In Vanua Levu, Fiji - Hot or Cold,
It's The Water
Tuesday August 21, 2001
12:00 PM – The gates to Lomalagi (Fijian for Heaven) Resort were not actually “pearly”. They were the same washed green color that my aunt and uncle had painted their company house in Oildale, California in about 1951. That was my first trip away from home that I remember. I was allowed to be away from my parents view for the first time in my life. I ran with my brother, sister and cousins around the hot, hard and dusty yard. There were no plants there at all, but there was freedom, sweet freedom from all cares and worries. We ran shirtless and felt the Sun on our bodies. We were safe and free. What more could we ask for?
My emotions were mixed. As we drove under the Lomalagi arch; the tropical setting made it all seem old. The walls leading away from either side of the entry arch were made from long-dead coral reef material stacked in like building blocks. A single-track causeway, wide enough only for our Jimny’s wheels led us to a motor court and the office, also painted green. There we met Collin, our hostess and Terry, our host.
They were hard at work at their computers, communications for which go out over an old-fashioned radiotelephone modem, then link up with a land-line somewhere back in town. From there the link is to the Southern Cross fiber optic cable that runs from New Zealand, straight through Savu, Fiji and then on to Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast. At that time, the resort’s internet service was available only in the office and ran at about the speed of a 14.4 KB modem, if you can remember how slow that was. Still, it was their window on the world.
12:05 PM – We checked in, which consisted of saying hello in person and getting a key to our bure. Cagey and Collin (the proprietor) had been emailing for weeks regarding our visit, so we felt like we already knew her. We drove the car along another path, which led across the rolling grounds until we parked beneath a huge tree, whcih was planted in a raised rock planter, perhaps 60 years ago. Not waiting for any help with the luggage, we dragged it up some wooden stairs and along a raised wooden walkway, all the way to our new home away from home. Of course, the walkway and the bure were painted… green.
When you look around the grounds, you notice that almost everything is green. There are darks and the lights and shades in between. There are pale greens that dazzle the senses; some so light that they reminded me of the burst of spring in Michigan, where I lived a decade before. After getting out on the water, we realized that the resort could not be seen from a mile out on Natewa Bay. It appeared to just be part of the green.
Our bure was simple in concept. The outside had a (green) cyclone-proof roof and a lanai facing the bay. Inside there was a great-room, with a bed and a closet to one side, and a living room space to the other. Ahead was the bathroom, with its room-sized shower and tub, all in tile. The kitchen was along the bay side, with its own views toward the head of Natewa Bay. The floor was of hardwood, with rag rugs that mopped up the dust like magnets.
12:30 PM – Time for lunch. We worked our way back along the green wooden walkway to the center of the complex. There, rising from the central hill stood the dining room with its high ceiling and skylights all around. Nearby was the saltwater pool, in a lava rock setting. When we arrived inside, there was a guest at the table. He was a man in his early sixties; a New Zealander, by his accent. With Collin, Terry (co-proprietor) and Terry’s mother, Linda (who was there from Seattle) we enjoyed our meal. Over lunch, I told the story of our Air Pacific flight ordeal, including the venerable 747 playing the roll of a "flying baggage car". Only later did I learn that the lunch guest was the chief pilot for Air Pacific Airlines.
1:30 PM – Back to our room for what seemed like a minute.
3:30 PM – Two hours later, our time-warp ended and we found our selves alone in the saltwater pool. In order to keep the saltwater fresh, a pump brought seawater up from Natewa Bay and directly into the pool. An overflow pipe returned the excess to the Pacific Ocean. In the buoyant saltwater we swirled around and around its lava-rock center island. Soon, we realized that we were the only guests that day at Lomalagi Resort. We had our own private resort in our own tropical paradise. Now what are the odds of that happening… really?
4:30 PM – We returned to our bure, looking forward to a hot shower. We turned the faucet and felt the cold fresh artesian water splashing down. We wondered if here in the Southern Hemisphere perhaps the faucets were reversed. Maybe here water ran uphill and the hot water was falling behind in the race. We finally realized that no matter what we tried, there was no hot water. I put my clothes on and trekked back to the office, where I told Terry of our plight. He said something about having turned off the pilot light to save fuel. There was, he said, a tankless, on-demand water heater beneath our bure and that he would get someone out to relight it. Being in a tropical zone, I had the feeling that if we were lucky, we might feel hot water sometime before dinner. So I indicated that we were really looking forward to a shower, NOW. Ten minutes later it was up and running. What a glorious feeling.
4:45 PM - Now, it is time to write a few words about Fijian water. When we arrived, there was a glass pitcher in our fridge, filled with ice-cold water. Upon using it, we would refill it from the tap, which might be a risky thing back home in Santa Monica, California. At Lomalagi they have an artesian well on the property, which they filter and send direct to your tap, for your pleasure. The real pleasure was to see the water run out of the faucet and form tiny bubbles as it hit the water in the pitcher. Each time I performed this act, I was amazed to see water as clear, clean and bubbly as the type that Adam & Eve had available in the Garden of Eden. This was excellent, pure water. Where else can filling a pitcher with water be so entertaining?
5:30 PM – Since it was winter in Fiji, sunset was a little after 6:00 PM each night. In keeping with its tropical location, twilight was brief, By 7:00 PM, it was dark. That first evening, we began our tradition of sitting out on the lanai each evening and taking pictures. It was a spectacular sight to see the Sun make its way down behind the mountain across the head of Natewa Bay. There was peace on the land and the sea. The coconut palms planted forty or more years prior framed the bay. Large-leaf vines clung to each trunk and the fronds looked like skyrocket bursts against the fading light. Soon it would be time for the Kava Ceremony.
To view the previous article in this series, click HERE. To view the following article in this series, click HERE.