In the calm before the…

(Forewarning, I’ve been outside the US for long enough now, and have been hanging around enough Brits and Ozzies, that I’ve started to speak a weird combination dialect of US, English, and Ozzie slang. None of the English speakers quite know what to do with me now. I’ve held it back previously, but I’m letting it go this time. I’ll translate if I catch myself doing it)

I’ve been hearing a great deal of this type of music since heading to Europe, and I think it’s the future of club music. It’s kind of a hybrid between hip-hip and electronic trance. Personally, I love it. I don’t even know how to start dancing to the booty bump and grind hip-hip played in our clubs, but around this stuff I can let go and dance a bit. This song doesn’t joke around with the trance either, at around 2:45 song just flat out breaks down into electronic. Love it.

Phew. It’s almost as if I was literally in the calm before the storm during my last post, because I had a way closer call than I would have liked this time around compared to the relative calm I experienced heading into Sydney. However, I’ll get to that later. To be fair though, I was absolutely rooted (about to fall flat on my face) when I left Australia. I was rather fragile (hungover), tired from late nights and early mornings, feeling like crap from living on vodka Redbull, and sick from being so generally run down. Now that I’ve been away a bit and have recovered somewhat, I have something more useful to say. I thought people drank too much in Australia and it turns out it wasn’t just my perception. In the US, we have commercials about not smoking weed. In the UK, they have commercials about not doing coke. In Australia, the commercials are a request that everyone stop drinking so damn much. The limit for driving is 0.05 to try and combat the problem, but it’s hasn’t helped, so from what I heard from a local, as of 2010, the limit for driving becomes 0.00. No joke. That’s pretty hardcore. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the news to see if that helps the problem at all.

Besides that, Australia has a one of the weirdest vibes of any place I’ve been so far. Pretty much the entire South Pacific area was discovered in the late 1700’s by Captain Cook (then Lieutenant Cook). He was chosen to explore because he had a gift for map making, and he actually discovered more of the world than any other explorer in history. In fact, one French explorer later said “Cook left future explorers with little to do except admire his beautiful charts”. Awesome. This means places like Australia and New Zealand are actually younger than the US by a considerable margin. Because of that, it’s interesting that Australia feels the most like the US out of any country I’ve seen. After Cook discovered Australia, it became a penal colony for England. For a good many years, that’s all it was until many of the prisoners earned their freedom or ran off, and other settlers started to come in. There’s still a pretty rough and tumble vibe in Australia to this day. The really weird vibe, at least from an American perspective, comes from the Ozzie style. I can take the piss out of (make fun of) Ozzie fashion all day long, and I did while I was there. It’s like they’re stuck in an even blend of US 80’s, 90’s, and now. Cut off jean shorts, checkers (plaid shirts) with the arms torn off, big hair, flat tops, grunge looks… all are perfectly normal in Australia. It’s pretty crazy, but Australia is a really fun place if you have the stamina and lots of money (Australia is *insanely* expensive right now due to the conversion rate). I wasn’t faffing around (wasting time) in Australia at all, and I could have easily spent two full months there having a great time, but five weeks was a good solid first dose. I’ll be back though.

The iconic Sydney Harbour Bidge. This is one of the other bridges that I mentioned you can climb, which I wouldn’t suggest if you’re afraid of heights:

The other major icon in Sydney, the big Opera House
I never realized from the pictures that the Opera House is actually textured.

Boat racing in the Sydney Harbour. Looks like a mama boat with all her babies.
Kinda cool, made out of soda bottles. There’s no such thing as a white Christmas down here.
My good buddies from the Ozzie East Coast, backgrounds from the US, Scotland, and England. Researchers are still trying to figure out how this much trouble can exist in one spot without leveling everything nearby.

