Friday, 9 January 2009

Welcome to paradise

And paradise it was, for the first 3 days at least.

We lazed on sunbeds, reading a book, or listening to music. When the heat and humidity became overwhelming, it was time to head into the crystal clear waters for some snorkelling. Pretty coral, colourful fish and a few teeny sharks lay in the shallow waters just off the beach.

After an hour in the water, when our digits had pruned up and our mouths and throats tasted of salt, it was time to head back to shore and do it all over again.

Perfect huh?

Day 3 is when the trouble began.

After surviving day 1 with only a tiny patch of sunburn to one shoulder, day 2 did not fare so well. Despite numerous applications of sunscreen, closely adhering to the proverbial “slip, slop, slap ‘n wrap”, I ended up burnt across both shoulders, upper and lower back and upper thighs. Ouchie!

Halfway into our stay, sunburnt and sore, we thought day 3 would be an ideal rest day. As such we were happy when it was a bit cloudy. The water was choppier than the perfect calm of the previous 2 days, but still warm and swimmable. While snorkelling had poor visibility, it was still lovely to float about in the warm salty water.

It wasn’t till near sunset that the wind started. We were lying out on deckchairs, positioned with a prime view of the sun and a closeby neighbouring island. One minute it was calm, the next minute gusts of wind appeared and didn’t leave us alone. Along came the rain. Powerful pellets coming in sideways. The clouds were so low you could barely see the neighbouring islands. The mainland had disappeared.

But who doesn’t love a good storm? Sure, the thick clouds obscured us from seeing any sunset that night, and we couldn’t sit outside by the pool area to eat our meal, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Neither was the heatstroke I experienced as a result of the sunburn, although it did mean I couldn’t finish my dinner, a very rare occurrence indeed!!

There is something comforting about going to sleep with the sound of rain beating against your roof. Nevertheless, as we retired for the night, we hoped it would blow over by the next day.

It didn’t.

As we were getting ready to head out to breakfast on day 4, someone came and knocked on our door. Dressed in full raingear, one of the staff members informed us that the Group General Manager would be giving a weather briefing in the main restaurant in 5 minutes.

That sounded ominous.

We quickened our preparations and headed into breakfast. Despite initially being told the briefing was in 5 minutes, it didn’t happen for over an hour. We figured that was a good sign that the island wasn’t being evacuated. Surely if it was, there would not be time for breakfast?

But when the briefing came, it wasn’t exactly encouraging. Apparently we weren’t experiencing a cyclone. However we were wedged between a “tropical depression” in Vanuatu and a storm on the other side. Apparently the wind and rain we were experiencing wasn’t going to abate any time soon. No boats were running to or from the island. No one should go swimming in the ocean. He called it a “squall”.

The weather had certainly deteriorated since the day before. During the days prior, I had not seen a single wave breaking over the reef surrounding the island. Yesterday there were plenty. Despite not being high tide, the waves were coming much further up the beach than usual, so much so that you couldn’t walk along the shore.

After being cooped up inside all day, I figured I go for a walk; if not along the beach, then on the inner concrete path that loops around all the bures. After sitting on our doorstep, putting on one shoe, I paused. The rain and wind were gusting. I could see and hear large branches and coconuts falling around me. I took off the one shoe I had put on, and just sat there. I didn’t want to risk getting hit on the head with a branch or a coconut.

The conditions worsened. At one point I was truly scared. Thoughts of a freak tsunami wave or a cyclone clouded my mind. I seriously contemplated writing a goodbye letter on my laptop, and wondered if it could be recovered from a waterlogged hard-drive should the event arise.

Luckily it did not. But the wind and rain continued.

Day 5 was more of the same. Boats still not running, but several groups of people left the island by helicopter. By lunchtime, conditions had improved to the point where I could walk 2 laps around the island. However by late afternoon that was no longer the case. There was some good news: our late afternoon weather briefing informed us that we were through the worst of it. The wind and rain would continue, but not like the last few days. Apparently we were now in a “divergence” whatever that is. A cyclone that’s gotten lost somewhere along the way, perhaps?

Still, we won’t know until tomorrow morning, whether any boats are running so we can leave the island in order to make our flight home.

So what can you do? Sit and have an afternoon beer/wine or both. Do some more reading. Watch a movie. Play scrabble. We wanted some down time, and boy did we get it in spades!!


sc1976 said...

Oh dear, sounds like our holdiay in Fiji back in 2005! It bucketed down the whole time. But beer and board games helped :)

When we were in Vanuatu in 2002, we arrived at the tail end of an earthquake and experienced aftershocks for the whole 5 day stay. Hope the rest of your stay is uneventful and the boats are back in operation :).

yublocka said...

Beer and board games definitely helped!!!

Man it was scary getting out of there though. That is another entry in itself, although not quite sure if I want to relive it yet. I am still amazed and so thankful we made it home!!!

rand(om) bites said...

Oh god Tam, you sure are an "adventure" girl! Glad you made it back in one piece and had at least a day to really enjoy the beauty of the place.