On Friday, Kristin had scheduled a day trip to Takalana, a small resort about an hour and a half away. Their specialty is dolphin watching, specifically spinner dolphins, because they leap straight up out of the water and spin in the air. We had an appointment for 9:30 so we hit the road at 8am. Well, the road kind of hit us. Money in Fiji is not abundant, so road maintenance isn’t a priority. There are pot holes inside bigger potholes, and you will often see cars driving in the center of the two lane roads to avoid the craters on the sides, swerving out of your way at the last possible second. It can be a little disconcerting until you get used to it. That and the passing of slower cars and trucks. Fijians take the lines painted on the center of the road as suggestions. Actually, not even that, they just ignore those damn lines completely. They will pass on curves, hills, wherever, and trust that oncoming traffic will slow down until they can get back on their side. It is not unusual to see a tiny little beater car face off a bus and screech back into line. And the bus drivers! They act like they are driving tiny beater cars and will push into spaces in a line of traffic that a motorcycle couldn’t fit into. Vigilance is the key to survival.
The last half hour to Takalana went from paved, potholed road to dirt. This dirt road made the previous road seem like a freshly paved, brand new highway from heaven. We were jostled and thrown about for 30 minutes, which seemed like two hours. We were traveling between 10 to 20mph. Needless to say, we were about 30 minutes late, arriving at 10am. We were directed to a thatch covered eating area, with picnic tables, a bar, and a 180 degree view of the bay below, and served tea and snacks. The resort was very small, with only two bures (burr-rays) which are little houses, like studio apartments, plus the eating area. They allowed us to change into our suits in one of the bures. It was adorable with the same view as the bar area, the ocean breeze through the open windows blowing the white curtains lazily about, the mosquito netting over the big bed and the bunk beds, a tiny little sink in the tiny little corner kitchen and a tiny little bathroom through a door next to the kitchen. I would have stayed there.
We changed and went back to the bar. We waited for them to come take us to the boat, which looked like it would be a five or ten minute walk down the hill. About 45 minutes after we initially arrived, the young Fijian girl who had served us, Soko, asked us if we were ready to go and we started off down the hill. When we arrived at the beach, there was no boat. Soko told us they had called the captain and he was on his way. It was now almost 11am and our appointment had been for 9:30. A tall, fit Fijian came walking down the beach towards us.
He gave us a big grin, “Bula. Are you Christine?”
“I’m Kristin and this is Brooke, we booked a dolphin tour today.”
“Ah, I am Jimmy and I will be your guide today. The captain, he caught some fish and is taking them back to the village. He will be here soon.”
Kristin had tried to explain Fiji time to me. She said, “The Fijians will do anything you ask them and they always get the job done, it’s just not usually done with any hurry. I think they feel that it’s such a beautiful country, why rush through life? Relax and enjoy the island.” While she says she has slowed down and she’s gotten used to Fiji time, she thinks she’s too Western to ever fully embrace it as a model for herself. We were seeing full blown Fiji time now.
We talked with Jimmy while we waited, he was very outgoing and friendly. He told us that two Germans were supposed to be on this tour with us, but one of them decided to go swimming while he waited, stepped on a stingray and gotten spiked. He had to go to the hospital, back in Suva. That drive was hard enough as a healthy person, we couldn’t imagine having to do it with a spiked and swollen foot. Poor guy. I was really glad I had decided not to swim while we waited.
Eventually, Jimmy walked back down the beach to the village to get the captain moving, as it was now nearly noon. Apparently, no one’s cell phone worked here so that was the only way to communicate.
“Jimmy,” I asked before he left, “have you thought about getting some walkie talkies?”
“Aaah,” he grinned with delight, “10-4 good buddy, come back, breaker breaker. I would like that very much, that’s a good idea,” and off he ambled down the beach.
About ten minutes later, a boat appeared around the curve of the beach and eventually slid right up onto the sand. Jimmy came to get us and help us on the boat.
“Watch out for the stingrays,” he says.
“Jimmy, why don’t you go first and get them out of our way,” I suggest.
“Ah, good idea,” he nods at me.