I’m going to basically skip talking about any of my Fiji stories, except for how I got caught in a Tropical Cyclone. Seriously. I never planned on writing like this, but there are almost no photos of what happened, so here’s the actual story of my last 48 hours in Fiji. This is incredibly long, even with me flying past a few things without elaborating, but I wrote this as much for my own journal as for someone else to read what happened. Imagine this is what every day of the last six months would look like if I told all my stories in full. There should be no question after reading this as to why I’m incredibly burnt out. (Also, I don’t claim to be much of a writer, and this was my first attempt at trying to write about an action scene, so I hope the chaos of everything came through)

Fiji was not quite what I expected. I had thought that Fiji was going to be a big resort area with the typical couples-hanging-out-in-remote-beautiful-places vibe. But, Fiji is also known amongst the backpackers as being a backpacker friendly place. Most of the resorts offer dorm options and cheaper package rates. I figured this meant Vegas style grand resorts with a big room set aside for the backpackers looking to glimpse the luxury. I couldn’t have possibly been more wrong.

I learned very early on in my travels that it was a good idea to ask about the other places people have been and what they thought of them. When I had asked about Fiji, people had said things like “it was cool” and “yeah, it was fun” but they were very lackluster in their response. Typically, this means that the place is boring and there’s nothing to do there. The reason for the sort-of positive response is usually because the person answering is from Europe, and typically doesn’t see much of the sun, so anything that involves good weather gets a minimum of a relative thumbs up.

Because I didn’t do a lot of research before flying into Fiji, I was a bit shocked to realize, while I was still in the airport, that I had just walked into a hardcore third world country. It was like I was in Guatemala or Belize all over again.

This was a rather well put together Fijian village. The poverty level in Fiji was far beyond what I expected.
The random abandoned puppy we came across while sand boarding (that we also left abandoned unfortunately, life is harsh)
Drinking the traditional Fijian drink Kava both with tourists and with a Fijian village. Kava is a ground up root that the Fijians drink every night as their form of socialized drinking. The Fijians don’t really drink alcohol. Kava is a mild narcotic that really seems to significantly affect the Fijians. After about five bowls of Kava, they’re pretty much silent and have their head hung low. For us westerners, it only seems to numb the tongue and throat and cause a really mild euphoria. After about 15 bowls of kava and 10 drinks, I want to give everyone a hug, but I’m still wide awake. The difference in effect was very obvious as the Fijians were almost silent by the end of the nights, and our group was rowdier than when we started. Kava also has a unique taste. It’s kind of like drinking silt. I’m tempted to try cooking with it because it does have a unique, bright, numbing flavor. Again, because most of my readers are in Southern California, if you care to try it, you can, down at the Kava Lounge by San Diego Airport.

The group partying on the beach with a bonfire after drinking a friggen load of Kava. And our Fijian guides nearly in a coma from the same Kava. Our racial backgrounds seem to handle the Kava very differently.
Random resort view.
Traditional Fijian dress.
Hanging out and having fun.
Natural thermal mud pool. Awesome.
Our island “resort” from high up.
Up on top of the cliff behind our resort, overlooking the nearby islands.
Some very nice sunsets the day before everything started going to shit.
Some semi-traditional fire dancing.

Fast forward a bit. I’ve been around the main island of Fiji in four days and have now been on a “resort” island for two more days. While a few people have come and gone, I’ve been with the same people, consisting of four English and me, for almost a week now. On the “resort”, we happened to run into a girl from Vermont, who joined in with us. That makes six of us who’ve been hanging out at this supposed “resort”, which really consists of a beach, some poorly built thatched huts, and some really crappy, small meals at set times. That’s it. The staff was entirely locals who obviously didn’t want to be entertaining us and were pretty much only concerned with whether or not we paid our tab correctly.

On this last day, we were all splitting up to go different directions, with two heading north, two heading back to the mainland, and two heading off to a tiny party island. I was being lazy, so I didn’t wake up for breakfast, but a couple of the girls came back and told us that there was only going to be one ferry in the morning that day. Normally, the ferry goes all the way up the island chain from the mainland and then goes back in, passing everything twice so you get to choose a shorter boat ride and spend more time on a beach. I thought this was really odd, but we packed everything up in a rush because the upward bound pickup was quickly approaching, and then walked down to the beach area. Then I saw what was story was. Everyone was standing to the side of me while I stood there staring at the ocean with my arms crossed and a serious look on my face. “Oh yeah… this is gonna be fun”, I said with a thick sarcastic tone.

