This will likely be an earnest, though potentially infrequently updated, account of my adventures, tribulations,
and everyday experiences as I spend two years working as an environmental Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji

Thursday, March 22, 2012


We left the little settlement and made our way to a river that we were to follow up until it brought us to the waterfall. We had no troubles along this portion of the trip and I suspect that Maika may have been getting overly confident that the gentleman we just met had been mistaken; although, I was still unaware that we were going to our doom.

…ok, I might be exaggerating excessively, but doom just sounds so desirably intense! Right, anyway, we reached the waterfall after about an hour and were congratulating ourselves at our find. It was a lovely little waterfall with a cool looking cave at the top. In celebration of our hiking and navigational skills we plopped down onto one of the rocks and split a small pineapple. As we sat drinking in our juicy fruit, my curiosity was growing about that cave. I looked over at Maika who knew what I was thinking, smiled, nodded, and then went to cut a path for us to climb up.

The waterfall! Close to the top and on the left is the entrance to the cave.
I waited down below and watched until he gave the ok to follow his clear cutting up. It was only about twenty feet high but the bush was thick and steep and rather slippery from mud that never sees the light of day. I made it up quickly and peeped into the cave. It was wide and shallow and the ceiling was littered with these strange circular objects that were hanging down. “Weird.” I said turning to Maika, “What are those? From the bats?” We approached closer and saw that they were actually little bird nests and some actually had little birds in them. “Umm, Maika? Are they all dead?” We stood and stared. It was clear that there were birds in the hanging nests but they weren’t moving and they looked really awkwardly positioned with feathers sticking out weirdly. Maika went up to one and pulled out the little blue bird nestled inside. It was definitely alive and was clinging to his hand like it didn’t know how to fly. It was the kind of movement that you see bats making when they are climbing something. It couldn’t have been much bigger than a hummingbird, and I had just never seen anything like it! Maika didn’t know what they were either and we wondered whether they were just freaky little birds or if they were actually nocturnal?

Hanging nests.
With little birds in them.

I followed Maika back down the path and was very near to the bottom when I reached the last stretch that was about seven or eight feet of more or less a straight drop. It was easy to climb up since there were plenty of holds and roots sticking out to grab onto, but going down was seemingly not as simple. Hmmm. Well only one thing to do right? Just start going and sort it out as you go along. I was doing just that and had positioned my self as if I was going down a ladder when Maika pulls a thick vine that was hanging into the bushes to the side and says, “Here, Tina, use this.” I grab hold of it lean back using my feet as support against the wall and began to work my way down. Snap! There was this precarious pause where I seemed to hover there, it was long enough to shout a choice profanity and a half before I came crashing backwards down the rock. Maika managed to half catch me and we both tumbled backwards into the river.
I wasn’t hurt and I wasn’t upset but I turned to Maika and shouted, “What the hell were you trying to do kill me? …telling me to use the vine to climb down.” He laughed then swore and retorted, “Man, Tina, you weren’t supposed to put all your weight into it! It was just a vine!” I wanted to smack him. :)

Well, after all that excitement we decided that we had wasted enough time fooling around and that it was time to move on. We continued our hike deeper into the bush, following the main river (the water fall was from a side river) as a guide. Several times the bank we were walking along just disappeared and we had to walk or swim across to the other side. Back and forth, over slippery rocks, crunching over gravel that kept getting stuck in my shoes, we steadily trekked on. The further in we got, the darker the sky became. We were getting more intimately involved with the mountain range and it always seems to be raining over the mountains. Maika had taken over carrying my little sling pack because he was able to cross the water and manage to keep it above his head… usually my feet couldn’t even touch. Slowly but surely, the river banks began to disappear altogether and we were forced to work our way up through the river itself. We found ourselves in this steep canyon swimming upstream in water over both our heads, Maika with my pack held in the air above his bobbing head but the current was too strong. The narrow canyon seemed to propel the water more quickly through it, causing it to form rapids and a tumbling flow pattern. 

The start of some canyon.

We huffed and puffed as much as we could towards this rapid but it was a futile effort; we gave up and let the current push us back to the nearest bank. Climbing out we looked back at how far we had come and looked ahead at our only other option aside from backtracking, to go up. Maika threw my bag back over his shoulders and holding his knife in one hand began to climb the rock side. It was easy going at first, no need for hands and with a substantial ledge to walk on but the higher up we went the slimmer this ledge became. Instinctively, our hands sought out useful holds to help maneuver us along. And I began wondering how that farmer could have possibly told Maika that following this river up was the right way to go…

Maika stopped. And I stopped. It was the first time I had really looked down since we started and was shocked to see that we were more than thirty feet up the side. He told me to wait and then made this absurdly long step across what I suddenly realized was a very wide absence of footholds. Maika is about a foot and a half taller than me and it was a stretch for him! He made it to the other side onto a ledge that jutted out only about eight inches. He put the knife and my bag down on a small outcropping and then turned around to grab my hand and help me across. I grasped his right hand tightly in my left, kept my other hand gripping the rock and positioned my right foot as close to the edge as I could go and still support myself. Then I stepped out towards him with a long stride with my left leg. I was about halfway through this procedure when I saw just over Maika’s shoulder the outline of my bag. What was it doing? It seemed to be tilting ever so slightly. And then I realized much too late that it was finding gravity far more attractive than the rock it was sitting on. All too quickly it went from tilting to rolling and finally to plummeting down the rock face into the churning water below. “My bag!” I shouted.

I immediately shifted my weight again and was maneuvering to go down and catch it wherever the river decided to spit it out. But we were too precariously placed across this gap. “Tina, no! Come! Tina, please come!” There was a desperate urgency in his voice, and I heard it. I reluctantly turned around and finished making my way over the gap. Without having a clue what was happening, I suddenly found myself where Maika was standing as he was already making his way back over the gap. I waited. I couldn’t really go anywhere so I just stood there wondering if the ziplock bag I put my camera in would be enough to protect it from drowning. A wry thought crossed my as I noted how completely screwed I would be if Maika decided to not come back.

To be continued…

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