To Stay In Paradise
Watching fantastical, romance-filled movies located in exotic, faraway lands of crystal blue water and soft, golden sand, always made me dream of visiting such a place ‘one day’. I never truly believed I would get there, I suppose because I never actually set out to go there. It just, kind of, happened. And this experience of a lifetime happened right at the end of my gap year.
Now I’m not saying that I wasn’t expecting magic when I circled ‘Fiji’ in my Lonely Planet guide. However, I didn’t quite realise the implications of circling ‘Caqalai’ – said thang-ga-lar, which, p.s., would have been really useful to know before we set off on our journey saying “We need help to get to CAK-A-LAY” which of course was met with totally blank stares. Under ‘Caqalai’ was a teeny-tiny description, one of the smallest in the whole of my book – about this little island, which took only 10 minutes to walk around and had some of the best diving in the whole of Fiji with just a snorkel, allegedly.
Well, despite the fact that it took an entire day to get there: 5 hours by coach from Nadi – Suva, 1 hour by bus from another place to another place, and then a final hour in a tiny minivan from another place to this godforsaken bridge called ‘Waidalice’ and from there a 45 minute boat ride to the island, it was totally worth it. We arrived to afternoon tea being offered and told that dinner would be served in a couple of hours. Our room was a ‘bure’, which is a thatched-house-structure. Simple, but perfect. The island only ever held around 12 people at one time – a collection of people from all over the world who, like us, felt like they had stumbled upon their own personal 5* resort island.
The local Fijians from a larger, neighbouring island helped look after Caqalai and caught fish which were served for dinner and played volleyball with us. One of the little boys would climb up the trees every morning and cut down coconuts for my best friend and I. I have never tasted anything so delicious; sweet, almost fizzy coconut water inside tender coconut meat which we ate when we were finished. There is nothing like a fresh coconut water – forget all this coconut water that celebrities are drinking. If it’s not fresh, it’s not worth it.
Anyway, I could go on and on about Caqalai all day. It’s magical, honest Fijian inhabitants; the price! at only a couple of hundred pounds for six nights, three meals a day included plus afternoon tea; the water which was so clear the colourful fish swam right up to the shore; the heat. There were no obligations, there was no technology wasting precious minutes. It was just reading and sleeping and swimming. I’ve never been anywhere like it, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. And I don’t think I want to. I want the memory I have to stay as perfect as the little island itself. An island that is so small you can’t even see it on the map and that is so close to the Date Line that you are nearly back round the other side of the world again.