Wednesday, November 30
I have been back in Europe almost a week now, and it is fair to say that the happy-go-lucky me that left the Pacific no longer feels quite so sunny. It is grey, miserable, and Europe seems like a depressing place with the continent's economic woes seemingly impacting upon everybody.
I am trying to stay positive but the truth is I wish I was back in Fiji or Samoa. Hopefully, a weekend out with half a dozen of my mates will help me transition back to reality.
I've started adding links to all the blog text. This will enable readers to read more about the people, places and things mentioned in More Than a Game stories. Just click on the link and a new window will be opened with information about that topic.
I have also begun uploading dozens of photos. Many of these are now added to the Fiji pages. You can access previous pages by either clicking on the Archive months (you can find this on the right hand side of this page), or by clicking 'Previous', which you will find at the very bottom of this page on the left hand side.
Over the next few weeks I will continue to add photos, links, additional info about projects we like, as well as redeveloping the website.
Wednesday, November 23 (Day 84)
Auckland, New Zealand – Seoul, South Korea
If you’d told me this time last year that on November 23, 2011 I’d be getting up from bed in an Auckland airport motel at 1am and driving to New Zealand’s main airport to meet a bloke called Michael, arriving on a flight from Tonga, I just wouldn’t have been able to work out how and why this would come to pass.
Back at the hostel we swap war stories about Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. Tonga sounds like it is very far removed from the modern world, with plenty of seemingly strange idiosyncrasies that make this Pacific kingdom just as special as Samoa when it comes to being ‘different’. Michael tells me he was evacuated from one remote island on a small speedboat after a hurricane warning was issued. I think that was the same storm that came through Samoa around a week ago. He is due to fly back to London on Friday but might change his flight and hang around to see if he can find a job in New Zealand. I’m laughing because a month of lying on beaches and having a silly amount of time to think has clearly left Michael with more questions than answers about what he wants to do and where he wants to be in life. We crash at around 4am and get three hours sleep before it’s time for me to head back to the airport.
Leg two of my journey back to Europe from the Pacific is a 12-hour flight from New Zealand to South Korea, which over-flies the east coast of Australia, the misty and mysterious mountains of Papua New Guinea and the vast open sea between the Philippines and Guam. It’s daylight all day and I don’t sleep a wink, but Korean Airlines is a quality airline. The stewardesses are absolutely charming and when it comes to politeness it is pretty difficult to beat the Koreans. The food is great, the drinks keep flowing and I manage to catch up with three movies that were released after I first left Europe for Argentina in June. Black Brown White (a road trip movie set in Morocco and Spain), and Wer Wenn Nicht Wir (a political drama set in 1970s Germany) are both well worth seeing.
I am spending the night in Incheon. My Korean Airlines ticket includes a complimentary stopover and hotel here tonight. After leaving South Korean customs and immigration and picking up my free hotel and meal vouchers I step out of the airport and into the open air. You’ve got to laugh. I’m wearing my beach flip flops, a T-shirt still caked in sand, three-quarter length jeans and the temperature is two degrees Celsius. I can’t tell you how cold 2C feels after weeks of it being 23-28 degrees at night in the Pacific. I spot a couple of Koreans, kitted out in long winter coats, scarves and gloves, pointing and giggling at me. You can hardly blame them.
I have to give a big shout to Korean Airlines. Basically, it is 24 hours of flying between New Zealand and London but instead of doing the journey in one long drag, with three or four hours between flights in Korea, I have a 20-hour stopover in Seoul. Not only does the airline provide complimentary dinner and breakfast during this lay-over, but they’ve also put me up at the 5-star Hyatt Regency Incheon.
I’ve got a gorgeous room with a huge double bed that I may well get lost in during the night. Time for my first hot bath in three months. Dinner is absolutely superb – a four-course buffet. I am extremely tired and struggling with jet lag but I’m going to try and stay awake so I can enjoy this luxury for a couple of hours.
