An Average Day in Paradise
(Vanua Levu, Fiji)
Tuesday August 22, 2001
8:00 AM – Our resort provides both 110V and 220V power, which is a luxury for us Americans. We can use all of our personal care appliances without employing a voltage converter. The smell of fresh coffee finally awoke Cagey for the day and we simply sat, watched and listened from our lanai.
8:30 AM – Takasa, our shy and pretty server came up our walk and rang the bell along our walkway. Since we had the resort all to ourselves and the place practically defines privacy, members of the staff always ring the bell so that one can toss on a lightweight robe in time to avoid embarrassment. In any event, Takasa had fresh cut fruit, home made bread and muffins, orange juice, butter and preserves for us. Could it possibly be better than this? Our bay and our breakfast were all we needed. We fed a few pieces of papaya to the Myna Birds, in hopes of bribing them into being quiet the next morning, to no avail.
10:15 AM – Terry drove us the couple hundred yards from the resort office, down the steep hill to the little dock they had built at the end of the resort’s property. There he helped us into our Alaskan-made, two-person sea kayak, which has an aluminum frame and a waterproof fabric skin to keep us dry. It seats two and has steering pedals that act like those on a small airplane. The only trouble is that the kayak will not move unless you paddle it. We never did master the art of paddling in unison, but somehow we moved along the beach and around our end of Natewa Bay.
At last, we rounded the point of land leading to Takasa’s house, and here is what we saw. Because of tidal action, sandy beaches are in short supply in Natewa Bay. A twenty-foot wide beach is a major one, with many places having just a rocky shore and no beach at all. Takasa lives with her father and her young son on a sandy beach about as long as Waikiki Beach, in Hawaii. Hers is the only house on that beach. When I read that statement, I still have to let its reality sink in to my consciousness.
On our return trip, we paddled out about half a mile, from time to time viewing unspoiled tropical reefs below us. Then we turned for home. As we glided back in, we encountered one of about six I-beams that were standing vertically at the edge of the final shallows. Apparently they were placed there to alert any sailor who might come along that they were about to hit the rocks. Terry said that he thought they were driven-in forty or fifty years ago, but by whom he did not know. There they stand, rusting at their bases, the only manmade items visible on Natewa Bay.
12:15 PM – We returned to the dock just as the tide began to fill our end of the bay. Terry had contracted for a small power shovel to be brought to the dock area so that Lomalagi Resort’s tiny channel could be dredged to a depth that his Sea-Doo jet boat (more on that later) could be launched or retrieved, even at low tide. The remnants of the old coral reef were piled to the sides, leaving small towers of gray, rock-like matter that reminded me of the tufa towers of Mono Lake, California, located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We rode back to the resort in an ancient work truck, which was loaded with coral sand, used to fill in the potholes of the roads within the resort.
1:15 PM – Upon our return, we were treated to a lunch of shrimp and lobster, with ice cream for dessert. Our guests that day were three Aussies who were buying property nearby. It seems that all the Europeans who visit our end of Vanua Levu call ahead and the Lomalagi dining room transforms into a restaurant. The moneyman of the three said he was building a house somewhere down past Takasa’s beach. He had brought all his “toys”, including a sport fishing boat. Looking back, more than six years later, I wonder if he was the vanguard of the group who plan to develop a large resort nearby, creating artificial islands in the once-pristine Natewa Bay.
2:15 PM – We wandered down to the office and shopped a bit in Collin’s boutique. Having misplaced the map I had bought in Savusavu, I purchased a large new one for $10 F. While we were there, Collin called on our behalf to the Cousteau Resort, located at the other end of the island, to arrange for our scuba diving the next day. I spoke with one of their dive masters, explaining that we were scuba-certified and that we really would show up the next day, if the boat would be there to meet us.
2:30 PM – We decided to walk around the grounds and see some of the sights. The property comprises twenty-five acres, but we restricted ourselves to the area near our bure, which has hills, coconut trees, flowers and an incredible green lawn, which covers the entire landscape.
The previous day, when we pulled our Suzuki Jimny up under the huge tree at the center of the property the day before, we saw a powerful, lean man pushing a large power mower across a huge stretch of the lawn. Keep in mind that half of this lawn is on what looks like a 30-degree slope. I shouted out, “Bula” to him because I had acculturated to say that to everyone we met. He stopped the mower and approached us. Removing his gloves, he offered his hand and said, “Hello, I’m Spence”, in a New Zealand accent. He appeared to be a blond haired rock-of-a-man, tall and muscular, with perhaps a bit of Maori ancestry.
As the days went by, we would hear Spence and his mower from time to time. Actually, the gas engine propelled it, but even with that assist, I am sure I could not have pushed it up and down those steep hills for very long. I recalled the Greek myth of Sisyphus. You know the one, with Sisyphus destined to roll a huge rock up a hill. As soon as he reached the top, the rock would get away from him and roll back to the bottom, where he would have to start the process all over again. I always assumed that it was one of the Greek Tragedies (which technically it may be). More recently, I heard the story Examined in a different way. This version was about the simplicity and beauty of Sisyphus’ life. In this version, he knew his task and he performed it well. He made it a noble gesture to use all his strength to propel the rock up the hill, where inevitably it rolled back to the bottom. Then, he reset his sites on his goal and started again. Spence and his mower embodied that ethic. He appeared to have a purpose in life and he stuck to it.
5:30 PM – It turned cloudy. The Mynas returned to the deck. It was time to shower in that fabulous Fiji-water and get ready for dinner.
7:00 PM – Dinner was Indian Curry, light and tasty.
9:00 PM – We were back in the room, preparing our dive gear and cameras for the next day.