TRAVEL DIARY: Getting Lost in Fiji

Sometimes, bad directions can lead to great moments. We spent our last day in Fiji on the main island, as we had a very early plane to catch to Brisbane the next morning. Stoney Creek is a short bus ride from Nadi, and staff met us at the stop and took us the rest of the way up a muddy road to the edge of the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park. Beautiful views, funky atmosphere, a three legged cat, happy dogs, good food, cheap beer, and a pool. Really, we couldn’t ask for more.

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The friendly folks at Stoney Creek told us about hot mud springs nearby, and, with a bright smile, gave us concise directions. We headed out on foot, eager to explore a new side of Fiji. The brilliant greens of the jungle invigorated us to the point of giddiness, even as with each step our flipflops splattered mud onto the backs of our legs.

REDDIRTROAD

As directed, we turned left at the first fork. However, the road soon led up a hill and we knew something had gone awry. We stopped and conferred, but there simply was no other possibility. The directions had been very clear. So, we kept going. Rounding a sharp bend, the road suddenly disappeared and we found ourselves in the middle of a small village. Within moments a call had gone out and children magically sprouted up all around us, laughing and running around like it was Christmas morning, begging us to take their picture.

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After a few minutes someone was found who spoke English and informed us politely that we were lost. We told him we were looking for the hot springs and when word of the location got out, much hilarity ensued. The kids thought we were ridiculously dense to have gotten so turned around, shoving each other and laughing or looking at us in incredulity. Soon a beautiful young woman and shy girl offered to show us the way, walking quickly out of the village. The English speaker motioned us to follow them and we did so, amid a parade of silly acrobats, voguing would be models, and the quiet but intensely curious.

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Our guides walked serenely and conspicuously free of mud splatters back to the main road, where we lost the last of our entourage. About a quarter of a mile later, they motioned to a small path on the right side of the road, which led steeply down into a stream, which we were to cross. We would have never in a million years found this without their help. Another mile or so along a muddy path brought us to our destination, the Tifajek Mud Pool & Hot Springs.

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The mud pool is sensuously warm, and our host showed us where the hottest mud bubbled from, instructing us to rub it all over our bodies. After it dried, we slipped into the warm spring to wash it off. Our skin was left silky smooth for a week afterward, but the memory of that little community will last forever.

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