WORDS ALBERTO RONDINA // PHOTOS RICK PRYCE

WE SET SAIL AT 9AM ON THE WAY TO A SUNKEN CALDERA INSIDE AN ANCIENT VOLCANO ON AN OUTER ISLAND; FOUR HOURS LATER THE FISHING BATTLE BEGAN…

Rick Pryce, our photographer on the trip had heaps of fishing experience and helped to set the basic gear we had, being a light fishing rod and some heavy hands. Trent was dreaming every night after watching Mon- ster Fish to catch a proper specimen he can be proud

of; he was definitely the most focused. Virgil was hanging out on the side of the boat with him, having a beer, a bit early in the day maybe but that was the reason for what happened a second later. Steph, Rick and I saw this massive mahi-mahi jumping, the line in its mouth, it was big, blue and yellow, so bright and strong, just beautiful. Before Trent even realized, the fish, the line and the hand reel was gone from his hand and now floats in the deep blue South Pacific Ocean. That was just the start of another great day in Fiji islands.

I’ve always wanted to have a trip together with Trent and Steph from Moon Tours, and since I’m taking a break from the PKRA this year, I had a good chance in June to join and catch up with them.
It was one of the longest journeys I’ve been on to get there, but everything went sweet though and after something like 42 hours I arrived on the little island of Taveuni in Fiji’s far north.

As a kid I always wondered where the days start and end, I mean, how does it really work in the world? Only after travelling from South America to New Cal a couple years ago for the PKRA I realized that there is a “date line” on the map that goes along with the 180’ longi- tude where it simply goes from one day to another. Taveuni is actually sits right on that line, on a map they move the date line around Fiji to avoid confusion, this 180’ line makes Fiji the the first country to see the light of a new day in the world, pretty awesome.

Taveuni is the least touristic of the Fiji Islands; the little airport where I landed is basically a roof with some chairs underneath, that’s all you need really.

I’ve been to Maui, New Cal and quite a few places in the last couple years, but I’ve never seen a place as green and wild as here. The famous tropical rains were actually happening almost daily, they don’t last longer than 5-10 minutes and they are very enjoyable, refreshing and make great rainbows.

The coconut trees are just everywhere; they grow along the street, in the fields, on rocks and on the beach. Climbing up a coconut tree and grabbing some coconuts to eat with friends carries a social status a bit like riding a motorbike does in Italy. Only the older guys can do it, while the younger ones have fun breaking the coconut up, drinking the juice and eating the inside; its unbelievable how tasty and good the green ones are. The juice is nothing like any “coconut water” you buy at the supermarket, the soft coconut pulp is so good I had one almost every day after I tried one for the first time.

Well all this green can only be justified by over 600 waterfalls that are on the island. Yes, I couldn’t believe it, still I can’t figure out how there are so many on a little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but it’s true. One of our adventures was going by boat check out these waterfalls that go straight into the sea. Unreal, I didn’t know these actually existed. From the high cliffs on the east coast of the island, which is a World Heritage listed National Park where there are no roads; here you will find enormous waterfalls dropping right into the ocean. Diving into the ocean and jumping from the waterfall, it was definitely my first time feeling the fresh cold water coming from the inner island mixing with the warm and salty water of the ocean, just a great experience.

The kiting was also unreal, there are so many spots and locations you can go out at and it’s different everywhere. The main spot where we kited is in between Taveuni Island and the little private island
of Viubani. The wind funnels through and it’s always windier than anywhere else. I had some of my best sessions here, also because the little village of Naselesele is just up the hill and all the kids come down to play and check us out while we are kiting. That’s where our friend Duxon is from, he’s a local kid and at 16 is already over 180cm tall with the proper Fijian rugby player look. Trent taught him to kite
last year, and in just a few lessons he was up and going, while I was there we started working on his first jumps and back rolls. Not bad for someone that only gets to kite one month a year while Trent is there.

I started jumping closer to the beach and the kids were just loving it, they started jumping around, screaming and trying to get as close as possible to me. When they came in the water and I jumped over them they literally freaked out. The smallest kids were the funniest, they would be shaking cold with goose bumps after playing all day scream- ing at me to jump again, and again. After that moment I realized how happy they were, chilling and playing with each other, enjoying the nature, having a good time and always with a big smile on their face. In those situations you really understand that happiness is not given from things, you can have all you want and still be sad and unhappy. But these kids, seemed to have all that they needed, living in a pair of pants, in a little muddy house on the hill of Naselesele.

