“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” –Jack Kerouac
The day before we arrived into Savusavu on Vanua Levu the ocean was “becalmed” and so we all jumped in at around 10,000 feet deep. I will not lie and tell you I was all cool, calm and collected about this. I jumped in and screamed, let go of the ladder, floundered about for a second and clambered back aboard. We heard if you do this to always get out within ten minutes because oceanic sharks will come. Being third in line to jump in I wasn’t about to become shark bait.
We arrived into Fiji and it was a beautiful cloudy last sail. I always feel a bit of nostalgia at endings but it was time to go. We were packed and our battered backpacks where ready to hit the road. We said goodbye to Karin, Andreas and Happy and thanked them for the voyage. We spent the next two days in Savusavu being a bit glutenous. We were excited to sleep on land again and stayed at a cheap little place run by a nice Indian family. We ate delicious Indian fare, pizza, went to a social club and tried the local beer. We also spent quite a bit of time repacking our bags after realizing we had accumulated way too much stuff. I’ve stopped buying souvenirs when I travel and instead collect magnets and little bits of sand. Ezra never lets me hear the end of how impractical this is when we are trying to cut ounces and I’m adding sand to my bag. Fair enough.
We took our first flight since leaving the US to Nadi to meet Ezra’s parents! We were beside ourselves with excitement. We started our meeting as usual with lots of hugs, kisses and coffee. Laurie and Dave were troopers after such a long flight and we hopped on a bus down to the Coral Coast. We stayed a couple nights in a cottage reminiscent of the 60s. We loved it and unwound from our travels and focused on being together. The Australian owner Bob was quite a character and cornered us many times while he regaled us with stories and opinions (or should I say prejudices) on everything from American politics to how the Chinese were going to the moon by building a ladder of chopsticks. We smiled, laughed when appropriate, and when he finally gave his leave we roared with real laughter in our cottage.
The rest of our time on the Coral Coast we walked the beach finding shells, starfish and sea slugs. We went for a horseback ride, a snorkel, visited the sand dunes and an Eco Park. We saw exotic birds and held iguanas and snakes… even Laurie, we were so proud of her! One night we met Ben, a runner, who had just won the 100m and 200m at some competition in Russia. We saw him on posters the rest of our trip. Just a little brush with fame. : )
We said bye to Bob and headed to a village on the river. We participated in a Kava ceremony, visited a cute little school house where kids sang us songs, took a crazy boat ride up river, swam in a very cold waterfall and went down stream on a bamboo raft. After a fun filled day we headed to Suva until our driver got pulled over. He hailed us a cab who drove to our hotel like a bat out of hell. Dave told him, sure we’d call him tomorrow if we needed a cab. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
We had two nights at a cool eco lodge but only one hot day in Suva. So we were good little tourists and hit the huge fruit and veg market. Seeing stands of Betel nuts and curious, I made us buy some to try later in the evening. There were some punk kids from then Solomon islands who gave us a demonstration on how to chew the nut with the lime and the leaf all the while probably thinking, “who are these crazy old white people.” Actually they were really nice. The Fijians laughed when we told them we were going to give it a shot. I think they thought it was disgusting, which it is. If you don’t know about it, Google it.
The rest of the day we ate a lot of Indian food, Ez and I bought gifts for our trip to PNG and checked out the history museum. We made a great salad from the market, drank some wine and decided to try the nut. We all huddled in the bathroom and I almost peed my pants laughing so hard. Of course Ezra and Dave did a thorough internet search on how to properly try it and decided to only start with half after watching a very dramatic tourist get sick on YouTube. Dave on the other hand went for a whole one, said he didn’t feel anything so tried another. After awhile he felt a little hot and that made the rest of us crack up. I don’t get what Betel nut is supposed to do. I never felt anything but happiness from the wine and my family. We would get our fill of seeing it in PNG and it would lose its novelty quickly.
Next we caught a boat to the Yasawa islands. We stayed at a quiet little place where we snorkeled (Laurie and Dave were snorkeling machines, I was super impressed), took a lot of naps and ate too much. We learned how to weave our own bracelets, Ez and Dave played volleyball with some local guys, we drank more kava and had a bonfire on the beach with our new German friends. Our first night we learned why keeping food in the room was a bad idea. We woke numerous times to rustling and Ezra got up every 30 minutes to usher mice outside and free them from the trash can. They ate our cooler, crackers and whatever else they could sink their little teeth in to. Where’s a cat when you need one?
