It’s entirely possible that I’m allergic to paradise.
As anyone who has read some of my earlier blogs will attest, I have quite the track record for holiday disasters But fresh from a disconcertingly eventless mini break in Bali last year, I was feeling like the curse was broken and booked a week in Fiji for some romance time with spouse.
The prep work required in the lead up to holidaying in sunnier climes is labour intensive and frankly, absorbs nearly as many hours as the actual holiday itself.
Step one: A toned physique; the result of regular PT sessions and abstinence from sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates for at least three months beforehand. Mark the departure date in the diary and get moving!
Yeah, nah. Didn’t happen. As each week slipped by in a haze of sugar, alcohol and sour dough, I kept reassuring myself that a solid three week…alright, two week…ok, five day detox would do the trick.
Step two: New swimsuit to replace old faithful with the perishing leg elastic.
I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that there is little more demoralising than the hunt for new swimwear. It is a soul destroying exercise that only the search for mythically perfect jeans can possibly rival.
I decided that one of the larger speciality warehouse places was my best option for convenience and choice, but had overlooked the special torture of MIRRORS. A veritable hall of huge fluorescent lit MIRRORS. MIRRORS configured to reflect every dimpled, pasty, goose bumped centimetre of pre-waxed exposed flesh.
Who can forget the special despair that only hoicking a $250 scrap of lycra with industrial strength tummy controlling panelling over hygiene preserving underwear (thus creating further lumpy flesh extrusions) can evoke?
I struggled into nineteen different swimsuits with their swing tagged promises of flattery which were lies, damn dirty lies. Resigning myself to the fact that no matter how much control panelling was involved, I was not going to rock an Elle McPherson beach bod, I settled on a bright turquoise pair with splashes of gold – by now I was just going for distraction.
Step three: Hair in all its manifestations needed to be variously coloured, tinted, shaped and depilated. A herculean undertaking requiring many hours and many dollars.
Beyond the obvious regrowth of colour on my part-line is the necessary coverage of grey. BECAUSE NOT AGEING GRACEFULLY. Then the eyelash and brow tint so I can emerge from the South Pacific Ocean with all the glamour of Ursula Andress In ‘Dr No’. And finally the removal of every strand of hair that has the temerity to to exist outside my stupid new swimsuit.
Step Four: The faux tan. This is very important. Especially if you have chosen to eschew step one. My skin was pale enough to be visible from the moon. I could camouflage myself on the beach like a sand crab. So, first things first, exfoliation. Employing a scrub as effective as sugar soap, I sanded away several layers of epidermis. Smooth as. Then, armed with a couple of tanning mitts, I smeared the foul smelling goop all over, missing all the bits I couldn’t reach and wondering aloud if a professional spray tan might have avoided the alopecia look?
Step five: Packing. After pushing aside the winter coats, jumpers, pants and scarves, I eventually found the frocks. Floaty lightweight summery frocks. The ones I promised myself I’d lose weight to get back into for next summer. Back to step one.
Eventually I am organised and ready to roll. Spouse has literally thrown some clothes into a bag and had a shave. I hate him.
Airport, overnight flight, coach to Denarua marina, launch to Tokoriki island, tooth achingly sweet welcome fruit punch and a traditional Fijian song about how we are all family now.
We settled into our beachfront bure where spouse slipped into the expected coma of exhaustion and I read the resort facilities compendium from cover to cover. It was here I discovered the Island day spa had a three day unlimited treatment package. Noting the crumpled form of my loudly snoring husband, I figured this could only be a welcome addition to our holiday.
First day of unlimited spa treatment package. I had booked the Fijian Bobo massage for two. Generally I prefer my own room when I have a massage as spouse is legendary for his snoring and overly relaxed buttocks – which tends to kill my zen – but I had no choice here.
The Bobo is a particularly vigorous massage which employs the muscular forearms and occasionally an elbow, of your Fijian masseuse. No knot is left behind. It hurts, but in a therapeutic way.
When it was over, we were left to collect ourselves, dress and book the next session. Now, what follows is a result of my having ignored the three basic tenets of spa treatments. I know the rules. I broke the rules. I only have myself to blame.
Rule 1: Blood sugar level. I did NOT eat breakfast. My blood sugar level was LOW.
Rule 2: Post vigorous massage hydration. I did NOT drink any water before or immediately after.
Rule 3: Removing excess oil from the soles of my feet. Didn’t happen. Didn’t say anything. Paid the ultimate price.
So, there I am light headed (and not in a euphoric way), thirsty and I have greasy feet. I think we can all see where this is going. Following spouse down the rough hewn stone stairs of the tropical day spa in my Haviana’s, I have gone over on one ankle, temporarily righted myself and then gone over on the other, to tumble like an incompetent rodeo clown to the bottom. I looked up to see half a dozen wide eyed Fijian women staring at me in horror.
Spouse caught my arm and hung onto me awkwardly while I assessed the damage. It hurt so much I felt nauseated and dizzy and then I fainted. This was probably not a brilliant advertisement for the couple waiting for their turn.
Eventually I revived to the Fijian therapists fanning me frantically and clearly willing me gone. Shuffling back to our bure I was stopped by one of the many gardeners employed to de-nut the coconut palms lest an errant guest be brained.
I managed a wan returning ‘bula’, and then he noticed the trail of blood I was haemorrhaging.
“Your feet! You’re bleeding! What happened?”
Spouse offered a brief explanation. The gardener, lopping the top off a coconut, offered me warm milk. I drank, gagged and offered it back up.
Days three, four, five and six saw the emergence of bruising, swelling and an inability to wear any footwear other than the Haviana’s of death. I had attained celebrity status by virtue of my pratfall, stopped by every staff member on the island who wanted to hug me better.
“Who IS she? Why are they all hugging her?”
Fortunately the ability to consume my body weight in gin remained intact and we had a lovely, if largely inactive, break.
Paradise? Not quite.