Mel Thunderbolt | Bula from Paradise!!
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Bula from Paradise!!

I remember wondering where I would be in a year’s time around this time last year, I felt that 2010 was all about closing chapters and letting go, it was not a great year for me and I promised myself that 2011 was going to be different.  I was saying farewell to my twenties, to ten years of exploration and self-discovery.  After a rough start to this year, it was time to let go.   Time to let go of all inhibitions, to get out of my comfort zone, take a deep breath and step out into new beginnings.  I resigned from my job, bid farewell to friends that had been my family and caught a flight to the other side of the world, not knowing where I was going, or who I was meeting.  It was scary, but exhilarating at the same time.  I had nothing to lose…

Attending a local Fiji wedding

Well, 2011 so far has been incredible and it has been more exciting than I had ever imagined.  I celebrated entering my Dirty Thirties with complete strangers in the Philippines and ended up singing karaoke to my heart’s content (something I would never do) with twenty U.S navy officers.   Looking around at the funny situation there and then, I decided that this was my year, this was the year that I was going to try new things, meet new people, just take chances and go with the flow.  That is exactly what I have been doing and jeepers, this has been one hell of a ride ☺

As you know I have been on a diving expedition through the Pacific, we had plans of diving for sunken treasure in Tonga, but due to engine problems have had to postpone the expedition until the end of the cyclone season next year April.  Even though things have not gone according to plan, I have learnt from experience that they never do and I do not regret going on this expedition at all.  This experience has been life changing.  I didn’t come here to find gold, I came here for my own reasons, for time to reflect and heal.  For Mel Time.  That has been my treasure.  I have taken time to enjoy the beauty of the world in all its glory.  I have met the most incredible, amazing people, in faraway places and atolls that nobody visits.  People that have nothing except the loincloths they are wearing and coconut trees to live off and they are so happy, so beautiful.  I have met people in Kiribati, and because we were there for so long, I taught English at a school (something I never thought I would do), I met Matt, who took me to New Zealand to watch the Rugby World Cup (I never thought I would do that either).  I have been in Fiji for almost a month now, and we were not even planning on coming here, I am so glad I did.

Men wear skirts in paradise

Life.  It is funny that one minute you are going down your path of life, thinking and planning ahead, and then something or someone comes into your life and BOOM, it is all suddenly different.  You just gotta go with it!

M.Y Ice is on its way to Fiji, they should be here by the weekend and I am looking forward to seeing my crewmates.  I have missed them. While I have been here I have tried to indulge myself in the local culture.  Travelling alone has its benefits as you are forced into meeting other people.

Through this, many wonderful experiences have come my way.  After meeting Helen in a second-hand bookstore, I was invited to come and stay with her in her villa in the mountains.  Her house is stunning, with views all around, parrots and peacocks; I am truly at peace up here.  I catch the local buses from the village into town.

A little nervous about falling out the window

The buses have open windows and everybody hangs out of the window shouting and waving at friends walking by, it is a real experience however a few times I have fretted for my life when the bus is tilting over trying to do 4×4 manoeuvres through the pot holes in the dirt roads.  The bus always seems to be leaning over on the side I am sitting on, and it is not the fear of overturning that gets to me, it’s the major concern of being squashed alive by the fat mamma sitting next to me when it does.

I was offered a position as second mate onboard the 60 meter Steve Irwin of Sea Shepherd going to Antarctica this year to fight off the Japanese Whalers and even though it sure was tempting, I have turned it down in pursuit of a paid position as crew.  Taking a year off working has been bliss, one I truly recommend but obviously money does not last forever and so I will need to top up my funds soon. I know how the yachting industry works and I am not getting too excited but I have two interviews this week.  One of the vessels I am applying for is currently doing a circumnavigation and will be going off the beaten track and to high latitudes so I am all for being part of that.  We will see.

New Island arrival

My karma must be positive at the moment as in the meantime I have been offered a position here in Fiji as a Mystery Hotel and Backpacker Shopper.  (I know!!!)  I will be flown around the 300 islands of Fiji and stay in different places, eat their food and rate their friendliness, cleanliness etc.  OMG! What a job.

I start in the next few days, what a way to see this glorious place!! One of the islands is Cast Away where they filmed the movie with Tom Hanks, and another one Nanuya Levu where they filmed Blue Lagoon.  All I can say is Vanaka (Thank You).

Fiji is an amazing place.  A place where men wear skirts, woman are not allowed to wear pants, folk sit around drinking kava (the local drug from the root of the pepper tree), worship rugby, and adore Lucky Dube.  My kind of place.

Afternoon rugby game

Melissa Van Der Walt