Tuesday, August 14, 2007

And that's a wrap

The full set of over 2000 photos, including a smaller set of select photos, is available at http://picasaweb.google.com/joshsmith17

Thanks for tuning it....see you again in 2009? Cambodia, Vietnam, and the like.....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Till Next Time....2009

At some point, you have to turn around. You could keep going and find your way around back to the beginning, but it won't be the same. Their is always a comfort in where you been and the people that you met along the way.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Day 63 - Bula Vinaka, Hello & Good bye Fiji

Today was the day. The final page of the greatest chapter of our lives thus far. We had all day on the island waiting for the 5pm boat transfer and soaked up the last rays of Fiji sun.

If you look closely you can see the sand bar in the middle of the ocean where our swim started from.

It was a bittersweet departure as we were saying good by to our new friends and excited to see our old ones. Beachcomber Island was a great stop and was a perfect ending.

Our shuttle dropped us off at the airport around 7pm for our now delayed 11:30pm flight to Los Angeles. This is were traveling with Josh comes in handy. HE got us into the quantas lounge and we relaxed it up with free beverages and food. They had shower facilities and they brought us blankets and pillows. A 10hr flight to LA found us in a mass of people in customs and no way to catch our connector to Las Vegas. Perfect, it was now 4pm on Monday and we left Fiji at 11:30pm the same day due to the international date line and we still weren't home. Luckily everyone flies to Vegas and we arrived a few hours later around 7pm.

The trip was over and we had arrived at our starting point. Looking back on the trip there were no regrets and if anything we found 6th gear on 4 speed. We hiked mountains in Hawaii, dove and spear fished in Fiji, hiked glaciers, walked redwood forests, bungi jumped, sky dived, snow boarded, skied, kayaked Milford Sound, Dove the Great Barrier Reef, camped on islands, yachted the Whitsunday's, hiked in knee deep snow, used ice picks and cramp ons, sleep in an RV for a week, swam with Olympic swimmers, swam with turtles, harassed sharks, partied like its 1999, slept on beaches, slept in dirty hostels, slept in 4 star resorts, explored major cities, drove on the wrong side of the road all while having the time of our life Living the Dream. Oh yeah and we looked damn good doing it.

People say that extended time away and traveling changes people or makes them a little different. I think traveling has answered many questions that I was unsure of, it has made decisions that I need to make clearer, and it has given me a wealth of knowledge to approach future life with. Smith and I have said numerous times you travel the world to realize that sometimes you have what your looking for right in front of you. The things that are most important, family, friends and relationships.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 62 -Death for Hump, Paradise for Smith

Come to find out that my body can only take 61 days of limited sleep, excessive physical activity, malnutrition, binge drinking, and constant traveling, and living every day like it might be the last before shutting down. Pretty impressive I think. Now I know the next summer should be a 59 day trip, will get one extra just to be safe. I came down with a guesstimated 101deg fever for approximately 26hrs. I had a pressure headache from the fever the entire time and was on the verge of calling it goodnight. Rethink the last time you were sick and think of where you wouldn't want to be and it would somewhere like where I was. I took the last of our antibiotics and there was no more medicine on the island, drinking tap water and trying to put down curry everything I didn't leave the bed all day. Sleeping in a 84 bed dorm was tough and with no a/c my body was all over the charts. I felt like I was in a Mash sick bay and Clinger was taking care of my while Hawkeye was hooking up with the nurses. Helpless. My fever broke late the next night my headache slowly dissipated and the new batch of congestion set in. Somehow everyone I tell this story to has zero sympathy for me.

