The last thing one wants to endure in the tropics is a hurricane, but we got a taste nonetheless. For about three days, rain and wind made life in paradise appear pretty unpleasant after all. Then, after a day of hut-shaking, ear-breaking gales, the news came down: Hurricane Oma was only 180 miles southwest of our island, and we were caught in its tail—and a cyclone was wagging within it.
Thatch blew off the roofs, which leaked from every angle and soaked every towel. Palm trees went sideways, and threw coconuts around like so many popcorn kernels. Then the seas grew great waves that began washing over roads throughout the island. Next, naturally, came downed trees, electricity outages, closed roads, wrecked boats, and the loss of one of two radio stations that provided warnings and updates. Somewhere in the middle of all that, the “adventure” part wore thin. Even the most intrepid tourists who ventured out on motorscooters during breaks in the rain would return moments later with far less sense of humor.
Luckily, the gales began mellowing that evening. And this hopping, little island encountered its quietest night of the tourist season, if not the year. As for us, we weathered it like everyone else: The first few days, we griped and groaned and swam and snorkeled anyway. But when the “H” word, the “C” word, and evacuation instructions became the banter of the day, we opted to lay low. Boil pasta; play Scrabble; and remind yourself that these things usually pass.
It did. The next day, Rarotongans young and old picked up the pieces with amazing speed and aplomb—and then set all the debris on fire, adding a layer of surreal smoke to the post-storm scene. Squalls continued, humidity soared, and the merciless sun returned. But we never complained about the weather here again.