We are finally off on the water portion of our adventure, only two hours after our arrival. It is a 20 minute ride out to Half Moon Reef where the pod of about 100 spinner dolphins are. The day is glorious, not too hot, sunny, the ocean as calm and flat as a lake. We enter the reef area and immediately dolphins appear in front of our small boat, playing in the bow wake, and all around us. They leap and zig zag and put on a wonderful show. The water is clear and I can see dolphins in layers below us, mothers and babies, all of them seeming to play around us. We never saw any of them actually spin but I was happy with the show they were willing to give.
After about 30 minutes, our captain, Junior, asks if we want to go snorkeling, which I am eager to do, so we leave the dolphin area and head for a different part of the reef. We can see the reef below us, it’s not too far from the surface, in some places maybe only six or eight feet down. Jimmy scrabbles around under the open area in the forward section. He slowly finds us fins that fit, then he looks for masks, which when we get them, have mold in them and finally the snorkels. Kristin and I look at each other, nervous about putting these in our mouths, they were in a dirty bag on the floor, no disinfectant anywhere to be seen. Ugh. But I am desperate to get in the water so I rub the mouthpiece with my towel, say a little prayer and hope I don’t catch some exotic, tropical hoof and mouth type disease. We finally jump in and it feels freezing at first but within a minute, I am perfectly comfortable. Jimmy immediately takes off, ignoring Kristin and I completely and we swim around the boat for about 40 minutes. It is still dead calm, bad sailing conditions but perfect for a seasick prone girl, and I am in heaven. There are millions of fish of all sizes, shapes and colors, purple coral, bright blue starfish; it is a dream. Kristin tells me this isn’t even the good side of the island for diving, the western side, the Coral Coast, is even better. Wow, hard to imagine better than this.
While we are snorkeling, we didn’t even notice that Junior was fishing off the back of the boat. We climb in and there is a beautiful big cream brown fish with aqua blue spots, gasping on the bottom of the boat.
“Junior, are there sharks around here?” I ask nervously.
“Ah no,” he laughs at me as he continues to cast. It seems to me that fishing where people are snorkeling doesn’t seem like the best plan.
Kristin asks him what kind of fish it is.
“A spotted fish,” he replies with a grin. He has no idea what kind of fish it is and we all laugh.
We finally head back to shore, Jimmy regaling us with Rugby cheers that sound like war chants and he tells me that they actually are Fijian war chants. He is so into it that after he’s done, he’s breathing like he just ran a four minute mile. It was a magical day and we thank Jimmy and Junior as we jump off the boat.
Kristin and I head back home. We have a date with Trudi at the Australian High Commission (AHC) and we need to shower and primp.
The AHC has a Happy Hour once a month, in a canteen type area on the grounds. The landscaping inside the fence is spectacular, much nicer than the American Embassy, and there are houses scattered about hidden among the trees. There is a community pool which is filled with shouting children while the adults party in the bar area upstairs. I meet so many diplomats and am surprised by the number of very young men and women that work here. There are Aussies and Kiwi’s and Americans, they mingle socially quite frequently and it is a tight knit, warm community. I had a long conversation with the deputy commissioner of New Zealand about my travels there, he was very interested in my opinions of his country. I said they need to close their bathroom windows when it’s below 45 degrees, but otherwise, it was perfect.
We left the Happy Hour to head over to Eden to watch Allegra perform. She is small, with medium brown, short curly hair and freckles, just adorable. She is in the middle of a song when we arrive and she has a big voice for such a little body. She is playing the guitar while on her left, a pretty Asian girl is playing the violin and a tall, thin Fijian is sitting on a wooden box that doubles as a drum. The Asian girl works for the Peace Corp here and the man, Mr. Tim, is a music teacher at the International school.
They sound amazing and we stayed until they finished playing for the night. I did have one unexpected meltdown, when they played Iz’s version of Wonderful World. As soon as she sang the first line, I burst into tears, it was so beautiful and totally made me think of Michael, he loved that song. It was the song Scott and Jen played when Jen walked down the aisle and I could just see Michael on the beach that day, so happy and proud to be a part of their wedding. I’ve heard the song a million times since he died but for some reason, when I heard Allegra singing it, it touched something deep inside. That happens all the time, it doesn’t embarrass me and I don’t mind crying in public but I do try to keep it on the DL as much as possible. Of course my crying made Kristin cry but we just let it move through and I was laughing again five minutes later.
I have learned to just let it flow, breathe in and breathe out, stay in the moment. It will work itself out.