Refilling my cup at Nusa Island
It seemed kind of indulgent to head across to Nusa Island for a holiday when I live on another island not too far away and am surrounded by crystal blue waters filled with many more islands of all shapes and sizes across the Duke of York Islands group. In some ways I felt like I was already “travelling”, but then I realised, no, this is home now. It has been for the last year or so and to be honest, I've spent more time in this corner of the Pacific than anywhere else.
I headed to the New Ireland province to catch up with family, some that were visiting and some that live there managing a little tropical island resort. But I was also going there to catch up on me. Catch up on sleep, catch up on some down time and catch up on the simple pleasure of getting away just to relax and not be distracted by the call of my laptop, urging me to read emails and chip away at the long list of projects I keep signing myself up for.
The plane ride from Tokua airport in East New Britain to Kavieng is 45 minutes on the turboprop-powered Dash-8 aircraft, which has taken a little getting used to if I must be honest. The sound of the propeller is loud, and at seemingly random times the noise level and rhythm seems to change or slow down, almost to a stop, and my heart starts to pump a little faster wondering if the engine is about to fail and the aircraft, with me inside it, is about to plummet into the deep blue Ocean, joining the graveyard of sunken war aircraft that are dotted below the surface of these tropical waters. But the flight is smooth and it's a short drive from the airport to the wharf and an even shorter boat ride from there to my destination, Nusa Island Retreat.
I remove the thongs from my feet to disembark the boat and walk through the shallow water onto the shore. It’s the last time I wear my thongs for my entire trip, both because no shoes are needed anywhere on the island and because I want to do some ‘Earthing’ while I’m here.
I’m escorted to my accommodation and a huge smile starts to form across my face as I realise I have scored an over-the-water bungalow, which is made from bush materials, has large open windows allowing the breeze to stream through and a perfectly positioned hammock on the balcony. It takes me no time at all to sink into the hammock and with a deep breath of gratitude I say to myself, ‘this is just what you need’. And it is.
The past few months have been crazy for everyone. The world is in a very strange place at the moment and although I'm constantly saying how lucky I feel to have done my ‘covid experience’ here in PNG, it has still been exhausting and stressful, because we're all impacted, well beyond just the concerns of our physical health, but our mental health, our anxiety round earning a living, having no idea when we might be able to see our families who live in other parts of the world, not having answers to so many things about our future… but I digress. This blog isn’t about covid, it’s about the gift I gave myself to recharge, rejuvenate and reassess off the back of a very unusual year.
On the first afternoon my cousins and I head out on a boat for some fishing. We tinker across the salty sea and cross the horizon. The sun produces a spectacular spectrum of pinks and oranges that meld into purples and blues as the night rolls in. We don't hook any fish that night, and my beginner luck doesn’t seem to entice the mackerel to take a bite. But we share a few beers, enjoy the glorious beauty of nature that surrounds us and share in the simplest of joys, being present in the company of loved ones.
Over the next couple of days we take short trips out to other smaller islands, look for colourful reef fish while snorkelling and I practice flying a drone. Each afternoon generally consists of a few drinks down by the waterside, and we indulge in some of the best resort food you can find in the region. I mean, when I say some, I only say that because I haven't been everywhere, but to be honest, it’s the best kitchen around. We’re spoiled with garlic butter crayfish, steaks of fresh tuna, italian style meatballs, quiches, curries, salt ‘n pepper squid, pasta salad, green salad and the list goes on.
The banter is good fun and I feel myself lapping up the conversation and good company. The bottles of red wine seem to have no end and the resort manager treats us to an impromptu performance on the piano, singing rock and blues and making our hips sway and our feet tap under the starry moonlight.
I wake up a little dusty after that night, but as I blink my eyes open, I'm instantly invigorated by the deep red skies sitting on the ocean outside my window. The sunrise is spectacular and you can't feel anything except for pure happiness and gratitude to be waking up in a place like this. ‘Thank You’ I say to the universe.
On my last night at Nusa, we take a banana boat out to the PNG Surfari boat that is docked nearby and climb aboard the adventure vessel to share a few more beers with the boat's captain. As it has been everyday since I’ve been here, the afternoon sun is just oozing warm rays of love and the turquoise waters below are calling my name. I step up onto the side of the boat and launch myself into the beauty of the natural world from about 10m above sea level. As I surface, I take a deep breath in and exhale a big “thank you” again, a mantra I have found myself saying repeatedly during my stay here.
There is so much to be enjoyed here, from ocean activities to village walks or simply just swaying in the hammock and reading a book. As I close the page on my final chapter of “Eat Love Pray” I get a sense that I'm on my own version of the journey the author shares in her book. A journey that is sometimes indulgent and one that seeks to discover the self on a deeper level. Who knows, maybe it'll also be the doorway to a brand new love story… that would at least make the endless inquiries and small town rumours about my (non-existent) love life come to an end!) Oh to be a Pacific woman who is (almost) 40, single and childless… sacrilegious! But I digress once more.
Anyhow, the day has come to pack my bags and leave this little slice of heaven. The clouds are dark and it has been raining through the night. It’s almost like mother nature is saying to me, it’s ok child, don’t be sad to leave, the good weather is over, it’s time to go home.
On my flight back to East New Britain I look down at the iconic Mt Tavurvur, an active volcano, whose smokey white tops stand out against the green mountainous landscape and I feel a little lighter, yet a little fuller. Light because I’ve had some time to unwind and let go of stresses and responsibilities for just a few days, and fuller because I have been filled with joy, peace and love over the past few days. I fill my lungs with air and this time as I exhale I say, not to the universe, but to myself, “Thank you. You deserved this”.
We all deserve to fill our cup from time to time, with the spirit of fun, adventure, peace, joy and presence… and with the other kind of spirits too. Cheers!