Most of the group had heard enough crazy things come out of my mouth at this point that all of them gave me a long sideways glance. But, no one asked any questions and I didn’t elaborate. What I was looking at was a misting ocean with bright white caps in shallow reefed area, and light sprinkling overhead. The boat wasn’t picking up in the afternoon because they thought it was going to be too rough to get us on board. So, instead of a one hour boat ride for me, I got a seven hour trip to look forward to all the way up the island chain and back.

Normally, even in some chop, getting on a boat from a dock isn’t really an issue. But, because we were not actually at a “resort”, our only method of getting out to the boat was by using a small fishing boat to ride over to the big 80-90 foot two-story catamaran ferry. This would be easy under regular conditions, because there are no waves when you’re protected by a reef and another nearby island, but today we got splashed and tossed on our way over to the ferry. To make it more confusing, the ferry decided to move closer to our island right after my little boat load got on board. Why couldn’t we have waited and not gotten splashed up? Whatever, no big deal. There were bigger problems.

In this island chain, there are two major channels that split the islands apart. In order to go up the chain, we had to cross both splits. I’m not sure if anyone else had looked at map or had any clue what was coming, but I was already less than excited about what was about to happen. We got near the first channel and the captain came on the PA to let us know that we should expect some pitching and rolling. If the ocean was white capping in a reef protected area, we were about to get slammed in the open ocean.

And sure enough, we flew around all over the place. I was sitting facing backwards on the ferry, and I was watching the horizon go over and under the door at different angles over and over again. I’m not really someone that gets seasick and even I wasn’t feeling so hot. About half of the 40 people on board were vomiting and only about three to four people, including myself, were consistently awake. Oddly, when we had got on board, the crew asked us why we were getting on just to ride all the way back. I agreed, but that was all that was said.

I dug around on YouTube a bit and this is *exactly* what I was looking at through the back door of the cabin. Click on the link that comes up since the video owner restricted the viewing to youtube only.

Because it comes into play later, let me explain what happens when you get seasick. Getting seasick is your body’s response to a mismatch in sensory input from the eyes and ears. For instance, the boat looks like it’s not moving in your field of vision, but your ears can feel you moving up and down. When this happens, your brain thinks it’s being poisoned. This comes from caveman times where the only reason your sensory input would be misaligned is because poison was interfering with your brain functions. The only natural way to get poisoned from the caveman perspective is to eat something with poison in it, so when your body thinks it has been poisoned, it starts expelling all stomach contents and then tries to shut itself down which, in turn, makes you incredibly tired. This shutdown is to deal with the perceived poison threat, and is usually accompanied by blood shunting, where the body draws all the blood towards the organs and away from the extremities to protect the vital body systems. This makes you cold and can cause numbness in the limbs. In order to stop seasickness and motion sickness, you need to sit still and do something that will make your sensory input match up again. In a boat, this means looking at the horizon so you can *see* that you’re moving around while your ears are already telling you that. The worst thing you can do is look at the deck, look at someone while talking to them, or start reading a book. Some people also get sick playing video games for the opposite reason. Their ears tell them they aren’t moving, but their eyes tell them they are. Not much to be done about that except stop playing the video games, though.

Back to the story, as soon as we get through the channel, I immediately broke out the Dramamine (motion sick pills) for everyone in the group, including myself. We dropped off two of the girls and kept going up the island chain. I decided to sleep as the pill started to kick in, meaning no one was awake, and suddenly I woke up to seeing one of the departed girls sitting next to me again. I asked her what was up and she had a flight she wanted to catch in two days so she asked if any of the other ferry trips might be weird about pickups. Much like the rest of Fiji, the crew just shrugged. They probably knew something, but there was no way you were ever going to pry it out of them. Rather than risk missing her flight, she had got back on board and decided to come further inland to the party island with me and my buddy. The more the merrier, awesome!