Watching the huge LG TV from the comfort of my equally huge bed, I discover that the Occupy movement spread throughout the US and around the world during October and November. The press though are vilifying the movement as being a bunch of Trotskyite and Anarchist type individuals who just want to kick off with the police. They have no clear message apparently. It is convenient for the TV and newspaper morons to paint popular protest with this brush of one-dimensional negativity. Most of society is being depleted by the movement of capital from the bottom to the rich at the top. The capitalism model is clearly broken and democracy doesn’t really exist anymore. In my view the reason this movement looks like it doesn’t have a clear message is because, in some senses, it is not a group of people with one clear set of political ideals. Inequality and political nepotism are two of the many reasons ‘the 99 per cent’ are out on the streets. I think there is some similarity between ‘Occupy’ and Solidarnosc, the 1980s anti-Communism movement that helped topple the communist regime in Eastern Europe.
After sleeping on the ground for much of the past six weeks I’m almost inclined to leave the comfort of my huge bed and lie on the floor.
Monday, November 14 (Day 76)
Aganoa Beach Retreat & Rainforest Reserve – Pulemelei – Aganoa (Savai’i, Samoa)
This place is in danger of becoming Mango Bay 2.0. My intended one night stay became two yesterday and, despite my best intentions to leave this morning; I will now stay for a third evening. Time is a-running-out though. This time next week I leave Samoa and begin my long and arduous three-day journey home from one side of the globe to the other; from perpetual summer to gloomy winter.
Ulrika and I are off in search of the Pulemelei mound, said to be the largest ancient structure in all of Polynesia. If this fact is true then you might expect this to be top of the pops when it comes to local tourist attractions, and yet it is proving pretty damned impossible to find out any useful information about this centuries-old site.
A record four cars and trucks pass us on the road before the fifth stops to give us a lift. There are few places where hitchhiking is as safe and easy as Samoa. When we are dropped off, near the well signposted Afu-A-Au waterfalls, we soon discover that there is absolutely no signage for Pulemelei. The driver is confident though that we should follow a nearby track towards the river and keep to the pathways from there. After a few hundred metres, a young bandana-wearing lad, accompanied by a well-trained hunting dog and brandishing a machete, appears seemingly out of nowhere and asks us for some cash for our visit to the mound. Ulrika is great company; she’s thoughtful and a really good laugh, but I wish sometimes she’d go with the flow a bit more instead of questioning absolutely everything. She’s suggesting to this lad that he might be a fraud and perhaps we shouldn’t give him the cash. I mean, come on, he’s holding a machete and he’s got a dog with him that could tear us limb from limb. He’s asking us for three quid between the two of us. If he’s a crook I think he could do a bit better than demanding three of Her Majesty the Queen’s pounds off of us.
Our hike lasts for a good four or five kilometres until the path narrows, passes first through a coconut grove and then an overgrown track of bright, colourful flowers and weeds. We ascend some steep rocks and, almost without realising it, we are stood atop of the mound. This is crazy. This structure must be sixty metres square and, aside from its summit, it is entirely overgrown with thick green weeds and bushes. Right in the centre of the mound, two gorgeous mango trees, heavily laden with fruit, wrap their roots around the black volcanic stones below. I don’t think we passed a single mango tree on the route here. Strange, that these two attractive trees should make this mound home. This is proper Indiana Jones stuff. I mean, it doesn’t appear that this pyramid-type structure has been properly excavated. From the summit there are commanding views of the distant sea and, to our north-west, we can just make out the partly hidden peaks of Savai’i’s tallest mountains: Mount Maugamua, Mata’aga, and 1866-metre high Mount Silisili (Yes, the tallest mountain in all of Samoa is called ‘Silly Silly’). These mountains are all located on a high plateau, which does an exceedingly good job of concealing most of their delights from the world below and thus giving them a touch of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Below the ‘mound’ there is, I would say, around one hundred square metres worth of land that is overgrown with nothing more than thick weeds and beyond that is a coconut grove. Use your imagination and you can picture this pyramid devoid of foliage, towering above a flat area of land below. I just don’t get it. With around 100 labourers, they could clear the pyramid in less than a week and quickly get to work on clearing the flat area in front of it. What you would then have is a legendary hidden pyramid rising up into the heavens; a nation’s leading tourist attraction that would encourage many of the thousands of visitors to Samoa’s ‘Upolu island, who never make it across the Apolima strait, to visit Savai’i. The only information I have, thus far, about this place is that it is one of a reputed 150 ‘star mounds’ that have so far been discovered throughout Samoa and American Samoa. Many leading archaeologists have only recently become aware of these Samoan structures, and dozens of star mounds remain unexcavated. Indulging our imaginations for an hour or so, Ulrika and I finally leave this very special place and set off back to Aganoa to enjoy my final afternoon and evening of simple pleasures there. The very first car that passes stops and the nice Samoan couple inside drop us off at the entrance to the rainforest reserve.
