Peter surveyed our surroundings. “Are you going to be okay here?” he asked nervously, recalling my breakdown at Beverley’s Beach.
We had just finished our tour of the facilities at Mafana Island’s eco lodge off the coast of Vava’u in Tonga. Peter, who has spent months of his life wild camping, was unfazed but I hadn’t dealt with anything so basic since my trip to Bangladesh 20 years ago. Was I going to cope?
The Pain Points
1. Rainwater showers: As there is no running water on the island, we had to shower in stagnant rainwater, which dripped from an overhead barrel with infuriating frugality. Washing my hair required a zen-like patience that I simply do not have.
2. Salted cutlery: The rainwater on the island is precious so we had to wash all our dishes in the ocean – not exactly soaring past my hygiene standards.
3. Food disposal: Our leftovers had to be dumped by a tree stump so that ‘the mice would stay out of the kitchen.’
4. Compost toilet: This was a bucket in a tin shed with a couple of wooden planks tooled together for seating. There was no flush; only a bucket of ash for covering up your business.
5. Complete isolation: There was nowhere to get drinking water. There were no shops or roads or people. In fact, apart from me, Peter, and Vinnie who runs the place, there was no-one on the entire island, giving it a distinctly eerie feel.
The Turning Point
On our second day, we decided to kayak out to some tiny unnamed islands nearby. We’ve been lucky enough to have some incredible experiences (such as a private dinner on a sandbank in the middle of the Indian Ocean) but these were always organised through a resort.
On this occasion, however, we were there of our own accord. There was no hundred-dollar deposit to get us there, no captain waiting to whisk us back, no safety briefing, no food hamper, no chaperone.
We had these Pacific islands all to ourselves. The rarity of this experience was genuinely stunning. As I looked back over the water towards Mafana Island, I realised that I’d probably never be in such a position again.
Remote travel is worth the pain. Yes, we had to catch two flights and a boat to get there and, yes, we ran out of drinking water and, yes, our meals had more sea salt than a posh bag of Waitrose crisps but the sheer wonder of exploring uninhabited Pacific islands far, far outweighed the pain.