As we started heading back to where we started, a crew member walked up to us and informed us that there was a misunderstanding. They were going to stop at our resort on the way back down. The resort misunderstood something earlier in the day. They had to drop off other passengers anyway during the trip back down. That meant we went through all of this feeling crappy for nothing and missed out on lunch in process. However, the resort was going to ship some food out to us on the ship. Well, that was good at least. Except that after we get our food, we had to go through another channel, which most people had forgotten about. The moment the captain came on and warned of seas again, almost everyone at our table got a barf bag ready to go.

Yum. Sort of.

Fast forward again a bit. Finally get down to our new island. Get off and check in, eat, and start having a good time in the club on the tiny island. Only about two or three islands actually have a real bar/club, so this was quite welcome by me compared to our last “resort”. I’m sitting there with a pint in hand and I’m just staring out the window with a really serious look on my face. My buddy asks me “what’s up?”. “You see the palm branch there? I know we can’t really feel it sitting here, but that’s some serious wind causing it to stand perfectly sideways. And look out to the water… this whole area can’t have water more than 20 feet deep anywhere close and we’re surrounded on all sides by a reef almost up to the sand… there’s not supposed to be waves here <long pause> …something’s coming and they’re not saying anything”. This buddy happened to be a physics major also, so he looked at the same things I was looking at, and my reasoning, and shook his head in agreement.

Our little party island.
Partying on the party island. The dude in the shirt was some random English guy who was an awesome dancer and undoing his shirt in the storm winds made him look like something out of a music video.

The next day, the ferry was supposed to pick us up at 5:45pm. After a night of being having fun, I got woken up by a tapping finger at 8:15am and was informed that there was only going to be one ferry that day at 9:15am, so I had to take the only ferry. Theoretically, I could have stayed another night, but my flight was supposed to leave the next day, so that pretty much sealed the deal for me…

…until I saw the ocean. <BEEP>. The water around the island looked the same way the channel looked the day before, and it was solidly raining now, creating a strangely warm hazy mist with cold rain shooting through it. I thought to myself “this doesn’t look right” but I didn’t say anything out loud. Considering what the ocean looked like, I knew something was coming in for sure. But, still, no one was saying anything. I thought about it, though, and decided I would rather be on the mainland during a huge storm than on some island that I can walk completely around in less than 10 minutes and whose highest point is about 10 feet out of the water. We got our stuff together and headed to the main desk for check out and instructions on where to go for our boat, when I noticed something neatly hidden in a mess of garbage all over the wall. It was the weather alert, from that morning, stating that Category 1 Tropical Cyclone Mick was heading down the island chain and was going to pass the mainland at about 18:00 (the cyclone was later upgraded to Category 2). What the <beep>?!?! Still, no one had said a word about anything and no one else on the island was being told that *maybe* they should consider leaving. That was when it dawned on me: they weren’t saying anything because they lose money if everyone bails from the island. This was entirely a greed motivated situation. That’s also why they let me and my buddies know we should get off the island. They didn’t want to have to pay for us to eat and have a bed if we got stuck for another night.

Our only warning that anything at all was happening, hidden in a mess of crap on the wall.

The organization to get to the boat off the island was pretty much nonexistent. I kept asking the front desk where we were supposed to be and they just kind of shrugged and said “stand here in the office, we’ll let you know”. After a few minutes I heard one employee of the resort say to *one* person “you’re going to the boat? come with me”. I told him that almost everyone in the room was waiting for the boat and he then motioned for all of us to sit on a bench outside. We hadn’t even gotten seated yet and I saw a couple of people following another employee on the beach. Turned out they were headed to the boat and were headed right past us without plans to stop. I looked at the other employees with a questioning look and they just shrugged. Is this really happening?

