branches. Boy is it a mess. Just the thought of all the work that has to be done made me feel exhausted: six hours of cyclone has made months of toil for the Aitutakeans.

But they've made a start: the roads are clear, there are sawn tree-trunks piled up neatly, mangled shrubs have been pruned, and people are wearing their rakes to stubs as they gather up all the windblown rubbish to compost or burn. At Pacific Resort, a team of cheerful men was working along the beach scraping up all the leaves and broken coral on the sand and leaving it tidy and inviting, while others crawled over the gardens and still more sawed and hammered on the roofs of a couple of the more exposed beachfront villas. I couldn't decide if I felt better or worse about having nothing to do but hang over the edge of the infinity pool watching them. I did pick up a couple of bits of rubbish from the bottom of the lagoon when I went snorkelling, so go me.

And the lagoon, the jewel in Aitutaki's crown, is as beautiful as ever.

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