He has many remedies, but carries them mostly in his head, or in his heart, he says.
“When you make a remedy for someone, it has to be there in your heart.”
Pa holds medicine walks for locals and tourists, sharing local knowledge on much loved plants to eat and plants that heal.
The well-known island identity began learning medicine from his grandmother Mama Ritua at the age of four.
“I was always there looking at her when she had people with her, to see what she was doing, I watched, I learned, I learned.”
He also named himself at just two years old.
“Before that my parents didn’t know how to name me. They called me “Fussy Hair”. My father used to pick me up and carry me around and so I decided to call myself Papa Apaii koe iaku ki uta ite Maunga e oti ki parataito e oti ki Runga ite Rangi Teuruaa.
“It means Heavenly father please carry me to the mountain, and then to paradise and then 10 stairs to heaven Teuruaa. But now I just get called Pa for short.”
Born in Rarotonga, “the best place on earth”, he has lived here all his life, apart from spells overseas. He was a professional surf life guard at Muriwai and Piha in New Zealand, where a Russian named him Serge Teuruaa.
“I’m in their ‘History of Surf Lifesaving of New Zealand’ book under that name, Serge. My wife has put my old name back in my passport now.”
He spent some time on a Greenpeace vessel protesting environmental impacts on American Samoa.
He is known around the world for his healing abilities and has had many foreigners visit him, including diplomats and even royalty.
“I saw an astronaut one time, he came twice. I said to him, ‘go home and buy a jungle and keep it the same’ - and he did.
“He offered me a ticket into outer space, when that happens. But I rejected the gift. I said I don’t want to wear a space mask. But I might go.”
Pa says the liquid from the deadly nightshade belladonna, better known as a weed, can be used to treat pneumonia and dengue fever, and a simple pomegranate fruit will purify the toxins from the blood, even from toxic fish poisoning.
“It is sad that other countries call papaya pawpaw. No, it means Pa, a loving fruit, and can be used (to treat) insect bites.
“A lot of people come to me looking for health and I say, ‘you touch the wrong food, its simple’.”
He says that when the Cook Islands diet changed after food imports began, the people got too big.
“We need to eat more coconut and papaya. All the food we need is there growing. It provides everything we need.”
Pa’s personal health philosophy is to keep a clear mind, have clear direction and maintain a spiritual path.
His medicine walk is gentle on mostly even terrain through orchards, plantations and into Pa’s own backyard, where visitors learn about, and taste the different growth stages of the coconut.
A delicious lunch is also served and my group had Turkish bread sandwiches filled with fresh produce and home-made cake followed by papaya and coconut with lime.