Here at Nadi Airport I am attempting to balance on one leg, eyes closed. From time to time, like an insomniac stork, I open my eyes to check the luggage carousel.
Physiotherapist Damon, whom I hold in high esteem, explained at my final appointment in Kawakawa before Xmas that for a sore knee – not ideal with a year’s cycling planned – balancing on one leg is an effective way to strengthen core muscles. Closing your eyes provides extra benefit, so here I am.
I’ve taken full advantage of Fiji Airways 30kg luggage limit to fit everything into 1 bag for this part of the trip. I wont be surprised if my Samsonite case is last out of the bowels of the luggage hold, after all I can’t personally lift it! With my folding ‘Bike Friday’ inside though, it’s absolutely worth the wait. The opportunity to aid my needy core muscles is just an additional bonus.
[By the way, if the waiting-on-one-leg habit is new to you, you may be reassured to know I’m not alone. My new sister-in-law, Zoe, has apparently practised this for years at airports and in supermarket queues. Care to join us?]
A few minutes later, I’m on 2 feet, eyes open once more. Grandpa Bear and I have been reunited with the case, exited the aircon and await the next public bus to the Coral Coast, a chance to revel in pacific island heat, reggae and tropical humidity once more.
“And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings.”The Lake Isle of Innisfree William Butler Yeats
Outside my cabin at the Beachouse Resort the same evening, those words from poet Yeats seem apt. I’m unclear what is different from home but peace indeed seems to be ‘dropping slow’. I sense an unexpected curve in the passage of time, notwithstanding the hum of road noise and the throb of waves at the reef. Is it humidity in the air, my personal release from a world of responsibilities, or could it be the vegetation? I genuinely wonder if some molecules in my body remain from formative years as a volunteer agriculture teacher in Vanuatu in the 1980’s, waiting for such times to re-awaken into connection with this special flora and fauna. It certainly feels like it.
I sense that familiar feeling of flow as I wander the beach the next morning. ‘Burau’, a straggly yellow-flowered tree that overhangs the sand, seems like an old friend. Perfect for temporary fence and hut building, I’ve reacquainted myself with this tree in many differing stretches of Pacific coastline over the years. Yet for me, first and foremost this tree conjurs memories of the ‘De Blong Buluk’ we hosted at the school in Vanuatu. Such a special day, honoured by the Minister of Agriculture flying in from Port Vila, after my students built food stalls and shade areas from its branches, completed by palm fronds and red hibiscus. Locals and those from across the island walked for miles to join in this public celebration of cattle.
Today, at the resort’s restaurant I sense a shift from those carnivorous 1980s days. While beef, chicken and fish still grace the dinner menu, so does vege curry and dhal soup. On the breakfast buffet, almond and soy milks sit alongside UHT cartons of cows’ milk.
“Look down,Look around, adventure is closer than you think”
These words handwritten onto the mirror behind the bar here sum up a philosophy I value. “Bring it on!” I say to myself. Well, for a while. I confess as I sign up for a snorkelling outing, I recollect warnings from other pacific coastlines where I’ve worked, about sea snakes and venomous cone shells. Adventures can come a little too close, I recall, and are not without risk. But that is where friends come in.
3 days ago, at a celebratory ‘Let’s get into 2023’ high tea party at my home, my friend Judy Mihaka hands me a tiny parcel. “Keep safe”, she says, handing me the first pounamu I’ve ever been gifted. I’m wearing it as I snorkel, cultures and countries connected by the ocean and by the care of friends.
A hammock provides space to take stock of the web of friendship, ideas, and respect whose nodes and hubs reach across oceans, connecting me with individuals and groups I care about, and who care about me. I hope you know how important you are. Yes, you.
To conclude, I pass on a book recommendation, given to me by fellow Paihia book club members. Travelling with my Kindle I have so delighted in ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman. It has been my perfect well-written escapist defrag, so much so that I’m on to the sequel. I leave you with this, which one of Osman’s characters, Joyce, pens in her diary:
‘In life you have to learn to count the good days. You have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you. So I’m putting today in my pocket and I’m off to bed.’
PS. If you ever know someone looking to relax and ‘chill out’, at $165/nt including breakfast, and just $10 on a public bus from the airport, this friendly Beachouse Resort here on the Fijian Coral Coast seems hard to beat…
Blown away by the fantasy and romance of your so- far journey.
I do my standing- on-one- leg while cleaning teeth: prosaic.
May that pounamu contribute to your well- being and that of Grandpa Bear.
Nga mihi mahana,
Mary Rose 🌹
Greetings to a fellow stork! Ngā mihi ki a koe Mary Rose hoki, tōku hoa toa.
What a wonderful start to your trip and blog for 2023. May the temperature in Vancouver not be too much of a shock, rather be it exhilarating after the warmth of Fiji. ONWARD , Hugs Martin😎
Kia ora Martin. Yes,my time in Fiji has been a great start indeed!