We got in the boat finally and headed out a little ways from the island, and that’s when the overall situation became ridiculous. The next island over from wasn’t even visible in the haze over the ocean, so someone asked how the boat was going to find us and a crew member said “they’re going to look for the signal”. Ok, sounds reasonable. Then we looked forward and saw a crew member standing at the bow of the boat with an orange cloth waving in the wind. That was our “signal”. At this point, the wind picked up so bad that the rain coming down was going more sideways than down, and it was literally painful when it hit you. Trying to look into the wind was pretty much impossible. Plus, we were pitching all over the place and having water slosh into the boat where all our bags were stacked up on the deck. Oddly, the water from the ocean was milky hue of blue and disgustingly warm, but the rain was freezing cold. It was about this time that I heard someone towards the back of the boat say in an English accent, “well, it’s still better than being in England”.

This was the next island over and it was simply gone in the weather.
Me and Vermont trying to hide from the painful rain.
Our “signal”.

Way off in the distance, we finally saw a little light blinking. That was our ferry coming to pick us up. We waited for it to get closer and then slowly made our way over. As we started getting near, the ferry suddenly started hauling ass away from us. We were left to wonder if we were getting left behind when my buddy goes “we can’t see what they can see” as an enormous gust of wind came over us and the rain was flying so forcefully through the air that it felt like needles were coming through my shirt. After 30 seconds of this, things calmed down and bit and the ferry came back over. At this point, we were far enough out from the island that we were really pitching something good. But, so was the ferry. As we pulled up in our little fishing boat, there is no helping crashing right into the side of the ferry. Even with bumpers (a pill shaped thing you hang from a boat) lining the back loading area, we were moving up and down in six foot motions. The bumper was only maybe three feet long. Every couple of seconds you could hear a massive <clang> as the boat hulls continued to collide erratically in the rapidly pitching water. The clanging was the last thing on my mind, however. Our fishing boat had poles on the sides holding up a pretty simple roof. Not a big deal, except that in our rapid rise and fall, the poles lining the roof were even with the deck of the ferry on the downswing, and our deck was level with the ferry deck on the upswing. We were going to have to time crossing over so as to not get crushed or broke in the process of crossing. Immediately, in my head, I was doing some intuitive physics estimates, using my EMT knowledge, and I was figuring that if you got caught in that with a limb you would be lucky if it only got broken. Unlucky if it simply got crushed to uselessness. If your torso were in there, your spine would be instantly broken and you would probably get disemboweled, maybe even torn in half. The crews realized this was not going to work after one person made it across, so we switched over to the leeward (downwind) side of the ferry and tried again. Instead of six foot heaving, now it was more like four foot. It was still dangerous as hell, but much more manageable in terms of timing.

The transfer boat flying around behind the ferry.
The ocean isn’t supposed to look like this. This was right after we started moving from the party island, when things were reletively nice and calm.

I finally crossed and got into the cabin only to see a whole bunch of really concerned looking faces staring back over the chairs towards me. My buddy, mind you he’s English, walked over to me and said that the moment he jumped across a crew member had asked for his ticket. His was response was “are you joking?” and so he got out his ticket and in his words, “I handed her this soggy piece of shit that hardly had writing on it anymore”. I had been the next person over and had not been asked for a ticket. I guess they got the point.

After everyone was on board, the captain came over the loud speaker and told us we were going to the next island out to try and pick people up. That meant we were heading *towards* the center of the storm. I wanted other people to have a chance to get off the islands, so this sounded reasonable to me at the time. As we started heading off, the seas were getting progressively rougher and rougher and *rougher*. The sea was already swelling so badly that there was no possible way a transfer boat could have made it out to the ferry without capsizing (turning over and probably sinking in this weather). I realized they weren’t heading out to the other island because they wanted people to evacuate, they were heading out because it meant more money for the boat to have more passengers. I’m still not sure why they even bothered to head further out. At the half way point to the next resort, you would have had to be insane to consider taking anything less than 40 feet long into the water, and the fishing/transfer boats were maybe 20 feet at best.

