It seems a lifetime but it was only two years ago. We went on a big family holiday, right round the world. Cancer had been banished and our eldest was on the brink of leaving school; it felt the right time to spend a month together, the right time to stop putting things off. We took a collective deep breath, phoned Trailfinders and bought the tickets. Singapore (to break the journey) – Queensland (Barrier Reef of course) – Sydney (well, you just have to, don’t you) – Fiji (came recommended) – San Diego (to visit Kris) – home. We had wonderful experiences from cities to wide sand beaches and rainforest. The boys learnt to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and then tackled the Rainbow Reef as though born to it. We ate all sorts of food, made new friends and met old ones. We stayed in hotels, on boats, in tents. And amongst all that, one particular day, our last on Fiji, really stood out for me; that was the day of these happy faces.
We’d spent a week at Dolphin Bay, a most wonderful, tiny dive centre accessible only by boat. We needed 24 hours without diving before flying back to Nadi in an unpressurised tin can so chose to stay on the neighbouring island, Taveuni, and have a look about. We’d stood on the date line and messed about on a natural water slide (Wild Wadi eat your heart out). It was time for A Walk. The taxi driver agreed to call for us early on Sunday morning to take us along the island – there were a few paved roads – to Lavena in the Bouma National Heritage Park where there was a trail to a waterfall. Just time before our plane, everyone reckoned. You would think we’d suggested a spell in a torture chamber. A walk, for goodness sake! Why would two teenagers want to go on a walk!
So we set out and it was raining, on a path along the coast, past a village, through dense vegetation, over streams, past limestone mushroom rocks, more streams until we reached a suspension bridge. They were perking up by this time. Then GP1 found a leaf insect on the path. Golddust! We’d gone over the suspension bridge, through more jungly stuff, past orchids and butterflies, another village this one seriously remote and with kava drying in the sun, and then suddenly there was a wooden shack next to the path – a public toilet, for goodness sake. On a little further and then the end of the path and oh, what a magical place.
We had reached a large pool with a waterfall just visible at the back behind two rock walls. We swam across the pool and through the gap and there were two waterfalls tumbling into the inner plunge pool. It was wonderful and we were the only people there. By now, two teenage boys were smiling.
We wandered back the way we had come and met one or two other visitors along the way. By the time we got back to the first village, everyone was up and about, with children on the beach and running along the path. They all wanted their photos taken and laughed so much when they saw the results on the camera. It was Sunday, of course, so no school. Chatting to a lady in the hostel in the village we learned that the nearest school was several miles walk away; the village was fundraising for a school of its own. These children had very little – just look at that little boy’s teeth! – but all the Fijians we met that day were so hospitable and so happy. We smiled and laughed with them.
And now, right round the other side of the world, with my life having taken such an unwanted turn for the worse, my golden memories of that day and those children still make me smile! I hope they’ve got their school.
I don’t think there’s room here for all the photos of our walk that day so I’ll put them on Flickr with a link if anyone would like a look. This post is for The Gallery: Faces
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