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This amazing view of Pukapuka was captured from the space shuttle.   The island looks peaceful and idillyic, but life has never been easy and as recently as 2006 there were fears it would have to be abandoned after a head on hit from the strongest of cyclones.  These are some reflections on island life
Image: Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center 
Pukapuka from the space shuttle
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GARDENING FOR HEALTH
It may be remote, but Pukapuka is leading the rest of the islands in the fight against non-communicable diseases by establishing "healthy eating" gardens.  Each village has set them up as part of an action plan to monitor and help reduce cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions.   Vegetables, root crops and fruits are being planted and islanders are being encouraged to eat them in preference to packaged processed food.     Photos:  Eilert "Alex" Larstorp Paulsen for Cook Islands News
 
DOCTOR IN PARADISE
The photos below are from 'South Seas Cook Islands' by Doctor Wolfgang Losacker - a highly recommended book of stunning photographs, which you should  find on sale in Rarotonga.  Dr. Losacker worked at the hospital on the capital island and has also taken his skills to many of the outer islands, along the way capturing on film an insight into everyday life.

Preparing copra
Pukapuka children
Children help collect and prepare coconuts - the sun-dried flesh is exported as "kopra".  Coconut and its by products are the mainstay of the island's economy.
Salt in the seawater serves as toothpaste
Photographs are copyright Wolfgang Losacker
MORE INSIGHTS INTO ISLAND LIFE
"Apart from school I would work in our taro swamps with my sisters.  Actually I spent most part of a day in the swamp.  That is our culture in Pukapuka and up until today we women still look after the taro swamps."

"I always laugh when I think back to those days, like when a house gets a tinned corned beef it is a big thing.  The aroma of the food will filter to their neighbours who may just be standing outside watching them eat this 'expensive' and 'tasty' food. "
     *Published in Cook Islands News, June 2007

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE?
Left : Pukapuka as it would have looked in Mama Tuki's childhood  From  Islands of Danger by Ernest Beaglehole (Wellington, 1944)  Right: Part of the main village today

Pukapuka in the 1940s
Village today
A MAMA'S MEMORIES

Life on Pukapuka is far from easy, but back in 1948 when Mama Tuki (Tukiongo Poila Wright) was born there, it was tougher still.  She was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty The Queen in June, 2007 for her many services to the community - an honour that she dedicated to her home island.  And in an interview with Cook Islands News*  she recalled her days of growing up in one of the remotest places on earth.

"That time there was no bread and the boat would come to the island only twice a year with supplies.  So we would go to school with lunches that you never see today - taro, fish, breadfruit, uto or sweet coconuts.  They were healthy food but it was hard work getting them.