We continued heading into rougher seas, all the time getting closer to the center of the storm. As we started to approach our destination, the pitching of the ferry was getting so rough that walking was starting to become an issue. A great number of the roughly 80 people on board were already getting significantly sea sick. On all sides of the boat, you could see waves rolling off that were as high as the second story of the superstructure (the stuff on top of the boat). Then, it got even worse.

The seas got so rough that the pitching was literally causing free fall at the front of the cabin. Everyone was experiencing that roller coaster sensation where you feel your gut drop. On a boat, this isn’t fun. Every time the boat free falls forwards that way, the bow (the front of the boat) goes under the next wave and throws water all over the ship. Now, because the boat is too low under the water, it pops back up and the bow flies up out of the water just as the next wave is coming, causing another freefall. About 10 of the girls were screaming on these freefalls, and they were promptly told to “knock it off with that shit”. It was around this time that I saw the first person start having a panic attack and I saw another girl get onto her cell phone. Everything went even worse at this point.

Apparently the conversation on the phone, in another language, was to the girl’s family to let them know she might not come back and that she was in a cyclone and that she loved her family. This sent another girl who had understood into a sobbing fit. The girl (woman really, I say girl for any female) with the panic attack was really freaking out, but being poorly comforted the guy next to her. Her mild screams were causing a couple of other people to freak out. The next pitching downfall hit the water so hard the entire ship shuddered. Two different kids started crying and screaming for the mommy. I heard one older kid ask her mother if she was going to drown. I didn’t see it, but apparently on this last pitch, the impact was so hard that water came flying into the cabin through the seals around a “crew only” marked door at the fore (front) of the cabin. The people sitting right behind the door looked like they needed to change their underwear. The next thing I personally saw was a crew member come in and start checking the door. I was thinking to myself “is he checking the bilge?” (the chamber that keeps the boat afloat, usually has a little tiny bit of water in it, I thought he might have been checking to see if the hull had taken damage). Another ship shuddering freefall wave came now. I started wondering just how much abuse this ship could take. Was the hull made out of carbon fiber, fiber glass, or steel? All have some pretty good give, and ships are built to withstand a lot of pressure, but those shockwaves have to dissipate somewhere. How long before a nut, screw, or weld, simply gives out? The crew member moved sideways at the front of the cabin, and opened another door and started pulling out life jackets. Oh, shit.

Again, digging around on YouTube. Things were worse than this… considerably worse.

The next thing I saw was this one older guy and his wife, who randomly happened to be from San Diego, grabbing two life vests and bolting towards the back of the boat, asking where the exits were as he was running back. Way to not only panic, but have a “<beep> everyone else, me first” attitude about things. What a bloody tosser (what a prick).

I was watching this as my English buddy got my attention and said “I just got asked the most English question ever: [name withheld] just asked me, ‘if we have to go in the water, what do we do with our bags?’”. LOL.

I’ve been in some pretty rough water before, so I wasn’t too worried before this point. But, I’ve never felt, or even heard of, a ship shuddering on impacts before. I was really getting concerned now, and if the crew thought it was time to bust the life jackets out… I was going to keep an eye on the crew, because if the crew members started to dawn life jackets, it was time to go. All of this has happened in the span of about thirty seconds since the first shuddering wave, and I started looking around to see what I can do.

A lot of people were having serious issues. At least 15 people were crying, I could openly see at least 5 people having a panic attack, about 20 more people were clutching a barf bag to their mouth, and about another 20 were completely unable to make an attempt to get a barf bag so they were just throwing up in whatever spot was convenient. I looked forward and saw that only the front row of people had life jackets on and there was a growing pile of unused jackets next to the crew member. Come on people, really? Again, “me first”. It would have been really easy for people to just hand the vests over their heads to the rows behind them and keep going this way, but whatever. I tried to get up to make my way to the front of the cabin only to find out that standing was nearly impossible, and I immediately got thrown back into my seat the instant I tried to stand up.

