At 5:30am on Saturday, March 10, a group of 19 scuba divers and 1 beachcomber (me) left Mount Desert Island, Maine, heading for Matava Eco-Resort, on the island of Kadavu in Fiji. We drove to Portland, Maine, flew to Chicago, then flew to Los Angeles, where we had about a seven hour layover. We caught the Saturday night red-eye from LA, crossed the International Date Line and the Equator, and arrived at Nadi International Airport, Fiji, on Monday morning. From that point on I never really knew what day it was. All I can say is we lost Sunday somewhere along the flight path, but on the way home we had Tuesday twice to make up for it.
|I wasn't quite sure where Fiji was before I started planning this trip. Somewhere in the Pacific, duh... In case you're in the same boat, it's that pink dot near the middle of the map. Americans, that's Hawaii in the upper right corner.|
Now I realize that to my readers in Australia and New Zealand Fiji is practically a weekend getaway, only a two or three hour flight, but from Maine, let me tell you, it is a world away. Someone on the trip calculated we spent 50 hours in transit from Maine to the Matava Resort, and I can only respect the determined mind that kept count. My own brain was mush even before we reached LA. Airports and lack of sleep do that to me. I think it's the fluorescent lights, identical Hudson News shops, and the smell of vinyl seats. I'll spare you the details of the flights, and pick up the story as we boarded a 14-seater plane at Nadi Airport for the last flight of the journey - the hour-long jump to Kadavu.
|Our pilot showing us the emergency exits and so forth.|
I hadn't realized how mountainous Fiji would be. Kadavu looked like one long mountain chain with a broad valley at the narrowest point of the island. This, of course, was Vunisea, and the airport.
The approach was exciting, as we got our first glimpse of the island. The plane flew lower and lower as we approached the airport, and we could make out beaches, trees, a few houses, even the reefs below the water.
Suddenly it became very exciting, as we were only ten feet above the water on our approach. There's the runway, up at the top of the photo.
And here's the airport! We're not actually "there" yet, though. A short truck ride across the narrow part of the island, and then about an hour on the boat to the resort.
|Leaving the Vunisea Town Dock (I don't know what its real name it, but if it were here on my island, that's most likely what we'd call it.)|
It was a beautiful ride. It was very hot and humid, so the wind felt wonderful. There were rain clouds in part of the sky, and brilliant sunshine in others, so the light changed every time I turned my head.
The water was mostly cobalt blue and ultramarine, but over the shallower parts of the reef it was no-holds-barred turquoise.
|A village - possibly Kadavu Koro.|
It was low tide, so in several places the reef was just barely deep enough for us to pass.
At last we had our first glimpse of Matava, tucked almost invisibly into the lush green hill.
And there was much rejoicing.