As we passed by Kioa Island, the captain remarked on the Chilean earthquake and subsequent tsunami. I told him I'd heard that Fiji had not experienced the tsunami. He retorted strongly: "No! That's not the case at all! The tides that day were crazy! Me and my staff were constantly remooring the boats. At the top of the hour the tide was very high - at the bottom of the hour - it was super low. This went on and on throughout the day."
After passing Kioa Island, the ferry entered Somosomo Strait. Big clouds were over Taveuni and behind us it was also raining. The view was just beautiful. I looked over the side and saw the glass water being dappled with little horns. We were passing over a large school of unicorn surgeonfish.
A half hour later, the ferry ride was over and we were at the Taveuni dock. Upon jumping on land, my taxi driver, Harry, said, “Scott! Welcome to Taveuni! Let me grab your bags and then we’ll be on our way.” Wow, great service.
Harry asked if I’d been to Taveuni before and I said, “Yes, many times. But I’ve never been on this side of the island. I usually fly into Matei and head off for Matangi.”
“So, you’ve never seen the meridian?”
“O.K. Let’s go there then.”
So off we went. As I looked out the window, I saw storm damage from Cyclone Tomas everywhere: homes without roofs, large trees across roads, bushes and trees stripped of foliage. Harry explained that the past month had been really hard for all the residents of Taveuni. “There’s been a lot of clean-up and we’ve barely scratched the surface.” I could hear chain saws as he spoke.
The road to the meridian was a little odd. WE drove up a hill and then you turned into someone's driveway, and just as I thought we were about to park and visit, we veered to the right into very tall elephant grass. After a good distance, there was a clearing and what looked like a rugby field.
Harry told me there used to be a church at the meridian, but that it was a Tomas casualty - you could see its remains wrapped around the trees. Next to the trees was the meridian sign. It was on its back on the ground, pulled (with cement piers) straight out. The wind must have been ferociously strong to do this. We got out of the truck.
After looking around, jumping from today into yesterday (or today into tomorrow, depending upon one’s perspective), we got back into the truck and then headed down the way to Paradise Taveuni, located at the bottom of the island. The road was badly rutted from the storm. To say it was a rough ride would be . . .
Editor's Note: Watch out for Scott's video-- Vanua Levu to Taveuni for the whole story!