I braced and tried again and had to use a full four points of contact just to stumble my way forward. Another guy stood up during this time and got right in front of the crew member and starting handing vests back. I managed to make my way behind him and started doing the same. My buddy, at this time, was starting to take a video of the insanity until he saw the look on my face and what I was doing, and then he looked around and realized people were actually terrified. He immediately stopped his video and jumped up behind me. We would end up being the only people who made any effort to help at all.

Which, was no joke. I had to free one hand in order to pass one vest as a time, and losing this fourth point of contact was enough to send me flying more than once. The downward shuddering blows in the ship were so strong, and at weird angles, that I literally crumpled toward the floor a few times. The worst part was that the four of us were so spread apart in the pitching that I had to look back and forth in order to make sure I was passing vests in the correct direction. This head turning was causing the fluid in my ears to go nuts in conjunction with the boat movement, so from the first heard turn, my head was violently swimming. There’s some interesting physics behind this, but basically the way I was turning my head was actually making the fluid in my ears spin. This is probably the fastest way to make yourself seasick by the way. My ears thought I was doing back flips and acrobatics, while my eyes were focused on a fixed room. Every time I turned my head with another vest, the head swimming was becoming more and more intense. After some time of more bone jarring waves, I looked around and saw every one of the 80-ish people on board had a life jacket, so I asked for one more for myself and stuffed my head through the opening.

I took another assessment of the room to see if anyone was having medical issues and the only major things were a profound amount of vomiting and some intense crying from a few people. There were also bodies all over the floor from people unable to even stay in their seat, which was understandable, so a lot of people were lying on the floor, holding onto something solid, and vomiting out of the side of their mouth straight onto the floor. This was, without a doubt, the scariest <beep>ing thing most of these people had ever seen and I’m certain that a lot of them thought they were going to die. I was looking at everyone in the middle of this chaos around me, and I dare not say aloud that no even realized: if we do have to abandon ship, our problems have only just begun. I spotted one girl who was loudly sobbing and shaking by herself, and I was literally walking over to her when I realized I was covered in cold sweat and that my fingers were numb. Aw, <beep>. I’m seasick. For the first time.

Sadly, unless someone was physically acting out on panic attack, physical ailments took precedence over mental ailments for the situation, so I just became higher priority on the needs ladder. I managed to find a plastic bag in my pack as I heard the little Ozzie girl next to me ask her mom, “are we going to die?” I looked over and said loudly enough that quite a few people could hear me, but not so loud that it was obvious I was trying to be heard, “naw, people do this all the time, and it feels like we turned back so it should start getting a little calmer in a bit… sorry <making the give-me-a-second hand wave> <putting bag up to mouth while turning away from the little girl> <loud dry heave> <loud dry heave> <loooouuud looooonnng dry heave> <cough> <spit> <removing bag from face and turning back around> yeah… we’re gonna be fine”. I felt a little bad because I simply can’t throw up quietly. Vomiting is a full body activity for me, which is why I hate doing it, but there wasn’t much to be done. Thankfully, my buddy was feeling a bit better than me and he jumped in and started talking to the sobbing girl, for which she was incredibly grateful afterwards. I doubt my vomitous attempt at comforting the little girl was very confidence inspiring.

About ten minutes later, I finally did chunder (vomit) in loud full form. Only about five people didn’t throw up by the end. Every ten minutes for the next hour, I would have another fit of vomiting and then recover. However, as loud as I was, there was a guy in the cabin that made me seem like an amateur attempt. I’ve never heard such a horrible guttural noise come out of someone before. It was interesting to watch everyone though, the seasickness was so severe in most people on the ship, combined with the overall fear of death and the internal panicking, that a lot of people were going in a cycle. First, they would jerk awake and have a fit of throwing up, then they would start sobbing and moaning, and then they would pretty much fall unconscious again. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The really loud guy seemed to be the cycle king too (yeah, alright, that’s a bad joke).

