Day 4: Underwater exploration

 When I got up and started walking this morning, everything hurt. I feel old, injured and achy. I slept pretty well last night despite the pain and having to get up early to take another dose of ibuprofen. I was going to get up to see Kini and go to the market, but I got woken up by one of the resort staff saying someone was here to pick me up. I didn't know that anyone had responded to the emails I had sent to the dive shop nearby because there's only one small corner of the reception area that has WiFi. I really didn't want to flake out on Kini, but this would be my only opportunity to go diving in Fiji. I made the split second decision and told the worker to tell them that I'll be on my way. I grabbed my suit and clothes that were hanging on the line outside and quickly put them on. I hurried out the door after I grabbed my waterproof camera, wallet, and phone. I went so quickly that I didn't have time to get ready; brush my hair or eat breakfast. The dive shop workers were waiting for me in the front and said that they came over yesterday, but I was gone rafting so they came over today just in case and I'm glad that they did. I left a note with the receptionist for Kini so she wasn't left wondering what happened to me.

Apparently, I didn't even need to rush because everyone runs on Fiji "island time," which is actually even slower than Hawaiian time. I was the first one at the dive shop, but  shortly after, ended up getting grouped with the odd Australian family from the rafting trip yesterday. There was also an Australian Chinese girl, Vivian, that came diving by herself because her boyfriend didn't want to come. She was very nice and it was just interesting to hear her with an Australian accent. We did a shallower dive in a nearby bay because there were first-time divers in the group. I had a difficult time getting down at first because I didn't have enough weight, so Joe (the divemaster) had to put another kilo on my air tank. Right away we saw some lionfish and some soft corals. Vivian kept chasing after the fish trying to touch them, the boys kept swimming under me and basically that whole family kept getting in my way. As Vivian was after this one fish, I noticed a stingray in the sand very close to her and she ended up kicking it up and it swam away. Nearby, we saw some clownfish (Nemo) in a big cluster of anemones and Joe also found this strange sea cucumber. I got to hold it and it sort of sticks to you, but not as much as some sea urchin. He later told us that those sea cucumbers are worth a lot of money per kilogram because it's a delicacy in some Asian countries. Vivian was the first to go back to the boat because she burned up her air quickly from chasing fish. I was glad that I was able to control my breathing better so I was one of the last to go in. I decided after that dive that I wanted to go again because I can never get enough and I knew that there were probably better spots than where we were. We went back to the shop and I had to say goodbye to the group. Vivian gave me her contact info and a big hug. She thinks that it would be cool to meet up some day on our travels - maybe Australia will be next.

Can you spot the fish and the lobster?








I'll be honest, I don't know the name.
A few lionfish

With fronds like these, who needs anemones?!

The little stingray coming out of the sand

Joe making air rings


The guys at the shop couldn't believe how big my bruise was and this one guy kept giving me sympathy and wanting to hug me... I headed back out not that long after, and this time I had the boat all to myself. We got into the aluminum boat and motored out on the surge. The weather wasn't favorable; it was windy, cloudy, and there was a lot of chop on the water. Joe asked me if I had ever done a wall dive before and I replied that I hadn't. He said, "well, there's a first for everything." I guess I was going to learn quickly, and we sat on the edge of the boat once we had our equipment on. As the boat tossed up and down, he counted to three and then we leaned back and fell into the water. Once I righted myself, I looked out and all I could see was blue. I couldn't see the bottom or the coral wall. It was the first time that I ever felt like I was really in open water. I started to see the wall as we were descending; it was towering on our right, but in front of us it was just blue. We saw several fan corals and even other corals growing on the fans. Joe poked in a hole, cupped his hands, and once I was ready with my camera, he opened his hands up and two nudibranches (Spanish dancers) came swimming out. That was so cool! We saw more soft corals, sea anemones, sea turtles and little tiny fish. We swam with one sea turtle for awhile, but it went ascended and went out of our area. Joe started poking a stick in a hole as we were nearing the end of the dive, but it had a lobster in it that wouldn't come out. He came back with a bigger stick to poke another hole nearby. I thought it was the same lobster hole, but I saw a tentacle come out and it was an octopus! It grabbed onto the stick a couple times, but eventually it shot out and left. I had to go up after that because I had reached my limit on the air in my tank. Joe filled an inflatable orange marker for the boat guy to find us.



Where's the wall?


Spanish dancers (nudi

 









 









A lil hermit crab









After a short bumpy ride, we took our equipment off and brought it ashore. We were waiting for the boat guy to anchor the boat and come back when a stranger Australian woman walked up holding a mask and fins. It turned out that she was walking the beach to the dive shop for the afternoon dive trip. She had a pretty impressive bruise on her arm from hitting herself when she was drunk and fire spinning. She declined the ride to the shop since she fancied a walk on the beach. Evidently this lady is pretty crazy. Joe said she just broke up with her boyfriend and was crying at the dive shop yesterday. I asked him how long she's been here and he said, "too long, maybe." He was thinking that we were quite the pair because we both were bruised, but I told him that at least my bruise wasn't self-inflicted. He said that I had a good point. Ha ha!
Diveaway guys

I had to get a ride back to the resort to get my dive log and go to another resort to take out cash for the dive at an ATM. I was driven by Ray, a Fijian guy that was raised in Australia, but had just moved back here three years ago. It's a little confusing because he looks like a Hawaiian guy, but has an Australian accent. We stopped at a roadside stand along the way to the resort and he bought me a half of a pineapple that was already peeled and semi-sliced for easier eating. I think it cost less than a dollar because he paid in coins. The pineapple was super sweet, soft and extremely juicy. It reminded me of white pineapple, but with a completely different taste. We had a good time talking story about life while going to and from the resort. I chatted with some of the dive shop people and took pictures before I had to return to my resort.

The ladies at the desk and restaurant
After I had a late lunch, I decided to get a massage for my soreness. I had a good time talking with Lani, the masseuse. She told me these hilarious stories about old Australian women coming to Fiji to find boyfriends! I will be missing all of these people here because they really do feel like family. In the evening, I had a great dinner of garlic prawns over rice with vegetables. The guys were playing music as usual and I was the one person that got people clapping every time. They don't play for tips and I just thought that it would be rude not to clap for them. Kini came over and apologised for our plans not working out. Turned out that they boys wouldn't have been available to cook anything anyways so it was okay that I ended up scuba diving. She didn't have time to bring her hand line for fishing so she said that we'd do it next time. That made me feel a little better about changing plans early in the morning.
Lani and her massage parlor

Later in the evening, the band got closer to the dinner tables and I though it was just because it was only me and another couple in the dining room. Kini came forward and said that she wished safe travels to me and hopes that we'll get to meet again someday. The whole band, including Kini and another staff member, sang a song just for me. It made me all teary and very special as I've never seen them perform for anyone else's last night there. I didn't know what the words to the song meant, but I had a good idea when it ended with, "....until we meet again." They all came up to me and gave me a hug after the song was over. I went and chatted with everyone for awhile and took pictures with Sera and Kini. Kini was funny, she saw a sculpture on the front desk that she had never seen before and called her "Grandma." We took our picture with Grandma and later with "Grandpa," a large wooden statue of a man. We had to take a few photos because Kini said that I wasn't hugging Grandpa close enough. She's such a hoot. We said our goodbyes, and Kini was like "awwww....Kara." She told me to come back someday with my boyfriend or hopefully a honeymoon. Ha ha!
Sera and I
 







Kini and I with "Grandma"
Kini and I with "Grandpa"




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