The not-so-perfect start to our family’s tropical getaway…
There we were: all three of us laughing, clinking beer bottles and enjoying the warm evening breeze off the ocean. Overhead the gentle rustling of palm trees. Beneath our feet, white, coral sand still warm from the day’s heat. We had spent the past quarter of an hour teaching our 11 month old daughter to “cheers!” with empty beer bottles and were feeling unashamedly proud of how quickly she’d picked it up. Our Cook Islands holiday seemed to be off to a good start!
The sweet waitress – a young lady with a big smile and a hibiscus behind her ear – brought us our fresh caught fish’n chips along with a couple more Matutu’s (the local beer). Coco leapt into action, excitedly cramming chips and fish into her little mouth and “mmm”ing in satisfaction. But no sooner had our next round drinks hit the table, without warning, she started projectile vomiting all over the place. Hmmmm, maybe not the perfect start to our tropical holiday after all?
We had only arrived on Rarotonga that afternoon, fresh off a flight from New Zealand (you can read about our NZ adventures here, here and here!). At first we put Coco’s vomiting down to a case of zealous overeating. However, hours later, in the middle of the night with every sheet and towel in our suite soiled and smelly (thank gawd for housekeeping!), we knew it was something much more sinister.
That was the beginning of a couple of intense days spent trying to comfort and tend to our little girl, plying her with fresh coconut water, salty crackers and lots of cuddles. Cruelly, we had actually scheduled this holiday to coincide with her first birthday. Catching a vicious stomach bug and spewing her guts up was definitely not an ideal way to celebrate her big day, nor her first overseas voyage! Poor munchie!
That she (and we) survived and ended up having an incredible holiday (even during the sick bits) was thanks to:
- our well-stocked first aid kit; and
- the amazing staff at the Rarotongan Beach Resort, who plied us with all sorts of local remedies and checked on us every day to make sure we were all okay. Oh and who, on her birthday, also brought Coco chocolate cake with candles and her name written in icing. Even if she didn’t really feel like eating it.
First aid kit
If you’ve ever backpacked, hiked or holidayed in third world countries, then you know the importance of packing a good first aid kit. As travelling parents, a first aid kit is crucial! We pack a fair few bits an pieces into our kit, but here are the items that absolutely saved us on this trip:
- paracetamol (eg Panadol), to help reduce fever and manage her tummy pain
- ibuprofen (eg Nurofen), ditto as above
- probiotic powder – we give this to Coco daily to help boost her gut health. On this occasion, we upped the dosage slightly to try and help rebalance her gut. I love Life Space baby probiotic as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so is perfect for travelling
- electrolyte drink tabs or powder sachets – this was a lifesaver for us on this trip! We’d mix some into Coco’s drink bottle to keep her hydrated and boost her salt levels
- paw paw ointment – perfect for cuts, scrapes, mozzie bites, lip balm, stings, mild antiseptic, etc etc. It’s a fabulous multi-purpose product that we also use as our nappy balm. On this occasion we made sure to slather it all over her bum to prevent nappy rash from all the acidic number ones and twos. We prefer all-natural brands like Naturalus and Brauer, which don’t contain any nasties
- a cotton washer – I love the ones from Danish company, RIC. So many beautiful colours! I’ve bought about six of them simply because I can’t resist the bright shades! They’re thinner than a standard terry towel cloth so it cools down more quickly in the fridge/freezer and isn’t as heavy on baby’s forehead
- antiseptic hand wash – critical when dealing with highly contagious germs!
The lucky local remedies
If you’re going to get sick anywhere, it helps to do so in a place where the local folk are incredibly friendly, generous and full of helpful info about the best local remedies. In Coco’s case we were blessed with a bountiful supply of “nu” (young, fresh coconut)’ which are filled with a delicious, sterile nectar packed with electrolytes and natural sugars. The flesh tastes good too and is easy on the tummy.
Fresh coconuts abound on Rarotonga so it was all too easy to pick up a couple of these everyday, crack the tops off and let Coco slurp on the delicious juice. The super staff at the Rarotongan also brought us fresh supplies to our room everyday, which was much appreciated.
Another special trick, this time imparted by a lovely lady named Rosa who worked at the Rarotongan Beach Resort, was to chew or grind up leaves from the “Mile-a-minute” vine to extract the juice, which is supposed to help with gastro conditions and upset tummies. The vine is considered a pest in the Cook Islands, apparently having been introduced by the Americans around the time of WW2, but at least the locals have found a good use for it, even if the juice tastes pretty gross!
Having tried it ourselves with no side effects, we squeezed a little bit of the juice onto a spoon and tried to convince Coco to swallow it. She immediately realised it tasted awful and flatly refused anymore after that, so I resorted to leaving pieces of leaf on the floor and bed in case she’d be tempted, but to no avail. However perhaps that one little taste did work, as the next day her condition had markedly improved!
After a few days of high fevers and lots of tears, Coco finally got back to her normal, smiley, crazy self. We went out for dinner at the resort restaurant that night to celebrate with Matutus, fresh fis’n’chips and more “cheers”ing once again…however, it wasn’t long before I started to experience the familiar and dreaded twinges and ripples of stomach cramps, which only intensified as the meal went on. Yep, lucky me, I ended up catching the dreaded lurgy. I spent the next 36 hours never straying too far from the bathroom and often hugging the toilet bowl while Coco and John played on the beach out front of our suite. With the help of a little paracetemol, plenty of fresh nu, some foul-tasting leaves and endless Coco cuddles, I was up and at em again in no time and able to enjoy the rest of our time in paradise!