For the next hour, we pitched and rolled our way through the ocean. The whole time, water was pouring in through the windows and the ceiling, and the AC was still on, so everyone was shivering on top of everything else. The people that came from my island were already wet, so we’d been shivering the entire time, but now everyone got to join in on our fun. People also kept asking how long we had left till we got into port, and the crew kept shrugging with a “how should I know” look. Eventually, one crew member started to answer that we had 30 minutes left, until finally the captain came over the PA and told us we had an hour and half left. Regardless, the seas did slowly ease up in intensity and people started to calm a little. Finally, we did get into port. The problems were far from over though, as we still had to get from the dock to the city.

My buddy and the damsel in distress doing much better.
Me and Vermont right after getting off the Ferry.

From there, we got to take a bus that was raining *on the inside* through half the city of Nadi, trying to navigate our way around downed power lines, fallen trees, and flooded sections of road, all the while going through 40-60mph winds. We even actually *hit* a power line with the bus once. Thankfully, that proved to be uneventful.

Viewing the destruction from inside the bus.

By the time we got to our hostel, we had seen that most of Nadi was already a wreck. The city was/is going to take months to clean, and when we got into our room we found out that our lives were going to be run by candle light. Worse, all flights that day had been cancelled, though apparently boating had still seemed like a reasonable activity. All I wanted at this point was to get the hell out of Fiji. But my annoyances and stories were far from over.

To quickly pass over these:
– Having the hostel ask us about 10 times how many people were staying in our room, changing the price of the room three times, finding out the room floor was covered in water, watching the staff jam an extra bed into the most inane position in the room and then giving me a flat look after I immediately moved it
– Requesting bacon and eggs for a dish, and being told they couldn’t make bacon and eggs when they were still offering a bacon and egg burger. When I pointed this out, they relented, made me bacon and egg burger anyway, and then an hour later walked up to me with *another* dish of just bacon and eggs and said “didn’t you order this?” OMG.
– Watching my buddy trying to figure out the comforter on the bed because the comforter wasn’t tucked over the pillows, but rather back over and around and tucked up underneath the pillows from the front in hotel fashion.
Him: What is this thing?
Me: It’s a comforter
Him: <struggling with the comforter and pulling in different direction> Seriously, I don’t get this <more struggling in an attempt to get to the pillow underneath>
Vermont: <looking very confused> What is happening right now?
Me: <quietly> Give him a break… he’s never seen a comforter before
Him: <stopping and looking at me> Are you taking the piss right now? (are you making fun of me)
Me: I’m not trying to… but yes, yes I am.
– Woke up the next morning and thankfully the airport was open and running for my flight. But, I still got pulled aside by airport security for having a small bottle of liquid soap in my bag and being told that I could only take it through security if I went back outside and got a plastic bag for it. Is that to make it easier to inspect? You’re already holding it in your hand. I told them to take it and started getting a lecture. OMG, just let me leave this place.
– Finally getting on the airplane only to find they had issued more than one boarding pass per seat to about 10 people. I ended up having to sit temporarily in the seat behind the one I was really supposed to sit in, and the crew actually made a big deal out of trying to get me moved forward when it turned out that the whole time *the seat I was sitting in was free*, and they were still trying to move me. Get me the <beep> out of this place!!!!

The nicest view ever, aka, not being in Fiji anymore. (Auckland, New Zealand)

Currently, I’m in New Zealand and roaming around over here. But, I’m going to be back in the states shortly after New Years. I think six months of travel is about all I can handle at the moment, and even after talking to a bunch of other travelers and my buddy Tom, it does seem that six months is a normal cap for most people solo traveling before they start to experience horrific burnout. Thus, I’m capping my travels at just over six months, and I’m going to spend pretty much the whole month of January getting my stuff together to move over to England. After England, I’ll probably travel for another six months and see all the parts of the world I missed this time around.

See you guys soon, hit me up, I’ll be around.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years!

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