Everyone knows that Fiji is always sunny and beautiful, so I was shocked and appalled to wake up in the middle of a cyclone, with rain and wind smashing the fuck out of everything around me. Ah well, it would have to be nice and sunny out on the islands, right?
After gobbling some leftover pizza and stashing the rest in my bag, I jumped in a little Indian bloke’s cab for a ride through the storm to Port Denerau, situated on the holiday island of Denerau. Calling it an island is a stretch – it’s separated from the mainland by a short bridge and a boom gate, to prevent any of the fat tourists who populate it from ever having to come face-to-face with any of the people who, you know, actually live in Fiji. I had a boat to catch, and I made it onboard only a minute or so before it left I live my life like Indiana Jones, always escaping under the closing door of a tomb at the last second.
The boat ride out to the far-flung Yasawa Islands is supposed to be beautiful, but for me and the other people going out that day it was nothing short of terrifying. The rain was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see more than 50m to any side, and it was as if we were all on a boat taking us to the next life. Every now and then a mountain would slide into view, before being replaced by a wall of white once more. It was as far from the photos of the islands I had seen as Wayne Swan is from a person with a basic grasp of economics.
After three hours we pulled up at Baluya Island, where I’ll be staying at the Manta Ray island Resort for the next three days. It was in there somewhere, under all that rain, and when I hit the sand I was impressed by the set-up. Wooden bars stand by the water, and the hill that reaches for the sky behind them is laced with delightful wooden bungalows. It would’ve looked perfect if not for the weather.
I wasn’t quite as impressed with our introduction to the island, though. While the woman who welcomed us was lovely, the whole thing gave me flashbacks to school camp, which is the opposite of what I want on a holiday. I spend my whole life being told what to do, when and how, so learning that drums would beat when it was time to eat filled me with a slow-creeping dread.
Lunch was served straight away, and again it was like school camp. The restaurant looks out over the misty beach, and is filled with long, wooden benches. I fell in with a couple of blokes from Sydney, Ryan and Simon (hey, that almost rhymes!), and we all decided that the only way to deal with such foul weather was to drink the day away.
I’d pictured myself snorkelling and lying on the beach, instead I spent the next eight hours drinking Fiji Bitter (which, according to my brother, is actually Victoria Bitter. But he also tells people he has a six-inch penis, while I’ve been reliably informed that it’s actually four-and-a-half and tastes like Doritos) and perving on backpackers, who were wearing far too much clothing due to the weather. Fuck.
I’d been wanting to get stuck into the kava while overseas, so I was stoked when the bloke who ran most of the activities, Solo, came over and asked if we wanted to have some with the boys that night. Of course we did! We headed away from the glossy facade of Manta Ray, and ended up on the dark western side of the island. Here everything wasn’t so glossy. We ducked into the shed where the boys at the resort live, and it was sad what they had compared to what was given to the guests. Their room was as big as mine, but nine dudes shared it. They slept in beds with thin mattresses. One fella slept on the floor. When we got there they were sitting on the floor, cross-legged, waiting for the kava.
I was already pretty sloshed, but lapped thirstily when the bowl was passed to me. It tasted like what it was, dirty water, and did nothing at first. But the boys were good company, and the conversation started rolling as more and more kava was passed around.
I became incredibly relaxed, without losing control of any of my faculties like I do when I drink. Time slowed down and ceased to mean anything. I got talking to the young bloke next to me, Jojo. I don’t know if it was the kava or what, but we really got on, despite the societal, economic or racial boundaries.
He’d grown up on the island, and had been at Manta Ray for the same amount of time I’ve been at The Picture, and was sick of his work as I was of mine. He’d actually been fired a few years ago, after some German bird like the look of him and asked him to meet her in the dorm later that night. Jojo went along, of course, and porked her rotten. Unfortunately the kraut had been a virgin, and Jojo hung like a horse, and he pretty much split her in half. The next morning the German chick’s bed looked like a murder scene, and Jojo was gawnski.
He was working security that night back at the bar, so I headed back with him to see if there were any Germans who I could maim in a similar way. There weren’t so we lay back, both completely relaxed and barely able to speak.
When I got back to my hut and checked my phone, there was a frantic email from my mother, who obviously assumed I had been stabbed in the brain or something, due to me not having contacted her in over a day. It probaby took me an hour to tap out a 10-word reply, then I dozed off for one of the best sleeps of my life.