Published: February 13th 2008February 12th 2008
I'd never have expected to have to use question marks after the statement that Fiji was tropical paradise but I'm afraid it is questionable. I'm back in Australia now (Melbourne to be precise) and haven't been at all well since Fiji but I am seeing the doctor and hope to be sorted soon! Unfortunately this has been the low point on my travels, let me elaborate; Days 1 -3 - Tropical Paradise Confirmed!
I arrived from Sydney into Nadi airport to be greeted by local fijians playing instruments and singing at the airport which was a lovely touch. I got picked up by the hostel as arranged and taken to the hostel where Erin (the scottish girl I met on the East Coast) had already arrived. I spent the evening sitting by Nadi beach with Erin and a couple of brummy guys chatting and enjoying the nice weather. We had an early night in our hotel like hostel (bags carried for you, drinks fetched for you - luxury!) in preparation for our early start in the morning.
Got taken to the Fijian ferry station which again seemed real Fijian style, a lot of locals and children there and
First night in Nadi
Gorgeous sunset - think I've stumbled into paradise!
very, very busy. Got onboard and the first of the Yasawa Islands was just half an hour in. South Sea Island was tiny, it looked to be a mile diameter maximum! A real castaway style tropical island. Sailed past lots of tiny islands all pure white sand and crystal blue waters. I wanted to go off and stop at every one we passed. We decided to go out to the furthest island we wanted to stop off and then work our way back on our 5 day boat pass. I was then planning to go back and stay at my favourite island for a further 3 nights. After 3 hours sailing on our catamaran we reached Mantaray Island, our first stop. A smaller boat collected us from the catamaran and we were again greeted by the staff singing and playing instruments on the beach and shouting Bula (Hello) to us. I looked around to see palm trees, coconuts, white sand and crystal waters and decided this was Fijian paradise! After a welcome talk and booking into my top bunk, with mozzy net, Erin and I went for a sunbathe on the beach. I lasted about 30 minutes before I had
to run to the sea to cool down before I passed out. The sea was just like a nice warm bath, luxury. The two other girls in the sea turned out to be from Parkgate and Hoylake - small world eh? We watched the staff sing a farewell song to those leaving the island and cracked a coconut for them. One of the Wirral girls left me her snorkelling mask and breathing pipe so I went for a snorkel. The water was so rocky though that I couldn't swim out and it was slippy so a staff member took me out on his boat. I managed to bruise my back jumping out the boat and then although the snorkelling was amazing, really clear deep waters full of multi-coloured fish and bright purple coral reef, I was worried as it got very shallow and I didn't want to break the coral. As a result of being over cautious I scratched my legs and arms on the reef! We went to the bar to rehydrate and I had nice cocktail and the buffet meal was lovely. Another earlyish night feeling like a princess with my mozzy net on!
The next day
Erin and I went to Soso village which was a 30 minute boat ride away. We were prewarned to wear our bikinis as the waves were quite high and we were on a little fishing boat, they also gave us all life jackets as it was choppy and we did get wet. Arrived in the village and were greeted by Va, a local resident of Soso. She put flowers in our hair to signify our marital status. Everyone we passed was shouting Bula to us and it was a real cultural experience. Families let us take their pictures outside their huts and Va took us into a classroom of 5 and 6 year olds.....and chaos ensued. They were very hyper and loved it when we took their pictures and then showed the picture to them on the digital camera screen. We were offered to go into another classroom but we all agreed we'd caused enough disruption already. We visited the village church and then went to the markets. The markets consisted of around 12 women displaying their handmade jewellery, all of which was gorgeous and I treated myself to a souvenir of a tiered shell necklace. It was soon time
to return to the mainland and we took a choppier, longer route back as the sea was getting wilder. Lulu the boat driver came and showed us how to basket weave with palm leaves and we watched in amazement as he wove an amazing basket. I started off well and then got progressively worse. Ended up making a square (un-openable) clutch bag instead. Our boat was picking us up late afternoon and was an hour late, when we got onboard we booked Beachcomber Island (party island) and set off. Took twice the usual time to get there with waves crashing right over the right hand side of our 3 storey catamaran!! This was followed by a very choppy (but thankfully short) trip on a little fishing boat to the island. We checked into our 121 bed dorm, then ate dinner. Met a few brits and watched the limbo competition and Bula dance routine. It started to rain so the windows were shut and then we told that all the girls were to move into smaller bures......because of an incoming CYCLONE! The bar was all sand with sandflies enjoying eating us all alive. The original dorm was just loose mosquito nets
and no doors so it was very wet and windy indoors, the girls were too 'precious' to stay there apparently but the boys were left there to live it out. Day 4 onwards - Tropical paradise = very questionable!
