South of the Equator – West of the Date Line
Bula! Unlike the last few adventures to Iceland and the American West our most recent trip focused more on relaxation rather than activity. We decided early on in the planning process that we should go on a beach vacation, and we ended up choosing Fiji – Namale to be exact. If I were to go into detail about the people, the resort, the luxury, the phenomenal service, the amazing entertainment, and the fact that were one of just eight couples there at the time I am afraid this post would seem like a 2,000 word treatise on bragging. What I will say about Namale is this – do whatever it takes (sell the house/car/kids/farm) to get there and stay as long as you can.
Blondie’s goal for the trip was to Relax and read and repair the damage that her high-stress gig causes and mine was to experience the beauty of the place and really look around rather than peer at everything through the viewfinder. Luckily for you I can only sit still and read, and snorkel, and drink for so long before I get the itch and head off somewhere to make some pictures. Here is but a small selection of photographs that I took during our travels to and stay in Fiji. I may post a few more in the future because there were a lot of good ones. Please click any photo to see its full-sized version.
The urban sprawl of the LA area is remarkable at night. Here we are just about to land at LAX before our long flight across the pacific.
After the 10+ hour flight across the ocean we had lost a day and gotten very little sleep. We just had one more leg to go on the plane above. Once you were on that plane you really got a sense of how small it was.
Despite being aloft in a self-propelled kite the views overcame any anxiety and gave us a little adrenaline shot for the last leg of our 22 hour endeavor.
22 hours of sleep deprivation at the hands of airline sadists does not prepare one to be enthusiastically serenaded by a group of friendly flower-wielding strangers. At dinner when pressed to come up with conversation starters the topic of the arrival was always a good place to start – that and the bats.
The first morning we were on the island I got up at daybreak and had a look around. This is what greeted me at the bottom of the stairs at the Lava Deck – that and a bunch of spider webs with spiders attached.
Over time the waves have eroded out a flat lava shelf surrounding this part of the island. In some portions the shelf has been undercut so the waves pushing against the front wall will bubble up like a geyser through holes on top of the shelf. The one here called the Blow Hole and I just happened to be there at the right time to see it at full strength.
A better view of the Blow Hole.
This was the view to my left when we were at the beach. It was a good view and we made a point of getting the same spot every day – thankfully no one tried to take the spot before us because if they had we would have probably made a scene. We are a territorial lot.
Relaxation was the word of the day – all day every day. We were forced to shelter from the rain once and only after all sorts of things started falling from the trees above.
When I got bored I would leave Blondie with her book and glass of wine, and go off with camera in hand to capture a little island flavor. The coconut on the right looks like some sort of hoary marmot.
I could do an entire post on all of the flowers I shot. The army of groundskeepers spent every daylight hour cleaning, pruning, and fighting the forward progress of the jungle.
When I first came across this flower early on our first day I thought it was some sort of spangled creepy crawly. If that were a caterpillar I think that Blondie would have to be airlifted off the island.
Palms are the Fourth of July Fireworks of trees complete with large projectiles that would fall at random times. The palm above our spot dropped a huge coconut on the umbrella while Blondie was quietly reading and scared her to the point of profanity. I asked a few of the people around the grounds if anyone were ever hit by all of the falling coconuts – they said no. I did not believe them.
The Collared Kingfisher stands watch over the beach waiting for something to move – when something does move the kingfisher glides down, captures it, and then takes it back to the perch where it pounds it against the tree until it is dead. Even the cute animals are terrifying here.
The tidal pools near the beach were the place to be during low tide. The biodiversity of the area provides food for animals of every size. Two Pacific Reef Herons are shown here just before laying waste to a small colony of crabs near the water.
Caught this one during take off. Look at those terrifying feet.
The beach was also a popular spot for Hermit Crabs. There must have been twenty-five per square meter and in every size from a large grain of sand to a racquetball. This one is about the size of the tip of my thumb,
This handsome dandy could be seen skittering across the sand at great speeds during low tide.
These guys were what the herons were after. They skinked around the rocks at the edge of the water and would scatter at the slightest movement.
These starfish were everywhere on the lava shelf. I wish I had had a waterproof camera so I could show you all of the things we saw in the water.
This little guy shared our umbrella with us for a little while and then I evicted him – I felt bad about it after.
The sunsets were just…
See what I mean?
At sunset the local bat population would come out for feeding time. I was not prepared to see bats as big as small dogs swooping through the trees so the walk to dinner on the first night was at a very brisk pace. Despite their terrifying appearance they are fruit eaters and pose no danger to us. I am not sure of the exact species of the one above but I can tell you that its wingspan was about 2ft. Zoom in on it and have a look at the wings.
Kava Night was held three nights a week. It was my favorite night because it involved drinking and conversation and music, and it did not involve us having to get up and dance in front of strangers. For those of you who haven’t had kava, it is made from the root of a pepper plant, which is dried, ground, put in giant tea-bag-like sacks and steeped in cool water. You then drink the water, which tasted like a herbaceous dirty tea, and let the calming effects wash over you. Combine that with the stories and songs from the men above and you have yourself the perfect night.
After dinner I would walk a few yards into the trees and take some shots of the stars. My astrophotography needs some work yet but I don’t get much practice here in Uptown.
We forget about the beauty of the sky and the stars when we live in the city. Standing beneath them all when everyone has gone to bed made me feel very small.
It helped to be slightly drunk when shooting there at night – there were a lot of things flying and creeping about in the shadows.
These photos here were exposed for about 30 seconds. I did not have a proper tripod so I would borrow a napkin from dinner, on which I would place the camera pointing skyward. I am just out of the scene drinking wine and swatting at mosquitoes.
Leaving Fiji and Namale was very hard and I was on the verge of a toddler tantrum the day we flew out – and that is not an exaggeration – even the people who were staying longer couldn’t bear to watch other groups leave because the sadness coupled with the goodbye song made it a very somber occasion. We did manage to make some good friends while we were there, which isn’t normal for us as we usually keep to ourselves. What makes it even better is that one couple is from right up the road, and will now be referred to in future posts as our Man and Woman in Plano. It is weird that we had to travel all the way to Fiji to make friends in the Dallas area, but we did and we look forward to adventures with them in the near future. As for those we met from India, Utah, Virginia, China, North Carolina, and of course Fiji – I hope to hear from you sometime soon.
© Peter Molgaard and Afield Book, 2012-2014. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs and original content without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that permission is granted and that full and clear credit is given to Peter Molgaard and Afield Book with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. If you would like to use any of the imagery displayed you may send your requests to email@example.com