Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rough Night for a Smooth Sail

Mike is in Melbourne studying now, left a week ago – poor him. I have been on my own with the 3 teens – poor me. You are not in Fiji – poor you.

I am sitting on the porch of my little bure at Daku Resort in Savu Savu on the second largest island in Fiji – Vanau Levu. A bure is a 2 room thatched roof hut with 2 beds/closet/fridge in one big room, bathroom in the next, and beyond that - the coolest outdoor shower. This shower is made of large, rough cut stones and grey mortar. It has a white ceramic tile floor and just the blue sky above. Sorta gets you in touch with your inner nudie.

We had a bit of a bumpy time getting here – just the 4 of us now. As with many things in Fiji, you can’t be certain how events will pan out until they have in fact panned.

We were booked on the Sullevin Shipping boat (which is essentially a huge freight vessel with some passenger compartments) for the Thursday at 2 pm crossing from Taveuni to Savu Savu. This was to be a 4 hour trip, but with reporting time at 12:30 it would turn out to be more like 6 – had we been lucky.

As Nand our taxi driver was taking us to the launch we saw the boat traveling - in the wrong direction. Nand called the office and found out that plans had changed – long story short the boat wouldn’t be leaving until 6 pm – arriving in Savu Savu at 10:30pm.

Nand recommended that we spend the day at Garden Island Resort – have lunch, go for a swim, etc. Great lunch and big selection of board games kept my kids happy –for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I killed the next 2.5 hours by roaming around the resort trying to avoid my kids – fully believing that if I couldn’t hear them fighting it wasn’t happening.

We were all tired and looking forward to sitting in a comfy chair on a boat – dozing for 4 or so hours.

We arrived at the boat launch – just a concrete slab that sloped into the ocean as the sun was setting. There were no lights, no shelter, and it was raining. We waited in the taxi as a dozen or so trucks loaded with pineapple and taro drove onto the vessel. We were the only tourists – the only Americans, and the only people, it seemed, with luggage.

People neatly lined up to enter the huge gaping hull of the ship and then at the last minute abandoned the line completely and just rushed onto the boat. And there we were, in the dark – mom and 3 kids, 4 backpacks, 4 suitcases, a dive bag and a guitar – trying to bumble our way through the mob in the freight cabin and up the stairs to the passenger compartments - 2 flights up. There might have been some cussing in that stairwell. I’ll never tell.

Several bruised shins later we made it to the economy compartment (repeat after me…ALWAYS TRAVEL FIRST CLASS ON FREIGHT VESSELS IN FIJI). The smell in this compartment was some otherworldly combo of vomit/parmesan cheese/roach spray. And it was 193 degrees Fahrenheit. We sat down at a table for four and quickly decided to take our chances topside.

The top deck was cool and breezy and smelled of ocean air. Unfortunately the roaches were holding a village meeting and I think I heard murmurs of a planned mutiny. I settled the kids into the most roach free table I could find and everyone went off into their happy place – lost in ipod land.

It was wet, it was rainy, it was a long crossing.

We arrived at Savu Savu around 11 pm to essentially the same scene – dark concrete slab with lots of giant trucks, a few people milling about and us - 4 Midwestern Yokels with too much luggage and a bleary expression.

I asked one young man where I could find a taxi and he was an angle. Found a taxi, loaded our luggage and gave us a giant smile and “Bula” welcome. The taxi took us out of town on this dark road – thank goodness just a mile or so – to our hotel. I got out of the taxi to find the hotel office had closed for the night. So I just turned to the taxi driver and said. “We either need to find someone who can open one of these rooms for us or we will all be using your pillow tonight.”

He quickly found the staff quarters and woke one of the staff, Kenny, from his sweet slumber. Bleary eyed, Kenny let us into the bure and wished us a goodnight. “Before you go,” I said, “Didn’t you know we were coming? I called the office to tell you that we would be on the late boat and wouldn’t be in until now. Weren’t you expecting that we’d come?”

“Yes, but in Fiji, it doesn’t happen ‘less it happens. I would miss a lot of sleep waiting.” He replied and flashed us that giant Fijian smile.


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