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February 18, 2020
Lautoka, Fiji: Good Dirty Fun (Gail)

Gail writes…

Ever since we planned this cruise, folks have asked us where we would be going and what we would be doing. With everything that was going on in our lives (the new Viking life, moving and just plain getting ready for this trip), I did not have the bandwidth to even look at the ports of call as I usually would. Regent offered a list of excursions for each port, so we just went for it and booked what we could through them. And then I just put them out of my mind… except for three: the mud bath in Fiji, an overnight in Egypt at the Valley of the Kings, and a hike into Petra Jordan.

Yesterday was Mud Day! Last night, Russell did a Google search. The description the ship gave was dry, but this article made it sound so amazing. I could hardly wait. There was just one issue, though. The article said that the mud could get so deep into the fibers of your swimsuit that it would fade the colors. Well, nope. I had finally just bought a new suit that I had to hand-tailor to fit. I was not going to ruin it this soon into the trip. Instead I packed my black board shorts, a black tank top and a spare bra.

Russell has gone into the details of the trip. But I want to give you the experience – the “fully covered with mud” feel.

At the pre-mud ritual ceremony, Gail got to try Kava for the first time (the drink is made from a local pepper plant)

This excursion would include the mud experience and then a 15-or-so-minute massage. Well that sounded good. The steps were as follows. Go out to the sunny area and cover yourself with mud from the mud bowls. With help from friends, you could get completely covered in the thick goo. We were told to cover ourselves “Not too thick, not too thin, but just right.” How we were supposed to determine “just right” was not made clear. The reasoning is that too thick it won’t dry; too thin you won’t get the full benefits. Everyone just kind of smeared it on until it looked about right.

Now comes the drying time. This is when a bunch of near strangers who have known each other a few short weeks stand around flapping arms and rotating in the sun trying to dry. You don’t flinch when someone comes up and says, “Let me put some mud on the back of your leg, you missed a spot.” As the mud dries it takes on a gray-green cast; and since it was applied unevenly, we all start to look like we are trying for the best camouflage award. Faces start to crack. As we are drying, we all eye the first pond we have to enter. We watch the current batch of mud puppies as they groan and laugh and rub dark thick near water over themselves. The unspoken thought is basically… “Ick.”

Fellow passengers standing around waiting for mud to dry

But now it’s our turn and about 15 of us slowly make our way down the ramp, over the boulders at the end and then step off. Into thick muck that is knee deep, squishes through your toes and makes it impossible to walk. To make it more interesting, there is something growing that keeps wrapping around your legs. At one point I felt something move and nearly screeched. Then I realized it was someone’s foot. The purpose of this pool is to rinse off the dried mud. Um, really? The water is nearly as thick as the mud we spread on. Everyone is scrubbing themselves, helping their neighbors and asking, “Is my face clean?” Just when you think you have it all washed off, you see a large spot somewhere on you. To be honest, it was great fun.

We drag ourselves out of that muck and went over to the large natural hot pool. This is much clearer and like a good hot bath. I could have stayed a long while in there. But the clock is ticking, and food is available. We scrub the last bits of mud and start to look and feel normal again.

We were lucky that our group of about 15 people had our massages first – so, on clean skin. These next folks had theirs after the mud. And this mud does not give up easily. I ran to the shower room: one stall, cold water only. I stripped off the muddy clothes and set them up on top of the half wall, like putting them on the floor would make them dirty. Duh. I tried to just rinse the mud off. But when I toweled off it was clear that I needed to use soap. I tried again and still the towel was dirty. Time was short, so I gave up and collected my things to step out and change to my clean clothes. I would shower better on the ship.

A veritable assembly line of village masseuses

Gail and her masseuse (and Happy)

I had just enough time to grab some pineapple and get on the bus. Russell went through the usual “Do you have everything” check list: phone, backpack, rodent (Happy) etc. Yep, got everything.

When we returned to the ship and got into the cabin, I started to unpack my backpack. There was that moment…

Guess where my dirty clothes are?

I may have forgotten them, but I will never forget this day.

… and her black top was never seen again…

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