Sunday, October 23 (Day 53)
Dawaqa Island – Tavawa Island
The clocks have gone forward so I’m up at 5.30, in old hours, to grab a nescafe and wave most of my friends off. What a nice bunch of people. I think I can truthfully say I have a soft spot for every single person I’ve spent these past three days with. It’s been a pleasure and an experience, I believe, that will stay with me for a long time. Annika is the last to leave. I will miss her most of all. She is so bloody charming and easy to be in the company of. We give each other a big hug and promise to stay in contact. No, nothing happened. She has a boyfriend and I am not in the right state of mind for a fling even if it were a possibility. She just happens to be one of those few girls I’ve met on the trip that has restored some personal faith in the female of the species.
A speed boat takes the two German couples and I off the island and connects with the Yasawa Flyer high speed catamaran. It is like I’ve left paradise and joined the 21st century mundane as I get on board with the tourist masses and credit card machines ready to empty our bank accounts in return for passage north.
A couple of hours later, the catamaran slows from its cruising speed of 25 knots and some of us are dropped at Coral Beach Resort. If I was fresh from England this place would seem like paradise but after staying on Dawaqa Island, living the simple life for four days, this upmarket resort feels a bit like a Butlins camp, especially as around fifty per cent of the punters here are indeed English. It is an immaculately run place though, with its mown green lawns and cool beach side decking, adjacent to a beautiful coral reef and boasting wonderful views of the craggy mountains of some far off island. I chose to stay here a few days back because it is the only non-luxury island in the north of the Yasawas that has a TV and is guaranteed to show today’s world cup final. I actually missed the third placed play off between Wales and Australia and I don’t even know how that match ended.
You find yourself doing a lot of sunbathing in the Yasawas. I think the last time I had this much of a tan was in ’98 during my world tour with my mate Kelvin. I’d forgotten I could actually turn this colour. I quite like it when some people mistake me for being an Italian geezer.
It does feel rather bizarre watching the All Blacks and the French warming up for the world cup final. Auckland honestly feels like a million miles away now. Respect to the French for their players making a ‘V-shape’ whilst the All Blacks launch into the Haka. When the French break the V and stroll menacingly forward towards their Kiwi opponents it does give the French an aura of being well up for this match. I reckon they’ve just earned themselves an extra few points in this game.
There are about fifty of us here watching this, many post-New Zealand travellers having had the same idea as me to stay here tonight. I’m in the company of a 26-year old London lad and a 43-year-old English lass from Portsmouth. But more about them later.
If I’d been near a betting shop today I’d have put a tenner on the All Blacks winning this by a 20-30 point margin. I’ve been right with a lot of my predictions at this world cup and I really didn’t expect the French to push the New Zealand team like this. The usually reliable Weepu, the man who leads the Haka for the team, is missing everything in front of the posts, including a couple of penalties that he would normally put away in his sleep. The All Blacks are also picking up plenty of injuries as they are forced to dig deep into their squad, and even pull out a couple of the experienced old boys who’ve spent most of their world cup under wraps as spectators. With the clock ticking down New Zealand are holding on to their 9-8 lead by their fingernails. One big mistake from the All Blacks or an inspirational bit of play from the French, and the Europeans could steal this. As the French try to gain territory for what will be a match-winning drop kick, there’s a turnover. The All Blacks now know they’ve won it. The All Blacks kick for touch and they have done it, they have won the 2011 rugby world cup on home soil.
I’m pleased for them in truth. They were undeniably the best team at the tournament and they have hosted an excellent spectacle down here at the bottom of the world. As the team pick up their individual winners medals the bar at Coral View clears out and I’m left alone with the lad from London and one Fijian guy who I think is half Kiwi. I sort of don’t want them to turn off the TV or for me to leave the bar. My God though, the closing promotional video for England 2015 is pretty bloody naff. I wish they hadn’t shown that and had closed the transmission instead with the earlier images of the All Blacks players parading around the stadium with their trophy and the fireworks breaking out over the Sky Tower and the Auckland skyline. As I slowly stroll back to the dorm through the immaculately kept gardens I feel an intense melancholy for the passing of the 2011 New Zealand world cup. Thank you, New Zealand.