In FIJI for the 4TH and FINAL time
Day 3,445 since October 10th 2013: 201 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
It’s really good to be back in Fiji
If you think last week’s entry contained some good news then just wait until you read what I have to share with you this week
Last week’s entry: The stars aligned (fetaui Tu8)
Yes! So a lot of things are lining up in a rather prosperous way. I have some significant interviews in the very near future, I had an excellent time at Garden Island Resort on Taveuni, I’ve been upgraded to the Executive Suit at my (rather cheap accommodation) now while back in Suva, I’ll be in good company starting Sunday, we’ll continue shooting for the Salomon documentary all next week, then I’ll join Swire Shipping’s good vessel to Singapore, and Maersk has now informed that they have all the necessary approvals for the remaining ships to the remaining countries all the way home. So, that’s it? Is the Saga guaranteed a successful completion? I’d very cautiously say yes. But the last time I could see a clear path through the remaining countries and predict my homecoming; a global pandemic broke out!! Besides, the logistics is only a part of it. There could be all sorts of bureaucratic challenges ahead. Or tropical storms. Or the Russian/Ukrainian war could spin out of control. And in any case, there will still be lots of work in managing social media, pleasing project partners, lifting the administrative load, meeting with the RC, promoting humanitarian work, conducting speaking engagements, networking, meeting new people, conducting research, repeating myself endlessly, packing, unpacking, packing, filling out forms, dealing with immigration and customs, staying committed, and a whole lot more. You’d never believe the workload within this project so why do I bother trying to explain it.
Taveuni straight ahead.
Well, I have certainly come to expect the unsuspected over the years. There has been no lack of mind-bending challenges and while I try to appreciate what may now lie ahead, I’m still too consumed by this project to relax or take anything for granted. As such the stay at Garden Island Resort acted as a welcome transition after returning from Tuvalu’s demanding logistics. A place for getting my head halfway straight again. Reaching Tuvalu and leaving without flying was a logistical masterpiece on its own. I challenge you to try it. It is generally accepted that after having to wait for a certain amount of time, anxiety and stress start to build up in an individual, due both to the sense of waste and the uncertainty involved in a waiting situation. The Saga is largely built up around waiting. Waiting for all of those people I rely on to get back to me with an answer. And a lot of people do not prioritize giving me a reply as soon as they can. My goodness Tuvalu was tough on that account. So many unfulfilled promises and lots of waiting. Thank goodness HALL Contracting were willing to assists. I really like Tuvalu though and especially its people.
Yes! So, thanks to my friend Phil, for setting me up at the resort! It provided a chance for me to drop my shoulders a bit. I got to eat well, sleep well, go for a few runs, head out on a spectacular hike, work with swift and stable internet, work my way through emails, do some reading in the book my sister-in-law gave me and which I should have finished long ago, transfer files, reconnect WhatsApp business, and begin planning ahead. Taveuni is called the Garden Island and hence the ‘Garden Island Resort’. It’s a pretty large island. In fact, it is Fiji’s 3rd largest and it is home to some 18,000 beating hearts. Fiji has more than 300 islands and I have now been to four. Not that impressive. But I’ve been to the three largest and I’ve been to Levuka which is where British Colonialism in Fiji started in 1874.
Breakfast with a view at Garden Island Resort, Taveuni.
Garden Island Resort is really nice! It is located right on the coast and is aimed at divers. The regional diving is supposedly otherworldly. But the flora and fauna are also something special. So is navigating with your phone. The 180-degree meridian runs right through Taveuni which is a fun little manmade curiosity. The prime meridian is of course in the UK (GMT). There are 360 degrees around the planet and the 180-degree meridian is as such GMT+12, marking the International Date Line. In other words, midday at GMT is midnight in Fiji. The line literally marks the division between today and yesterday. It is a whacky thing to play around with. As an example, you could imagine me standing on the “today side” at 00.01am as it just became Wednesday. Ultra-wifey lives in Denmark which is at GMT+1. So as my Wednesday has begone, ultra-wifey still has 11 hours left of Tuesday - and with one step I could join her in Tuesday. For some reason the date line messes with GPS. Phil told me that he always warns people not to fly their drones at the resort since more often than not they will not return.
Standing in today at the International Date Line. In reality Fiji "bends" the date line around the island nation to keep the country within the same time zone. But theoretically it would be here.
