Trouble in Paradise
“What did you do to yourself?” asked the doctor in a bit of disbelief. The date was November 4th, and I was sitting in Zen’s Medical Centre. My leg was swollen, and I was severely dehydrated. The last 48 hours had been fun to say to say the least.
I was in Fiji. I had points expiring and decided to take a free 10-day trip to Fiji; a relaxing get away to focus on what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I spent a majority of my time in the Yasawa Islands – a group of 20 or so volcanic islands off the Northwest Coast of the main island of Fiji.
I didn’t quite know what to expect on these islands. They aren’t similar to islands in the Bahamas or in Thailand.
These islands are SMALL – real small. There are no roads, no stores. On some of the islands the only thing that exists are the resorts. Other’s have villages and resorts. One thing they have in common.. beautiful beaches and dense jungles.
The food is either grown or shipped daily from the main island. There are also no ‘hostels.’ The hostels are just dormitory rooms attached to part of a larger resort.
Luckily I went during shoulder season, and the dorms were half empty. They were also on sale. I could get a bed for roughly $10 -$15 USD a night.
The real expense was the food. Since there are literally no other places where you could buy food, the resorts require you to purchase a meal plan from them which runs between $35 and $50 USDs a day. This included breakfast, lunch, dinner. Given the isolated location, I would say this wasn’t that terrible of the price.
A Couple’s Retreat
My first destination was Octopus Resort . When I purchased my boat ticket to Octopus, the gentlemen selling me the ticket warned me that this was where only couples frequented. I was not looking for a party scene, so I told him, “perfect.”
Have you ever seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall?
Well it about a man, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) trying to get over his ex-girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). In the movie, he goes to a couple’s resort, which unfortunately is the resort that his now ex, Sarah, is at with her new boyfriend.
The funny thing about it this plot line is how Peter acts at a couples resort. For the first few days he cries (I didn’t do this), but eventually he learns to accept his predicament, spending most of his time with other couples, being the token single dude. For 4 days, this was exactly my experience.
I ate dinner with other couples, went snorkeling with other couples, got drinks with other couples. It was quite the experience. Most were actually my age, and most were on their honeymoons, and there there was Bret – the sole single bearded pale American.
Alone on a Deserted Island?
My next destination was Barefoot Manta. Barefoot is such a telling name. Unlike Blue Lagoon, which was a resort full of all the essential resort amenities, Barefoot Manta was totally remote and totally bare.
At Octopus, I had my bed made every night and the air conditioning was strong. At Barefoot Manta, I had a shack with open windows. Over my bed I had a mosquito net. The electricity didn’t really work. I loved it.
The resort could accommodate up to 85 people. At present they had maybe 10 guests. I literally had my the island to myself. My room or shack if you may was right next to the ocean, and the constant breeze kept my shack cool at night. At night, the stars were so bright that they reflected off the ocean. I almost added 3 more days there. In hindsight I wish I would have.
Trouble in Paradise
My last resort was the Blue Lagoon, yes the location of the 1980 film Blue Lagoon. The island was beyond beautiful, but unfortunately felt too commercialized. What made Barefoot Manta unique was the connection you had with locals. I drank kava with locals, hiked with the locals, drank wine with the locals, etc.
At Blue Lagoon, the experience was much more us and them. The island locals typically work at the resorts and at Barefoot they were part of the atmosphere. At Blue Lagoon, it seemed like they were there just to serve. It was hard to have conversations with them. Fijians are some of the nicest people I have met during my travels. I would have liked to have more interaction with them. That is what made Barefoot Manta so special.
Despite the disconnect between the locals and myself, Blue lagoon was stunning. The beaches were mostly isolated, the sand was soft as silk and white as snow. The ocean had no waves, and you could walk out as far out as you could see. It was true paradise.
That is until the infection struck.
I admit it. I forgot bug spray the first night of my 10 nights. Total rookie move, and even more of a rookie move, I scratched the bug bite. The initial scratch was small – I didn’t think much about it.
Fast forward 8 days. It was now the second to last day of my trip. The minor scratch on my leg had become infected. My knee was swollen, and I could barely walk. It was so painful, that the best I could do was cover my leg in tiger balm, hoping the pain would subside. I needed antibiotics.
