Last Friday a few of us went to Maiana, an outer island south of Tarawa. Picture this; leaving on a 20 seater plane arriving on a swampy airfield which doubles as the road to the airport where we were greeted by our Maiana hosts ready with a truck for transport. We did not see a single car during our time there and travelled on the backs of trucks. The breeze on the truck was cool, fresh, kind of dreamy. It was something like a scene out the movie “Swadesh” for those who know their Indian movies. We drove on completely mesmerised by the simplistic beauty of this remote island. First stop was a local party in a village on our way to the accommodation. The generous people of Maiana fed us, danced with us, penalised us for having a couple in our group dance with each other, sang for us and made us feel special. We then got back on the truck and strode on in the darkness towards our accommodation. Dodging tree leaves and branches, holding on navigating through the potholes and feeling the cool, fresh, gust of wind on our faces we smiled with a satisfaction of a special kind.
Arriving at our accommodation, we were greeted by the caretaker whose name translated to ‘falling down’ so that is what I called him for the duration of my stay. We stayed in small outdoor huts called a ‘kia-kia’ with a mattress and a mossie net accompanied by the sounds of weaves crashing on the shore. Every morning, our tea and breakfast would be served then we’d go for walks, snorkel, read and chill. Lunch and dinner included fish (in various ways), crayfish, crab, breadfruit, local pancakes, paw-paw, cups of tea, locally baked bread, noodles and rice. We were also fortunate enough to be invited to another local party close to where we stayed and boy-oh-boy, there was entertainment! The kids were magnetised towards me and by the end of the evening I had about 20 around and on me. Running around calling me ‘Tiabane’ which is the local translation of my name, they were happy playing the silly games I made up.
We were scheduled to fly on Sunday evening so it was only fitting that we went on a boat trip that morning to an islet at the southern end of the island. Going there was ok but coming back, the weather turned. We cuddled up to each other to share the little body heat we had, tried to dodge the sea spray we were constantly getting and then the rain, sang songs and admired the various colours of blues and greys all blending in together. We soon left for the airport in the wet windy weather on an open truck barely managing to keep dry even with umbrellas. Cuddling each other again to stay warm and just hoping that there would be a plane. An hour long wet, bumpy but definitely a fun journey, we got to the airport to be told the plane wasn’t coming in. “Tomorrow” they said. We got into the shelter, squeezing some of the water out of our wet clothes and huddled up for some warmth yet again before getting on the back of another truck with a tarp covering that we were offered a ride on. Soaking but not actively being rained on, still cold and still huddling up we made it back to the accommodation and tried to dry up. Next task was to get to the only landline on island to make a couple of phone calls regarding our delay. Like each night, we played some silly games and retired for a good night sleep. I slept well that night.
The next day, we made it to the airport early and hassle free on the back of a truck and I kept humming “hum hain rahi pyaar ke, humse kuch na boliye, jo bhi pyaar se mila, hum usi ke ho liye”. It just seemed like the right song for the situation. Sorry for excluding all my non-Hindi speaking readers! Feel free to look it up though 🙂
We made it home later that night hungry, dehydrated, dreamy yet happy. We certainly bonded a notch more than before on this trip as you do with each experience of the like and even now, I can’t help but smile reflecting back on the experience.