With my next big adventure only 1 week away, my mind is already in short-timers mode. I want to surf but work is too busy. Work is so busy all I want to do is relax. When I first saw this image it really clicked with me and what I want out of life right now. Simple things can become so desirable, such as being in the ocean, see nature’s beauty and being surrounded by nature’s energy. God it sounds so nice right now. But for now I focus on work and having a job when I return. I will look at this and dream for now.
I prefer to travel with someone. Misery loves company. That way when its flat you have someone to complain to. Go drinking with. Someone to bitch at for snoring too loud. All that stuff. And when its going off, you have someone to talk about that set wave you fucked up, the barrel you missed, or how the fin snapped off in your ass.
It can’t be just anyone either. I need to travel within my group of pre-approved surf trip compadres. Or my wife, but she cuts down on the water time. Although the fringe benefits of having her there are sometimes worth it. Especially if it is flat. Or when that fin snaps off in your ass.
So when Bill called and said we are going to Fiji. I said, “Not me.” Its too expensive and I would be traveling alone due to financial and geographic reasons. But Bill insisted. “How often do you turn 40? You gotta go. Skeets is going!” So I said okay since at least once I was in Namotu, two of my top pre-approved surf trip fail-safes would be there to buy me beer.
On the flight over we stopped on Christmas Island. I was excited to get out and see this tiny island in the middle of nowhere since we had a couple hour layover. They opened the doors and the humid stagnant and completely un-Christmasy air filled the cabin. “Please remain seated. You will not be getting off the plane,” the captain said. Then they proceeded to walk up and down the aisle spraying toxic bug killer in our faces. Twice. A saved christian woman was singing and spackelingjesus-filth at everyone in ear shot. I noticed one particular fella getting an ear-full. He was smiling and listening with accommodating body english, but his eyes said, “For the love of all things sane, kill me. Or kill her. Please.”
So off to Fiji with a sweaty smell, lungs full of PCB’s and the hideous chorus from a christian sing-a-long bashing my frontal lobe. At some point we landed. Handles of bourbon were really cheap. So I stocked up. My first stop was a solo mission to a camp near Frigates. It was a two hour drive, and then another hour or so by boat to get you to the camp. I knew I would need a drink.
It was late at night and I only saw one other board bag in the airport. When the driver from the camp showed up I realized the other board bag, and more importantly, the owner, his girl and all of their gear were going too. Which made things a bit tight. After about ten minutes of the drive, I really needed a drink. The like-minded Aussie must have smelt what I was thinking and handed me a soda to mix with my bourbon as he and his girl did the same in the back seat. I remember chatting to them and the driver and pounding non-stop drinkies. I woke up when the van stopped, with a drink spilled in my lap, drool all over my face and no idea where I was.
We crashed in a hotel for the night and woke early to ponga out to the outer islands. As soon as I stepped outside it started to rain. By the time we were actually out in the ocean, it was opaque squall conditions. The couple both looked terrified and ready to puke. You couldn’t see five feet in front of the boat and it seemed like hours since we last saw any land mass. But the ponga driver was all smiles. So I hunkered down watching all my gear getting soaked, shivering, dreaming of a dry towel or a cup of coffee. But we smashed on through the chop and wind and rain until we finally saw an island. Not the right island, motioned the driver. And onward into the grey we went.
After a handful of days on Yanuca no swell had shown. The rain poured and the only people on the island besides me and the couple from the drunken drive was a slightly overzealous camp owner and the icy-cool boat driver. The driver spoke no english and the english the owner was speakin
g made me run and hide. I tried to relax and snorkel and all that stuff. But it isn’t in my nature to sit idle for days on end. I got on with the aussie guy well, but he and his chick were about to be separated forever. So they had no use for me and spent most of their time humping in their private room or practicing foreplay in the common area. I bailed for the main island with only one sub-par session at Frigates, to grab a long ride back up the coast for a boat ride out to Namotu.
