A Fijian Adventure
Middle Seat Adventure
Last week I visited Fiji on my way over to study abroad in Australia. Booked as an “extended layover”, I had five days and few plans. I landed in Nadi, Fiji at 5:15am, woke my leg up, and straightened out the kink in my neck from the two-hour daze called “middle-seat airplane sleep”. My journey started two days earlier, where I finished shoveling two feet of February snow. “This is it!”, I thought as I stepped out of the plane to the Pacific Paradise. Going to Fiji has been this mysterious fantasy of mine since I was a child after first hearing about it from my dad whose friends sailed around the world, spending a summer in Fiji.
“Bula!” a Fijian woman exclaimed as she greeted me and my new friend, Phil. Bula is how Fijians say “hello”. Bula was a word we would soon be all too familiar with. We walked into the damp airport tired, but excited. After getting ushered through customs, then baggage claim, then more customs, we were set to leave the airport and take a bus to the marina. We booked our first two nights at Bounty Island and took a ferry to get there. The ferry hopped from big island, to tiny island, from fat island to thin island. We heard “Bounty Island” over the loudspeaker, and gazed at this tiny island that had an inner layer of lush green “bush”, an outer layer of light yellow sand, and was surrounded by baby blue water.
As we pulled up to Bounty Island, we were greeted with guitar music from the locals as they welcomed us to the island. We set foot on the soft but burning sand. Bounty is where we would live for the next two days. We unpacked in a 32 bunk-bedded dorm that reminded me of the old boarding schools you see in the movies. We met our Irish roommates, unpacked, and set out for the beach. For the next couple hours, I laid out to transform my Wisconsin February skin to Wisconsin July skin. Afterwards, I decided to cool off with some snorkeling. I picked up my free snorkeling gear and set out for the reef. The beauty of the reef was stunning. There were blue fish, yellow fish, red fish, purple fish, black fish, white fish, rainbow fish. I was dropped into the audience of an underwater symphony. **cough**hack**cough** — the symphony was interrupted by heaving as salt water penetrated my snorkel. I reemerged to empty out my snorkel, then dove back in. I watch angelfish feeding on the coral, clownfish peaking out from the sea anemone, and schools of bluefish swaying with the tide. “Ow ow ow!” foot cramp from my flippers being too tight. My first snorkeling experience in Fiji will forever be associated with utter elegance and extreme discomfort.
In the evening we dined with a Scottish couple who met while living in New Zealand. We talked about traveling, slang, Valentines Day, and ripping off Chucky Cheese.
After dinner we listened to the natives sing and socialized. I tried Cava, a Fijian specialty drink made from some root that makes you sleepy and your tongue numb. There, I met two British girls who spent a month in Thailand, a week in Indonesia, and a few months in Australia. We talked about American entertainment, imitated the American girl accent, and compared the taste of a shot versus the taste of Cava (They liked shots better than Cava, I thought the Cava taste better than shots). We said goodnight around 2:30, and I gazed at the stars on the beach before bed.
The following day Phil and I met Patricio, a native who works at the resort, who had a tattoo of a volleyball on his back and laughed like a hyena. He told us stories of his “sexcapades” with guests. He also tried to convince us that cheating is not really cheating until you have a ring on.
Bounty is the place to transform your skin from a winter white to a burnt leathery red. Bounty is the place to snorkel with a shark. Bounty is the place to learn that a leaflet is the British word for pamphlet.
From Bounty Island, Phil and I took a three-hour boat ride up the Yasawa Islands to Manta Ray Resort, where we would spend the next two days. Manta Ray Resort was brushed along this large, mountainous island. Manta Ray was bustling with activity. People were lying in the sun, reading in hammocks, making bracelets, scuba diving and snorkeling. Since I was shedding my first layer of skin, I decided to spend the day in the shade, reading Fooled by Randomness in a hammock.
Later that night, we dined with five Brits. On my right, I sat next to a balding bartender who works at a hostel in New Zealand and his stunning blonde girlfriend. He kept us laughing all night with animal impressions, fake stories, and jokes about how he ended up with his girlfriend. On my left, I sat next to a traveling poker journalist who went to Vegas once a year for “work”. He was a human encyclopedia – he knew more about American football than I did. I sat across from two lovely Indian women. They were twenty-seven. They have been best friends from high school. They recently quit their jobs to travel. I was absolutely delighted to hear Indian women speaking with a British accent. The dinner was the highlight of Fiji- the conversation was interesting and easy. We talked about politics, traveling, movies, the Queen, curry, and bulldogs. We spent the evening together and headed to bed around midnight.
The next day I snorkeled, played volleyball, hiked to the highest point on the island, met a German florist, and talked with “the oldest people on the island” – a Canadian investment banker who fled Vancouver to avoid the winter games and a Marine Biology professor from Florida who was on sabbatical.
Manta Ray is the place to dance with a gay guy to tribal music. Manta Ray is the place to fall asleep in a hammock. Manta Ray is the place where strangers become friends.
After five hours of traveling we arrived at Smuggler’s Cove back on the mainland in Nadi, where we would spend one more evening in Fiji before catching a 9am plane to Sydney. We ate pizza, watched a fire and dance show, and slept in a dorm room where the beds were a little too close together.
Fiji is the place where the U.S. dollar will get you farther than you ever imagined. Fiji is the place to find unmatched beauty. Fiji is the place to escape to..