My head was whipping about like some demented, crazed life-size bobblehead painted to look like a cruising sailor, trapped in seats better used for squeezing information out of long-legged foreigners. Even turned sideways my femur was jammed into the opulent backside of the classically proportioned Fijian woman seated in front who, I trust, was on her way to Nandi to buy a more generous cut of panties. Next time I’ll bring flowers. Two vortexes of dust and gravel rose behind the brightly painted midsize bus. This was not some chicken bus in the wilds of El Salvador. It even had clear plastic seat covers over the bright red plastic upholstery on the legless seats.
It all started well enough, except for the no legs part, when we quickly found the bus stop at the Port Denaru waterfront shops. Yes, the driver goes to Nadi, yes it’s only one Fiji dollar, and you pay on the way off the bus. However, instead of exiting the car park he reentered the Port Denaru complex and spent the next forty-five minutes wandering around and through the community of resorts that carpets this large security-gated peninsula, stopping at every hotel and resort. No matter, we Escapees were on a mission and we’ve found that this concentrates our focus and steels our resolve to where we usually return with the goods. What goods you ask? We needed 80,000 in Vanuatu currency before we get to the entry port in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and that’s only available at the Denaru airport bank which may or may not have VT currency when we arrive, which puts us on a legless bus, bouncing down an unpaved country road with my knees up some poor woman’s butt.
Of course we had no clue as to where we were and at a certain point the bus stopped and carefully turned around and headed back towards what we hoped would turn out to be the paved road to Nadi. Finally we saw evidence of a town and then a bus terminal. Stepping off the last stair of the bus I wasn’t sure my cramped legs were going to hold my weight. Ever helpful Fijians gathered around us and soon the concensus seemed to be that we were seated in the bus to the airport. We’ve heard that the airport was easy to miss so they gave us many landmarks to watch out for. Heavy sigh of relief from Yours Truly! Marce checked in with an email from friends outlining the do’s and don’ts of airport foreign cash exchange. OH MY GOD! Jack get off the bus- get off the bus now! We’d forgotten our passports, boat papers and a few other things I know nothing about.
Rather than endure another intimate encounter with a total stranger I voted for a look-see around town just to try to get a little circulation back into my knees. Nice large market all selling the same six items for the identical price, a New World Super Market, and a music store with the best stock of harmoniums I’ve ever seen. Sales girl says that you can’t start or end a Hindu hymn without an Harmonium, a fact which I’m sure makes Harmonium manufacturers smile every day.
Ok, new strings for Marce’s Backpacker guitar, check, some fresh vegetables, check, two bags of stuff from the New World, check. VT80,000…fail.
It took a half hour to get through Nadi on the $1 knee-in-butt-bus but once out of town the trip went faster than the circuitous route it took coming up. Back in Port Denerau, a stop at the ice cream store put everything in perspective and I smiled at M and agreed that we’d learned a lot today.
Next day, passports and boat papers in hand, we caught the dollar bus after it had wandered around the Port Denerau resorts and we were off like a flash. We didn’t even turn off the paved road this time. At the bus terminal in Nadi we knew where the airport-bound buses were and soon we were reciting the landmarks leading up to the airport bus stop. No one mentioned the possibility of the airport access road being blocked by a narrow gage sugar cane train.
Entering the airport grounds we were wondering where the airport bank might be found and in true Fijian fashion, help appeared and in no time we were talking to the teller who had to run upstairs to get the Vanuatu currency. Job well done, we were back in Nadi at the bus terminal when Yours Truly was informed that we would tour another Hindu Temple. It’s what you do in Nadi…apparently. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that Fijians and Indians don’t feel especially warm and fuzzy about each other so after an Indian couple finished giving us directions a Fijian woman ran out to check on us. Nice…in a way. The Sri Sivasubramaniya Swami Temple, let’s agree to call it “the Temple,” was as you would expect; lots of arms, blue skin, trunks, all the colors used indiscriminately, and many rules about clothes, mostly.
I mean it’s a messy religion, they spill a lot of stuff. I secretly think that our goal all along was the vegetarian canteen but you know I’m a team player, I smiled and said nothing. Marce purred.
Back at the bus terminal we ran into the Toucans while loading into the torture chamber dollar bus. This time, at the Port Denarau waterfront, we all stopped for ice cream.