Fiji Kite Dreams: Nina in Namotu

Nina Heiberg, all photos: Tracy Kraft
Bliss and Beauty by Nina Heiberg

Perfect surf. Sun and wind. No crowds. White beaches and glassy, clear water. Colorful fish and friendly people. How much better can a vacation get?

I went to Namotu with my friend Tracy Kraft for two weeks at the end of March 2003. Out of all the travels I have done, this trip was different in that it was an eye-opening experience. Never before have I been able to simply relax and enjoy the surroundings like I did on this trip. Tracy and I arrived at Nadi airport at sunrise on March 23. We were met by one of the Indian staff of Namotu who helped us load all of our kiteboarding, surfing and camera gear into the Namotu van before we set out for about a half hour drive to the western coast of Viti Levu. Driving through the country side of Fiji we caught a glimpse of the local style of living. Cows on the road, Fijians and Indians getting ready to go to church on a Sunday morning, children with sleepy eyes getting ready for their day of play.

Once we reached the coast, we could spot two tiny specks on the horizon. Namotu and Tavarua island were in the far distance as we helped log our gear into the “Namotu Hunter”, the boat that had come to take us to the island. The Fijian boatmen, Tomasi, Joe and Numalu were all smiles and cheerily welcomed us with “BULA!” (“hello” in Fijian). I’m sure they were used to seeing the excitement that was in our eyes as we started the seemingly endless boat-ride to the island. It is only a thirty minute boat-ride, but it felt long, because we were so eager to step foot on that speck of an island that we could see in the distance. Once on the island, Tracy and I were like children, energized and ready to get out in the surf as soon as we could. We met Mandy and Scott O’Connor (the managers of the island and also good friends of mine) and chatted for a while, then ran to our room and unpacked our surfboards, waxed them up and got a ride out to the surf.

Perfect surf. Sun. No crowds. Glassy, clear water, fish beneath us. How much better could it possibly get? We caught a bunch of waves, then went in for lunch. Fresh fish, salads, quiche. Yum. As soon as we were done with our lunch we were ready for more fun. Still no wind, it was still early, so we grabbed our snowboard boots, and headed to the beach with Scott and Mandy. Scott drove the boat while I went foilboarding. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was. With the foil, I had a perfect overview of the reef, and I spotted bright blue and yellow fish. The sun pierced the turquoise water and lit up the reef like nothing I’ve ever seen before. No wonder one of the private surf-spots of the island is called “Swimming Pools”. Tracy took pictures from the boat, Scott and Mandy were laughing and I was simply stunned by the beauty of this place. I had forgotten everything about school, everything about studies of the Middle East and the war in Iraq, everything about the bills I had to remember to pay when I got back from my trip.

It was as if time stood still on Namotu. Time stood still in my “real life”, yet time was flying by, because I was having so much fun. After foilboarding, my legs were like jelly. But the wind was starting to pick up and I stopped thinking about my jelly legs because I was thinking about which kite to pump up and which board to use. I rigged my 17.3 GK Lift, grabbed my brand new SOS board and headed out. No one else was in the water. No one. The wind was steady, the water was flat. Namotu is the only place I’ve kited where you can have all kind of conditions in the same session. It’s amazing, because the island is so small that you can kite around it and choose which conditions you’d like to ride. In the front of the island, the water is flat. On one side of the island you can ride port tack waves. On the other side of the island you can ride starboard tack waves. It has such a variety to it, it’s “crazy”. It must be the best for training, since you have all imaginable conditions in one, small area…It felt surreal to be kiting in such a perfect paradise by myself. After a few hours of kiting and my legs feeling more like they were ready to fall off, Tracy and I jumped into the hot-tub with a Pina colada and some of the lifeguards.

The cook, Angus, came out with some fresh sashimi and sushi that we gobbled at the edge of the hot-tub. The sun was starting to set and the colors bounced off the ocean and clouds making it feel as if we were simply characters in a watercolor painting. As the sun was setting I pondered my place in the world and realized how small I am, how insignificant in comparison to the sun that was threatening to sink into the ocean. The setting was too perfect to be able to imagine a war anywhere, too perfect to imagine the suffering that exists. Everything bad seemed to disappear, to be distant and instead of Namotu being surreal, the world outside of Namotu became surreal. My thoughts about the world were cut off when I heard the Fijian drums thundering. The drums are the signal for dinner time. Sade was playing in the background, setting the tone for a mellow dinner with food that makes you want to eat till you burst. The guests were chatting, recapping surf and fishing stories of the day, Tracy, Mandy and I were giggling and recapping funny stories of wipeouts and bikinis out of place.

I saw nothing but sunburned, happy faces and big white smiles. As we were finishing our Crepes Suzettes I heard the Rap Music playing from the bar and we headed inn to dance. The girls were dancing, some of the guys were sitting at the bar watching, people were chatting, the music was pumping and I was smiling both inside and out. Tired after an eternally memorable day, we headed back in the tropical night  to our beach bure and passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillow. My dreams were filled with waves and surfing, colorful fish, and friendly people. As the sun started casting orange stripes on the wall I was gently reminded that a new day of fun, games and childlike bliss was ahead. Every single day on Namotu gave me a feeling of gratitude, a feeling of delight, a feeling of having found a safe-zone in this crazy world. It was a reminder that even in these times of horrible political actions, it is possible to be happy. It is possible to remain compassionate and concerned for those who are suffering, but yet be able to enjoy the beauty of the world. Namotu is a place of peace, a place of enjoyment, a place where people respect and appreciate each other. Namotu is my long lost paradise.

Fijian mini-dictionary:

Bula = hello/welcome
Yanuyanu = island
Yaqona = kava
Wasawasa = ocean
Cakau = reef
Ika = fish
Bula na cagi = windy
Siga = sun
Vinaka = thank you
Marau = I am happy

Fact file:

The Republic of Fiji consists of about 400 islands. Namotu is part of the Mamanuca (mah-mah-moo-tha) islands about 1/2 hour boat ride from the west coast of Viti Levu (which is the main island with the Nadi international airport). The population of Fiji is a little less than 800,000 and consists of about 50% indigenous Fijians and 45% Indians.

Climate:

Fijian Winter: Mild, dry season is from May through October with average temperatures of 72F/22C.
Fijian Summer: Warm, wet season is from November through April with average temperatures of 78.5F/26C.
The trade winds usually blow about 10-20 knots from May through October, but there are sea breeze winds that kick up in the afternoon throughout the year.

Interested in traveling to Namotu?

Contact Sara at "Waterways Travel":
Waterways Surf Adventures
22611 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu, CA 90265
Phone: 888 669 SURF (7873) or 310 456 7744, Fax: 310 456 7755

Helpful websites:

Special thanks to:

Globerider Kites for sponsoring the trip
Mandy and Scott O'Connor for their hospitality and friendship
The staff of Namotu for their smiles
Tracy Kraft for being a great friend and a talented photographer
Da Kine, Roxy, SOS:Sean Ordonez, MPG: Scott Sanchez

 

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   text: Nina Heiberg, photos: Tracy Kraft windgirls 2003