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Oceania » Fiji » Mamanuca Islands » Mana Island
June 8th 2009
Published: June 19th 2009
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Wowzas! What a great time I had in Fiji. I'm now in Byron Bay, Australia, but wanted to send over some updates. Internet was a little hard to come by, or a fast connection anyway, so I'll do my best to rehash the past for ya. It's been a whirlwind of fun.

Day 1 (5/26):
We travel about 22 hours from Austin, TX and arrive in Mana about 9 or 10am. Immediately we relax with a beer. Caitlin relaxes at our hostel's beachside picnic tables and I played volleyball. Immediately everyone is so welcoming and friendly. I met a super nice German, Ben and an English girl, Rebecca. She introduces me to a few of her other friends and the train of friend meeting continues.

Caitlin heads to be early and I stay up and watch the "Island Dances" the theme for the night at our hostel. The dancing was fantastic; very entertaining. At one point, they lit some large tiki's inside the bar area where they were dancing, and the whole place filled with smoke as we were watching. Then they finished the night off with some fire dancing outside. I hung out for awhile longer and drank some wine with the English girls I'd met. Then I was introduced to Lesley Anne from Ireland, and she ended up becoming one of our best friends for the week. Later, the next day I'd be introduced to Orla, her good friend traveling with her. That night as I hung out with the girls, we started to take group photos and Rebecca taught us all how to put our hand on our hip and turn to the side to make our arms look less fat or more thin in our pictures. It was pretty funny from there on out, because we all posed like that in the rest of our photos even throughout the week.

Day 2 (5/27):
Sunny day; sunbathed and played more volleyball. This time the staff played with us, best of five. Then at the end of the day before sunset, Caitlin and I walked with a group to Sunset Beach on the other side of the island. It was a beautiful beach and beautiful sunset. A wedding had just taken place at the neighboring resort and they were all taking pictures on the beach. The bridesmaids 'shoes' were just a cute thread of shells between the toes and around the back of the foot. So freaking precious!

The best part of this night was the theme "Cross Dressing Night". You all know how I love to dress up. Well, this time the girls got to dress up the boys in skirts and make-up and hats for a contest. The boys let us borrow some of their clothes and then we all did a "runway" where we showed off our different sides. My name for the night was Brad. I can't think of Caitlin's right now. I ended up getting second place and won a free beer! Guess I really looked like a dude. Orla should have one something though, she was so hilarious and had drawn a whole beard on her face. Mine was more of a french mustache. All the girls stuffed our pants and it was just too funny to be a part of. I have some great pictures to hold onto forever.

Day 3 (5/28):
This was a full day. Started out early each morning with complimentary 8am morning breakfast (bread, some fruit each morning and instant coffee), then down to the beach. It was such a sunny morning; all the girls had some energy so we hopped around and tried some beach gymnastics. There were a couple of girls one from Canada, Tasha, and one from England, Haley, who had been in gymnastics before, so they were doing back flips and walking handstands, which was fun to see. The most me and Lesley Ann could do were cartwheels, and Orla even had a hard time with those. Love you Orla! 😊 We did pyramids, handstands, jumping in air pics, etc. Then we looked hard and long for a jump rope and so we ended with some double dutch. Orla and I jumped in on another game of volleyball, and afterwards, Orla, Lesley Anne and I walked to the end of the beach where the rocks stopped us from going around the island. Again, that night we met more fun people from around the world and continued to make friends with other who were staying at the hostel.

Day 4 (5/29):
This afternoon I went scuba diving. I was able to go with a friend I'd met from Colorado, Shawn, and an awesome divemaster, Rob from Spain, but who had been living on Mana for 6 months. We dove the "Supermarket" first, then the local "Sandbank" later that afternoon. They were beautiful dives. It was so nice to explore, since these were my first official dives since being certified. I might have been a little hungover and I definitely didn't remember the order to getting all my gear set and on, so that I could dive. Rob kept teasing me about what time I'd gone to bed and the more goofs I made, the further he pushed the time back. I survived though. This was my first dive, where I had to just fall backwards out of the boat to start the dive. It was a bit nerve-racking at first, but then you realize it's a piece of cake.

That night I took it a little easy, but the rest of the gang didn't. It was pretty comical to watch everyone that night. First, the theme night was "Games" and little did we know what that would include. The funnest game was with balloons. A row of girls sat down across the room, then a guy lined up on the other side with a balloon. Once the game began and the whistle was blown, the guys would run to the girls with their balloon and try to pop it in a certain order of positions. I didn't want to play with a guy, so me and Lesley Anne were partners, which was funny enough. BUT, what was soooooooo freaking hilarious was who my sister was partnered with. He was a Japanese studying English on the main island, but had come for the weekend. He was a bit awkward and goofy as he laughed and smiled a lot as he tried to pop the balloons honestly without using any fingernails to pop them with. Caitlin caught on to the rest of us and started popping them with her nails to move the game along. Let's just say that I got it all on video and cannot wait to show you all. Hopefully I can post to this blog, but if not, then I'll probably put it on facebook. Classic video indeed!

Later that night I ended up playing therapist to a few of the locals who were confessing their love for this person or that or explaining this problem or that. I used some great advice from my father "worry about the things you can control, not the
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Just one night there.
things you can't." Thought you might like that plug, Dad. This was the first night we tried Kava and I think it didn't go well with Caitlin's stomach, but I'll just leave that at that. 😊

Day 5 (5/30):
Rob was about to leave Mana Island the next day, so he wasn't diving this day. I ended up playing soccer tennis with him for a long time. I heard Rob used to play for Barcelona's football team, so we would get up to 80+ hits in one volley between eachother. Lots of head bounces back and forth and we just basically mixed soccer and volleyball to get the job done. Really really fun. I'd never played soccer tennis like that with anyone who could really get up to 80+ hits. I felt a little privileged.

