Our white Volkswagen minibus hurtled down the gravelly mud road like an apparition against the indigo blanket of night. Besides the crush of heavy wheels against small stones and thumping of hearts against rib cages, silence enveloped us both after anxiety filled our once steady flow of humorous banter. The occasional twig or branch slapping against the side of the bus would forcefully jolt us back into full alert.
The only source of light – headlights illuminating two small smoky circles ahead – showed the road converging into a narrower passage which seemed more like a footpath. We jumped as the first drop of rain splashed aggressively against the windshield, almost tauntingly. Each subsequent drop exploded like a water-filled balloon.
It finally hit me when we were driving in a convoy of Eco-Challenge vehicles to the start line at 11 pm….
Volunteering with the Eco-Challenge this year was the experience of a lifetime. Being within a race of that magnitude and seeing how all the cogs work together made me appreciate it all the more. This year, a new expeditionary style was debuted with teams having more navigational control in their hands. The propensity for error was extremely high, with only 23 teams out of 81 finishing the race.
As part of the web team, I was a field reporter and got up close to the competitors. If they were kayaking down a river, we were in a long boat right next to them. If they were biking, we were driving alongside, and if they were trekking, we were trekking with them to get our stories.
Fiji is an amazing place. The sights, sounds, and faces are unique and absolutely memorable. Working with Eco brought me closer to places and people I may never have met, and to some of the most remote yet breathtaking regions on this earth.
Wading across the Navua River, snorkelling off the shores of Wayasewa Island, drinking kava with the villagers of Navala, driving around busy Nadi town, and pushing a muddy van stuck enroute to the remote Savioune Falls are just a few of the experiences that will enrich my life forever.
Find out more about the Eco-Challenge at www.ecochallenge.com