I think this is one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of sunbathing on. You can totally relax here, safe in the knowledge, that nobody and no creature will ever come and disturb you. The sun has got his hat on again today and the water, although noticeably colder than it was in Fiji, is still well above 20 degrees and an absolute pleasure to swim in. I spend a good half hour playing a game of ‘tag ‘with a dozen curious fish with short memories. This mob of beige and white fish, one of an astounding 900 different varieties of fish living off these islands, seem absolutely fascinated by my presence and regularly venture within a few centimetres of my legs. What I do is to try and trick them into the shoreline where I attempt to tag at least one of the fish before they swim off. They never tire of this game because they always forget that they’ve played it five seconds later. Glass Knee Charlie returns from his latest surf on the treacherous reef and tells me he’s just spotted two reef sharks out there.
In the early evening, shortly before sundown, the family that run the surf retreat give me a lift in the back of their truck to the Salelologa wharf so that I can get some cash out from the ATM to pay them for my stay here. This jump off point for inter-island ferries, along with the tourist town of Manase, are the only two places on the whole of this island where you can access cash.
The Australian owner, his Samoan wife and a couple of their relatives are off shopping for provisions, including fresh bread for tomorrow’s breakfast. It’s a gorgeous journey in the back of the van, waving to locals; the wind in my face. On the return leg, I ride in the front with the Aussie owner and he tells me about life in Samoa. He’s been living here for 15 years after a five-year stint in Fiji prior to that (where he says life was even more idyllic before the first of the Fijian military coups in the 1980s). Things have changed very little here during his time on Savai’i. The locals remain friendly and governed by family and village life. Crime is virtually unheard of and most families are almost entirely self-sufficient. It is only the past few years’ huge increases in fuel prices that have really made life more difficult. Fortunately, the locals are not too reliant on rice, which has increased in price by 100 per cent in two years, but when you earn 2 Tala/hour (roughly 60 pence), your money doesn’t stretch too far. (We have the radio switched on during our conversation, and I suddenly overhear some news about thousands of people ‘occupying’ the streets of Philadelphia and Detroit. I’ve heard virtually no news during the past five weeks and couldn’t tell you what the hell the ‘news people’ are talking about.)
I honestly don’t know anybody that has cancer on this island, the Aussie owner tells me. Back home, every second or third person I know seems to be getting cancer or needs open heart surgery. But here, very few people get really sick. I don’t know what they are doing to people in the western world with the food, water and the air; the radiation levels in some places in the United States are making young kids ill.
Sometimes, it really seems like the powers that be in the developed world have some kind of agenda to kill us all off. It makes me laugh when I meet people who still believe their governments are there to ‘look after them’. All of the food I’ve consumed on this island comes from the local soil, trees, bushes and animals. Those that eat fish, enjoy a bountiful supply of fresh, tasty meals straight from the ocean. It is all absolutely organic and free range…and free. I’ve never tasted fruit that tastes as good as it does in the Pacific. And I can also say that I haven’t seen a single chemtrail (the crap from aircraft that hangs in the European skies for hours) up in the heavens during my five weeks in the Pacific. Don’t believe the nonsense they tell you that chemtrails are natural and are caused by commercial airliners: watch a normal commercial airliner and you will notice that its vapour trail begins to disappear within seconds. Chemtrails are created by other aircraft that are purposely filling our otherwise clean air with metals, toxins and poisonous chemicals. They hang there in the sky and gradually drop to earth, poisoning each and every one of us that breathe them in. You don’t think your government would do that to you? Well, question then why in some parts of the UK, Canada and the US the authorities purposely contaminate the population’s drinking water with highly toxic, poisonous fluoride. No, it doesn’t keep your teeth healthy and white. That’s a lie. The fluoride in the water poisons and dumbs down the population. Why would the government poison its own people through the food you eat, the water you drink and the air you breathe? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the global pharmaceutical industry would it? Or the multi-billion dollar private health care and insurance industries? Or Eugenics? Or population reduction?
