Friday 13 July 2012: A Wedding in Paradise
I have a folder on my computer full of photos for today called 'Riding/Fishing/Snorkelling/Wedding Taveuni' which pretty well sums up the day. Once again it was grey, raining and very windy when we got up this morning. I was praying that the fishing wouldn't be cancelled and thank goodness it wasn't - it was just pushed back by an hour.
We noticed at breakfast that the blackboard listing the activities for the day included a wedding celebration at 5.15pm. A short time later, a young couple walked in hand-in-hand and took their places and word spread around that they were the bride and groom-to-be. They had come from Austria to celebrate their marriage in a special way together in Fiji, before returning home for the big, family wedding. I fervently hoped that the weather would clear up for them in time for the beautiful sunset that they obviously hoped for when they were planning this ceremony, back home in Austria. Who could imagine that their romantic plans for a tropical island wedding would be ruined by scudding clouds and driving rain? I said that I didn't mind if it stayed wet for fishing and horse trekking, as long as it was fine by the evening!
And so we set off in the rain: Nicky and Christina (who both have a distrust of horses) for a deep-sea fishing trip off Vuna Reef and Immy and I (who have a dislike for small boats on ocean swells and also fishing) for a horseback adventure up into the hills of south Taveuni. The horse riding was fun, if a somewhat different experience from the type of riding that either of us - Immy in particular! - has had previously. The owner of the horses was very hard of hearing, we were told, and also has a habit of falling asleep on his horse so Naomi from the resort came along to ride with us and keep an eye on things. The tack being used seemed rather ramshackle (ropes for reins, for example, and a bridle on my horse that kept coming undone) and the horses extremely eager to grab mouthfuls of foliage as we went along, but at least the rain stopped after the first ten minutes. With a two-hour ride ahead of us, I was rather glad of that!
The ride took us up a track that wound through plantations of coconut, taro, plantain and cassava; past the occasional brightly-painted homestead and at one point, a group of men loading volcanic stone into a lime green truck that bore the legend 'Souls to Jesus' across the bonnet with an image of a fire-breathing monster.
For the last part of the journey, the track became really quite steep and slippery and the horses had to pick their way carefully over the stones underfoot as yellow cane toads hopped out of the way. At the top, we were rewarded with a fine sweeping vista down to the coast and panoramic sea views (somewhere in all that sea, Nicky and Christina were fishing). To our right was the lush, green volcanic crater of the hill we were on while ahead, the top of Taveuni's mountain was wreathed in cloud. Coming back downhill was quite hard work and good experience for Immy, whose riding lessons in New Zealand have mainly been restricted to schooling in the arena. At one point her horse decided that it was going to go foraging in a taro plantation but the owners came out of their little house and led it firmly back out again!
When we were safely back at the resort, I spotted a boat out near the point and went out with my zoom lens. I could see Nicky and Christina, swathed in a huge yellow oilskin, casting from the bow. It was grey and rain was sweeping across the sea once more and the boat didn't appear to be flying any pennants indicating that they had a catch on board. Within minutes, the boat started heading back towards the resort's slipway, which surprised me as they were supposed to have gone out for four hours. As it turned out, the conditions out on Vuna Reef had been so severe with huge swells that they could not get across the reef to the far side where there were big shoals of fish. The skipper and crew of the boat were saying that they hardly ever see conditions like this. It was too dangerous to stay out there "and you don't want to go swimming here - the Tiger Sharks have a mean streak!"
They said they weren't sure if it's global warming, but the weather should not be like this; it is most unusual. Christina was soaked to the skin from the waves and the rain. Anyway, suffice it to say Nicky was not very happy at having spent the morning 'fishing' rather than 'catching'! He's talking about going out again tomorrow rather than coming with us to the waterfalls in Bouma National Park.
Later in the afternoon, Nicky and the girls went snorkelling briefly off the rock platform by the resort. Christina was keen to use the underwater camera, which so far I had only used to take pictures on the horse trek this morning, not wishing to take the 60D on horseback in the rain! It was still very windy and showery, but by around four o'clock there were sunny spells between the rain and I hoped it would be fine for the wedding. The staff had erected a beautiful wedding arch decorated with palm fronds and hibiscus flowers in the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea, and I took this photograph of it.
Just after 5pm, to the sound of the band boys playing "Somewhere over the rainbow" on guitar and ukelele, island style, the pretty young bride, wearing a short white dress with her blond hair falling around her shoulders, walked across the grass to meet her groom. The rain shower stopped and the sun came out, and stayed out for the duration of the simple ceremony conducted by a local pastor and witnessed by two Fijian staff members carrying simple bouquets.
The resort guests came out to watch the ceremony and take pictures. I did take a few shots but, as I don't know the couple, I don't feel it's appropriate to share their intimate marriage ceremony here so you'll have to take my word for it that they looked very happy and the scene was as beautiful as a Fijian cliff-top wedding with the sea as a backdrop, in the late afternoon sun, can be! This shot looks better in LARGE, by the way.