It’s becoming a habit that every time I get back from completing an item from my list, I claim it to be the best experience I’ve ever had but as I sit here now in Brisbane airport with a smile from ear to ear, I’d have to say that living on the deserted island of Ilo Gi was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!
It’s hard to even begin to explain this one.
Picture a tiny sand island located 55kms off the mainland of New Caledonia, perched very finely on a tropical reef teaming with wildlife. A blistering sun would illuminate the turquoise water by day, revealing an ocean full of fish, sea snakes, rays and turtles whilst at sunset the shimmering waters would entice packs of sharks who’d circle the island for an evening feed. Snorkeling was interesting to say the least and the sunsets were the best i’ve ever seen.
A coconut would offer me breakfast every morning and after hacking it open with a borrowed machete I’d complete a 30 minute walk around the island looking for any materials that the tide may have brought in over night. In between setting myself daily challenges to keep my mind ticking over it was all about reserving energy and jotting down my thoughts in a notebook as I sat and stared out over the horizon.
The daily walk
On Day 1 it was all about setting-up camp. After being dropped off by boat and waving goodbye to friends as they slowly disappeared into the distance, a looming storm to the East saw me set-up my hammock and stash my bags in record time. Taking in every moment of a long day, the sense of remoteness never left as I realized for the first time just how strange it would be to be alone for 7 days.
The parting shot! This is what a lone man looks like from a boat.
It was only on the first night that I remembered that I’d never actually made a fire myself before and it could be said that this task proved ridiculously difficult for me! After an hour of trying to ignite tinder with my flint, I managed to start a raging inferno that lasted about 2 minutes. Thankfully my man-skills improved over the week.
The second and third day was all about exploration and discovering new parts of the island was something that kept me busy all day. Even though I’d been told that the highly venomous sea snakes were not aggressive, I still took a wide birth whenever I saw one (on the first day I think I counted 6!).
With threats of cyclones in the week leading up to the island escape, I was lucky enough to cop not one bit of rain for the entire time. So hot was it in fact that the heat ensured that my movements on the island were slow at best but this was fine; I had nowhere to get to! I remember at one stage watching my shadow walking beside me and it looked very similar to an ape-like hobble.
With limited food and water rations, self-control was needed and at the risk of sounding slightly pathetic, on the first day I decided not to kill any fish to eat. Hear me out; I had every intention of eating fish before I got to the island but after taking my spear-gun for a snorkel across the reef on the second day, my conscience got the better of me just as a fat Parrot Fish swam into my line of site. The way I saw it I had just enough museli bars and coconuts to get through 7 days and although it wasn’t a lot, I thought that spearing this little fish to eat was needless. Any avid fisherman reading will be cursing me when I say that there fish of every sort there, including huge Barracuda who would occasionally come right up to shore! I left the Parrot Fish alone and instead just enjoyed watching him and his mates hang out. Luckily this test was not about living off the land, instead it was about testing my mental resolve when alone.
The beginning of sun burnt backside!
The feeling of solitude was something I’d never felt to this degree and after shedding my clothes to get back in touch with nature, nudity no longer felt cheeky, instead it was normal. By day 4 i’d seen all of the island and so exploration quickly turned into stimulation; I needed to keep my mind busy. This was tricky! The smaller challenges of sending a message in a bottle and making an island costume from leaves and bark took serious concentration and after writing a song on my ukulele I found i’d spend hours taking in the things that usually I wouldn’t. Watching clouds pass overhead or watching the tide rise and fall became meditative and when I wasn’t talking to myself I’d be filming everything on camera. I have a feeling this footage will be amazing.
Message in a bottle (almost)
With no shower, razor or even soap; cleanliness was the first thing to go and with limited activities at night-time all I could do was curl up in my hammock and stare up at the stars for hours before catching broken sleep through the night. Hermet Crabs and curious sea snakes keen to check out my campsite would occasionally wake me up as they crawled over my bags and at times I tried to urge day-break just so I could go for a walk.
Funnily enough I never used the pan!
Once every few days a distant sail boat would cruise by but often they were too far to see anybody on board. On one occasion a fisherman who had heard my story on the national New Caledonian news came out looking for signs of life but instead I hid behind a bush until he left. I didn’t want any contact.
It’s amazing what a a few Palm Leaves and boredom can do!
This is only a brief overview of course of an experience that I will soon be making a little documentary about but in the coming days i’ll post some of the video’s in their raw form so you can not only see the island but also see my declining mental state haha.
It’s been an amazing time in New Caledonia and there are so many people to thank for making this happen but firstly I’d like to say a big thanks to Maz, the girl who organized the entire trip for me! A true legend, I was also lucky enough to meet the majority of her family whilst staying at their Kuendu Beach resort near Noumea. They treated me like family and the whole trip was seamless.
I also want to thank the lovely people of New Caledonia who showed me a great time out there, including the local TV station for airing a couple of stories as well.
To watch the video diaries, please take a look under the ‘video’ tab in the top menu bar
100Things… What’s on your list?