This is what we woke up to. [This post is a continuation of Breaking Away to Rakiraki.]
Garrett awoke me with a cheer, but I could barely move. Having not shifted an inch the entire night, my hardening body was attempting to fuse with the modest mattress like a mother to her long-lost-but-now-found son. It felt like heaven, as did the tile floor…and the calm coastal breeze.
Deprivation Begets Gratitude
I had never loved baked beans more than at breakfast that morning. Along with my scrambled eggs and tomatoes, everything tasted beyond satisfying. I was floating. I couldn’t even eat the entire plate because my stomach had shrunk to the size of a guava. Ordering water, I received a sweating 1.5 liter of Fiji, no floaties, no mysterious colors, no hurricane residue. I sunk into the plush leather chair, admiring every smooth square inch, until we went for the beach.
Garrett chose this resort for its marketing platform, not to mention a fantastic looking beach. Creating that northernmost tip of the island was this sand bar that was only visible at low tide. Lying in the middle of the appendage, we slowly felt the tide lick our arms from both sides, eventually closing in and forcing us to abandon our awesome lounging spots. I was wearing my bathing suit without cover-ups for the first time in Fiji, and it felt grand…and a little bit wrong.
Crisping over within an hour, I soon lost my sun privileges for the week. Unless you’re from the Equator, never think you’ve been in Fiji long enough to be immune to the harmful rays. Luckily I found out one day later the joint had free wireless, and I soon set my watch to couch potato time.
For the next four nights, we let our bodies repair themselves, while meeting some story-filled backpackers and attempting to suck down some Bitters (to no avail…my stomach wasn’t having it).
PADI with Paola
As we were in a prime diving spot, Garrett and I decided to take an intro class and go for look-see at a nearby reef. Paola, the resident SCUBA instructor, put a video on in front of us – which was littered with mockable material – before strapping us in for an adventurous dive in the pool. I remember trying to SCUBA on a family vacation and feeling a growing anxiety with the sensation of breathing underwater. I’m no fish. I have dreams like this, but when awake and sane, SCUBA seems akin to flying like Wonder Woman and telling yourself, “This ain’t so weird.”
The second time around I was loving the action. Motoring into the bay near our hotel with wetsuits on and oxygen tanks full, I surfed the waves while standing in the middle of the boat, gyrating and singing some Britney Spears song I vaguely knew, pumped by where we were and what we were doing. It was also a thrill to not be focusing on the ailing body for a change.
I was told the clarity was sub-par that day, but I didn’t care. We were twelve meters deep and moving in slo-mo, not to mention looking 30% bigger through my goggles. All Garrett and I wanted to do was flip underwater, attract the others’ attention, and perform some sort of dance move or hip thrust. When we normally do this on land, tongues pair the look with a little civility, and forgetting that we couldn’t stick our tongues out underwater was a realization that often came too late. Luckily, I had learned the skills to clear my mask of water and regain the ability to breath.
The Instant Backstage Pass
A reoccurring theme we got very used to in Fiji was explaining to the Fijians we were staying in Namosi, which is similar to telling someone from America you’re staying in the deep south. It’s not where most tourists visit, but the area also harbors some of the most beautiful, seemingly primordial landscapes, not to mention a similar commitment to the old ways of doing things.
And because we were in Namosi living locally, Paola hooked us up with a second dive at a laudable price (our entire diving experience was around USD, which is unheard of). We threw out our slang words and chuckled about grog and other Fijian pastimes. It felt so comforting to immediately strike a bond with the residents simply by saying we were there to see the actual “real” Fiji and know the culture better than the occasional dance and display.
It wasn’t just Paola that seemed interested in our experience of his nation but all the employees of the Volivoli Beach Resort. They catered to us nicely, knowing we had been through a lot more than they would personally care to witness. Showing them our footage from the hurricane, they gasped at the force of the storm and asked to see more.
It’s Due Time for a Party
After our fifth night in comfort and peace, we decided New Year’s Eve was cause for a relocation. We loaded into a taxi, into a shiny Sunbeam bus, and stopped into Suva before continuing on past the Namosi junction to Pacific Harbour, home of Uprising Beach Resort – oddly enough a regular employer of former Nakavika residents. The games soon began after we dropped our bags…
How does the Sunshine Coast of Fiji sound to you? Relaxing? A little too sunny? Where would you like to dive in Fiji if you had the chance and no cost limitations? Comment below and share this post with that friend of your’s that loves to SCUBA…you know the one…the one that brings a snorkel to the bar for fanciful shots.