Monday, September 26, 2016
Up bright and early, once again, to get some breakfast before our 8am “Island Hike”. Little did we know that our leisurely trip to the omelette bar this morning would be fuel for an 85 degree version of the Mt. Everest base camp trek. Close your eyes for a second and tell me what you picture when you hear the phrase “Island Hike”. Did you see a leisurely stroll around some beaches, stopping at lookout points here and there, perhaps strolling through a Fijian village to learn a bit about their way of life? Yeah, me too. Now wipe that from your brain and I’ll tell you how this shit actually went down. Replace that leisurely stroll in your mind with a death march up a forested mountain at a average incline of at least 65 degrees the entire way in the blistering heat, where the only thing scarier than climbing up is the terrifying thought of how the fuck you are going to get down. Swap out those stretches of white sandy beaches in your mind with the occasionally climb up a vertical wall of volcanic rocks, sans harness. Substitute those lookout points with the occasional four square feet of flat surface that you and eight others would crowd onto to catch your breath and a drink water that has been naturally heated by the sun. Proxy that Fijian village with a lone Fijian guide in flip flops who responds to your cries of pain with phrases of encouragement like “we all have to die sometime”. Then top all of this off by the fact that we paid for this. And I don’t just mean with money. We paid with blood (in Steph’s case), sweat, and tears. In sore muscles and bruised egos. I expect this kind of shit from the Kiwis, but not from you, Fiji. I thought you were different. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me fill you in on the details…
The unknowing victims of this “three hour” tour all gathered near the bar that morning feeling already victorious just for signing up and getting out of bed. There were the three of us, horribly ill prepared with nothing but some water bottles and my jammy pack. We were joined by a Canadian couple decked out in Lulu Lemon with camel backs in tow and determination in their eyes, an older gentleman who might be the dumbest out of all of us because he had done this awful hike before, a 20-something ginger boy with a shit eating grin on his face, an overweight British girl who, like us, had no fucking clue what she was in for, and rounding out the group with an even bigger girl with serious mouth breathing issues and serious social interaction limitations. Half our group was capable of this hike and other other half (including myself) ended up on a Biggest Loser death march they had no business being on.
The hike began innocently enough, out of the resort and over a small hill to the neighboring village where we walked along the beach for a short period. At this point I was still under the naive impression that the most dangerous part of this hike would be the mouth breather taking me down with her in a fall. Getting trapped in a mid-hike conversation with her was equally as frightening. After passing the village from the beach we made a sharp right into the woods. And this is about the point at which my life turned into an episode of Survivor: Fiji. From here on out it was a vertical hike straight up the side of a fucking mountain. The communication was a bit lacking, so I was not actually aware that the plan was to scale the side of a fucking cliff onto a rugged peak until we were about half way up and began to inquire when we would start heading back down. I should have stopped then and there when the guide pointed to the top of the mountain, but I honestly thought he had to be joking. As we kept trudging up, dripping sweat and cursing profanities, I began to slowly realize that (1) the joke was on me, and (2) I might actually die on this mountain. I knew I would hate it, coming down even more than going up, and I would whine and moan the whole time (which I did), but there is just something about having a skinny bitch in lulu lemon in front of you and a fat ass panting for breath behind you that makes you think, shit, if these chicks can do it, so I can I. Next time, remind me to stop thinking and to just sit my ass in a beach chair.
There were several points when I did almost turn around, but instead of listening to my gut, I let my hike mates cheer me on with false hope. “Come on! you can do it!” I could do a lot of things…I could do intravenous drugs for fun, for example. I could also strangle the mouth breather, or throw my guide off the side of a cliff. But could does not equate to should, and this is what I failed to realized in each of these moments. Once we hit the vertical rock wall I lost my shit. This was as close to one of those ninja warrior obstacles as I have ever come. I’m pretty sure I told my guide to go fuck himself about forty different ways while he feigned a language barrier, but Steph assured me I could do it and so I once again continued to throw all logic off the cliff and continued on. The guide put Steph’s and my water bottles in his backpack so that we could use both of our hands for the necessary rock climbing. The ginger, who had taken a liking to our fair skinned Jorgie, did the same for her. We reached what I thought was the top, as there was no way to go any higher without a very high likelihood of life threatening injury, yet the guide began to continue upward onto a sheer rock font on the tippy top of the mountain. At this point I had reached my negligence limit. So I sat my unhappy ass down and told the group I would be listening to music and taking selfies until they were done with their pissing contest. My dick is plenty big and I have zero interest in proving it to this group of Gilligan’s Island rejects by risking my life to say I went another 20 feet higher. Yeah, I was pissed. But more than anything, I was terrified of how the fuck I was going to to get my uncoordinated ass down this mountain in time for lunch.
The way down was about forty billion times worse than the way up. We spent most of it on our butt’s or squatting and sliding down dirt paths too steep to navigate upright. It took twice as long and was twice as hot. We all ate shit at one point or another, bruised our asses, scrapped and skinned every part of our hands and legs and lost our fucking minds. Jorgie carried on ahead of Steph and I with the old guy, the lulu lemon twins and Ginge in front of them. Steph and I cried our way back down at least half an hour later. The chubsters were at least a good hour behind even us, since the guide got bored with them an literally left them on the mountain. Once again, my endless quest for mediocrity is successful. Steph and I fought back tears for most of it. I did actually cry just a little bit once I saw the beach and could be certain that my life would continue after this hike from hell. The guide followed behind Steph and I for a while I yelled at him incessantly. He asked us if we had signed the waiver, reminded us that if we die it’s no skin off the resort’s back…besides we all have to die at some point anyway. He thought he was hilarious and we were pathetic, but he caught me from falling about twelve times so I let him live.
I know you are all are thinking that I am being dramatic, but I assure you I am not. I am, however, utterly appalled at the lack transparency this resort gives its patrons with this hike. Not only should we have been adequately prepared for what we were getting ourselves into, people should have to pass a navy seal training camp before getting on that fucking trail. If this is an “island hike” then the Trail of Tears was a “countryside hike” or the Orgeon Trail was a “cross country joyride”.
We returned back defeated and dejected. Nothing too notable happened the rest of the day because we were all shells of the women we once were. Jorgie and Steph got massages. I blogged and started a new book. We drank a few bottles of wine and went to dinner. And then finally bedtime (also known as 9pm) came and we crawled into our beds hoping it had just been a dream.
It’s a day later and still too soon to laugh. The best we can hope for is to try to drink our pain away, one Fiji Gold at a time. I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened to me. Sadly, my FOMO while traveling has gotten the better of me before, primarily when I hiked to Mordor a few years ago. Hopefully this time I’ve learned my lesson. But probably not.
Sidenote: I went back to the activities board and the hike is actually called “mountain peak hike”. Not “island hike” and I originally claimed. I think my subconscious made that up in an effort to pin as much blame as possible on someone else for his aggressive hike. I guess you could say I was warned, but I still stand by my views in this blog, regardless of what what written on the chalk board.