I too had my issues with getting an exact location on my phone. I have used Google Maps and Maps.me across the world for navigating. Those two apps have served me well over the years but they were rubbish on Taveuni. Often the apps wouldn’t even open but the main concern was that they definitely couldn’t pinpoint where I was. I didn’t even get access to the offline version most of the time. That made my plans to find my way from the resort to the nearby Water Slides challenging. I knew they weren’t far from the date line sign but it was hopeless to use the maps on my phone. A good old fashioned paper map would have done the job. Well, so does interacting with people. Taveuni Water Slides are a series of relatively flat waterfalls made out of rock so smooth that you can slide down it without feeling any pain. I just wanted to go and see them and be in nature. On my way I asked for direction from many helpful islanders. So much kindness from strangers in this world. At one point I spoke with Mrs. Lite who was standing on her porch. Mrs. Lite insisted that I should come and have a glass of water, so there I sat for a while and enjoyed her company and the view.
Mrs. Lite's porch, Taveuni.
Mrs. Lite then insisted that her son should guide me although the Water Slides were just some 5-minutes away. But she insisted. When she couldn’t reach her son on the phone, she began calling her husband to get through to her son and I began to feel slightly as like a burden. But I was no burden at all. She was just very happy to help and it wasn’t long before her 15-year-old son arrived together with two younger friends. They were full of smiles and were already planning on heading to the falls so it worked out well. I said farewell and thank you to Mrs. Lite and off we went along with a few dogs which followed. While on the way we had some limited conversation but they did understand that I was on my way to every country in the world without flying. This prompted them to ask me if I had met a parade of A-list celebrities which they named one by one. They also wanted to know if I had TikTok and how many followers I might have? Once at the falls the boys convinced me to get in. I really wasn’t planning too, but hey – when in Taveuni. And it was really good fun! The boys had been there hundreds of times and knew all the tricks. They were showing off, jumping into rockpools from high elevation, and sliding down the falls head first or standing up (which looked cool).
Taveuni Water Slides. You can slide ALL THE WAY down. These boys were amazing! :)
The next day I was planning on hiking up to Des Voeux Peak. Something of a challenge both in terms of distance and elevation gain. But certainly, also in terms of navigating without GPS or map. I do enjoy a good challenge. Normally you would go with a guide and I would recommend that for the sake of safety. A guide can also provide you with local knowledge of the rich birdlife or perhaps help you locate the rare tagimoucia flower which only grows on Taveuni and will not grow anywhere else in the world. I went on my own because I wanted to be alone. I wanted to go my own pace. I wanted a challenge and was still clearing my mind. So early in the morning I headed out and up on what became something of an adventure.
Getting higher and looking back across the sea to Vanua Levu.
In hindsight I took a turn from the coastal road up towards the mountain a little too early. I should have continued another 10-15 minutes along the coastal road before turning inland by Wairiki village. As a result of my “alternative route” I ended up leaving the dirt road I was on as I felt it was taking me too far east compared to where the peak was. There are several spectacular hikes on Taveuni. I did some online research and chose the hike to Des Voeux Peak because it seemed like the simplest one to pull off. Apparently, the hike to the nearby Lake Tagimaucia is more demanding and a guide is recommended. While heading up into the landscape I was worried that my dirt road was taking me in the direction of the mountain lake so I opted to turn west on a lesser trodden dirt road which turned into several lesser trodden paths which turned into wild, wild, wilderness. At one point I had crossed to creeks and was neck deep in nature with cobwebs all over me. I was well off track! I kept pushing forward hoping for the path I started off on to re-appear when I spotted a wooden house further up the mountain. Would there be dogs? Dogs can get really aggressive in the Pacific.
Two beautiful researchers from FNU.
Instead of aggressive dogs I encountered a young woman on the balcony inviting me up while friendly adding: “I’ve got questions for you”. I bet she had. I was drenched from walking in the wet bush, I had cuts all over, I had dirt on my face, my feet were planted in mud, and I was wildly out of context as a lonesome European in the wilderness of a Fijian mountain. Up near the house there was a stream of cold water where I could wash myself. I was then invited inside and encountered two beautiful researches from Fiji National University (FNU) looking at me with curious eyes. They offered me to sit down, have a half avocado and a cup of freshly brewed coffee. It was still morning. They told me about their research and I told them about the Saga and my current mission to reach the peak. One of them was conducting research on the rare tagimoucia flower. Surprisingly very little is known about the flower and she was hoping to change that. The other was researching Taveuni’s rich flora. They then told me that the dirt road near the house would lead me directly to the peak. And if I followed it back down it would lead to the coastal road. Ah! That was the road I should have been on :)
No view but great reception.
