Tuesday 30th November 2010
After what feels like an eternity we finally make our way through Nadi airport departures (thank you baggage handler efficiency and speedy immigration). We are greeted by a white guy sporting a stereotypical surf-dude-gone-native look. He has a boyish face and wide perfectly round eyes giving him the look of a bush baby caught in safari torch light. Once he has collected us and another traveller (called Christoph), we clamber into his car and set off. Chris, myself and Christoph are squeezed into the back behind Bushbaby and his colleague. During the short drive to the ‘motel’ the two in front giggle, take pictures of each other and congratulate themselves for the successful collection new guests, particularly two sharing the same name. A brief conversation with Bushbaby allows us to assume that he is probably a surfer who, reluctant to leave Fiji, has been odd-jobbing in hotels ever since and consuming alertness-reducing wacky baccy. Then it transpires that he actually owns the place. Oh. Christoph and I raise an eyebrow at each other. By the time we arrive it is dark and raining. We are unloaded into our room and advised to have supper somewhere else as they’re renovating the kitchen. I look out to the ‘dining’ area, a.k.a a straw roofed shack built around a small empty muddy car park. I am begin to consider seeking alternative accommodation for the next few nights.
As soon as my head hits the pillow I fall into the best slumber I have had in a while and I awake refreshed and ready to explore the surroundings by the light of day. The muddy car park as it turns out, is not a car park but a volley ball pitch/court/sandpit (of course!), and the kitchen is completed ready to serve a lovely breakfast with a side dish of friendliness. We intended to only stay for one night but we found sitting in the company of chatty travellers (particularly one hilarious 23yr old German with the most magnificent beast of a ginger beard), the delight of delicious food and Bushbaby’s adorably endearing manner all too enticing. We were also struggling to orientate ourselves and decide where to go given the unbacpackerness of the islands. However, after three days the distinct lack of things to do in the area and perpetual rain was starting to be depressing. We requested the advice of Bushbaby and after an epically long silence in which he was clearly tuning in to the mother ship, he suggested that if we wanted something a ‘bit extreme’ that we took a 4 hour bus, a 30 min taxi, a 22hr insect & urine infested boat, a 15 min taxi and a 20 min boat to a little island north of the main island for some eco-lodge living (i.e. glorified tents, cold showers, rain water & limited electricity). This lodge was also conveniently owned by him and his father. We resolved to go, yet not without speaking to people who had previously visited, all of whom praised the lodge whilst literally begging us not to take the boat. Thus, we decided to make our way across the island and fly from Suva. So our journey would look like this: A 4 hour bus, overnight in Suva, a 30min taxi, a 1 hour glorious flight, a 15 min taxi and a 20 min boat.
That’s what we thought! As our luck would have it the rain turned to cyclone warnings and the eager intrepid couple (i.e. us) were expelled, thwarted and miserable, from the tiny Suva airport to find their way back to town and sit it out for two nights. Brilliant, time in Suva. When the locals issue a long list of personal safety warnings, are at a loss of things to suggest for one to do in their town and even go so far as to wishing you ‘good luck’ in pitying tones, one starts to worry a little. Aside from a quick trip around Fiji National Museum (which is actually a gem of a little museum), we mostly spent two days sitting in our motel hiding from the rain, consuming coffee and cookies.
So, after a 4 hour bus, 80 hours stuck in a motel in Suva, a 30min taxi, a 1 hour glorious flight, a 15 min taxi and a 20 min boat, we have finally arrived on Qamea Island. We were greeted by the first non-black sand beach we’ve seen in Fiji, a lovely looking communal bure, friendly staff and two tottering, minute kittens that instantly crawled into our laps. I don’t even care that it’s overcast, I’m just glad to be out of Nadi and I’m positively overjoyed to be out of Suva.
The flight from Suva was a wondrous experience. I adore flying, real flying. Not sitting in the vast hunks of metal that ship cattle across continents in cramped relative comfort, allowing one to detach themselves from the reality that they are moving through the air thousands of feet above the ground; real flying. Aeroplanes so small there’s no need for cabin crew. The ones that are held together with duct tape and the cockpit looks battered and decidedly vintage. They take off and make their ascent so slowly that you wonder wether they will ever reach their desired altitude. The ones in which every ripple of air and temperature change is felt along its length. They wobble and dance through the clouds as though fighting a battle of wills, science and nature. At any moment you feel as though the machine in which you have placed your very precious being may simply loose the fight to move in forbidden heavens and plummet towards the undulating green carpeted earth or depthless blue ocean with the same unremarkable tragic silence which befell Icarus. As we sat in the tiny seats in the tiny twin otter aircraft listening to the propellors crank themselves up and watched the pilot place his hand on the throttle, my stomach turned and fluttered with fear and excitement in equal measure and I felt the flush of adrenaline in my system. As I looked out over the oceans, the reefs, the creases and crevices of mountains and valleys that were so close I felt as if I could touch them, I was reminded that being able to view the world from the air is truly an honour.