Sunday, July 19, 2015

Remember the Date Line

A lot of islands out there Captain Cook - we mean a lot!
An eleven hour flight from LAX to Fiji seemed just fine except for the fact that we left at eleven-thirty at night and were crossing the date line a few hours after skipping over Hawaii at nearly thirty-three thousand feet. Once landing in Nadi, the tourist mecca where the International Airport is located,  there was a so-called short bus ride to the Suva, the capital city of the three hundred islands of Fiji which took nearly five and a half hours. We were told it was a 'two and half or maybe three hour drive’ – we were misinformed as the bus stopped at every opportunity to pick up or drop off passengers.

A 5 hour bus drive after 11 in the air, no big deal!
Tired was not even close to how we felt as we dragged out our suitcases from the underbelly of the bus and staggered to the only hotel with room to spare in Suva. It wasn’t a manger but darn close with no hot water, no television, and air conditioning which worked when it wanted to – turned it was on strike.

The fan worked a bit but nothing else
Luckily, June is winter in the southern hemisphere so we only sweated a bit – John quite a bit and Laureen only glowed with the humidity.

But we were in the South Pacific – tales of Bligh, Cook, and countless other wanderers from India, Africa, and Europe lighting up our imaginations. This is where the ancients (and not so ancient) had ventured into the Pacific Ocean with only the stars and their wits to guide them to whatever laid in front in the path for a better future.
Adventurers is a meek term to utter when describing how the peoples who knew nothing about the written language were able to shove a wooden canoe manned by sixty paddlers and strike out into the blue waters hoping that they would eventually land somewhere they could call home. 
Replica of just one of the various styles of outriggers used by the early Fijians
Brave or stupid but the fact these land seekers also piled into those canoes family members, pigs, dogs, and lots of living agriculture leaves nothing but admiration for these hearty souls. They made it from the tip of India or Asia (depends on who you read) and traveled from archipelago to archipelago over hundreds of years to eventually reside permanently in the South Pacific (wasn’t there a famous musical with that title?).  

That's the place - the South Pacific!
Of course, the islanders often landed and left residents on other islands like a tidal wave and each culture became its own except for the very inner workings. All these folks held tightly to their religious values which if looked at in nearly every island culture works its way right back to each other – too many similarities to not be similar. An amakua (family protective god) may be a turtle in Fiji and perhaps a shark may work in Hawaii and maybe a Miller Lite works in California but the point is all these people had something in their roots which recognized each other.
They warred with each other over the eons but don't also modern families?
This is why there are jobs for anthropologists – theories and more theories combined with research leaves more questions than answers. Especially where research is very difficult when none of these fine people being studied used a written language and history was passed down through the generations orally with the occasional use of the kava root – well, history can change a bit when the inner mouths are tingling and the mind goes from seeing clear to seeing flying dolphins.
Per the dictionary: The roots of the kava plant are used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. (See canoe plants.) Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity (yeah, right - our addition to the definition).

Let's all belly-up to the Kava bar
It should be noted that at no time did the research team of J and L indulge in a Kava ceremony in a local village – that would taint research.
Dude! Did you see that whale dancing with the mermaid – oooohhhh – one more cup of Kava please.
Back now to the story.
Being in the capital of Fiji and the home of nearly one million people we were ready to hit the streets and do what we do best – walk.
No taxis for the crew – walk and walk until the need to buy new pairs of shoes. Our brains were geared, as always in a new country to get out and explore but brains be damned – our bodies said ‘no.'
One night in a hotel which when taking a cold shower in the morning reminded one of a scene from Shawshank Redemption with the warden laughing in glee while clapping his hands told the intrepid duo to find a new hotel – rest and explore the following days.

J and L decided that a respite at the Grand Pacific Hotel was what was needed and though rather costly (something the Irish in John didn't like) it was money worth spent. The GPH has hosted royalty, celebrities from around the world and makes them and all guests feel at home. It was an extremely enjoyable experience for both J and L and will be the only place they stay on return trips to Fiji.

The Grand Pacific Hotel - Suva - 5 Star and worth every one

Nice lobby to unwind in after a day of exploring

A nice view from our room

Good choice – a wonderfully comfortable bed, plenty of space, unlimited hot water and hotel employees who kept asking if there was anything else needed to make our stay any better. That does make a difference after spending nearly seventeen hours reaching the destination and losing a day.

One rule of travel is to understand time zones and really understand that to enjoy you have to be able to keep the eyes open and the brain alert.

The Victoria Lounge - time to relax

If not – grab a good hotel and relax – there is always tomorrow – there have been for billions of years. 

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