Those of you who know us well will be thinking ‘that’s a typo, surely she means Beer and Cocktails’ but no, it’s correct – this little tale from the Hermit Islands is about four-legged deer of the Bambi variety and some unusual cocktails.
Aah, cocktails. If you’re imagining us kicking back with martinis and mai-tai’s on the back deck you’d be sorely wrong. These are cocktails of a completely different kind….
When we were in Manus we stocked up on provisions in the local supermarket which had the usual array of frozen chicken pieces, mostly unidentifiable. I found some labelled ‘chicken breast’, ‘chicken legs’ and smaller pieces labelled ‘chicken cocktails” which looked like the smaller pieces we would call chicken nibbles, nice on the barbie cooked in hickory sauce. All pretty safe bets, so in the freezer they go, and now tonight’s menu anchored off Akib Island is going to be some of those chicken cocktails baked in hickory sauce, with a little bit of rice.
Except now that they’re defrosted I can see the problem. The label was meant to be taken literally. They’re cock tails. What the Poms would delicately describe as ‘the Parson’s nose’. EVERY SINGLE FRIGGIN’ PIECE. Come on now, who in their right mind would think that a bunch of chicken bums would be a tasty treat?? Obviously someone in Manus….
We do our best and try to nibble around the edges (I hope by now you’re getting a visual of our faces), but our western sensibilities get the better of us so the chook bums feed the fish and we end up with rice and hickory sauce for dinner. Another culinary fail from the Toucan providore, reminiscent of the great 2014 Christmas ham debacle in Martinique with our friends Graham and Wendy. Ha ha stupid Dim-Dims!
The next day we wake to a calm and beautiful sunny morning. It’s Sunday so we’re going to enjoy a special treat of pancakes with bacon, bananas and maple syrup as a small compensation for last night’s dinner. As I’m preparing breakfast I see a large crowd of people gathering on the beach – it looks like students and teachers and they’re all huddled together having a pow-wow, there must be a hundred of them. Are we about to be invaded? No, it seems not – the group breaks up and they move off down the beach towards the far end of the island. Is this some kind of Sunday school excursion?
We settle down to breakfast but then the peace is shattered by an almighty din coming out of the jungle – a hundred people hollering, dogs barking (I swear I hear drums, but I’m probably imagining it) sounding for all the world like a war party. If it was a hundred years earlier we would be quaking in our boots. What on earth is going on?
Then the penny drops – Ben had told us there are wild deer on Akib island, brought by the Germans when they established a coconut plantation here in the late 1800’s. Somehow the deer have survived (how many nobody seems to know), but it would appear that Bambi is on the menu for school dinner tonight…
The cacophony of sound is now punctuated by gunshots. We can see nothing due to the thick jungle but it sounds chaotic and dangerous, and just a little off-putting when trying to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Eventually a bunch of guys emerge from the undergrowth carrying their quarry and dump it into the banana boat waiting on the shore. They take off at pace to a neighbouring deserted island presumably to gut and skin it. Suddenly I’m not feeling very hungry anymore.
“It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it”.