Perhaps the funniest part of this trip was Abu, one of the guys in the village, who loved Dave and would hug him and called him “David” the first day. Sometime in the second day he got his name confused and started calling him Jerry. Dave was always too polite to correct him and so he would answer to Jerry. At the bonfire Abu was commenting on how the names Ezra and Angela were names from the Bible (which I think made them like us more) “and so is Jeremiah, right Jerry?” Dave paused, it was the moment of truth, and Dave just said, “yes, yes it is Abu.” And so Dave’s alter ego Jerry was born. Jerry did all sorts of things Dave didn’t, he snorkeled, swam under water into dark caves and later on would win a dancing competition.
Next hop was to a resort on Nacula. It was a beautiful place and also a little weird. It was like camp for adults with planned activities. Laurie and I tried to husk a coconut and scraped the meat. We never did get around to the jewelry making as this conflicted with the two hours the local tea and cake shop was open. Naturally we felt the need to support this local woman with afternoon treats rather than further our education on the myriad ways in which coconuts are useful. We had one great last snorkel (saw seahorses, clown fish and starfish), walked to a lookout point and took a medicinal walk to learn about traditional Fijian remedies.
In the evenings there were dancing competitions (Jerry won this), singing national anthems, hermit crab races (mine came in second), swinging a coconut in a sock (between our legs, arms behind our backs) and hitting a beer can across the floor. Yes, it was as bizarre as its sounds. After the forced activities we had kava with some employees and our German friends. The next day it was a shit storm of bad intestinal problems. I’m not naming names but us three girls were all okay. Maybe the guys caught the eBula virus (bula means hello- I know, I’m so clever). We went to the Saw i Lau caves, but after a rough night we came back to our room and took it easy.
A couple of American girls got the room next to Laurie and Dave. We’re not sure what they were talking/shouting about but they kept saying over and over again “Booola little boy, Bula. Hahahahaha!” We over heard them telling one of the local guys to give his daughter Rachel (she must have been three) kava, so she’ll sleep through the night. We found out they were from New Jersey (this explained a lot) and were communication majors. Well they communicated too much and I was embarrassed to be from the same country. Ezra said it was like they were auditioning for some bad reality show that didn’t exist. Fiji is a fairly conservative country and while at resorts its acceptable to be more casual maybe walking around in only a bikini and a crocheted strip of cloth (all the time) isn’t the best idea, or look. On the boat back to Nadi they strutted around and let it all hang out. They did sit-ups while hanging over the side and pressed their bikini clad butts to the window. Everyone below tried not to look, but it was a train wreck and one couldn’t help but watch and marvel at their level of oblivion. We even snapped some funny pictures. Luckily I had slept in a tent on the beach and was spared from much of their chatter.
On our way back to Nadi we saw Happy anchored and pointed her out to Laurie and Dave. We had only been off two weeks but it felt like forever and it was strange to see her from a distance. I loved many things about sailing but one thing I always struggled with was feeling very removed from the cultures we visited. I liken it to visiting another country but staying in a resort and never leaving the premises. Most of what I love about travel is the day-to-day interactions. Finding a place to sleep, asking where the bus stop is, ordering food. These all add up to getting a feel for the place you visit. Maybe it’s because we went to such remote places that I felt isolated. I know there are sailors who travel differently, but this was an aspect I struggled with in our experience. I suppose if we ever do something like this again, it’ll be on our own and we can decide how to do it.
Back in Nadi, before the Eashs’ flight, we did a little souvenir shopping and visited a Hindu temple. We took Laurie and Dave to the airport and watched them pack up all our crap (including my sand) to take home. When it was time to say goodbye I was sad to be apart again and I know being gone is hard on our families. I felt grateful for our time together and tried not to focus on how long it would be before we had coffee together again. But for now we’d have our memories of Jerry, chopstick ladders to the moon and the communication girls to keep us warm.