Thursday, October 20 (Day 50)
Nadi Bay – Denarau – Drawaqa island
Breakfast at 6.45 and it must be 24 degrees. You’d never get me up at this ungodly hour at home, but here I do it with pleasure. The morning bird song chorus is an absolute joy to experience.
Today should be very special. I’ve found my way to Denarau Port, just north of the capital, where I’m joining the Tall ship, Spirit of the Pacific, for a three-night Captain Cook Tours cruise to the Yasawa islands archipelago. There are only 18 of us booked on this sailing and everybody, I believe, with the exception of myself and one German lad, Jan, booked this tour from abroad at great expense many months ago. I struck gold yesterday when I discovered that during October it is possible to jump on this beautiful ship and enjoy three days of tall ship cruising free-of-charge if I book three nights’ accommodation at the resort of choice. The package comes in at 375 Fijian dollars (around 140 pounds), and also includes three days of full board meals and my own beach-side bure once we get to the island.
I can’t help it, but this feels like an episode of Survivor or Castaway, or one of those other numerous reality TV shows which involve being marooned on islands or cast out to sea on a ship.
There are eight crew and 2 Yanks (elderly couple), 3 British (me plus a young honeymoon couple), 3 Aussies (a couple plus the sheila’s sister), 10 Germans (2 couples, 1 lad, 6 girls).
The journey through the Yasawas takes six hours, including a thirty-minute snorkel off a reef that we pass. I spot a huge school of colourful Clownfish. When the trade winds die we have no choice but to cut the motor and sit and wait for the winds to return. This gives this experience a very special authenticity. When the winds return several of the lads, including myself, help the crew hoist the huge sails.
Six hours of sailing behind us the ship manoeuvres its way around a peninsula and drops anchor close to our final destination. My god, not only does this ship look like my imaginings of HMS Bounty, but this could quite easily pass as Botany Bay or some far flung corner of Polynesia.
Very occasionally, when I am travelling, I experience something I’ve always called ‘one-of-those-all-coming-together-at-the-same-time-moment’ feelings. It’s almost as if time stops, the universe stops turning and I am consumed by a rush of euphoria; goose bumps breaking out all over my arms and necks. For a moment or two it’s like I’ve been transported to a higher place. This is one of those moments.
The castaways alight onto the support vessel and we motor our way into shore. The water is as warm as a bath; as clear as crystal. The song Postcards from Heaven slips into my head and I begin to very quietly sing the words to myself. And as if this perfect, this one-of-those-all-coming-together-at-the-same -moment feelings, couldn’t get any better, we are greeted on the shoreline of this paradise by what appears to be the Bremen Stadt Musikants. Get this: our welcoming party is a three-legged dog, a pet baby goat, a bloke in a surrong strumming a guitar, and a Fijian lady, who places a beaded necklace over each and every one of our necks. Surreal wouldn’t do justice as a word. It is like the goat and the dog are cartoon characters, who can talk. I half expect them to shake paws with us.
Somebody is sending me postcards from heaven.