330 Islands

Our flight started at night. We traveled for 17 hours with shaking windy bursts and bumpy clouds. We stopped for a couple of hours in Honolulu making the journey desperately longer. Finally we arrived the following day — in our relative time — . One day disappeared, or better say; one date disappeared. At the end of the trip we were going to have it back, in the most special way. We weren’t in a Twilight Zone, and it has occurred to many people who travel to Fiji.

    Fiji is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean; about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. Other places in those latitudes are Tonga and Samoa; this last one is part of the United States.

    As I was saying, and getting back to  our schedule, we landed in the morning of “Fiji Time”.

At the airport, we were  serenaded by a singers’ trio accompanied by 2 guitars and a ukulele. I was delighted because I play the ukulele also. The music was all traditional Fijian, and during all our stay we were going to have music to remind me about my Jammin’  time, and, Choir, and Ukulele classes  I enjoy at OLLI.

    Also, we were going to watch several shows with Polynesian dances. The same dances I practiced in my childhood. During my lifetime I have seen them in numerous occasions  in Hawaii, America, and México.

    There were also spectacular shows with fire. They are extremely dangerous and harmful. In the long run; the performers’ tong, mouth, face, and body, will have irreparable scars. Besides the efforts of displaying a spectacular show, at this time, I’m completely concerned about the performers. Not long time ago in Mexico City, there were used to be shows using fire in various street corners of the city. This shows lasted the same time it lasted a traffic light to switch from  red to  green. I know the fire-eater needs to smear the mouth with a substance for protection, and fill the mouth with gasoline, for later, in the show  spray it out, blowing a flare to simulate eating fire. —Where is the safety on that?

    It’s  almost the same as looking how people throw daggers to a dartboard with a person on it. . . . . Or  an acrobat flipped at high altitude  with minimal protection. . .  Yet, there were, are, and will be  sounded applauses after each scary and daring performance in this faraway land.

    We were in a place where 75,000 square miles is ocean and only of  around 10% is land. From the plane it looked magnificent, with all the colors of blue you can imagine, specially the turquoise blue, and aquamarine. We admired all the little green islands located in succession forming a capricious string in the middle of The Big Blue.

    We were looking at the Fiji Archipelago of more than 330 islands—of which 110 are permanently inhabited, and has more than 500 islets.

   We went to our hotel to spend the rest of the day exploring 1.5 miles of its beachfront, and infinity pools. We discovered its fantastic cuisine; starting with a  delicious ceviche infused with coconut milk. We know that restaurants are about the food, and also about the ambience, in Fiji we experienced a breathtaking view of the ocean and listened to  live music while enjoying new dishes to talk about for years.

     Many Islands are formed from volcanic activity from millions of years ago, Fiji is not exception. Our next adventure was going to prove it.

    The next activity was visiting  a Therapeutic Mud Pool Bath. The majority of Fiji’s Islands were formed through volcanic activity —as I had emphasized — starting around 150 million years ago. Today, some geothermal activity still occurs on the islands. Nadi —the island we landed—  has a geothermal system of non-volcanic origin with low temperature (95-140 Fahrenheit)  surface discharges, forming mud pools. At the beginning of our tour, I had no idea where we were going, I was only told I needed a bathing suit. So, I put on my white two pieces ensemble, and a light beach dress on top.  Off we went, and the whiteness  of my swimsuit too.          

It was too much fun, besides my worries of my color outfit; which —as soon as I heard the word mud— unfortunately, I knew I would have to take care of it later, with a 45% probability of success. White garments mean high maintenance.

    Mud pools are made when steam and gas rise to the surface under rainwater ponds. The acidic gases attack surface rocks, forming clay. The clay-rich soil mixes with the pond water to produce a muddy, steam-heated slurry, or mud pool. In our activity; first we needed to be covered in clay, we looked very funny, then, we exposed our wet clay bodies to the sun for some time until the mud/clay dried and we felt as stiff as crock pots.   Later, we submerged ourselves in several pools of different temperatures, from lukewarm water, to deliciously hot and hyper clean water pool.

    In the submersion process we were being cleaned gradually until we were pristine — although, I knew  it couldn’t be possible.— A fresh water shower was the ultimate step, and we changed from our swimming suits to a casual attire. I inspected my swimsuit, and as I suspected, all the inside seams were full of black clay. I was in distress. A Fijian sweet beautiful lady took care of my white swimming suit.  Later, and to my surprise luck it recovered its wonderful original white color.

    While in the mud pools, we noticed around us, a peculiar landscape, Fijians told us that we were surrounding by a mountain range with the outline of The Sleeping Giant,  and for sure the shape of the mountain looked like that. Afterwards, we went to its garden at the foothill of the mountain. It is a garden full of beautiful orchids, with an enchanting pond with frogs, a little parcel of growing pineapples, and a hill to explore. Image luscious vegetation in a warm tropical marine weather, with creeks here and there.                

     After our exploration —that on top of everything said, had butterflies and fantastic fungi formations—, we ended wet again —because of the high humidity and the hiking —. Fijian ladies received us at the gate, with glasses filled with delicious fruit juices. There were beautiful chairs to rest and composed ourselves. Gradually, we noticed an ambience of calmness surrounded by abundant ferns, and diverse flowers besides the orchids. Some birds were trilling harmoniously.

    There were more adventures in Fiji, the ones I am telling you, are just the beginning of a wonderful vacation. In the end, the last day in The Archipelago,  was Christmas Day, we spent the day enjoying succulent  delicacies, for breakfast for example; a magnificent ham. —I wanted to have it since Thanksgiving—, coincidentally, the Chef, prepared a scrumptious Virginian ham as a choice in the vast menu of international goodies.

    Morning went by, and by dinner time, we were at the airport lounge tasting turkey  with Fijian sauces, it was exotically new, with perfect texture and the juicy meat had a delicate flavor.     

    Thereafter another bumpy flight and passing several Time Zones; when we arrived to California it was 10:00 AM of December 25! Again!

     We had a Christmas celebration later with family. And guess what? We had roasted beef in red wine just like in Italy. For dessert, we had two Christmas breads; Pandoro and Panettone. —they came in the mail from Italy— requested specially for the occasion.      

    We had double Christmas and we were guests of the most amazing feasts for  an endless  December 25. How divine!

We went to a faraway sea,

In  flights with bumpy clouds.

We covered our body in clay,

Where The Sleeping Giant could see.

We laughed and played in water.

We spent delightful hours,

Oh! Those were wonderful days indeed.

-Perla Gutierrez

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