With flights only scheduled once a week, we were stuck on Rotuma for a full seven days, so a place to stay was rather important. I tried to arrange for lodging before we arrived, I really did.
Lonely Planet chipperly suggested: “Contact the Fiji Visitor Bureau in either Nadi or Suva for updated information and their advice on visiting Rotuma. Staff will be able to provide you with the appropriate contact details for the Rotuman Island Council – the body you should approach if you want to visit.”
I mean, I’m not going to say that Lonely Planet flat-out lied with this advice. But let’s just say that when I called, I might as well have asked the tired bureaucrat on the other end of the line the fastest way to get from Cape Town to Cairo, for all the interest and ability she had to answer my question.
LP’s only other suggestion was: “Mojito’s Barfly (Tel. 889 1144; Motusa) has simple rooms with shared facilities but they are generally reserved for government workers.” So I called.
(Now, some sixteen years hence, I wonder what sort of infrastructure made this call possible. A cable, laid across the bottom of the Pacific, that transmitted my inquiry to this remote locale? Before satellite phones, before cellular phones, how did one’s voice travel thousands of miles, across oceans?)
Someone picked up! And spoke. In Rotuman.
I replied in English, the person spoke in more Rotuman, I heard some other voices in the background, I waited, the connection was bad, I waited, more Rotuman, confused-sounding voices, then … English. Australian-accented English.
But this Australian guy was only marginally more helpful. I don’t remember the specifics of our conversation, but I didn’t leave the call feeling like our lodging was all lined up, no problem, we’ll see you when you land!
So we left the main island of Fiji, g0t on a little plane (maybe a 30-seater?), flew to Rotuma, landed on the afore-posted-about grass runway. We looked out the door of the plane. There’s coconut palms. And one building. A few dozen people, mostly older ladies sitting along a bench, fanning themselves with fans made from palm leaves. And one white Australian guy, arguing with several locals. “I have a heart condition!” he bellows. “You can’t make me get on the plane! Call the chief! I’ll have a heart attack if I get on the plane!” Things don’t seem to be going so well for the Australian.
I tried my best to non-verbally communicate, “Look, we might be white, but we don’t know this guy!” It’s a complex message to communicate, without using words. A real tall order for body language.
It was looking to be a long seven days.