A midst all this there was paradise. The island party was going and the legend of Smith was growing. It was official he had taken the spot as the "most popular" on beachcomber. A prestigious award that doesn't get you much more than it did your senior year. From Smith's recollection of the day, it was filled with long walks on the beach, playing the guitar at sunset, quiet dinners and all that stuff you would think vacation and Fiji would be about. Sounds like David Hasslehoff and a cheesy scene of Baywatch.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Day 61 - Budgy Smugglers and Open Water Swimming

Seeing I graduated with a degree in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine I figured I could come up with a proper training regiment for the big swim. Apparently thats a lot harder than you would think. It really wouldn't matter if we ate properly or rested well our times were going to be to be bad. So we burned the candle at both ends and woke up hating life. After checking in we were notified that the 2.6km swim was nonstop, we were horribly in trouble. However, armed with our speedo's and pink swim caps we went for gold. It did really hit us until we were in the boat on the way to the sand bar and overhearing conversations that this race was a really big deal. Come to find out there were Olympic medalists, world champions, nationally ranked swimmers and five backpackers. We are supposed to be on vacation.

The whistle blows for the start and everyone darts into the water, I start running and don't see Josh. I look back and he yells "wait I have to put my goggles on". Right there we are a minute behind. After swimming about 50 meters I realized I am a horrible swimmer, then I looked at the rest of the team and realized they are horrible swimmers as well. I look at my watch and realize I might miss lunch at the rate we are going. I love lunch. Too many negative realizations in a short period of time. We did regroup and I thought of my youth sports coach saying its not weather you win or lose, yady yady yady, we were gonna drown.

They have guys in kayaks all along the race in case of emergency and they seemed to have gravitated towards us. Smith looked at the guy closest to him who would be following him the whole time and asked him his name, the response was priceless. Moses. Chosen to lead Josh to the holy land. Too bad this guy couldn't part the south pacific. With about 1km to go Smith's calves cramped up and he had to hang on to the kayak for a bit. Matt and I looked back and said " see ya at the end, good luck". After turning the last buoy and seeing the shore we mustered some energy and charged the beach. Matt and I finished the same time and ran out of the water(in speedos). The entire beach was cheering and then we almost fell over, 1hr 15min in the water. Emma and Immy finished right behind us at 1hr 18min. Then it gets interesting. The announcer summoned everyone to cheer Mr. Smith, gold finger, golden boy, to the finish. He added some humorous jokes and some timely sarcasm as the fleet of kayaks delivered our rhino like swimmer to the shore. The crowd erupted as he crossed the finish line. Not only because he finished but now they could eat lunch. 1 hr 35min in the water, the winner finished in 39min.

The entire day was jokes and laughs about the event and the legend of Smith was growing. Literally. He got an award for coming in last. We ate at the swimmers lunch and dinner and drank a little as the night time festivities continued. I retired to bed after the fire dancing 12yr old put on an pyromaniacs highlight reel. Smith danced the night away.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Day 60 - Swim lessons for some, Water sports for others

Wake up on the island is 8am with the sound of the drums beating signaling breakfast is served. After missing breakfast the last few mornings and hearing the praises of it we stumbled and found our selves in the House of Pancakes heaven. It was a fat kids summer camp come true. They had omelet stations, crisp bacon, corned beef hash, fried potatoes, and fruit for the weight watchers. I didn't know all this could go on before 11am when we usually get up. Team DB assembled and reminisced about the growlers, and good times from last night. Then we realized that at 11am was the practice swim from Treasure Island. We all signed up and we all were committed.

After a 2hr power nap at 9am Smith was awake and arose with a vigor and yelled to the team to be at the beach. I arose like the stoned white guy from half baked and yelled see ya in a minute and rolled back over. Luckily being late has its advantages. As I was walking to the beach not wanting to swim I ran into to Sherry the Canadian girl I meet the night before and she asked if I would go jet skiing with her at no cost. Being a gentlemen I said yes and as I went to the beach to tell the team not to wait they had already taken the boat over. I was off the hook and on the jet ski. As we were about to get on the jet ski the para sailing boat was coming back and sherry asked if I would do that as well since she has never done that. So being the gentlemen, I said yes. First we went para sailing and I could see the swimmers taking the water as I was gliding over the islands effortlessly. Next was jet skiing, and the water was a little choppy so it made for some good air and sharp turns. The best part is as our time was finishing and we came up to the shore I could see Smith struggling to get to the shore and I pull and spray water everywhere and ask how the swim was. He said a few nice words to me and then said what the heck are you doing on a damn jet ski. It was an easy response. Sherry paid for the morning water sports and I went along, and it sounded much better than swimming 1km hungover. The story gets better as later that afternoon we went jet skiing twice. It was a whole day of free water sports.

