We had been told to phone Pastor Wilson before arriving at Emirau Island so i phoned ahead and spoke to a very elderly gent. I told him how we wanted to visit the island and maybe carry out some eye examinations whilst we were there. We very nearly gave up whilst trying to get there as every bay just seemed too open, too deep, too much swell, too much reef, etc, etc.
We tried one more time to find an anchorage and slipped around the back of a small island on the south east corner which gave us some protection. We were glad we did as we soon met a very friendly local who was fishing with three young children on board his canoe who took us to an anchoring spot. His name was Douglas and he told us how he had the right to fish between the islands as his mother owned that stretch of land including the water in front of it. He knew of our impending arrival as Pastor Wilson had phoned ahead, the island had no telephone coverage but seemed to have some sort of radio service at the hospital. We told Douglas we would come ashore the next morning and he agreed to come back to the boat and escort us in.
The next morning Douglas appeared in his dug out canoe and he told us how his mother, her sister and the grand children were waiting for us and were going to give us a traditional island welcome. We weren’t too sure what to expect but as we came around the corner there was lots of singing and dancing and everybody had flowers and palms in their hair.
It was a great welcome and they soon had us wearing flower chains and the kids were grabbing our hands with excitement !!
The island had a vehicle, just one, a truck which drove around picking people up and dropping them off whenever it needed to. The truck had been booked for us so we were soon driven off to the local clinic, it was very simple supplying basic first aid by a single nurse.
The islands main road –
Jimmy worked in a very small room giving thorough eye examinations and i sat in the waiting area seeing people who just needed reading glasses.
We saw many people that day and they just kept appearing out of nowhere, word soon spreads quickly even without mobile phones. We worked solidly until the truck reappeared at about 3 o’clock, it was time to pack up and return to the boat.
We went back in the next day and had already agreed to go to a new location next to the school. We had a small hut to work in with a couple of rooms but it soon filled with people.
The truck waited for us outside until it was time to head back.
I seem to remember giving out about 25 pairs of reading glasses that day and Jimmy another 15-20 so it was a very productive day. Hopefully a lot of people now seeing a lot better.
After the great welcome, great hospitality and great kindness shown we were glad we made the effort to stop by and anchor there for a few days. Its always sad to leave places like this as its so remote you never really know whether you’re ever going to be able to come back and visit again.