[Written about my last day in Fiji.]
Indecision threatened to get the best of me as I tried to choose the right island day cruise for my last day in Fiji. With the cheaper options not offering the best snorkeling options, I was looking at trips priced at over a hundred Fiji dollars. When I was at the point of just staying around the hostel for the day, I pushed myself and went for it – a trip to South Sea Island for FJ$110. Again, I repeated the phrase that’s quickly becoming my mantra for this trip: here goes nothing.
The shuttle to Port Denarau left Smugglers Cove at the lovely hour of 7.15am, on a coach full of young backpackers lugging bourbon and tequila in their bags. Thankfully, once we arrived at the port, I realized there were two trips going out – one with “Awesome Adventures” that was predominately young travelers, and another just to South Sea Island that had more of a mix – some young, some families, some old. It was a short cruise to the island where we then boarded a smaller motorboat that took us straight to shore. My thoughts began to darken with the weather – a grey, overcast sky and soon enough…rain. I was gutted, having spent all that money to go hang out on a small island in the pouring rain all day. We went out on a semi-submersible craft that gave great views of the coral reefs and reef-life. While sitting on the boat, arms crossed, back hunched, fully grumpified, a woman next to me says, “You poor thing, you look so cold.” I knew Ryan and Arron would’ve had another word for it – surly. And surly I was, but the woman and her daughter were from Wellington and we quickly hit it off talking about my forthcoming move to New Zealand and comparing/contrasting our respective home countries. After the short subride around the reef, I went out snorkeling – still in the rain. They had partitioned off the zone we could snorkel in with bright yellow buoys and ropes and I had a hard time feeling like I was really “in nature.” But sometime while I was underwater with the clown fishes and coral, the rain cleared and some of the guides decided to take a boat out farther off the island. Bless them!
While it wasn’t the Great Barrier Reef, the view beneath the surface was still incredible. One of the guides brought up seastars and sea cucumbers for us to hold. The greater depth of the water felt like I was really somewhere – especially when I’d angle my line of sight just right so as to lose view of the group and feel alone with the underwater universe. The predominant color – besides the brownish-tan shade of the coral and sea floor – was blue. I’ve never seen sea stars in that shade of royal blue before – and little groups of fish flashing about the color of a blue raspberry Slurpee – a striking, vibrant electric blue. And the parrot fish, bringing the most neon sparkle to the scene with all sorts of blues and pinks and greens darting about. When you swim down about twenty feet and get right up along the reef, all the Nemos come out and seem to stare you straight down – just a little unnerving.
After the boat brought us back to the island, Kim and Sharese (the Kiwi mom and daughter duo) and I shifted to the poolside just in time for lunch – reminiscent of an American BBQ with steak, chicken, fish, and sidedish after sidedish of potatoes and pasta salad. When I wasn’t laying by the pool (getting a ridiculous sunburn at that) I went snorkeling again, this time with beautiful rays of sunlight cutting through the surface, and I even gave kayaking a first try. Sharese and I got in a double-seater and one of the guides, Romano, went out in a single, yelling out when to switch the direction of our paddling. The original plan was to kayak around the island (which didn’t feel quite so big when we first landed) but about halfway around, we got caught up where the water grew rockier and the waves larger. Despite our efforts, we capsized and had to shamefully walk to shore when we couldn’t get properly turned around.
I spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, attempting to read a book I’d picked up at the hostel but usually having to nod my head as Kim talked…and talked and talked. At some points it was interesting to hear what she, an average Kiwi, had to say about life in New Zealand. She asked about class structure in America and said there wasn’t such a division in NZ – that most everyone earns around the same amount and that plumbers and builders are just as respected as lawyers and doctors and nurses, who usually “bugger off” to the States or elsewhere to earn more. She also talked about the pattern of attending college or university and how it’s not nearly as expected as in the States. It’s possible to begin working for a company and work your way up, without a college degree or diploma, as her brother did for a local bank. It’s all fascinating to me, how a society relatively comparable to my own can also be based on such different paradigms.
All in all…a great time in Fiji. Definitely not the worst way to get over jet lag before heading on to New Zealand!