The big swim was tomorrow and we somehow decided to upgrade to the long swim, 2.6km from the sand bar island to treasure island and then to beachcomber. The good part being you can stop half way at treasure and rest (Or so we thought). We then got the best thing $20 Fijian can get, horrible colored speedo's that say "Budgy Smugglers" on the back. Absolutely hideous.

After a trial run with them on and few games of volleyball and some calisthenics we were the most popular people on the beach. I never felt so awkward doing the top gun hand shake, ever. However, Josh found him self a few new friends and the nicknames "goldfinger" and "golden boy".

Night time activities were the same. Whoa going to Beachcomber, whoa going to a party....

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Day 59 - Team "DB" and the Island Sun

Thursday. Looking back and trying to remember everything over the past week is a little tough. Yes, we were only on a Super Wal-Mart sized island and there is only a few activities that could have been done. However, one of those activities does bad things to your memories, bad things. If your reading this kids stay off the hooch.

We timed our stay on the island perfect as this week is the annual Fiji swim. Its a 1km open water swim from treasure island to beachcomber island. We grew up in Florida and our parents owned a pool so we paid the $20. It was also the formation of team "DB" which includes Smith, Emma, Immie, Matt and myself. Now with a team that means if one us were to drown we have the others to drag down to the bottom with us.

The night was filled with native dancing, bula dancing, and tons of socializing. At night beachcomber transforms into Cancun on party pills with festivities going on till the late hours. All in good fun. I've been to spring break many times before so mostly I just sat back and watched things unfold. Yeah right. The island was the first time we have had more than three Americans the whole trip. Naturally we formed an crew (army) with the girls from Colorado, Randy from Arizona and team DB. Another night on Beachcomber that we rowed into victory.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 58 - Whoa, Going to an Island, Whoa Beachcomber

Beachcomber Island. The island is known across the south pacific as the "Club Med, Party Island". Naturally, being the explorers we are, we set out to search for this party. It came to some surprise that with an island the size of your local super Wal-Mart, without the falling prices and shoeless rednecks that is, that we found it with some ease in the middle of the massive Pacific ocean. Maybe it was the flashing neon lights that said "Beachcomber Island", maybe it was the band playing Marley songs with a Fijian accent, my guess is that captain of our hired ship has spent a night or two there.

The weather was reflective of how we felt, overcast and rainy, and it made it much easier to pursue the Wednesday afternoon nap. A nap at home is on your couch by yourself or significant other. A nap on Beachcomber is with 83 people who you have never met but will soon be calling friend. The dorm set up was similar to a Vietnam refugee camp. Not that I have been but from the best source I have, Hollywood, it is accurate. There are two lofts with 10beds a piece and 64 beds in the main area. There are no walls, windows, A/C, a few lights, sand everywhere, straw roof, etc. It sounds bad, however it is very relaxing as most of your time is spent on the beach and sipping drinks.

Night time brings festivities and usually the best out of everyone. The resort hosts nightly native dancing and a delicious buffet. The native dancing was interrupted by a 65ish yr old lady who comes to the island every 3 months for the past 27 yrs. She is constantly drunk and should have been arrested on numerous counts of crude and lascivious behavior, dancing inappropriately for her age, and staying up past her bed time. The night was a success as we meet Emma and Immie both from England and Matt from NY who would be our partners in crime the next week.Vacation.