Riding The Fiji Ferry During A Cyclone
This was both the best, and the worst thing, that I have ever done. It was the best thing because if I had not taken this ferry, I would have had to spent at least 3 – 4 more days on an island with no shelter and with steadily dwindling food and water supplies. And of course, I would have had to continue sleeping in my swimming pool bed.
I don’t do very well at sea. Or in any other situation that involves movement really. I get motion sickness so badly, in fact, that I have trouble texting and walking without feeling a bit queasy. So imagine my horror when a German lady suddenly exclaimed that the boat was going to visit all of the Yasewa group, and that our journey back to the mainland would take 10 hours.
My most unfortunate friend recognized my horror, and immediately confirmed that it would *only* be a 3 – 4 hour ferry journey. But in an effort to gain fortunes favour, I offered to split my very last motion sickness tablet in half for the panicking German woman. Who did not even say thank you, I might add. (As a Canadian, I always find rudeness very shocking!)
After waiting for about an hour down by the beach in the rain, we finally saw the ferry approaching. We could already see how violently it was being tossed by the sea, but what other choice did we have? We piled into a small boat which took us to meet the ferry. The constant warning of “HOLD ON” and “DONT STEP ON THE SIDE, YOUR FEET WILL GET BROKEN” were not comforting.
Since my ticket was only for Beachcomber, I had to buy another ticket to take me all the way back to the mainland. As I sat with the ticket lady, the boat began to move. As the first wave hit, I flew into the air, completely leaving the seat and landed hard on my knee. Fight or flight kicked in, and I made a bee line for a proper chair, leaving my most unfortunate friend to sort out the rest of the ticket.
Ever time we hit a wave, all the people would fly out of their seats. Were there seatbelts? Nope. Lifejackets? Maybe, I have no idea where they were kept though. Adrenaline surged through my body, something which I have never before experienced. My fingers and hands froze immediately, and it was all I could do to keep the sick bag in my hands.
Eventually, I was convinced to move to the back of the boat, where hopefully the fresh air would do me good. The rain was pelting down at this point, and the waves occasionally come over the top of the boat, drenching us all in sea water.
We stopped at several islands, as boat loads of new passengers came on board. Probably more people than there were lifejackets for. Definitely more people than there were seats for. “EVERYONE, HOLD ON TIGHT PLEASE” is not something you typically want to hear from your captain. But by this point, I was too busy concentrating on directing my stomach contents into the sick bag, and not on anyone else, as the ship violently shook and crashed against the water.
The journey between Beachcomber island and Mana island was definitely the worst part of it all. The sea was so violent, and I had to grip the chair edges with all my strength to avoid being thrown head first into the wall in front, or even off the side of the boat. (those guard rails were pretty low, I might add!)
When we stopped to gather more passengers, I had a full on panic attack/ breakdown. I was yelling at them to let me off, to get my luggage, to let me on the small boat to Mana. My most unfortunate friend restrained me from abandoning ship to go and live permanently on Mana island, and I sobbed in frustration. And then vomited again. As you do.
I was fully ready to jump off the side of the boat, and take my chances with the sea instead. Death in the sea, seemed less likely than death on this ferry at that point.
Now in my defence, I was not the only one getting violently ill on this boat. I am told that more than 50% of the people on board were vomiting at one point. Of course, I can’t personally verify this information, cause I was uhhhh, busy. I think the main job of the crew on board, for the entire journey, was to collect full sick bags, and distribute handfuls of fresh ones.
During the final journey between Mololo island and the mainland, I was somewhat holding it together, probably due to the fact that my stomach was now completely empty. I was sitting near the edge of the railing, next to a couple who had only recently come on board. My most unfortunate friend came up to me excitedly with a free bottle of water he had procured. I raised my eyes to look at him, and then immediately vomited again. The couple next to me stared at my friend in awe, at his powers to make girls throw up with just one glance.
We were now slowly approaching the mainland. I had my eyes shut tightly as I tried to imagine life without boats. I opened my eyes for an instance, to see the water quickly rushing towards me as the boat dipped on to its side.I was sure this was the end of me.
We did eventually make it, stepping off the boat and on to solid ground was one of the most relieving experiences of my life.
Of course, things on the mainland are also not very good…. a whole new set of challenges were awaiting me in Nadi….