I don’t know. You tell me. If I were you, I’d leave Europe and come and live in the Pacific instead.
Thursday, November 3
Now, I’m not sure how to properly explain this or, indeed, to get the point across as to quite how absurd and bizarre this all feels. But I will try…
Shortly after leaving Fiji at 8pm on Friday, November 4 our aircraft crosses the International Date Line and I find that I have travelled backwards in time. As our flight to Apia only lasts 90 minutes, the time and date when we arrive in Samoa is, wait for this…11pm on Thursday, November 3. Try as I will, I just can’t get my head around this. It is Thursday again. Ok, there might only be one hour of the day left, but I’ve already done Thursday and most of Friday for that matter. So, I’m one day older and one day younger. I’m going to spend a night in a hotel room in Samoa at exactly the same time as I spent a night in a hotel room in Fiji. I find myself withdrawing cash in Samoa several hours before I last withdrew money in Fiji…today…yesterday. Three hours ago I was living twelve hours ahead of my family and friends in the UK, now I’m 11 hours behind them. It is all very, very confusing.
As if all this isn’t a head spin, I wasn’t quite prepared for the wonderful new delights of Samoa.It’s now midnight and it is 28 degrees. Apia International is about the size as a basketball court. In fact, I’d describe it as Kaliningrad international airport with palm trees and emotionless blokes wearing surrongs. I’ve turned up blind here. The Lonely Planet is thin on the ground about the logistics of this place. I’ve got nothing booked and I don’t have any idea how to sort the 35 kilometre journey from here to the capital. Fortunately Jade, one of the top people at the Samoan National Tourism Board, has still got her tourism desk open at midnight, kindly books me a room in town, arranges a meeting between the two of us for tomorrow and points me in the direction of the special 25 Tala (7 pathetic pounds) airport shuttle. On board there are six lone blokes. A couple of them are US military types (always worth swerving in my opinion if only to avoid their warped world views), while the only other bloke, aside from myself, who doesn’t seem to have much clue, has the persona and the creepiness of an Austrian paedophile. In fact, I’m pretty sure he is one.
It is pitch dark along the main road. Despite the odd very dim street lamp, I can still see the glorious splendour of the Milky Way from the bus window. I’m impressed that the first pot holes are a mere couple hundred metres from the airport car park exit. We pass tiny villages with huge churches which look like Lithuanian Catholic cathedrals. The local blokes are strolling around naked above their surrongs (certainly a no-no in Fiji). And dogs, oh my God, there are wild dogs everywhere roaming the streets. When we do arrive in Apia, which resembles a ghost town during a ghost town holiday, the only punter I see is a half-naked elderly homeless bloke. As I peer out at him I see him get attacked by three dogs. I turn my head and look out of the rear window of the van and it looks like the dogs are eating him.
When I’m dropped off at Tatiana’s – the Samoan Motel with a very Russian sounding name - the 130kg poker-faced security bloke tells me I’m at the wrong Tatiana’s and then kindly drives me all the way back into town, not engaging(in a polite way) in any small talk I try to make. 50 tala (15 quid) gets me a room and some kind of breakfast.
It is now 2am and the only person that has smiled thus far was Jade at the airport, although I think I detected a half smile from the transfer driver when he realised I was his last drop off and he could go home. In Fiji it was bula! and omnipresent broad smiles, whereas the Samoans do this sort of delayed turn up of the mouth, wink and then whisper where you from?