Then before sunset I took a walk with Lesley Ann, Orla and Becky to where the show "Survivor" was filmed in Fiji. It was a bit ridiculous. I mean there's a resort 200 yards from the site and the 'temple' was made of Styrofoam. Really 'roughing' it I guess. We met Caitlin and Andy back at the hostel and walked to Sunset Beach again. We have to walk along an air strip where the planes come in and out to get to the beach and along the lane, locals exercise and do sprints or play rugby. Andy decided to try to race them, so they all lined up for a 100 meter sprint and Andy actually got second place. Not bad. It was pretty funny to laugh and play with the locals like that. Once we got to the beach and the sun went down, all of us laid in a circle with our heads in the middle and did a hilarious photo shoot with different themes: tongue out, everyone look up and to the right, mouth as big as you can, etc. For whatever reason, this provided hours of fun until it got too dark and we headed back to camp. This was a pretty mellow night. It was Rob's last night, so the staff did a special dance/ceremony for him and they did more fire dancing.

Day 6 (5/31):
Caitlin and I were supposed to head to Beachcomber yesterday, but extended for one more night because we were having so much fun with our Irish friends and more. We had really bonded and were sad to leave. Caitlin and Andy, an English fellow, had become pretty close as well, so it was a bit of an emotional day. A lot of people cried for Rob's goodbye. Lesley Anne and I had walked to the top of one of the main summits on the island, so we missed his goodbye song (Ratu Kini, our hostel, plays two goodbye songs for everyone who leaves). The songs are sad, but quite pretty. I recorded the one song to Caitlin and I on our official leaving day (I'll get to this in a minute).

I have to tell this funny story about our departure: The girls and Andy walked us down to the pier where our boat would pic us up. As Caitlin is hugging Lesley Anne, her phone drops out of her purse and into the ocean. Andy immediately rips off his shirt, jumps in the water underneath us and is asking us for direction on where it is. We can't believe he's actually trying to get it since the phone is probably definitely out of commission anyway. Well, he does find it, he carries it in his mouth as he swims back up the ramp and in just enough time to say goodbye and get another hug. It was so heroic and comical at the same time. Thanks, Andy for the smiles!

So, basically, we're all sad, Caitlin and I leave to go to Beachcomber for one night, and then to the main island the next day to catch a flight to another island, Taveuni. Well, we basically get to Beachcomber, realize there's no other place quite like Mana...we ask if there are any more boats back that day and there isn't. Bummer. Well, we make the most of our night at Beachcomber and drown our sorrows as we walk around the small island and poor some out for our homies on the rocks. We were on what's supposed to be the party island, but only 20 or so people were there at that time. We happened to run into a couple of great people we met at Mana, so we danced the night away and had a good time. That night, we agreed in our drunken state, that we would head back to Mana and surprise our friends for two more nights if the cost for changing our flight to Taveuni is reasonable.

Day 7 (6/1):
Well....the price is reasonable! Only 30 dollars to change our flight back a couple of nights. We take the first boat to Mana, arrive on the beach and the staff all welcomes us back with open arms. We surprise Andy and then the Irish girls and everyone was so happy and gay. Heheh.

I'm basically hungover all day, so I just sleep on the beach and listen to some meditation podcasts in my bed in the hostel for most of the day. The sun wasn't really out, so it was a good day to rest. I wake up in time for another Sunset Beach excursion. We listen to my ipod speakers and the girls and I bond over Christina Aguilera and live gigs we've seen.

That night the theme was "International Night", so Caitlin and I had to sing our national anthem, which we could not, for the life of us, figure out how to start it. A Scottish guy had to end up prompting us - it was terrible. It was amazing how many people really didn't know their national anthem very well. Flip cup followed that night, then a good night's sleep.

Day 8 (6/2):
Slept again for a long time. The sun was not out again and the wind was kicking, so we just relaxed. I joined in on an afternoon dive with my friends Orla and Andy and the divemaster was this crazy Scottish guy. A real character he was. Jokes left and right, don't know if he ever said one serious thing. I couldn't stop laughing at him.

This was our last night (again) on Mana Island, so we did it up right. Stayed up drinking and the staff kindly served us even after hours. Lesley Anne took hold of a guitar and started free-styling and it was hilarious. What a songwriter that girl is. There's a song, one of the locals, Bosco, sang a lot. I wrote some of the lyrics, so I can try to sing it again one day. I'll share later over a guitar strum with you.

Day 9 (6/3):
Taveuni it is. It was a long day of travel; boat to taxi to small plane to shuttle. This goodbye from Mana felt a little more right. We were glad we got a couple of more days in
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Trip Out to the Reef
and this was the same day the Irish girls were leaving too. The sweet goodbye songs from the staff, provided a sweet moment I'll never forget. Again, tears - it's amazing the hold this place had on Caitlin and I. The village, staff and travelers were all great company.

Next blog will be about Taveuni..."a hidden gem" as the Fijian's call it.

Love you Mana Island, Vanaka (thank you) for a great time I will never forget!

Hugs and kisses for all those back home.

-Erin


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19th June 2009

wow
looks like an awesome trip! So glad you are having such a great time. Thanks for painting such a sunny picture for those of us in foggy Frisco.
20th June 2009

Erin thats fab!Brought me right back - fair play for getting it all written out - I'm trying bit by bit to document it all up in a journal - emotions entagled and all! Hope the east coast is treating you well x
20th June 2009

Wow I love your blog ! each entry brought a smile to my face and even a few laughs !! it was so nice to briefly re-live our time on mana island ! Love you Erin xxx Lesley-Anne

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