The Case of The Missing Flip Flop


Don Quixote had his horse, Che Guevara had his motorcycle, Batman had the Batmobile and I've got Black Betty, a beautifully shiny black scooter. She is to be my mode of transportation around the small island of Aitutaki and I've got her for twenty-four hours.

Flying through the foreboding grey skies of Aitutaki I questioned coming here, but ignored it as the lagoon came into view. Even on a grey day, without the reflection of sunlight, the water's still gloriously azure.

Our little cabin is one of twelve, just off the beach in lush tropical gardens. The not so burly northerner's still hideously sunburnt. He's red, he's pink, he's white and shedding more skin than a snake. The rain stops and we're off exploring. With Black Betty it doesn't take long to go full circle, and we make our way back to the hotel bar. We order beers and get talking to the barman, Ali and the hotel owner, Ade.

I hear the word 'hurricane' on a news report and tune in. I have arrived in Aitutaki on the same day as a hurricane. Three attempts to land the tin-can was an omen. An ignored omen. This one, Patricia, is currently a grade three, just like Ivan was, before he got up to a grade five. They joke nonchalantly about the hurricane's feebleness, living in the tropics perhaps you become accustomed to their annual threats.

We're given a fruit platter for the morning, in case Patricia gathers momentum in the upcoming hours...

Awakening around 2am to the tumultuous howls of hurricane Patricia, I suspect she's stronger than anticipated. There's a lather of sticky, sweet panic-ridden sweat covering my body.

We've been confidently assured these cabins are cyclone proof, but I'm wondering how much they can withstand. Objects are crashing into the walls and roof with such force, I'm sure they're going to fall down. I'm in a wooden cabin. I'm not sure how safe a wooden cabin is when there's a hurricane outside.

I can see how this is going to end, I'm going to lose my life to coconuts travelling at 200mph.

'Are you awake?' The northerner quietly enquires. As if anyone could sleep through this. 'Yes,' I whisper, 'I think we might die.' I'm reminded of hurricane Ivan in Barbados arriving in Barbados at the same time as my sister and I. I remember her barricading herself under the bed, and recording a death message - at the time heartbreaking, in hindsight, hilarious.

But this is worse. Much worse. The northerner and I fearing for our lives make a camp under the bed. In the pitch black of night we feel around blindly for a mobile phone for some light. We move the bedside tables opposite the patio doors incase they shatter. Our heads are behind the bedside tables, we're holding hands, and I know like a good Catholic boy he is praying like a motherfucker to that god of his. I'm sure we'll be found in a few days, under this bed, dead, and like some quixotic fairytale, there we'll be, still holding hands...

Things are still flying at the walls with such velocity and bouncing off the roof with such force. Something shatters, but I really need a wee. By phone light the northerner altruistically leads, checking everything's ok. I empty my bladder, nonchalantly flushing the toilet. He charges in, and locks the door. He's either going for one last wank, or fight-flight's kicked in. I conclude the latter; this storm is his modern day equivalent of a saber-toothed tiger.

Dawn greets us, we open the curtains to see the damage. There's an uprooted tree in the porch and no sign of any footwear. We see Ade on her balcony, disbelief in her eyes, as she looks down at her hotel and unrecognisable island.

My flimsy flip-flops have been taken by the winds. His Mick Fanning flip-flops have survived, and should advertise that not only can they open a bottle of beer, they can also withstand the winds of a hurricane. Luckily my chivalrous norherner has given up the privilege of footwear. His unfortunately smell like cat excrement. I decline his sweet offer, jump on his back, whilst he carefully treads over uprooted trees, through the remains of the gardens, over to the restaurant where guests are gathering.

I've officially survived two hurricanes, I've escaped death once again, and have concluded I've got more lives than a cat. I'm indestructible. I'm ten feet tall and bulletproof.

L Temple

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