Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Today was the day we went White Water Rafting. Kevin stayed at the hotel to watch the boys. Kerry and I left at 6:30AM for our full day excursion. It turned out to be both the best and most crazy day of all! We were picked up at our hotel and met the rafting company at a nearby hotel. It was about a 2 hour transfer to the river, mostly traveling through winding roads high into the mountain. Our guide was Moses Batirua - he is from the village near the Upper Navua River and has been with them since they started 10 years ago. The company (Rivers Fiji) was started by an American. He came to Fiji in search of a place to start the company. When he found it he asked the government for permission to raft. The government said he needed to ask the village. So he went to the chief and presented kava. When he explained what he wanted to do and the entire village called a meeting. Everyone attended (all 450 people). They agreed and he picked some of the locals to be rafting guides. At first Moses tells us they asked his older brother but he said no. Moses turned it down at first too, but eventually agreed. He is an excellent rafting guide, but an even better storyteller. I learned more about Fiji in the one day from him than in the 10 days I had been in the country. There are 40 different villages on the Island of Fiji and each varies drastically in terms of what they eat, their customs and even their dialects. His village eats wild boar, mongoose and fruit bats. I will never forget his story about how they catch the fruit bats. Or catch wild boar... he said you bring 9 dogs with you and you may come back with only 3.

(Thanks Moo for the picture of a fruit bat!)

Anyway, while listening to his stories, we are actually rafting through the caverns of the Upper Navua River, known as the "Grand Canyon of Fiji" . This river splits the mountains of Viti Levu and the tops of the caverns are over 100 feet above us. The river is surrounded by rainforest and we passed more waterfalls than I could count. (One guide said there were 70 but I think that may even be a low estimate!). Some of the waterfalls had names - with stories of course! - like "Two Women Push Each Other Waterfall" and "Free Massage Waterfall".

After rafting for an hour (maybe 2? in Fiji there is just no concept of time) we come to a calm narrow spot between the caverns. We all jump out of the rafts and "swim". The current is so strong that all you do is put your feet up and you are carried downstream. The water is warm but feels refreshing in the hot sun. The caverns are so high you can't see the top. Eventually we have lunch and then get back into our boats to continue. In total our rafting trip is 24 kilometers. Just as we are heading out the skies turn dark. Before long it is raining, light at first but getting heavier. There is thunder and lightning almost simultaneous. As we are paddling we realize that there is nowhere to go but forward. The bamboo trees are sideways and some of the branches are cracking (loudly!) and falling into the river. The wind picked up and it was howling. The rain was so heavy you couldn't really see anything in front of you so we just listened to the guide and paddled. I kept thinking it was a passing storm and that it would end as quickly as it started. And then it started to HAIL! Lots of hail and they were big -- some were ping pong ball sized! We couldn't believe it and said to Moses, "It's hailing!" and he says, "NO- ITS ICE!" He honestly didn't even know the word HAIL since he had never seen it before. The hail is hitting us as we are paddling and it hurts (I have bruises on my legs to prove it) but there was nowhere to go so we just paddled as fast as we could to get through it. As we passed the other rafts in our group, we all just said the same thing - "This is crazy!". Eventually the hail stopped and the rain let up a little. We finished rafting and got to the end of the trip. As we were changing and packing up the sun came back out and it was like the storm never happened!

Kerry & I with our guide - MOSES

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