Fiji,2004 part 1

In 2004, Gini and I had the great opportunity to work on an undeveloped tropical island in the Fijian chain of islands. Our job was to perform cabinetry for three guest cabins (bures in Fijian) in a “green” resort. I had gone there in 1998 with a small band of hardy individuals to break ground on the resort.  That in itself is quite a story, but I want to write about our experience on the second tour.

We arrived after a 10 hour flight from L.A. to the main island of Viti Levu. Gini missed her birthday as we left the day before, crossed the international date line, and landed the day after. So instead, we celebrated the fact that she didn’t age another year… We then caught an island hopper to Gau, pronounced “now,” where we landed on a grass airstrip at the southern end of the island. From there we hefted our bags from the air strip through jungle and tidal flats to our ride, a 20 foot fiberglass boat with a Yamaha motor captained by Buli. It took us about an hour to arrive at our destination, Nukuyaweni Outpost on the Bay of Angels.

The resort was the brainchild of Kevin Wunrow, who had dreamed and schemed of building a green resort on a remote island.  He negotiated a deal with the native Chiefs of the island for a 99 year lease on 26 acres of land on the western shore of Gau, with over a mile of beautiful sand beach nestled in a bay captured at each end by rocky headlands jutting 40 feet above the water.  We were on the leeward side of the island, protected for the most part from heavy winds by a 2,500 foot spine of volcanic mountains, and from wave action by a barrier reef a mile out from shore. The first cabin that we framed up in ’98 had been finished in my absence and we had the pleasure of living in it during our stay. It sat atop the northern headland and had a stunning view of the bay and sunsets. Paradise? Yes! Beautiful land and sea, crystal clear warm water full of colorful sea life, and warm, friendly native Fijian people to work with. But was it easy livin? No! No running water to bathe in, and if you’ve ever tried to take a bath in salt water, you know it ain’t easy or fun; a solar power system that was plenty adequate when the sun shone, but we happened to be there during their summer, the rainy season, so we had days of minimal power, which meant no fans to keep the bugs away… Did I mention bugs? Mosquitoes swarmed us all day long as we sweated away at work.  We put in 40-50 hour weeks on the project and the days were often hot and humid. Being in the lee of the island, the winds weren’t constant enough to provide much relief.  The up side of it being the rainy season was that, since we did not yet have a water system, rain was our only source of fresh water to bathe in.  I set up a gutter system on our bure to collect water in buckets and jugs, which we transferred to our solar shower on the patio by the cabin–nothing compares to a good sun heated shower after a hot sweaty day of work! Sometimes in the evening, if it was raining, we would bypass the shower and stand in the rain for our bath, and when the solar batteries were low and we couldn’t use the fan on those hot tropical nights, we trained ourselves to wake up when it rained and run outside to stand naked in the cool downpour.

The common kitchen where we ate all of our meals with Kevin and his family, was a quarter mile hike through the jungle above the beach–a lovely stroll along a flower lined path. The entire grounds of the resort was covered with thousands of tropical flowers, planted by Kevin and his local crew of Fijians from Somo Somo, a fishing village a mile along the shore north of us. These folk and the work we performed with and alongside of them, will be the subject of my next installment of these Fijian chronicles. Thanks for accompanying me on this very enjoyable trip down memory lane!