Dumb Ideas – Tropical Island Part One

This edition is a diversion from what I have posted to date. But what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t write about what ever takes your fancy. I’ve put this under the heading of Dumb Ideas because, as you will see, this story did not have an auspicious beginning. However, I’ve always been willing to jump off the metaphorical cliff and this is merely one example of that.

I once planned a trip to go island hopping around the pacific on a bicycle. What was I thinking? The year was 1984 and I thought it was a good year to get lost. I was right.

The first leg of the trip involved flying to Fiji. I arrived on the main island Viti Levu at about 2am and stayed in a shared room at a youth hostel. I had left Australia with a total of $800 to last me for the whole trip and get me home to Australia again.

The next morning I set off on my trusty road bike to circumnavigate the island and see what adventures awaited. Those first few days were pretty boring. Riding through cane fields, dodging vehicles on a narrow road, not really meeting anybody. Everyone thought I was a complete lunatic and I was starting to agree with them.

There weren’t any hostels or accommodation of any kind on the northern side of the island, so finding somewhere safe to sleep was an issue. I got about half way before the gravel roads and the lack of opportunity to meet with local people saw me jumping on a bus and heading to the capital, Suva.

Suva was more fun with a few more travellers around. I wasn’t sure what my next move would be until I heard that you could pick up a crewing berth on a yacht down at the sailing club. I’d been out on Sydney harbour a couple of times – sure I could crew! So I rode my bike down to the club and looked at the notices on the board and left a message for a couple of them. A day or so later I had my ride on a 40 footer with an Australian captain – ex navy marine surveyor. The bike satyed in Suva.

Captain’s plan was to island hop around the numerous islands that make up Fiji. Sounded good to me. It was for a while too. We went to Ovalau the beautiful old capital, then up to Vanua Levu, the second largest island. We stopped at some very small islands, some uninhabited, one where a white couple had set themselves up to live out their remote island fantasy.

The most wonderful experience was going snorkelling for the first time. It was just off the boat about 50 metres from shore. I remember putting my head into the water and seeing this parallel universe. It literally took my breath away and I came scrambling up for air. I had to take a minute to summon the courage to go under again – it was an intense; so many fish, big fish, reef sharks, sea snakes, rays. We were in about 20 metres of water and the reefs created an unbelievably beautiful underwater seascape. But could I cope with the thought of those sharks cruising around not that far, in fact, pretty damn close to my flapping legs?

After a week or so of cruising up the west coast of Taveuni and going far up into the north eastern sector of the Fiji Islands we came to a small group of uninhabited islands and dropped the anchor.

The next day we went around to the other side of the island and found there was a small village. The people of this village were very excited to see us. About 40 people lived a very basic existence here – no roads, no electricity, no shop, just a collection of thatched huts. They waved for us to come ashore and invited us to eat lunch with them. Before we knew it, they had thrown us a party – guitars and singing, kava drinking, beautiful food fresh from the ocean. It was so wonderful, it was the kind of experience I had dreamed of when planning this crazy trip.

Made it back onto the boat that night, but the next day, after a generous invitation to come and stay with a family on the island, I abandoned ship.

The plan had been to stay, as invited for a couple of weeks until the next time a boat would be heading back to Taveuni. After those first couple of weeks of heaven, I was told I couldn’t go, that I must stay longer. So I did.

Many exciting adventures followed and will be shared in part 2

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