Handicap Diver Below!

July 17, 2007 - Suva, Fiji

Garden Island Resort

After a little R&R, our plans finally materialized; diving, diving, and more diving. We picked the top dive areas in Fiji. The first, Rainbow reef in the Somosomo Straight, boasts the best soft coral dives in all of Fiji. Our friend Wendy from Kauai sent us an email with incredibly good timing (Thanks Wendy). The Garden Island Resort on Taveuni was having a 7-night special which included 10 dives. Two days after receiving Wendy’s email, we are in Taveuni! We decided to forgo the flight (a few of hours from Nadi) and instead went the more adventurous route. We took a cab to Suva (3 hours) and booked a cabin on the Consort Shipping ferry to Taveuni mainly because it was cheaper but also because it reminded us of our train journeys in China. We booked two bunks in a cabin (“soft sleeper” in Chinglish) which we ended up having to ourselves for the 17-hour journey. I dusted the proverbial cob webs off my iPod and listened to the new Peacemakers album I purchased from iTunes while in New Zealand for a short trip back to civilization, al biet if only in my mind. The beds were comfortable and we both got a great night sleep.

The Garden Island Resort is very quiet and peaceful. Loney Planet reads, “divers rave about this less-than-spectacular resort”. Only a handful of other guests. We learned about “The Three R’s”: Reading, Resting, and Relaxation. We had enough of that and I was ready for the forth ‘R’, the Reef! I was suddenly charged with excitement about our first day of diving and the first thing I did -- I know my friend Doug can appreciate -- was to get all my dive gear laid out and ready to go for the following day. Instead of eating at the resort, we went to a local restaurant and surprisingly, since we just came from a five-star resort (food poisoning or not), we had the best meal, chicken stir fry, in Fiji to date. Our second best meal, curry chicken, we had at the same restaurant. Curry wrapped in roti, like a Fijian burrito, is also available for F$1. The resort has some nice touches like fresh hibiscus flowers in the room each day and has its own dive shop just steps away with all trips to the Rainbow Reef which was just outside our door.

Fiji is referred to as the “Soft coral capital of the world”. The soft coral come in a beautiful array of colors. And the white corals are some of the most beautiful. Soft coral thrive in locations with strong currents so most of our dives are drift dives. But the strange currents here had me doubting my buoyancy skills and checking to see if my BC was really working because the currents here push up and down as well as side to side. I felt better once I saw the fish too fighting the currents and being tossed about by the powerful surge. Once you realize this, it is not difficult to manage the currents. [Terry: Mark didn’t carry any extra weight, but I had two extra pounds to help me deal with strong currents that many divers warn of Fiji diving. Strangely, the currents underwater felt like I was diving and riding a roller coaster at the same time. Two of my favorite activities in one! Sometimes the currents moved us so fast that looking at all the different colors of the soft corals and fish was dizzying. I also noticed under strong currents, my air consumption was horrible. Laughing underwater doesn’t help either; I continue without fail to tell jokes underwater. Mark finally got one, started laughing and had to clear his mask.]

On the first day of diving, Terry lost one of her diving gloves but still dove wearing the other; doing an underwater impression of Michael Jackson. [Terry: I was just about to put my gloves on when Mark did something cute and corny underwater that in my happy stupor I dropped one of my gloves. I immediately looked down to find it but it was no where in sight. A moment later, I realized that the current must have carried the glove sideways instead of dropping down. I was upset since they were a gift from Mark, but I am hoping I will run into it (well, swim into it) in our month of diving in Fiji. If not, I am sure it will turn up on ebay.]

On day two of the diving in Taveuni, I jumped off the boat into the water after a dive to “use the restroom” and hit my right ring finger on the way in. There was no pain involved regardless of the fact that my finger was pointed in the wrong direction. When I made a fist, my ring finger crossed over the pinky appearing to swap places. This was strange because I have never experienced an injury with zero pain. I had both mobility and sensation in the finger. Even though there was no pain, just looking at my hand was creeping me out. After gently feeling around the finger and accessing the situation I applied inline traction and gently set the finger back to its original position. It wouldn’t stay there on its own and so I splinted it to the neighboring finger with a couple of Bandaids. This is certainly not the professional standard of care for deformed extremities. Moving a deformed extremity or releasing traction once applied can cause further injury to nerves and blood vessels. Arizona EMT protocol (except broken femur) is to split extremity as found and transport which occurs within the “Golden Hour” in the urban environment. But Taveuni is not what I would consider urban. And due to my ignorance of Fijian medicine I had images of the witch doctor chief stuffing local herbs (probably kava) in my mouth or blood-letting me while the villagers in spectacularly colorful dress dance around my body. Of course just like the movies, I am shivering, in a cold sweat, and my vision is blurry. Anyway, we got to visit the local Taveuni hospital. No cost for treatment or medications (if I had accepted any), even for tourists. I was blown away to say the least. Everything is government paid. Having said that, the government was cutting costs and the main generator only runs from 8 - 10 am. The X-ray machine can not be used on the smaller generator and so I had to return the following day. My finger was swollen the following morning and moving it back in place then, 18 hours later, would have been extremely painful, not to mention possibly riskier; it would have been more likely to damaged the surrounding then-swollen tissues. The X-ray (see photos) shows a clean break. The doctor said position the finger was splinted in was perfect and no treatment was needed. A tongue depressor splint was put over my Bandaid splint. The doctor said it would heal in 5 weeks, said I could dive, but instructed me to keep the splint dry! Yeah right! ;-)

I had intended not to dive with my injury (at least not the first week). The day of my X-ray I was good and we only went hiking. We hiked to Bouma Falls and swam in the pools below the falls. On our way back, I heard Terry (behind me) scream. She was frozen whimpering, “Get it off me, get it off me!” She had a stick bug (see photos) in her hair but she couldn’t see what it was. The next day when we heard the boat was going to The Great White Wall, the very dive site we came all the way to Taveuni to dive, and it was hard to pass up. It was a good thing we went too. Although the dive crew said they would be going again later in the week, the dive conditions never allowed our return to the site and we would have missed out. My sacrifice was to leave the camera behind. Diving with my splinted finger posed no challenge. The hardest part was taking off my wet suit. Underwater, I notice I only use my right hand for taking photos and it has nothing to do without a camera. The Great White Wall gets its name from the white soft coral that dominates the wall. The wall is completely covered in white coral. We could have stayed there the entire dive marvelling at the wall but the current, and our energy to fight it, dictated we move on. The dives the following days were also great. Soft corals of every color, bright orange sponges, sea snakes, eels, rays, and lots of fish I have never seen (or noticed) before. We ended up doing all 5 days of diving as originally planned. Saturday came fast and and we were on our way to the next destination...


Terry eats dessert
Our welcome drinks
Our bure bedroom
Our bure
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