Tales and trails
– motioned to us to pull in at the roadside. We were beneath an impressive-looking tree with flowers not dissimilar to pohutukawa, but white with pretty pink tips instead of red.
Rebecca gave us each one to hold and told us the seeds of this tree, called the utu, had narcotic properties. Ground up and put in the sea, they would mildly poison the fish below and cause them to float to the top where they could easily be caught. This was no longer practised because it damaged the reef, she said.
In the old days, tribes would use theutu in asimilarway during warfare, Rebecca told us, grinding the seeds and putting them in the enemy’s water supply – it’s hard to fight when you’re high as a kite.
With that quirky bit of knowledge on board, we cycled on along the Ara Metua, the ancient coral road that runs inland, apparently built through the swamps some 1000 years ago by a chief called Toi.
The next stop was a piece of land owned by Rebecca’s family. We parked our bikes and walked down a path, past the ubiquitous taro patch and into a pineapple field. I picked my first-ever
Rack and ruin: Tourists on a Storytellers bike tour of Rarotonga stop to investigate the abandoned, partly built Sheraton Hotel, its misfortune supposedly the legacy of a century-old curse.