We were on Paul’s 43ft Catamaran, named “Looping”, would you be- lieve it? – sailing to the outer reef. The wind was just perfect for sailing, those 14-16knots that just make it sweet to ride on a big cat under a big blue Fijian sky. Taveuni has the tallest mountain in Fiji, De Voeux Peak, reaching 1200 meters. It catches the passing clouds, causing a lot of rain, making it so green, and it’s this along with steep mountains that create all the waterfalls. The ocean, even in the depths outside the protection of the islands is so clear that you can see really deep reefs and fishes passing through; it felt like sailing over a giant aquarium.

We get to our destination – an ancient and partly submerged rim of a volcano reaching up from the floor of the Pacific and leaving a huge bottomless lava tube on the inside surrounded by reef, the walls reaching out high and green.

It was an amazing site and being able to kite in it was just awe- some. I was cruising on the outside then passing over the reef, where you could just see black shadows swimming fast through the coral.The reef was dark blue and orange with bright fluro colours, almost too bright to be real. As soon as I kited off the reef and into the inside of the caldera, the water went deep blue and the bottom disappeared, quite scary really. It got me thinking about how deep that hole was and what could be inside it. Luckily the wind was clean enough
to make the ride back and forth easy to enjoy the spectacle until I decided to go for a snorkel and SUP around it. That turned out to be one of the best things I did during the trip. Trent and I paddled all the way to the inside of the caldera, right where the wind didn’t touch the water and the surface was glassy like a mirror.

It’s hard to describe with words, picture the cleanest water you can imagine, not even a breath of wind, and just the most colourful and alive coral you will ever see, about a meter under your feet. What I also remember was the silence; you could only hear the calls of a few birds, together with some little waves breaking on the reef, but that was it. It felt like everything was in the right balance there, the perfect balance.

After paddling around the whole caldera above this ancient and bottomless lava tube, we started to wonder how Rick was doing as we hadn’t heard from him after we dropped him on the beach when we got there. He wanted to climb all the way up, and take some shots from the best angles; we couldn’t see him anymore, at all. We were thinking about sending a search party or simply leaving him a 6 pack and a blanket on the beach for the night. When he finally showed up he was all scratched and dehydrated after walking through thick bush in the heat and up the very steep sides of the caldera but with the biggest smile on his face, he was more than stoked about his pictures. He’s so dedicated to getting the shots.

Cruising back to Taveuni was another adventure; sunset is always
a great time for fishing and having the wind blowing on our back made the ride more mellow and enjoyable. The fishing battle was on again; everybody had eyes on the lines hanging on the back of the boat. We were following birds and going over every bit of reef for a higher chance to catch something. At one point we saw fish jumping, and they weren’t small. Trent was holding his line with pride ready
to catch a big one. Twice he felt bites, but then nothing. We even turned back to pass over the same point and still nothing. Finishing up close to Taveuni we sadly packed the fishing gear; after Trent wound his line in he called Rick and launched his lure at him. Rick was like, “Careful with the hooks”, and Trent was like, “There are no hooks damn it!” We all said “What?!” It took us a while to realize that Trent was fishing the whole way back with a lure but no hooks in it. A hilarious end to the days sail.

Heading back to the airport I felt I had so much more than just a normal kiting trip. I met so many great people, got to know the local culture, played guitar while drinking Cava with the Fijian boys at night and spent time with the youngest kids inside the village school. I’ve seen some stunning places that will remain in my mind forever and Fiji’s got a place in my heart for sure.

Thanks Trent and Steph from Moon Kite and Adventure tours for this amazing opportunity, it’s been a pleasure hanging out with you and I’m looking forward to the next trip together soon…hopefully Africa 2015.

Thanks Cabrinha for making this happen one more time.

If you fancy having a trip like that, give Trent a call or shoot him an email, he’s an amazing guy and he’ll be more then happy to have you onboard. Ciao! Alby.

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