The Bula Massage Centre is a modest establishment, tucked away in a small, narrow shop at the back of the Pacific Harbour Arts Village in Fiji. Within its humble walls, however, is a force of healing hands, which every day, works minor miracles.
A winter shackled to the laptop and the TV, a long plane flight, followed by a flurry of unaccustomed activity in the first day or two on holiday inevitably results for my poor darling, in the dreaded “crook back”.
I’ve seen it many times during our years together and I must confess that when I found him, prostrate and groaning in agony on the couch, on our second morning at the Uprising Beach Resort in Fiji, I could only bite my tongue, shake my head sadly and suggest that he “try to walk it out”.
Was it chance, fate or divine guidance that put us on a path that led straight to the Bula Massage Centre?
The good ladies of the Bula Massage were on their lunch break when we arrived, but as soon as they caught sight of my darling, angled like an allen key, with his teeth gritted and his face contorted with pain, they put their plates aside and hustled him through the door.
An hour and a half later, after head to toe treatment on every muscle and joint, involving hot towels, soothing oils and of course the Bula ladies’ healing hands, he emerged, with all signs of pain erased from his face, standing straight and ready to resume his holiday.
The cost of a one and a half hour massage at the Bula Massage Centre, Pacific Harbour Arts Village, Fiji? $80 Fiji dollars.
I’m at the Uprising Beach Resort, about one hour out of Suva, on the Coral Coast, at the southern end of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji. It’s paradise.
I’m sitting on a deserted beach under a palm tree looking out across the smooth blue lagoon to a bush covered island. On the horizon is the white line of the reef. The sun filters through a light cover of cloud. The air is warm. There’s not a soul in sight. There’s no sound but the soft swish of the waves on the sand, the occasional rattle of leaves, the snap of a branch, the thud of a falling coconut or a snatch of bird song. Beside me there’s a bottle of Fiji water and on my lap is a copy of a notorious best-selling novel.
When it gets too hot I can slip into the sea or walk ten paces over the sand, across the lawn and into my spacious, airy Fijian bure-style villa. I can take another ice-cold Fiji water, (or something stronger) from the refrigerator, and enjoy the view from the shady verandah, or through the wooden-shuttered doors of the bedroom or lounge. I can cool off in the indoor or in the outdoor shower where there’s generous supply of delicious coconut-scented soaps, shampoos and lotions. When the the sound of the ocean isn’t enough I can plug my ipod into the bedside dock and when the book is a bit much I can flick on the TV.
If I tire of the solitude, then just a short stroll through the gardens are the pool, the bar and restaurant. I can luxuriate in a deckchair either poolside or on the lawn, under a palm. If I absolutely must reach the outside world, I can access the internet in the bar. But I’d probably prefer to order an Uprising cocktail (the Mango Daqueiri, which looks like an ice-cream sundae and tastes like a fruit smoothie, is divine) Then, I can people-watch or strike up a conversation. There’s always someone to talk to – a fellow guest, a visiting local (always a good sign) or the Uprising staff, who are truly lovely and always up for a chat and a laugh. In the Uprising restaurant I can look out through the open walls, across the garden to the sea as, depending on the time of day, I breakfast, lunch or dine. At breakfast, I can have either cooked or continental, with tropical fruits and home-baked breads, buns and muffins. At lunch and dinner I can choose from burgers, parmas and steaks or curries, and pizzas and pastas. But I’ll probably opt for a delicious local dish, full of the flavours of the sea and the resort’s own gardens, like kokonda (raw fish) with cassava chips or fish salad.
If I feel like action, I can ride a jet-ski out across the lagoon to the island, or paddle across in a kayak. I jog up the beach or canter along it on horseback. I can snorkel, scuba-dive or take a fishing trip. I can bat a few balls over the net on the volleyball court or kick a few goals on the Ruby field at the front of the resort. And if I want to see some action, on certain evenings I can watch the Uprising Rugby team in training.
If I need rejuvenation after all this, I can enjoy an invigorating traditional Fijian massage, down beside the sea.
And then, at the end of the day, I can sit at the beachside bar, sip a long Vono beer and watch the sun sink below the little island at the western end of the lagoon.