Terei- A Cook Islands Romance - Aitutaki Lagoon Wedding and Honeymoon.
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Aitutaki Island Wedding
The engine started, and a steady powerful Toc Toc Toc came from the exhaust, whilst a stream of cooling water came from the outlet in the side of the hull. We were off.
For me, it was a magical sensation, standing on the deck of this lovely old boat, making our way out of Arutanga harbour and heading for the main lagoon. Terei was an expert pilot, and he guided Captain Withers through the channels with consummate ease. It wasn’t long before the Captain wordlessly handed Terei the wheel, and joined us sitting on the hatch, and I thought what a great vote of confidence this was. To my surprise, ‘South Wind’ didn’t seem to be such a tight fit through the coral as I had thought she would be. I always seem to take a pessimistic viewpoint in such matters – perhaps it is the
cautious legal mind at work.
As we threaded our way past the huge coral heads, I had fantasies of standing with Grandfather William on the “Queen of Sheba,” and on this most happy of days, I’m sure the old man was with us in spirit and even though I had never met him, I could feel his presence. Maybe his hand guided Terei’s at the wheel, who after all was as much his grandson as I; as I had seen, the very same blood ran through our veins.
Once we were through the labyrinth of coral that stretched like a long reef from the mainland, we were in much clearer waters, and Terei put on a bit more speed, heading straight out into the vast blue and green watery wilderness. We motored on for perhaps thirty minutes before he slowed the ship and turned to me.
“What do you think Davey, is this the right place?” Terei called.
He’d positioned the ‘South Wind’ right in the middle of the lagoon, halfway between the main island and the motus. I looked at Miss China and she smiled and nodded, so I gave Terei the thumbs up, and he idled the engine, whilst Captain Withers and Jack dropped the anchor with a clattering roar. With the anchor safely down and holding in the sandy bottom, Terei stopped the engine.
No one spoke, or made a noise – the silence was profound, with only the wind singing in the sheets, and the flap, flap of one corner of the tarpaulin. Throughout the trip, I’d taken photographs to ensure we had a record of this most happy of days, and I now took several more. Looking at them you can almost see the silence, if you can understand what I mean. The photographs capture the fragile blue of the sky and the high wispy white, trailing clouds, matching the delicate multiplicity of blues and greens of the watery world that surrounded us. In some of the photographs, you can see the main island, pale blue and grey with distance, a wedge of land between lagoon and sky. Other photographs capture the little reef islets - the motus - stretching like gems along the white feathering strand of the reef. In all of them, the strong brown wooden mast, boom and hull of ‘South Wind’ feature, as much a part of this wild place as the sea and sky.
Whilst I had been preoccupied with photography, and with my inner thoughts, Miss China had slipped in to Captain Wither’s cabin with Mama Yang and Queen Lily. They would now be dressing her in her bridal gown, the very one that Mama Yang herself had worn as a young woman being married in Samoa, over 40 years ago. I readied the camera, whilst Pastor Iobu made his preparations, and our little group settled themselves on chairs in rows on the hatch cover. Terei and Afa were in conversation in low tones with Captain Withers, no doubt talking about fishing.
The bridesmaids, all pretty in deep pink satin and flowers were waiting at the cabin door to hold Miss China’s train, Jack waiting with them and I noticed that he held a small squeezebox in his hands. At last the cabin door opened.
Mama Yang’s head appeared and said. “We’re ready.”
Jack struck up the Wedding March on his squeeze box, the notes sounding clear and bold in the sea air – he played it well with some gusto, and through the door came Miss China.
She moved slowly and very carefully, so as not to entangle or snare the dress on the ship with Rose and Belinda holding the train, whilst Alma and Doris came behind. It took some tricky manipulation for her to attain the hatch cover, but she did so expertly and with grace all the while with a pensive smile, at last coming to where Pastor Iobu and I were standing. As I had to be waiting for her on the hatch cover, I had delegated Afa to take the photographs from the time she came from the cabin and it looked as if he was covering everything well. As it turned out, he made a good job of the photography. She looked very beautiful in this lovely old fashioned bridal gown, made with cream silk and lace – but it is very difficult to describe my emotions on seeing her in this way. It suffices to say that she made the kind of bride that every man dreams of deep within his heart, but so seldom gets.
Pastor Iobu conducted the wedding ceremony with dignity and aplomb, and I can recall now the breeze blowing off the lagoon rustling Miss China’s veil, as if it too were giving a benediction to our union. The terns wheeled in the sky over Rapota Motu as we repeated our vows, and after Terei had handed me the ring, and I had placed it on Miss China’s finger, the Cook Islands family sang the Lord’s Prayer in Maori. It was very moving, and I count it as the major watershed experience in my life’s journey ; the point from which everything for me changed absolutely from then on, rather like a piece of music suddenly changing from a minor to a major key.
Copyright: Desmond John Clarke - Aitutaki Cook islands 2007