I wish I could say that I woke up with the sun, stretched luxuriously and sprang out of bed ready to take on the day.
But that would be a lie. Firstly, it was pouring rain.Secondly, I woke up hungover. (It happens.)
But a good buffet and a post breakfast nap were all I needed to head out on our day of adventure with our local guide, Joe and our driver, who told us to call him Kelly Slater, like the surfer. Hell yeah!
After rocketing around some rather bumpy roads we emerged at the Sabeto mud pools at the base of the mountain that they call The Sleeping Giant.
The grounds were peaceful and quiet...
Until they told us to delve into buckets full of warm mud. Then it was a place full of laughter as the Mr. and I reverted to our 8 year old selves and covered each other in mud, leaves and random sticks.
There's nothing like running around half naked, in the rain and throwing mud to create a romantic atmosphere.
We were quite pleased with ourselves by this point. We gave the Aussies that arrived during our horseplay something to giggle about.
Once covered in mud you rinse yourself in a series of hot springs that get warmer and cleaner until you find yourself in clear, hot water.
It was deliciously relaxing to be in the hot springs while the rain continued to fall, but eventually we pulled ourselves out and dried off somewhat before hopping into the car.
We had no exact plans for the day except we wanted to see a waterfall, everything else was left in the hands of Joe and Kelly. They'd certainly judged correctly taking us to the mud pools and the next stop was even better...
After ducking out of a covered walkway strewn with more types of orchids than I ever knew existed, we were treated to this Eden-like view.
The rain abated long enough for us to be immersed in the wonder of the place. It was unlike any garden I have ever dreamed of, half wild and yet tenderly cared for. There are hammocks strewn in various hidden pockets where you can lay back, enjoy Fiji time and take in the beauty around you.
If it weren't for the rain that came back with a vengeance, we may never have made it to the waterfall because I would have taken up permanent residence in one of those well placed hammocks.
We 'toughed' it out as long as we could but were eventually turned back when they closed the paths due to the slip hazard the rain had made of the wooden boards and muddy paths.
Soaking wet and deliriously happy, we made our way back to the entrance where we were served one of the most refreshing drinks I think I've ever had.
Please excuse the blurriness, my lens was quite soaked by this time but I wanted you to see our friendly guide, Joe!
The last leg of our trip found us heading to the waterfall, again trusting in Joe to get us where we needed to go. And again, we were not disappointed when we pulled up to find ourselves here.
It was so picturesque I felt like I was in a movie.
We were introduced to the man of the house and his 3 sons who would be our guides up to the waterfall. We were a little confused when Joe asked if we were sure that we wanted to bring our shoes....
We figured out what he meant later. But for now, we headed up the mountain in the rain.
As we climbed, the oldest son told us about the things to be found along the way. He spoke almost perfect English and knew much more than I probably ever will about what grows, where. We were very impressed.
I was even more impressed and a little jealous of Fiji when he stopped to pluck a coffee bean and show it to us. So. freaking. cool.
The boys could probably have reached the waterfall twice as quickly if they hadn't had us holding them back. Their feet were already used to hiking barefoot, whereas the Mr. and I felt every rock (and there were a lot) when we weren't busy trying not to slip and fall in the mud.
It was an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, every turn provided new wonder. Pineapples growing out of a rock, giant colorful spiders(!!!), bats flying overhead. And finally, water!!
We'd finally made it! The cool, clear water was calling to us, ready to wash the mud and sweat away. The boys all scrambled over rocks and into the water quickly as I followed slowly behind. (I'm not very coordinated despite my eagerness).
The waterfall was everything we'd hoped it would be and I'm so happy I got to be there with this man.
I could have floated all day long, staring up into the trees with the misty sky peaking out from behind the leaves.
Unfortunately, dusk was well on it's way and none of us wanted to be stuck stumbling around in the dark.
Surprisingly, only one of us slipped and fell on the muddy path back down, which called for a quick wash up in a creek on the way back.
The way back was steep and slick and we were passed by horses having a much easier time of it than us...but we hardly noticed it when we realized that the mists had been banished to the mountain tops, providing us with a clear view all the way to the ocean.
Can you see why this mountain is called the Sleeping Giant?
We said our goodbyes to our new friends and piled back into the car.
Exhausted, we nodded off a couple times going through Nadi traffic and woke up pulling up to the beach at the hotel.