Nadi and travelling back home
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But let me step back in time and tell you what happened on my travels' very last leg...
Dec 17 - 21, 2003 = Fiji time! and my return home...
I was almost relieved to check in for Nadi at Auckland airport. Don't get me wrong - Auckland must have been a gorgeous city, but I probably wasn't in the right frame of mind to make the most of it. I had a very good flight to Fiji, though, and arrived on an extremely hot and humid evening.
When packing Molly in Auckland, I took extra care and thought that would be the end of her contribution to my trip. No more pedalling, just a few days of pure sleep-eat-beach life. I couldn't have been more wrong. As soon as I went through customs at Nadi airport, I identified the shuttle bus which had to take me to my resort. Jamie was another passenger, who had to return to the airport to collect his delayed luggage, and he immediately recognised the content of my huge bag ad introduced himself in his very thick Californian accent. Turns out that he is travelling around the world on a tandem (which can also be reduced into a single mountain bike with a very ingenious frame trick!) for charity (pls visit the relevant site on: www.peacepedalers.com - you'll be amazed!) and will spend a couple of weeks in Nadi. Not only - at the resort we were going into (and which I had chosen on the internet purely for its inexpensive price promise) he had met a fellow American, Shawn, who had spent a year at Christchurch University specialising in Biochemistry and was now on his way back home to Montana. For the last few years, in his spare time, Shawn had been a cycle surgeon, a job which fitted perfectly with his obsession for nature and cycling everywhere, no matter what.
Adieu, dreams of peace and rest. That very night I found myself sitting at a table with two extremely funny guys planning cycling excursions around the island. Enter Joe - he is the 19 yrs-old son of a local lady who runs a B&B. He had met Jamie the very morning of my arrival, while he was pedalling to the city centre on his tandem and had asked to try and ride on the back - his very first attempt ever at sitting on a saddle. Joe and Jamie had struck the deal they would ride together again. The morning after my arrival I was up at 6, preparing Molly for a trip to Natandola Beach, some 50 km from Nadi.
We made our way to Natandola through the National Highway number 1 - more similar to a narrow countryside road than anything - passing through the city centre and hitting the hills separating us from the coast. Joe was riding in the tandem behind Jamie, while Shawn and I had our own bikes and had a choice of following behind or "sandwich' the tandem. At every house, kids would come out to greet, applaude or simply smile at us, shouting the local greeting of "Bula!". At times, people would realise that one of the cyclists was a woman and gasp. I am sure they did so especially because - by the time we arrived at destination, cycling in the tropical rain and on stretches of unsealed road - I was fully covered in mud.
Natandola Beach was a dream. Plenty of local families on a day out, kids playing around, ladies sitting on the sand preparing picnics and... only men in the water! I decided to swim in my shorts and cycling top, forgetting any idea of suntanning in a bikini. Jamie, Joe and Shawn were happy to keep an eye on me and avoid any more catcalls of "urru" (= sexy). Decidedly, my finest hour in a long time!
It was a great day - we even got invited to lunch by a group of staff of Suva's National Museum, who were enjoying a day out. Cassava, lentils, chicken and local beer - just perfect. After that, Jamie decided to stay in Natandola for the night, while Joe decided to take a bus back home and Shawn and I rushed back to Nadi on our saddles - we had to make it there before night fall, as you don't want to know how dark roads are in Fiji at night (and the way they drive would make Romans pale in comparison!!!).
Do you know how it feels to ride 100 km of hilly, mostly unsealed road in one day? By the time I got back to the B&B, where Joe's mum had decided to lodge us at symbolic prices, my legs were like jelly and I was aching all over. Shawn - a real angel, who restaured my faith in the younger generation - cooked us a wonderful hot pot and over dinner we met another two travellers staying at the B&B, Catherine and Mireille from Quebec.
My last two days in Nadi were fantastic - I found time to do much more local sightseeing with Shawn and Joe, and then I spent a whole day at the pool of the most luxiourious hotel of the area, where Cath, Mireille and I smuggled ourselves in. You can imagine I sad I was to wave everyone goodbye and get to Nadi airport. I wasn't particularly looking forward to experiencing a bit of a groundhog day situation. I left Nadi at 11 pm on Dec. 21 and landed in Los Angeles at 3 pm of the same day. Valentina, my Italian friend on holiday there, came to see me for what turned out to be a quick cup of coffee before my next flight. At 7 pm of Dec.21 I was in Vancouver, narrowingly missing the 8.20 pm flight to London. Boarding passes galore!
I arrived home on Dec. 22 at 2 pm. While Molly had made it to Blighty with me, my panniers had got stuck in Vancouver - they would arrive a day later. It was unbelieveable to see Edwin again, but the strangest feeling was seeing London all decked out for the festivities, the cold weather, the weirdest jetlag which would push me into cathalectic state between 5 and 10 pm every night for at least a couple of weeks. Then the trip home to Holland for the holidays and the return to normal, everyday life...
I still cycle with Molly everyday and I think we both feel smug knowing where we have been together. I relish in this renewed sense of patience, gratefulness and happiness in the smallest of things - all things which travelling taught me once again. I can still smell the scent of nature on the Abel Tasman, feel the heat of the Outback and see the colours of the Great Barrier reef. I am again planning to escape to some other corner of the world - maybe South America? Whatever destination, I know that the world can be everyone's oyster, if we just push ourselves a little bit harder and leave our preconceptions and cliches behind.
I take a bow and hope to have entertained you all. Live, love and travel may be your motto.
"Dietro a un miraggio c'e' sempre un miraggio da considerare
come del resto, alla fine di un viaggio
c'e' sempre un viaggio da ricominciare..."
F. de Gregori, Viaggi e Miraggi