I had trouble finding my driver. He was off drinking or praying or smoking cloves. I don’t know. When we found him after hours of banging on doors and making phone calls, he was nice enough to yell for me to hurry up. I asked repeatedly if he knew where we were going. “I have family there,” “There is only one road,” and “Please do not worry,” were his responses. He got lost. He refused to ask for directions and wouldn’t use his phone. When I finally pulled up at the boat launch for Namotu Island, they were literally launching the ponga without me. I smiled at the driver and told him, “Fuck you very much,” then ran yelling for the boat. Me and my gear got on at the very last moment.
On Namotu I caught up with the boys, met some people and got settled. We had a dorm style room that we shared with a couple very entertaining folks. Mike the boat captain in particular kept us in tears with his stories of being “Tore up from the floor up, ” and “Beat up from the feet up.” He smuggled weed into Fiji and snored like donkey. We were covered in ridiculous Mardi Gras beads and laughing at his stories the whole time.
On the last day at Namotu, everyone on the island had to leave to make room for the next group. Except me. I didn’t have to leave since I wasn’t going to the airport. The waves were cooking and I enjoyed a final session before the new group arrived and took over. I hopped in a boat and motored to another spot on the main island and checked into a crappy hotel room. On the way I chatted up the boys who just surfed with me. They filled me in with the basics for scoring surf from that area.
I looked into booking a boat for the next few days to get out to the reefs. It was going to be more expensive to stay in this shit hole and book a boat than to stay at the 4-star resort of Namotu. And I was alone. Again. I walked around to sus out what the right call was. First stop, the bar. I heard the familiar aussie slang and saw the obvious surf brands, so I pulled up a stool and started a chat. My inquiries were met with surf mag vomit and obvious attempts to spew any legit lingo without a real clue what any of it meant. A pet peeve of mine. In mid-sentence about proper foil for advanced entry rocker as applied to a reefbreak versus beach break, I drifted outside. Another Aussie fella invited me over. His energy was calmer and subdued. So I began the questions. He was leaving the next day but filled me in on where and how. I asked pertinent questions to determine the validity of his opinion. He knew his stuff so I rented some internet time and checked the swell forecast and local weather. The wind was going to be slightly off and the only spot that would be good was a long, crowded and expensive ride. This fella reckoned it was crowded when everywhere was breaking. So the following day would be “rooted.” Sweet. At least I was alone and this place is foul. But with no one there to complain to, I was forced to push on.
I choose to do the tourist thing instead of surf. I tried to go several places that were closed and finally settled on Nadi. I saw the market, ate some odd food, and looked into the sites. I met a nice guide and he eventually led me to his shop. I had my guard up because like Bali, everyone is trying to sell you something. But this guy kept telling me about history and political turmoil. He was Fijian. The Fijian and Indians are at each other’s throats. So I was surprised to walk into his shop and meet his partner, an Indian. We spoke for many, many hours about global issues, Fijian struggles, American Imperialism, the fate of children in the world and marriage. We drank so much kava my head shrank like Beetlejuice. When it got late, my new friend helped me find transport back to the shit box hotel. He never asked me to buy anything. I gave him a donation to assist in their personal struggle to fund schools. He insisted I take paintings the children made, and then gave me a carved turtle necklace for my wife.
On the entire three week trip the surf never really got epic. We caught super fun pits at Despos, one good size day and a handful of fun sessions at the lefts. And that was it. I made some great new friends. Some guy broke his hip fishing. That was cool. Bill got a concussion and Jim tried to kill him. Which is still funny. And even the SoCal guys lightened up and were super nice by the end. We actually ended up getting along good. It was a blast meeting those guys, partying with a couple my oldest, dearest friends and seeing lots of Fiji. All in all a good time, but not uncrowded. Fun, but expensive. Difficult, yet pampered. I wouldn’t do it again, but I might, if my wife goes with me this time.•