I went to the front desk and told them I needed to see a doctor. The closest doctor was in the nearest village, a 20 minute boat ride to the other side of the island. I took the boat and saw the doctor.
The only antibiotic the doctor had was penicillin but at the last minute decided not to give it to me because I was on blood thinners. He told me I had to go back to Nadi – to Zen’s Medical Center.
Yes I am on blood thinners.
This summer I hurt my calf sprinting stairs, and being immobile for a month, I developed a blood clot. Of course, the infection occurred on the same led as the blood clot. Needless to say, by the time of my flight home, my leg looked like a balloon.
Discouraged I took the boat back to the resort and booked my 6-hour boat ride back to the mainland for the following day. I was leaving paradise a day early.
The pain in my leg was manageable, but unfortunately the worse was yet to come. At lunch, I ate some questionable beef. That evening. I was laying outside on a lounge chair, trying not to move my leg, trying to avoid the pain, minding my own business, reading my book.
Then it hit me. The grumble in my stomach. The time was 5 PM.
That night I didn’t sleep a wink. The grumble morphed itself into nausea. I willed myself to not throw up, but spent the majority of the night dry heaving. I was burning hot and freezing cold simultaneously. I was sweaty while having the chills. It was over 80 degrees in my dorm room, but I was covered in blankets. The pain in my leg had intensified and I felt dizzy. I was dehydrated, but I couldn’t take down any fluids. I was a mess.
My constant struggle was keeping most of my dorm mates up, so I went outside to try to sleep on a bench. I managed maybe 20 minutes of sleep, but woke up with mosquitos all over me. The next morning I had a 6-hour boat ride, and given my current condition, I didn’t know how was I going to make it. I decided right then and there that I was going to take the seaplane. A 30 minute flight seemed better than a rough 6-hour boat ride.
The next morning I went to the office at 7:30 AM and told them I wanted to take the 9am seaplane back to Nadi. 9am came and I boarded the plane.
Peace Blue Lagoon.
I was still feeling quite terrible, but luckily being the first on the plane. I got to sit in the co-pilot seat. Keeping the pilot unaware of my sickness, I told him I had pilot’s license. The next stop we picked up several passengers; one of which who unable to put on her seat belt. The pilot looked at me as we were taxing out to take off, and said “Keep in in the channel will ya?” and then darted off to the back of the plane.
Cool. I had never taxied a seaplane before. The experience wasn’t that much different when compared to land, however, the response time wasn’t the same. Needless to say I managed.
After 3 stops and several near vomits, we landed at Nadi, and I managed to get myself to Zen’s Medical Centre.
After a brief check and telling me that I looked terrible, the doctor diagnosed with cellulitis; a bacterial infection of the skin. I was given anti-nauseous medicine, antibiotics through and IV, and 2 liters of saline solution (which apparently is a lot). I laid there for 5 hours recovering. When they tried to take blood initially, I was so dehydrated that no blood came out. The saline was a life saver. After ‘the drip’ I felt much better. Around 4PM, I went back to my hostel.
That afternoon and the subsequent evening became a constant battle of getting the pus to stop leaking out of my leg. This was also when the diarrhea hit
Diarrhea in a non air conditioned bathroom with poor ventilation is what I imagine hell to be like.
I don’t see it as a fiery place with people bound in chains, I see it as an endless dark musty bathroom filled with sick people.
The next morning I had to go back to the medical centre to get my next dose of antibiotics as well as pick up my oral prescription. If anything, this experience really opened my eyes to the state of healthcare around the world. I am super thankful for what we have here. We can complain or agree with the merits of Obamacare and what the next administration is going to do. But I hope we never forget just how lucky we are!
That night, I boarded a plane back to Los Angeles. Because I couldn’t move for the past 2 days, my leg was retaining water and my foot looked like a inflated latex glove. I was a little scared with my blood clot, but took an extra dose of blood thinners, got on the plane, and made my way back to the good ole USA.
Upon reflection, my cut probably got infected on one of my many hikes. Though if given the chance I would go back to Fiji in a heartbeat. The people are beyond friendly, the islands are beautiful, and the atmosphere is relaxed. The next time, I would bring a better first aid kit and not forget bug spray, but yes I would go there again.
Keep Chugging People!