They have this floaty weird silent thing going on that I can only liken to the good people of Iceland and Estonia (when they are sober that is). Here you have these gargantuan blokes who whisper on their mobiles. I reckon they’d make good contract killers. I sit outside the motel, shortly after checking in, where you could hear a pin drop when the dogs are not barking. Sensing something I turn around and spot that one bloke of around 110 kilos is stood behind me. I didn’t hear him come, not the slightest sound.
Thursday, November 3 (Day 64)
Mango Bay – Suva – Navoti Landing - Levuka
Cash is king but with an absence of ATMs I’ve been maxing the debit card in Fiji. I’ve subsequently now got to face today’s bill for six nights’ accommodation, restaurant meals, an international phone call, internet and – worst dread of all – my six night bar tab. I guess I’ve covered about 30 quid in cash over this past week but I do pause before I look at my invoice fearing the worst:
My final bill for this wonderful week spent in paradise at Mango Bay comes to a grand total of just 313 Fijian Dollars. Even making allowances for the low currency value of the Pathetic Pound, my bill for all of the above comes in at just 110 pounds – around 20 quid per day full board, alcohol and a few extras. Apparently, as I stayed a fifth night I got the sixth night free (the same deal as when you stay for a third night). I bloody love this place.
I say my goodbyes to the staff and those few friends that still remain, struggling to leave the front gate and get a lift down to the main road in search of Suva-bound buses.
But once I’m a couple of kilometres away from Mango Bay, passing attractive Fijian villages and the wind rushing against my face inside the van, a great sense of freedom consumes me. It is good to be back on the road. It was definitely time to leave.
It is two hours (3 quid) or so to the Fijian capital, Suva, described to me by Scunny Mark as ‘Coventry by the sea with palm trees’. Mark’s description filled me with dread but upon arriving in Suva I feel taken in by the vibe, the people, even the low key bustle. There’s just time for a quick wander around and an Indian curry at a little place in the food court. This is the best curry I have had in a couple of years. Two quid gets me a deliciously spicy eggplant, potato and chickpea curry, two roti, rice, dhal, 2 samosas and a calming mug of masala tea. It does though rather bring out the inner sweat and I’m relieved to dive into the Patterson’s Shipping office to resuscitate in their ice cold air con while my bus and ferry tickets to Lomaiviti Island are organised for me.
Once out of Suva, eastern and north eastern Viti Levu feels and looks completely different from the Fiji I have so far encountered. There isn’t a single sign of development; not a single holiday resort out on this side of the main island. I just can’t get over how many different kinds of birds there are swooping around, and the omnipresent canopy of red flowers that are currently blooming above around half of the region’s trees give this rural part of Fiji a real sense of natural perfection.
We pick up a group of 32 Fijians en route to the ferry crossing at Natovi Landing. One of their number, a very smartly dressed gentleman who’s probably got about five years on me, tells me they have an uncle’s funeral to attend in one of the villages near Levuka. Out of respect, the whole of the family on Viti Levu have upped sticks and left for Lomaiviti for three days.
The one hour crossing takes us to Lomaiviti, where the first sight that greets us is the rusting carcass of an abandoned fishing vessel, run aground close to the landing. From here it is a 45 minute bus journey around the unsealed tracks of this; well I will describe it thus: bonkers little island. Poison ivy seems to slowly be engulfing the whole place. This tiny island is about as untouched as you will find anywhere with habitation on this increasingly overpopulated world. Wild rivers cut through small plantations; bizarrely shaped mountains soaring into the heavens and thick mangroves marking the point at which land and sea meet.
