One evening back in 2001 we were sitting around our quaint condo unit that lay placidly beside the serene Muri Lagoon in faraway Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, the place in which we found ourselves after a 10-hour overnight flight right across the Pacific from LA whence we had departed a few days earlier.
I was sitting on the rattan sofa (very hard on the bum) with condo cat ‘Monzie’ in my lap. What could be better? Well, TV could have been better. All we could get was one lousy reception channel on the little 10-inch receiver. A channel that devoted itself to religious programming, rugby matches, pirated French language news broadcasts from Tahiti (700 miles to the east), and reruns of Friends from the US and Last of the Summer Wine from the UK.
Meanwhile the geckos up on the ceiling were merrily chirping away and we marveled at how their suction cup feet kept them from plummeting floorward. It was all good especially since we knew the geckos ate their weight in mosquitoes and presumably spoke in Michael Caine accents.
Earlier that day (after a blissful time snorkeling amongst the coral implantations in the unexcelled azure lagoon) we had taken a walk (a rather good hike, actually) into the jungle that makes up the interior of the island. We strode unabashedly through the lush greenery and Tarzan vines secure in the fact that even though we were in the tropics, there was nothing evil to be found, snake-wise, spider-wise, centipede-wise of the sort that can be found in other rainforests.
That’s because there is no bad stuff on Raro. I don’t honestly know why, but it’s a nice system, especially for wary tourists. Oh, to be sure, there are bad things in the water like tiger sharks (outside the reef, blessedly), stingrays, moray eels, Portuguese men-o-war, toxic sea urchins and other bits of marine nastiness. But, nothing that we knew of on dry land.
Well, except for the moths.
Sitting there placidly on that aforementioned splendid evening our lives were instantly disrupted by the noisy arrival of a creature. I’d left the lanai screen open unwittingly, and an intruder entered as a consequence of my negligence. What entered was the biggest MF moth I had ever seen in my life. It made a noise like a B-29 warming up and it flapped and flailed violently around the room, crashing into walls and bookcases. I had never thought a mere moth could be scary. This one was. I didn’t measure it but it seemed to be the diameter of a dinner plate.
Now if this had been a butterfly of such a size it wouldn’t have bothered me. Butterflies are beautiful and placid and they don’t flail and buzz around aimlessly like moths do. Even though they both go by the same scientific name. Altogether the scientific name of the moth is: Animalia Arthropoda Insecta Lepidoptera their habits are different. Butterflies gently flit from flower to flower and do not commit suicide by thrusting themselves into Coleman lanterns, for example. I know little about moths from our part of the world where they are at least small enough to be handleable. Of tropical moths my only encounter thus far had been one of intimidation. What do they do, we wondered in our panic over the invader. Are they carnivorous, even vampiric?
All we did know that we had to get it out of the place or else it would be bumbling around the condo like a random bowling ball all night. How to apprehend it? We checked out the kitchen and found a huge plastic colander. It worked and we escorted it outside and deftly shut the screen immediately. I fancied I could hear it snarling and throwing itself at the screen, but that was probably just my imagination.
In our hearts we knew our tropical nightmare was over thanks to the colander.