Lost in the Wilderness?
Sunday I left Samantha at the Bali House and navigated a little trail through the jungle to visit Lewai's family settlement. Between Lewai and his brothers there are a couple of carpenters and a contractor with tools we can rent. The track splits at a few points, so I was hoping that I was tracking the most used one.
The island is only 42 square miles, but that's enough to easily get lost. I would not even attempt that kind of thing in Costa Rica without a local who knows the area. Come to think of it I don't think I'd be comfortable camping long-term in the jungle there at all.
I took my time and turned around to look behind me often enough that I could at least find my way back the way I came. I lost the track completely at a spot where debris from the tail of the recent cyclone covered the path. I was wishing for a compass, which I'm sure there's an app for. It's ironic that as far out as we are I had a perfect WiFi signal and phone reception. I called Lewai's wife Vas and It turned out that I was only 5 minutes from the settlement at that point. Just around a twist in the jungle and out I came among hills of taro, cassava, kava and coconut. Most of the rest of the family showed up after church in their Sunday best.
After lunch I met Lewai's brother the builder. It felt like I was meeting a Fiji island version of a mafia don -Don Waisaki. He a relatively short, portly guy of about 60, but he has a calm, self assured, authoritative manner. He came out in a clean white tank-top after a shower with an apparent assistant (probably another brother) at his shoulder holding a phone. Lewai sat back a ways on a bench by the path and motioned for me to sit next to Waisaki who started giving directions to his 'assistant', then turned to me and asked, “You in a hurry?” “No.” “Okay.” Then he talked in Fijian with his assistant for a few minutes and they made a phone call, before he turned back to me and asked, “So, what you want to do?” I explained about our plans. Lewai occasionally offered further explanation in Fijian with his voice raised to carry the distance.
I didn't get lost on the way back either, though I had to look really closely at trail marking a couple times. It's a good thing to because with my live tweeting and all the phone calls Lewai's wife and daughters made on our phone, the battery was dead.