Levuka is unreal. It is a Wild West town but the atmosphere is one of peaceful serenity. Most of this dates to the 1880s and is as authentic a place as I’ve seen anywhere in this regard. Original shop fronts hark back to the nineteenth century when the British administered this country from the peaceful solitude of this small island outpost. If you ever wanted an authentic looking film set for a cowboy movie, this most certainly is your place. I book into the Royal Hotel, the oldest hotel in Fiji, which dates back to 1860. I am astounded by this place. Of all of the world’s still existing colonial hotels, and I’m thinking of the likes of Raffles in Singapore, and the colonial gems in Yangon, Burma and Baalbek, Lebanon, this time trap of a place is certainly amongst the most authentic I’ve come across on my travels. There’s an original pool hall, a wonderfully atmospheric bar and dining area full of original furniture and fittings, and a creaking wooden staircase leads to my bedroom, which although not exactly luxurious, exudes history and character. I feel like laughing aloud when the hotel manager tells me it is going to cost me just 25 Fijian Dollars (9 pathetic pounds) to stay here for the night.
Prince Charles apparently stayed just down the road from here when he handed over Fiji from the British in 1970 and it became an independent country. Close by there is also a rather sinister looking Masonic Lodge(1875), which was set ablaze during the 2000 coup when local Methodists claimed the Masons were working with the devil. Fair play to the local Levukans. I suspect there are plenty of Masons who are in league with Satan or at the very least the fascist Neo-liberals. Better off without that particular secretive society plotting, rolling up their trouser legs and God knows what else behind closed doors in the middle of your community. The walls of the building remain as does the ever sinister Masons’ symbol above the entrance.
Time trap Levuka’s main street is a collection of wooden storefronts, ageing pool halls, cosy restaurants, dilapidated churches and boisterous bars. The Morris Hedstrom trading store dates back to 1868, the gorgeous Sacred Heart Church, framed by the soaring mountain peaks behind it, was built in 1858, and the tiny original white wooden police station also harks back to 1874. Strolling around this Wild West street, being greeted with Bula by every person I meet, and observing the yachts moored offshore bobbing up and down on the crystal clear waters, leaves me with goose bumps and muttering to myself Amazing, Amazing.
Another wonderful curry, this time at Whale’s Tale, where I’m the only diner, I return to the hotel and enjoy a rum and coke with the hotel’s only two other guests, an Australian couple in their fifties who base themselves in Tasmania but increasingly call Fiji home. They adore this country (and I don’t blame them) and are thinking about making a permanent move here. As we pause to take a sip from our various brews, I listen to the grandfather clock tick tocking, the floorboards creaking and briefly slip into a fantasy involving me sitting here in a tweed jacket, discussing the latest matters of Empire and drinking a pot of tea with my fellow British naval officers. The year is 1888.
Wednesday, November 2 (Day 63)
Mango Bay, Fiji
This website isn’t achieving what I wanted it to do. Yes, I have good numbers - on average more than 100 unique viewers a day, peaking at 400, and that’s without currently using Facebook, email or link exchanges to drive traffic. In Africa the project was a great success although had Bjorn and his missus not gone all my precious at the end of it in South Africa, it would have and (should have) achieved a lot, lot more. I never really spoke about that at the time. I just didn’t want to rock the boat. The Shirt 2010 was Bjorn’s project, after all, so it didn’t seem right for me to kick up a fuss at the time about some of the bad decisions and personal conflicts that occurred right at the very end of our time in Africa. If I do manage to put a book together about these past 18 months’ adventures, as I hope I will, then I will go into all that then. Furthermore, in Argentina I struggled to find the projects that I’d wanted so much to champion and, when I finally did track two down, it was during my last two days, with an unsuccessful visit to the slums and an eye opening and humbling night on the streets with the homeless in Buenos Aires. More info will follow about the Buenos Aires street project after I get home.
