With a gentle shimmy that broke me out of my sleep the plane descended abruptly and suddenly pierced through the thick blanket of low clouds revealing an ocean almost electric blue in colour out the window. In patches i could see teal and turquoise reefs dapple the waters below juxtaposed against the shocking blue of the sea.
Craning my neck to see better i spied the island just ahead as its coastline came into view. I recognized an island we overflew as one i had planned on visiting to take advantage of the diving along the reef that encrusted the small patch of sand and palm trees.
A thick jade and olive quilt work of vegetation welcomed me as we flew low over the countryside and the small local farms and cattle field. Coconut palm groves framing each of the fields.
The airport its self consisted of a few small hangers and a single building in which the plane rolled up to. A pair of men pushed a set of rolling stairs to the aircraft and settled it against the fuselage and waved for everyone to come out, smiling as they pointed towards a small door on the far end of the building.
I was one of the last to disembark. At the bottom of the stairs i stretched my arms overhead, looked around sniffing the exotic scents and taking in a deep breath of warm humid air that instantly told me everything there was to know about where i was. On the other side of the runway across from the plane a heard of cows grazed lazily. Aloof stares and swishing tails as they chewed absentmindedly. Beyond magnificent tall trees with unusual trunks erupted from the low banana palms and flowering shrubs. A weathered mountain served as a backdrop.
Panning back around i finally made my way to the small door that lead to immigration, baggage check and bus services all in one. A few of the ground crew worked luggage carts but most laid across benches relaxing and watching the new batch of visitors amble past.
Inside at the passport inspection a kind older lady rummaged through my passport pages, smiled and cracked a joke about a excited child who was meeting a uncle who landed on this flight. But only maybe 9 or 10 the kid had gone to the airport by himself to greet his relative.
Buses here are really just small ancient minivans from the 80s. There are no real bus stops. They just drive around en-mass until a pedestrian waves them down. Where you simply tell them where you would like to go. If they agree the just smile and nod and then drive you like a taxi to your destination. Stopping along the way to pick up further passengers.
I settled into a rusty old minivan with red and black naugahyde apolstery and we raced through the back streets of this old colonial town dodging locals on scooters and kids wandering in the street until we made our way to my hotel. A apartment building renovated to be a motel situated up n a hill that overlooks the lagoon and ocean. Across the street was the state school. Kids played and ran about in the muddy dirt field that it sat in. Looking down the street the houses were obscured behind veils of various palms, banana and flowering frangipani trees.
The hotel was actually just as popular with the locals who visited the bar every night to drink and use the pool table or drink kava together out poolside as it was with expats and a small handful of tourists. Friendly and boisterous they laughed and conversed loudly in their native language a pidgen combination of french and english. Its a pretty language.
Settling into my room i unpacked as a lone gecko sat in the corner of my room and chirped inquisitively at me. The room is small with just a shared toilet at the end of the hall. But i dont mind. The only other person staying in this end of the hotel is a 58 year old kiwi man who is in from new Zealand to check up on his co owned kava farm. I ended up spending much of the evening listening to him talk about his farming business on the north coast of new Zealand where he grows golden kiwi fruit and cypress hardwoods for lumber. I nodded attentively sipping the local beer as he told his tales about this island. Apparently well known by the locals and hotel staff he was a regular who had been staying on the island off and on for the last twenty years.
Finally i excused myself as it was getting late and checked in with my fiance and son. All was well and internally i was reminded just how precious the two of them are for me and how much i longed to be sitting next to them again soon.
The hotel had shut down for the evening but i was given permission to enjoy the pool as long as i was quiet and didn't wake anybody up. I sunk down into the darkened pool and floated on my back watching the stars peek out from behind scattered clouds in a sky framed by palm trees and occasional fruit bats that flittered from frond to frond feasting on the palm dates. The moon sat low over the canopy of a tall palm and the silvery light gleaned off the trees cluster of coconuts. Staring up like this silently for over an hour i watched as warm south pacific rain showered down on my face. And i smiled.
That night i slept in tranquil silence save for the friendly gecko in the corner chirping every few minutes as if to remind me he was still there.
Dave is obsessed with tropical flowers. Each day I'll upload a few shots of flowers i thought were pretty that i took while out exploring.
Heliconia rostrata. "Lobster Claw"
Heliconia psitticorum X angustus "Golden Torch"
All photos taken by Steemydave