An hour later I had reached the peak which was completely covered in clouds and offered no visibility in any direction. The peak sits at 1,195m (3,921ft) and can on a clear day offer visitors spectacular views of the truly beautiful landscape. You can apparently even see Lake Tagimoucia from there. You will also find two large antennas representing Vodafone and Digicel so there was no problem getting connection on my phone. But then suddenly, as is often the case at elevation, the wind swept some of the clouds away and offered me a view!
Mocking about at the peak with a selfie stick. But genuinely happy! Des Voeux Peak at 1,195m (3,921ft).
Contrary to what some people certainly seem to believe I am often not happy and most often not enjoying the self-employed shackles of being within the Saga. I think it is a “time thing”. Had all of this lasted fewer years then it might have been different. More than nine years in, it’s much more of a mental prison with forced labor. It does however have its moments. I’m pleased to tell you that this week has for the most part been different. I have been more happy than what I can remember I have been for a very, very long time. The stay at Garden Island Resort was a part of it but so is the change in circumstances.
Back on the coastal road, Taveuni. The closed 180 degree meridian cinema had seats in today and yesterday.
As an example, I was recently in beautiful Tuvalu with no clear idea about for how long or how I would be able to leave. Lots of uncertainty. Furthermore, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle in moving about with ships ever since the pandemic broke out. But now I am back in Fiji, Swire Shipping will connect us to Singapore and Maersk and Maldives Shipping Services will take me all the way home. I can see the end and project a completion date. It is highly realistic that I will be drinking Danish milk and reuniting with friends and family by August – just four and a half months from now! I will be free again for the first time in nearly a decade. Free to go anywhere I want in any way I chose to. Or to go nowhere at all. It is such a change for my mindset! And it makes me feel good. I still get very frustrated and irritated with dumb stuff like spending an afternoon not being able to set up my new Mastercard for apple pay because the phone number the system wants to use for verification is a Hong Kong number and my bank is being childishly unhelpful. I guess this project has just wound me up pretty tight as I have been in “operational mode” for a very, very, long time. And psychologically it will take me some time (after I get home) before I can truly relax and “begin to come down”. But I have definitely been happier this week and particularly on the hike.
Massage by the sea. Yes please! Garden Island Resort, Taveuni.
Lunch with a view. Garden Island Resort, Taveuni.
Delicious fish at Garden Island Resort, Taveuni.
One day took the next at the resort. The staff was lovely, professional, and very helpful. The settings were stunning. On the shore there were some large trees which were home to Fijian monkey-faced bats (Fijian Flying Foxes). They are classified as “megabats” which is such a cool word. They are also Fiji’s only endemic mammals. I loved having my meals (which were all delicious) at the restaurant while looking up at the sleeping bats, sometimes moving about and occasionally flying off or landing in the treetops. The calming sound of the ocean. The fresh air. The nice surroundings. Yeah – I should definitely come back with ultra-wifey someday.
So long and thanks for all the fish :)
Natuvu jetty and the bus to Savusavu, Vanua Levu.
Hard but beautiful travel.
Wednesday I sat out early in the morning to make my way back to Suva. A 381km (237mi) journey onboard two ferries and with three bus rides. Not easy travel but strikingly beautiful landscapes. I’m definitely much more of a forest and mountain type than a beach type. And Vanua Levu, Fijis second largest island, most definitely has some striking mountain and forest landscape. So much so that I have no footage of it because I just enjoyed looking at it. It was a 13-hour journey placing me back in Suva long after dark. Never my favorite time to walk through a city wearing a backpack – but my goodness, in spite of that it was good to be back in Suva again. And that concludes this entry. I’m busy making good use of Fiji’s internet. Fiji is as far as I’m concerned, the internet capital of the Pacific with good connectivity, high speed and low prices. I’m trying to get as much work done before Mike arrives on Sunday and filming begins. Because next week will be intense. On the back of that I’ll have a 24-day sea voyage to Singapore and a reason to chop my beard off – we’ll soon be heading west for the first time in a very long while :)
I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross Energy / Geoop
If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - back amongst Fijians doing Fijian things
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga