So that very day I headed for Mana Island and exactly what I felt I needed…. sun, sea and…… isolation!!!! 🙂 As things worked out I had five days to spend there and that felt great…. not for the reasons you would normally think of….. but because it meant that for five days all I had to think about was getting through the 5 days!!!! That felt wonderful and I applied myself diligently!!! 🙂
Man, the hotel was perfect!!!! It was high “backpacker” standard, with a beach (and complimentary palm trees!!!), swimming pool, water sports and the works!!! It was full board, had a great dining area and there were plenty of travellers and backpackers milling about!!! There were no worries, no hassles and no fears….. and if I hadn’t have brought my head with me then I thought I would most certainly have the time of my life!…… I suddenly wished I hadn’t packed it!!!!! 🙂 I swear, it’s at times like that you really wish you could be Worzel Gummidge so you could change your “head” for any occasion!!!! 🙂 But on second thoughts, after all the problems he had with Aunt Sally maybe not!!!!! 🙂
And as a result of said head, the whole time I spent, there, turned out to be a bit of a blur. Everyday seemed to merge into the next, and it was easy and hard at the same time. I just spent each day eating and sleeping, swimming and reading and listening to Ash and crying my eyes out!!!! Choose your order because every order was experimented with, and sometimes repeated, on a daily basis!!!!! 🙂 Every now and then I’d engage in polite conversation with some fellow travellers, but on the whole I tried to avoid them…. even a meal times!!!! But there was one day that did stand out from the rest….
Everyday I’d witnessed groups of “excited fun loving backpackers” returning to the beach after a “most awesome!” kayaking adventure to different parts of the Island…. and then proceed to hearing them rant and rave about their days adventure, over dinner, in true “Swallow and Amazon” excited story telling stylee!!! 🙂 To be honest, every time I overheard about one of the escapades I felt like I was missing out and I wanted to do something about it!!! But I didn’t want to join a group or experience “someone elses” adventure! I wanted an adventure of my own!!!!…… You may have got the gist by now that that is simply just the type of guy I am!!!! 🙂 …… Also, seeing as I was on my own I felt I needed a challenge to fulfil that adventure and simply paddling over to some remote little beach and climbing up a palm tree really wasn’t going to do that!!!!! 🙂
So I looked at a map of Mana Island, and I looked at the scale, and I thought “Fuck it…. that looks doable….. I reckon I could paddle around that in a day….. it’ll be a long day…. but fuck it!!!!” In all the adventure stories I’d overheard none of them appeared to have kayaked right around the island and so I went to enquire with the Fijian whom hired out the water sport equipment. I approached him on the beach, and asked him about it, and he told me that it was a long way, and the currents were strong on the far side, so it probably wasn’t possible in a day. I then asked “Well, what if I leave early?” and he replied “Well, have you kayaked before?” and I said “Well, yes, I do have a British 3 Star Award, so I’m not a complete muppet, and I’ve done some sea kayaking over in New Zealand just off of Abel Tasman National Park….. so what d’you reckon?”
He looked me over, and sized me up, and then said “If you do it you’ll have to keep close to the shore because the currents are strong.” I replied “No prob, I want to coast and the shore as I go anyway, that’s all good!” and he continued “Ok, I get here half an hour before I open, so if you get here then I’ll have the kayak ready for you so you have more time.” Sorted!!!! I was off!!!! On another Miller Adventure!!!! 🙂 I thanked him and paid him and he said “Dont thank me….. just make sure you get back before I close and I’ll see you tomorrow morning!” Wow…. it felt like quite a compliment that he was prepared to take that risk on me!!!! 🙂
I got an early night, that night, and I didn’t cry once!!!!! J And I was up and raring to go the next morning!!!! 🙂 I got down to the beach, and the hire place, early and the guy that run it was already there….. he’d got down there earlier than usual too to sort my kayak out for me!!!! 🙂 That was great…. because it meant I had a head start on my head start!!! 🙂 …. and I thanked the Fijian hirer once again!…… “Dont thank me….. just make sure you’re back on time…. and stay close to the shore!” he seriously stated…. and then wished me luck!!!! 🙂
And then I was off…. in my open topped kayak…. with my sunscreen on and my lunch packed, water packed, spare clothes packed, towel packed, first aid kit packed, mess tin of “adventure accessories” packed and my backpack packed in a plastic sealed bag and tied onto the kayak!!!! 🙂 The only thing I was missing was a hat, but I thought I could just put my t-shirt over my head if it came to it……. and look like a Benedictine Nun!!!! 🙂
It was beautiful that morning, setting off in the calm light blue waters while following a shoreline of exquisite green palm trees sprinkled with doses of sporadic golden sands. It was so quiet that I didn’t think even the birds had woken up and a complimentary warm breeze accompanied the tranquil surroundings. I quietly paddled alongside and parallel to the insignificant waves magically breaking upon the islands edges, while whispering sounds of soothing seduction. It was heavenly!!! 🙂
And I appreciated those moments for all they were worth because as the sun gained it’s elevation in the sky the ambience and conditions slowly, and naturally, began to change with it. By mid-morning the suns strong rays were beginning to feel uncomfortable and the light breeze was no compensation. It was becoming hotter than I liked or could easily tolerate…. but I pressed on! 🙂
By noon I was sweating buckets and I was wondering if I’d packed enough water to get me through the day! It was funny though because I was very aware that I had gone from “gliding like a swan” at the commencement of my paddle to “looking like an ugly duckling” by lunch!!!! 🙂 I rounded the top of the Islands headland and decided to find a beach and stop for something to eat….. and a swim to cool down!!!! 🙂 There was an absolutely perfect one, just “around the corner”, and so I “beached-up”. I was making good time and reckoned I was about half way around the island, so I didn’t mind indulging in the moments of complete seclusion…. does that mean I stripped off and went for a “skinny-dip”?….. No!…. because I discovered that I was so English that it felt a bit “improper” to do that even on a desert island beach!!!!! 🙂 You’ve got to laugh at yourself sometimes!!!! 🙂 “Yeah, I know it’s deserted….. but what if someone saw me?!!!!” I swear that thought actually went through my head!!!! 🙂
So after my “quicksilver swim-short clothed” dip, I had lunch and dried off. It was really hot by then and so the drying didn’t take long!!! Those were wonderful moments though because, although the backpacker hotel was great, the communal meal times were a bit much for me, for the reasons I’ve already gone into, and being there, completely on my own, with just nature as my company, was paradise, for me, at that time. I was the quintessential, and completely self-induced, Billy-No-Mates of Mana Island!!!! 🙂 But when you’re with nature…. you’re never alone. 🙂
When I was ready I packed up and got back into the kayak all prepared to bang into the rest of the trip and complete the journey around Mana Island! It was mentally hot by then and I was really getting worried about my water supplies, but then, about an hour after I left the haven of the beach, the weather suddenly started to change. Clouds started to form on the horizon in front of me….. dark clouds!…. and a cold breeze started blowing in my face! The sea began to become a little bit choppy and I could see the “mist” of rain approaching me from the near distance. My God, after spending a couple of hours sweating my bollocks off in Paradise…. it looked like Blighty was on its way!!!….. Hooray!!!!…… I don’t think I’d ever been so pleased to see rain!!!! 🙂 It started mildly at first, with just a pitter-patter of refreshing drops….. and then…… the British equivalent of Heaven reigned in all its true Glory!!!! 🙂 God…. what a relief!!!! 🙂
The cold breeze turned into a cold wind, so now I was not only paddling against the current I was paddling against the wind too, but that was a good thing because it meant I had to paddle hard to keep warm rather than not paddling hard enough in order to stay cool!!!! It was a difficult balance before, but now I could just go for it!!!! 🙂 The sea became much choppier and the visibility reduced considerably, but I had faith in my stamina and my endurance, and my ability to get myself out of a “tricky situation”!!! J The truth is I was suddenly in my element because I was now living on the edge…. and the edge was called…. Dodgy As Fuck!!!! What a motivation!!!! 🙂
Seriously, what’s the point living life if you’re scared of death?!!!!!!!!!! What’s the point living a “safe” life when you can be killed, just as easily, by the very measures you’ve taken to keep your life safe?!!!! What’s the fucking point of being like everyone else?!!!! What’s the point of fucking shutting yourself away at home trying to protect yourself from anything bad ever happening to you?!!!! What’s the point of a life like that?!!!!! It’s not a “life” at all…. it’s just an existence. I want to live my life…. and the only way to do that is to risk it….. because it is only in the moments when you risk your life that you realise how much your life is worth living!!!!! The problem is that the world is full of bollocked brained gonads telling you that you’re an idiot because you wish to take a risk and do something with your life!…… basically because they’ve never had the bollocks to go and live their own!!!!…… And they just want everyone else to be exactly the same as them…… sitting at home, afraid, until someone tells them that it’s “safe” to come out!!!!!!
Life is not about being safe, it’s about living with the risks of life and taking the responsibility for your own whereas keeping safe is about limiting your life and foregoing the responsibility you have to your own Spirituality. Therefore, Choose Life…. and trust in the Spirit that guides you. 🙂
My Spirits were up man…. even though I was afraid…. and I think that’s what’s called courage!!!! 🙂 And about ten minutes into the “mire” it was getting a bit “hairy” and I did wonder what people might say if my adventure suddenly went tits-up and I washed up, drowned, on a beach somewhere!!!! “Oh that silly bollocks…. what was he thinking! You see… I told you so! You should never take a risk like that….. paddling around an isolated Pacific Island on your own….. what a complete and utter bollocked brained gonad!!!!” 🙂
Yep…. I was getting into “beyond the edge” territory and with every minute that passed I was getting ever more unsure of myself!!!! 🙂 But, there is only one thing to do when the elements are against you like that….. put your head down and paddle for your life!!!! 🙂 So I did that and I was loving every minute…. it was a proper challenge….. and without the fear element you don’t get the same buzz….. or the same felling of joy when you succeed!!!! 🙂
You see, I’d rather die living my life than die not living it!!!!!!!!! There’s no point in life otherwise.
After about half an hour the crux of the storm seemed to pass and I was back simply paddling in the rain and into a lighter cold wind again. The sea had calmed itself down and the waves became more of the “fun” variety rather than of a “threatening” one. I carried on, actually feeling at peace after getting through the worst of a mini-crisis, and was enjoying the continuation of the British-esk weather. 🙂
It was really funny a few minutes later because, out of the rain-mist I saw a boat full of tourists and they were right in my path along the coast. What were they doing there?!!!! As I approached I could see some of the people on the boat were pointing at me, paddling out of the mist and in the rain, but as I passed no one said a word, as everyone …. including the Fijian crew….. just looked at me with all their jaws dropped!!!! 🙂 I didn’t know what to say or do so I just called out “Hello!” in my most polite English accent and paddled on!!!! J As I said “Hello” I noticed one woman unconsciously raise her hand to wave and then just as unconsciously put it back down!!!! 🙂 It was absolute comic genius timing, but a naturally occurring one, and just after I passed I began to crack up!!!! 🙂 No one on the boat had said a word to me…. they hadn’t even looked at or said a word to each other!….. they all just stared blankly at me as I paddled by them….. in my open topped kayak…. along the deserted coastline of an isolated Island….. in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…… after a storm!!!!!! 🙂
After I had passed I was in hysterics and I just kept repeating the moment in my head!!!! “Hello!” 🙂 It was like something out of a Monty Python sketch!!!! 🙂 Blimey, it was so funny and God knows what they were thinking!!! 🙂 I tell you what though, that moment got me through the rest of the day and I hardly thought about my aching arms after that!!!! 🙂 I eventually rounded the other cape, the sun came out and I was on the home run with the current and a new lighter breeze behind me!!! 🙂
I cruised the last short stretch along to the lagoon beach and the ambience was very similar to how I left in the morning. The beach was empty…. I figured because of the weather….. except for a Fijian gentleman who rose to his feet as he saw me! I quietly paddled in and the gentleman had a relieved smile on his face as he greeted me…. it was the guy who hired me the kayak!!!! 🙂 “I’ve been waiting for you” he said “Not good weather today… very uncommon!” he declared. “Tell me about it…… But I made it though!!!” I replied with a relieved smile and laugh! 🙂 He wore the same kind of smile too and said “I don’t know how…. I’ve been worried about you!”
It turned out that when the mini-storm struck he decided to close the hire shop and have an early day, but because of me he’d waited around because he was genuinely concerned about me. I thanked him profusely and offered to buy him some beers, but he said it was fine and he was glad I’d got back safely. Then he smiled and said “Well done!” although I’m not sure if that was for successfully paddling around the island or for getting back on time so that he didn’t have to call out the coast guard!!!! 🙂 …… if, indeed, Fiji had one!!!! 🙂
After that, I went back to my room laid on my bed, cream-crackered, for an hour and then got up, got scrubbed up and went down to the buffet area for dinner…. and I have to say I was feeling pretty pleased with myself!!!! 🙂 I queued up and got my munch, and then went to sit at a table by myself, then a few minutes later an English couple asked if they could join me. I was in really high spirits, so it was all good, and they gratefully sat down.
It turned out Alice and Jamie were from Market Deeping, a beautiful little town close to where my aunt lived, and we broke the ice by reminiscing about how wonderful it was there!!! I told them that I loved rowing down the river, from my aunts, to go the pub and they admitted that they had enjoyed doing similiar!!! 🙂 They were an adorable young couple, whom were just beginning their adventures in life and I told them of the adventure I’d had that very day!!! 🙂 They loved it and then they spoke of the adventures they’d had so far. It was so lovely hearing them speak so excitedly and enthusiastically, and it was wonderful to hear what they had been up to. Then they asked me where else I’d been, and I began to tell them about this and about that, and then Alice proceeded to want to hear my life story!!!! 🙂 She seemed to be so inspired about the few bits I said that she wanted to hear everthing, and, if you’re reading this, you’ll know by now that when I tell a story it rarely ends with an ending and usually just leads into another adventure!!!! I cant help it…. it’s just life man!!! Or Maam….. we were talking with Alice remember!!!! 🙂
No, it was really lovely, and Alice and Jamie just sat there soaking it all up as I tried to give them the best advice, about this and about that, that I could and give them the confidence to just got out there and do it!!! Of course, they already were, but it was nice that I seemed to be able to inspire them some more!!! It was good for me too because Alice’s interest in my “life story” helped me to put my life in some sort of perspective, a perspective that can be so easily forgotten along the way; I’d led an amazing life, from where I had come from to where I was in that moment, and all the things I’d achieved on the way, and it took Alice’s amazement at my journey for me to fully appreciate just how amazing that journey had been. Alice gave me some wonderful therapy that night and, for the most part, she didn’t even realise it!!! 🙂
It was such a wonderful conversation and it was so wonderful to be in the company of such a wonderful couple. As the night drew to a natural conclusion Alice and Jamie told me that they envied my life and I told them that I envied their beautiful relationship…. at which point they held hands, looked into each other’s eyes and gently smiled at each other….. the pair of soppy bollocked tit heads!…… I loved it!!!! 🙂 They were such an adorable couple 🙂 . We said our goodnights, and hoped to see each other again, and I went to bed feeling like a completely different man to how I’d been feeling a few days before.
Fiji had definitely been good for me….. but in a couple of days I would be in a completely different place having a completely different experience….. and the excitement was beginning to grow inside of me….. I was getting ready to shoot….. to Los Angeles….. and the legendary basketball courts of Venice Beach!!!!! 🙂 ….. Swisssssssh!!!….. 🙂 ….. It’s a three point play cant you hear the crowd roar?!!! 🙂
It’s Miller time!!!! 🙂
Lots of Love,