Woke up to the sound of howling wind and rain. Popped head out of my bure and saw the aftermath of the cyclone - branches, leaves, palm trees and coconuts everywhere. Ran to reception who were having a chaotic time as the boats weren't coming in so some people were missing ongoing flights etc. Ran to the dorm which was 1 minute away and got absolutely drenched. The dorm had a few inches of water in it with phones and ipods floating about. Thank god I put my bag on the top bunk in its waterproof cover. A guy carried my bag back to the bure as my night out outfit from the night before wasn't ideal cyclone gear! Reception told us to go back to our dorms shortly after for a few hours as chance that the waves may come OVER the bar! Rang home to inform Dad that I was safe but it didn't make the UK news.
Meeting the school children
I am incredibly hot here hence the awful photo. I was wearing a vest top and was pre-warned to cover up hence the nylon very hot kaftan!
Informed that it was Cyclone Gene visiting our island, a classified 'destructive' level 110mph cyclone! A scary experience. Went and read in my room and saw them boarding up the main dorm and the guys moving into bures. Went back to the bar / dining area for lunch at 1pm and stayed indoors the entire day playing card games, scrabble and every other game we could think off until dinner then we watched the bula dance, braved 2 minutes outside then I went to bed where I was met by a black ratty mouse thing sat on Erin's bag, he saw me and scooted off under my bed where I could hear him squeaking and scuttling all night - yuck!
Woke up after a very restless night to more wind and rain. Saw the waters still rough but slightly calmer. Told a boat was coming to collect us all and take us to mainland but would be the only one in a few days so could either stay on island and wait or head back to mainland. With 7 days left of my trip and pre-paid vouchers the idea of staying should have been tempting but being on mainland
was much better prospect than staying on an island so small in case it returned. They said they'd give 3 hour pre-warning but gave 30 minutes so mass checkout with everyone settling their tabs desperately at reception! Got piled onto a little fishing boat in the horrendous wet weather, far too many people there and all in summer clothes. I was huddled in my backpack cover feeling like a refugee or similar! We got onto the catamaran which was packed and given sick bags as we got on. Very choppy ride back to mainland. Got off to more chaos trying to get bags off the boat and got onto a packed bus which took us to Nadi. It was quite a shock to see someone swimming alongside our coach and a guy stood up to his waist in floodwater shouting Bula to us!! 6 of us from the island decided to get a hostel dorm villa between us for the night. We had a cold shower then all made an effort and went for dinner at the posher hostel I first stayed at over the road. Everyone had finished their meals before mine had arrived and then the electricity went
off. Thankfully the hostel had lights from a back up generator, unlike our hostel which was in pitch black darkness. A group of us found our way together (under instruction of security guard to travel in a big group). Lisa and Erin had to share a double bed as 4 single and 1 double and all the beds on wheels so I was right next to them. One of the Ozzy brothers, Will decided to take photos of the room as his flash showed up the pitch black room. We decided to have a group shot on the double bed so we all sat on the bed, two of the lads set up the cameras then ran and jumped into the photo.....and crack the bed dropped through the floorboard. We laughed so much security knocked on the door and told us to be quiet. We told reception a slightly altered version on how the bed dropped when one of us was asleep in the bed and typical Fijian style they were too laid back to care! Decided to move hostels anyway as Lisa and Jason leaving that day so got a 4 bed over the road.
The 6 of
Where I bought my lovely shell necklace from
us decided to explore and saw the policecaravan, the caged shopping centre and lots of dead frogs on the road. Our group extended as we walked with Chris from Manchester, an american guy and french canadian girl joining our group making 9. We neared Nadi and were warned about walking further as a lot of looting was going on in the town (and there was a military coup going on the other side of the island). We ended up getting driven there in a mini bus for 50 cents each! Had dinner (waited over an hour for our sandwiches - FIJI TIME!). I was starting to feel really bad, full of cold, around 50 weeping mosquito bites and a very upset stomach so everyone went to the bar and I went to bed and stayed there for 2 days feeling progressively worse. The stream of ants running over my bed aggrevated me more!
The morning after I moved to my original nice hostel as everyone was leaving, Erin had left the night before then the ozzy boys that day. I got up and had a cheese sandwich then spent the rest of the day back in bed. The following
Basket weaving lesson on Mantaray Island
Getting off to a good start on my palm basket!
day I got up to watch a fire and knife show at the hostel which kept getting rained off and then restarted. The weather was just horrendous following the cyclone. The rest of the trip was spent sleeping or reading my book in bed then I headed back to Sydney on the Tuesday where I was given a top bunk which I nearly fell out off getting up in the night feeling ill.
I saw a doctor in Sydney who gave me bad tablets and bad advice then headed to Canberra the day after which I shall blog about at a later date. It has taken me 3 days a bit of a time to write this and I am still feeling rotten after 2 weeks. I am awaiting test results from the doctor on Friday and will let you know the outcome. In Melbourne now but not left the hostel yet. Will update soon xx
There are more photos below