In NZ I didn’t see any projects and I feel bad for that, but the truth is since my personal life took a turn in July I’ve had to concentrate on fixing myself before I can start worrying about others again. I realise today that the healing process is kicking in. I feel happy; very happy in fact. Sorry for not championing the grass roots projects as I’d intended but for the moment at least I feel very good about myself for the first time in four months. If you do get the chance, please take a look at the Projects We Like page, where you can click on the pictures and be redirected to the relevant websites. More projects will be added to this page when I get back to Europe and I am extremely keen that this website develops further to help promote the work of grass roots organisations which do wonderful work helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m still here. In Mango Bay. It’s like the Hotel California – you can check in but you can never leave. I sort of feel bad that I didn’t leave with Ruby, the British Iranian girl who is off to Caqalai Island to hook up with some National Geographic people who are making a film about venomous sea snakes. I was encouraging her to go on a two day road trip with me to see the snakes and to spend a night at the former colonial capital, Levuka. She was umming and erring - understandably with jet lag and enjoying the Mango Bay vibe - but today she suddenly said let’s go and I just felt too much in bits from last night’s back-of-the-net evening to pack my stuff and leave here in the space of half an hour. I should have gone. Sorry Ruby. Not that my day is bad: Kayaking on the lagoon with my French friend, reading A Clockwork Orange under the shade of a coconut tree, another kava ceremony, sunbathing factor 40 stylee, and falling asleep in a hammock under a palm tree.
It is time to leave this place now. This particular party and my personal Fijian rehab are over. My new year began yesterday. It’s time to get back on the road.
Monday, October 31 (Day 61)
Mango Bay, Fiji
The Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna, Tokelau, American Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Easter Island…last night’s conversation with Scunny Mark has got me thinking and projecting ideas on to the infinite possibilities white board of life. The South Pacific has always been the most far away, unlikely-to-ever visit place on my personal world map of travel but, now I am here in Fiji, the world, as I visualise it, has shrunk once again. Why not do a trip that starts in say Papua New Guinea or the eastern islands of Indonesia or the Philippines and then moves eastwards, taking in all of the Pacific island states listed above? I have never in my entire life heard of anybody who has set out on a full tour of the Pacific, but now I am here I realise it is well doable. Where the flights don’t really connect up there are twice monthly container ship routes and you could always jump on a yacht and offer your services (God knows what services I could offer) in return for passage to the next island state. You could do it in three or four months, I reckon. Surely this could rate as one of the world’s lesser travelled great adventure routes? A 2013 South Pacific extravaganza anybody?
Funny I should be building castles in the sky when I am struggling to move my arse from Mango Bay, two hours up the road to Suva. A hangover and a free overnight stay were my excuse yesterday. God knows what my excuse is today. Feeling far too chilled to put a rucksack on my shoulder maybe. Actually, the main reason I was planning to stay in Suva was so I could catch what I assumed would be an early morning bus from there to my next port-of-call, Levuka. It turns out I can leave here after breakfast tomorrow and catch a connecting bus from the big smoke (Suva is the biggest city in the Pacific) to Levuka at 1.30, so I’m laughing.
“So, you got lucky last night! Did you bang her in the dorm?” Tashkent asks me.
I knew it. I knew they were all going to think we’d hooked up. I’m not sure what Jenna would think if she knew that half of the punters at Mango Bay think she had banana flambé for dessert last night.
There’s a new arrival. A British-Iranian girl has just flown in from LA on her way back to Australia. She’s got real class. This place seems to be sucking in some nice women. Maybe that’s another of my excuses for not leaving gorgeous Mango Bay.
You know that you truly have too much time on your hands and life is easy when the highlight of your day is international crab racing. Yes, I celebrate this Halloween by buying the temporary rights to a Fijian crab (going by the name of ‘Rose’) and racing it against nine other crabs. The race is at 9pm local time so that’s 9am in the UK. I am thinking, as a crowd of us are gathered in a circle with beer bottles and cocktails in hand, cheering and shouting at the crabs, that some of my mates have just arrived at the office in London, Leicester and Birmingham. What would they think if they knew that at the same time I’m on the other side of the planet, half cut, racing and betting on crabs, which have got numbers painted on their shells? Or have they all long since given up on my ability to live what might be considered a normal, balanced life?
I’m happy to announce that my luck is obviously changing as Rose romps home and I win the contents of the kitty, thus making this another free night at Mango Bay. You’ve got to feel sorry for the Australian crab, Skippy, though. As the master of ceremonies picks up the winning crab and takes her to the winners rostrum, he manages to step on the Australian crab and send him to an untimely death. RIP Skippy.