Posted by: Tommy | September 9, 2011

Swingers!

The Colo-I-Suva national rainforest, located outside of Suva, Fiji’s capital and largest city, was the setting for one of our favorite random experiences of the trip so far.  Sarah Halloran (Anna’s former co-worker; you might remember her from our trip to India) met us again, this time in Fiji, for another 2 week adventure.  We met her at the Raintree Lodge, an idyllic budget hotel located in the heart of the rainforest.  Sarah arrived at 7am on a Sunday with a full day to kill before heading by boat to tiny Caqualai island.

Although Sarah had only one day in Suva, she was excited to make the most of it (and overcome the jetlag) by walking through the rainforest.  While Anna and I have spent quite a bit of time in rainforests (both on this trip and in the Amazon during our honeymoon), Sarah has never been.  Her enthusiasm instantly made the idea of a rainforest walk more fun for us.

Sarah, excited to be in the rainforest and in Fiji.

The desk at Raintree Lodge gave us a map of the trail through the forest, along with directions to pay our entry fee and some advice – take swimsuits, as the trail ends at a set of natural pools for swimming.  We changed clothes, grabbed our bugspray, cameras and some water and set out.  The walk was beautiful and Sarah was in awe of the natural spledor, located just a few hundred yards from the main road.  Brightly colored birds zipped through the trees, singing beautiful songs (or barking, in the case of the barking pigeon).  The forest itself had well-maintained trails, though not much in the way of signage, so our trail maps were almost useless.  There were quite a few lookouts, letting us sit down to stare at the waterfalls that appeared along the way.

A beautiful view of the Colo-I-Suva rainforest

After 2 hours of walking, mostly downhill over treacherous slippery rocks, we arrived at the Lower Pools, where we were reminded that sometimes an unexpected treat is the best kind.  As we climbed the small hill just before the pools, we could hear laughing and shouting.  Coming over the hill, we saw a gaggle of half-clothed Fijian children, along with some adults and some teenagers.  And a huge rope swing.  We were the only foreigners there and immediately the children got in line for the rope, then amused us by swinging very high and doing tricks off the end of the swing, plunging from on high into the pools below.

They’d each gone once, laughing all the time, before they started pressuring us to follow them on the swing.  I was excited and quickly took off my shoes.  Anna and Sarah stayed near the swing, watching warily as I prepared to jump.  Looking down at the rocks I’d have to swing over before reaching the pools, I became a bit skeptical myself.  But all the kids were doing it, so I grabbed hold of the rope and pushed off.  I wouldn’t really classify what I did as swinging – the rope bit hard into my hand and I’m still carrying some meat pie weight from New Zealand – it was more like falling, slowly.  But the Fijians broke into smiles as I came up for air.

Taking my turn on the rope swing

After a few more tries for me, Sarah decided that she’d brave the icy water and clambered atop the hill.  Anna opted out and played photographer.  With Anna behind the camera, the Fijian children found something more interesting than the rope swing – doing the swing, striking a ridiculous pose and then scampering up the bank to see if Anna captured their photo.  They particularly enjoyed the slow-mo videos that allowed them to watch themselves in great detail.  You can check out a couple on the Flickr page here.

After Sarah’s one swing, she decided she’d had enough of the cold water and sat out with Anna, talking to some of the Fijian girls while I continued swinging.  The girls talked about life in the village, about the forest and about our lives in America.  The Fijian people couldn’t be any nicer – they surpass every other country in that regard.  At some point, I mentioned to Anna that I was done swinging, as the rope was cutting up my hands.  Lena, the main girl they spoke with, overheard and called to one of the boys in Fijian.  He immediately took off his shirt, tied it over the rope and called me over.  Actually, I had been looking for an excuse to stop swinging, as my arms couldn’t take it any more.  But I couldn’t say no after he’d literally given up his shirt to save my delicate foreigner hands.  So I tried one more – and found it much easier.  I was finally able to catch some air and make it to the end of the pendulum.

There was a half-inflated volleyball floating in the pool that I brought back to the edge after one swing.  The next time one of the boys was swinging, I surprised him by tossing him the volleyball.  He nearly caught it and surfaced, very excited about this new activity.  We played in the water for another hour, usually with my throwing him the ball (usually too high or too low) but occasionally with him insisting that I take a turn on the rope.  When he eventually caught one throw, we said our goodbyes and set off.

Playing catch with the Fijians

It was a totally random encounter – we had expected to swim, but hadn’t expected to hang out with a large Fijian clan for the entire afternoon.  That night, we took a taxi into town with the express purpose of developing some photos for the family.  We dropped them off with yet another family member (everyone in the village is related) – I hope they enjoyed them.

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Responses

  1. How fun!


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