Flying westward across the Pacific is an unsettling travel experience for a couple reasons - the main ones being deadly, cobalt waters that threaten a future stranded on an island with a friend named Wilson and the time travel that occurs with simply flying over one degree of latitude. We left LAX at 11:30pm on December 1st and arrived in Fiji (ten and a half hours later) on December 3rd. Where did the 2nd go? That day never existed for Garrett and I this year. If you cut us open and count the rings, maybe you'd find a kink in the latest ring - when we cheated time and space.
Losing a day upon arriving to a destination compounds that feeling of jetlag. You definitely don't want to waste that first day knowing you have one less day than you anticipated from the calendar. Thankfully, the trip to Fiji allows for an easy transition: sleep throughout the flight, arrive in the morning, enjoy the new day feeling rather refreshed (even though sleep in a bumpy plane is never that satisfying), and fall asleep early in the evening to awake completely on board with Fiji time the next day.
Garrett and I basked in the glory of tropical weather yet again with a quick morning swim before we found a humble coffee joint and prepared for a day on a bus by stocking up at the market. Spiral-cut pineapple, roasted peanuts, a bunch of tiny bananas, and coral colored mangos tossed around in a bag beside us on a bumpy bus around the main island.
The landscape in the west was almost reminiscent of Iowa's rolling hills after harvest with cows grazing along steep slopes of dry grass. But as we rolled closer to the east, uninspiring hills became pebbly coasts became misty switchbacks became rainforests.
After a few scheduled stops and samosas for the road, the driver directed his gaze at us from his rear view mirror. He was slowing for our stop at Namosi junction. The regular bus to Suva doesn't normally make any old stop for tourists, so it took some eye-fluttering for him to agree to dropping us at a gravel road toward seemingly nowhere. Bags unloaded and wheels spinning up dust, we were soon left with six bags to wait at a nearby house until the village carriers came from Suva's market to drive inland.
Over three hours later, Garrett and I persuaded a packed carrier bound for the first village to haul us as far as they could. With no bench space to spare, Garrett jumped on a propane tank while I sat myself on the floor among the smelly feet and old food below. I could barely handle the mix of odors, most of the unpleasantness coming from my own shoes. We both soon popped up to stand the rest of the way, now able to see every passing waterfall and snaking bend of the river below. The air grew sweeter, and every man on board asked us questions about where we were going, hoping to be of service.
Throughout the day it was always easy to forget the inconveniences and discomfort of the road. We had the people and the morphing landscapes to occupy and entice our minds.
Six bags and two smiling Americans landed at the Namosi police post while the carrier returned to its village. They were incredibly kind to give us such a helpful lift, and we were soon passed off to the next group of hospitable highlanders when three children at the post came to help our bags and ourselves inside.
Monika, Suli and Arthur are the children of the Namosi police officer, who was at the time overseeing the copper mining being done in a nearby village. We were offered our first cup of lemon leaf tea before we ran outside to see a rainbow stretch across the mountains. Arthur chained up their dog as the sun set - a scrawny pooch named Steve who peacefully endured friendly harassment from his owner - and the rest of the kids taught us some words on the Namosi dialect. When night swallowed the sky, the police officer returned to say hello and take us the last mile or two to Nakavika.
I can't imagine a better way to enter a village than the way we did - in the bed of a truck with two laughing kids, standing and facing the glow of the headlights, singing into the wind while the last peak of sun rested onto the distant hills, rolling up to a sleepy village where our friend and contact, Abel, walked up to greet us as the government Land Cruiser rolled to a stop.
48 hours after leaving our home thresholds, we arrived at our final destination: Nakavika, Fiji.
Next came the acceptance by the spokesman of our project.