2009-09-18: Three Hour Tour


Today we made another trip to Tavenui for a few groceries
and to get cash for the trip to Suva
next week.  It has rained off and on all
week and last night it got pretty rainy and windy.  Thankfully it simmered down this morning and
the seas weren’t too rough.  It was still
rough enough to get anything wet not covered.

 

We luckily caught the bus right as we landed and ventured
off to the MH.  I deposited our
non-burnable trash in the bin outside the store.  The islanders think we are crazy for hauling
our trash.  I’m just too lazy to build a
rubbish hole and too American to throw it into the ocean.

 

After shopping we caught a cab back to the landing making a
quick stop at Court’s for to buy a fourth plastic chair.  We don’t have enough chairs to entertain
pulangi style, that means not sitting cross-legged on a mat, and part of our
integration is inviting villagers over for American style dinners.  I spotted a rechargeable fan and got it as well.  The power in our village will not support
fans or irons.  The latter isn’t as
critical but the former is an essential element for survival in the upcoming
sweat baths of the months of October through March.

 

We made it back to the landing in record time but had to
wait a few hours for the other passengers to return as it was parent’s day at
the secondary schools.  After a nice wait
we ventured back in some of the calmest waters we’ve seen yet.  Overall it was the smoothest trip off the
island we’ve made yet. 

 

Yesterday was another story though.  We have been trying to see the island to get
good photos for their website for two weeks but either the sea is too rough or
the skies are too cloudy.  Finally we
just through caution to the wind and headed out hoping the skies would clear up
to compliment the calm water.

 

We traveled on Malaki’s boat with Paki, his wife Filo, and
the construction crew building a backpacker’s lodge on the windward side of the
island.  We boated around the west side
to make a stop at Paki’s block to harvest bamboo and fish for dinner.  Kelly and I strolled along the coral rich
beach, took a few photos, and enjoyed the overcast view of the bay.  Sun or shine Fiji is always beautiful.  Malaki then took us around to the far western
tip of the leeward side and we made a stop at Samalu’s block.  The water was crystal clean and beach
pristine.  Malaki asked if we where up
for a hike and we boastfully acknowledge we had hiked six miles the week before.  Little did we know this hike would be
different.

 

It started off bad pretty quick.  The first jaunt was up and down a mud soaked
hill.  The only thing Kelly dislikes more
than body hair is mud.  And there was a
lot of mud!  At one point we both looked
at each other and wondered what the H we where doing slogging up a muddy hill
in pouring rain following a guy with a fishing net and no shoes.  After crawling up and sliding down we made it
to the beach and made out way eastward. 
Malaki traversed the terrain like a Land Cruiser in Africa
while we slumbered along like a tricycle in sand.  After a short walk along the beach we reached
a large point and instead of walking around we made another dash through the
muddy bush.  This time it almost came to
blows, as Kelly was ready to turn back half way up the incline (**note from Kelly – I lost a toenail and
have photos to prove it!!**). 
It
pretty much every man for himself as trying to partner your way up the hill
would only result in a slip in slide mud snowball barreling down the hill.  So we both gritted our teeth and mustered out
way to the pinnacle only to see a steeper descent.  This time Malaki tried to assist Kelly but it
only caused him to slide down the hill with Kelly close behind.  I reverted to my child hood skateboarder
instincts and did a two-legged mud slide down half the hill.  Don’t tell Kelly, but I secretly enjoyed it
while she would have rather had a root canal.

 

We made it back to the sand and stuck to the shoreline from
that point onward.  Malaki followed us
along for a bit to show us the way to Collin’s, Paki’s brother, construction
site and then headed back to the boat fishing with a large net along the
way.  He probably made it back in half
the time.

 

The walk along the shoreline wasn’t much easier as the rain
had turned the rocks slippery as ice.  We
shuffled our way here and there trying to find the path of least
resistance.  After about four hours and
four miles we lumbered across the beach to Collin’s place.  I was really impressed with the
construction.  The floors and walls where
concrete, the framing was all hardwood, and there was actually an electrical
panel with breakers!  They had weaved
coconut palms to form a seamless exterior cladding blending well with the
scenery.  There was a deck under
construction that extended along three sides of the square structure.

 

After the jobsite tour we settled in to read and nap along
the beach.  Collin’s neighbors brought us
scones and tea, which was a major hit. 
Our boiled eggs and biscuits we packed for lunch didn’t fend off the
hunger too long after our trek through the island backwoods. 

 

Malaki and the crew showed up in the boat with a load of
lumber, threw it into the ocean from the boat, and then hauled it to
shore.  The entire time they where either
splashing each other, telling jokes, or singing.  This was after a hard day of cutting bamboo
and lumber with no shoes!  I am
constantly amazed at the joy of the islanders and their constant affection for
life no matter what is happening.

 

They boated off for another load and soon thereafter Petueli
showed up with a load of bamboo for the walls of the bure.  The plan is to cut it in half and weave it to
the walls.  We caught a ride back to the
village with Petueli and got a nice view of the southern side of the island.

 

Overall it was a day I wouldn’t want to do again, but I was
glad I did it.  We learned a great deal
about the life of remote villagers, how hard it is to transport materials and
people around the island, how hard it is to hike during the rain, and how
beautiful God’s creation is in its original packaging.   

 

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