I stared death in the eye atop a lumber truck.
As we barreled around hairpin turns at the speed of light I grasped onto the steel grate with ferocity. I had to. One moment of weakness and I would be Fijian road pizza, splattered all over the highway.
Such is the way of the hitchhiker. Especially when said hitcher is clinging for dear life onto a lumber truck, balancing on 2 toes, being buffeted around by 1 ton load shifts as he flies around tight curves with some of the most breathtaking scenery on earth providing a much needed background.
We had spent a months in Savusavu, Fiji. Up until then, life had been peaceful, serene walks into and out of town for our groceries. Picture the most jaw-dropping bay view on earth. A home nestled 150 meters above the bay on a jungle cliff. House sitting for 4 cats. No stress. No fuss. No muss. As the local Fijians would say….”Eeeeaassssy.”
But that was all gonna change. Really quickly.
My wife Kelli and I were invited by some travel buddies and local folks to enjoy waterfalls in a more remote area of Vanua Levu, a gorgeous tropical paradise of an island.
We were all in.
After catching a bus from Savusavu to a nature reserve we realized something: the waterfalls were a 40 minute drive from the nature reserve. Which is bad news on a Sunday. Because being a Christianity dominated place, almost everything shuts down on Sundays and buses only cruise through every 3-4 hours.
This meant walking for 2 hours in mountainous, steamy climes or simply hitchhiking to the waterfalls. We chose hitching. Although I never hitched in my life I trusted the locals who said everybody hitches in this remote area on a Sunday.
We could not ride in anything smaller than a pickup truck because we were a party of 7.
Which meant when a lumber truck flew by we desperately flagged down the unsuspecting driver.
The 4 chicks would squeeze into the driver’s cab.
The 3 dudes would need to somehow find a way to hitch on the back of a lumber truck.
The Back of the Lumber Truck
The picture of me up top sums it up.
Imagine a naked flat bed. With over a ton of lumber wrapped up in tight, metal coils.
Here’s the problem: I had to balance on a 2 inch wide steel frame. Which meant balancing on 2 toes on my left foot. Which meant I suspended my right foot in the air, as I had no room to place it among the lumber load shifts and because my Fijian buddy was crowding me from behind.
Which meant I was really, really grateful I’d been keeping up with my “100 push up a day” regimen. I mean, check out my guns/arms in the image above. Not bodybuilder worthy but not chopped liver either.
I had to hook my hands around a steel grate above the truck cab and lock on for dear life.
After securing ourselves in the back – and hearing the ladies giggle inside the cab at our perilous predicament – the driver took off.
I guess he was on a tight schedule because he seemed to be the only impatient Fijian I met during my 4 month stay on Vanua Levu.
He hit 50 MPH on straightaways. Which was terrifying enough. But then when we encountered winding, hairpin curves, plowing through this mountainous region, I began feeling the ton of lumber shifting…..right into my legs!
My arms become ropes, muscle-heavy sinew screaming at the seams as I felt each was ready to tear off at the shoulder while we took these curves at a breakneck speed.
I saved face. I smiled. But deep down I felt horrified every time a ton of lumber slammed into my legs as the driver flew around tight curves, hustling up and down steep hillsides, all while my forearms bulged like Popeye’s. My fingers seemed to meld with the steel in a desperate, life-preserving grip.
Each turn seemed more death-defying for the guys in the back of the truck. My Fijian and Fijian Born Indian buddies looked back at me and let out a few nervous, “What the frick are we doing here?!?!” type laughs. I smiled back and nodded. The trucker plowed along even more quickly, looking to set the land speed recording as we flailed about like long strips of cooked spaghetti flapping in the wind.
Eventually we left the mountainous region. And the curves.
After a long straightaway we slowed down. We finally reached our destination.
A 40 minute hike through the jungle later, we enjoyed the falls and a fun picnic with friends.
But I’ll never forget my Fiji Freakout atop a lumber truck.
The Hitchhike from Hell.
Ryan Biddulph: Bio
Ryan Biddulph is a blogger, author and world traveler who’s been featured on Richard Branson’s Virgin Blog, Forbes, Fox News, Entrepreneur, John Chow Dot Com and Neil Patel Dot Com. He has written and self-published 126 bite-sized eBooks on Amazon. Ryan can help you build a successful blog with the 11 Fundamentals of Successful Blogging Audio Course.
Thanks to Ryan for this great guest post!