Bula Fiji Time!

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Oceania » Fiji » Nadi
October 31st 2011
Published: November 2nd 2011
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Sorry the last blog entry on New Zealand was so late, there is almost no internet in paradise. After a 3 hour flight, Nicci and I entered the airport without a plan. Luckily the second you step out, travel agents swarm you like bees to honey. By the time I finished my smoke, Nicci had already picked a women and had a plan. After many months of traveling and just finishing a action-packed 3.5 weeks in NZ, we decided to skip cramming as many islands as we can into our 2.5 weeks and just pick 3 places to spend more time relaxing at. After receiving our ‘Bula’ (more on Bula later) beads made of small white shells, we caught a cab to Stoney Creek Resort for our first night on the main island. On the islands, when you pay for a night it includes all your meals also.

Fiji consists of 333 islands in the South Pacific known for pristine beaches, beautiful weather and friendly English speaking people. Right away you learn the most important word in the Fijian language, Bula! Bula means “hello” or “welcome.” Throw in some of the most outgoing people you can ever meet, and you can only imagine how many times you hear this word. Every person you pass throw you a smile, nod and say ‘Bula.’ Even every song you hear is based on the word Bula. Ceremonies use the word all the time.

To all the other fellow travelers out there reading this, how often do you go to a country and hear the joke about that country everything runs on their own time. India time. Thai time. The list goes on and on. This is the first country I have ever been to that really does run on its own time, Fiji Time. We were told to meet back at the airport to catch our ride to the ferry by 9. We hurried to make sure we did only to wait 45 minutes for other people and then the boat.

Our first stop was Mana Island. The island has 300 residents with three hostels, one resort, one school and three churches. The second we stepped off the boat we were met on the white sand by a member of the Mana Lagoon staff who walked us into the hostel where we were met by 15 other staff members singing us a welcome song. Everyone proceeded to introduce themselves and were so happy we were staying with them. We were shown to our bungalow, very basic accommodation, not more than 5-10 cockroaches in our time there. This is forgotten when you step on the beach or lay down on any of the large hammocks. That afternoon we had a swim in the crystal clear water which is much warmer than NZ or Australia. After a nap and dinner, we had our first Kava Ceremony. Kava is a traditional drink made from a tree root that is crushed up and mixed with water. The locals drink this all day long as a substitute for beer and alcohol. This dirty mud water has a different effect on everyone and we were a little nervous to try it. However, I was named the chief of all the guest and I wasn’t going to insult anyone the first nights I was here, I don’t need that karma. Before taking the drink you clap once, say ‘Bula’ and then everyone claps 3 times. After about eight drinks out of a coconut shell that night, my mouth was numb and it did make you feel more relaxed but not drunk in anyway. After a night of singing songs with the Fijian guys on the guitar and some other guests from Japan and Finland, we called it a night.

My descriptions of my days in Fiji basically consists of getting my tan back by chillin in the sun, taking a nap in the heat of the day, being forced on walks by the old ball and chain, watchin the sunsets and whatever the nights activity is at the place we are staying. So basically I will tell you if anything differs from that. The next night we watched the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup and saw some fire dancing before crashing.

Besides being such nice people, almost all Fijian’s are religious. So Patrick, the manager and part owner of the hostel, invited us to church with him. We took a short walk to the other side of the island and Patrick pointed out to a nearby island as being famous because the movie Castaway was filmed there. Although most of the church service was in Fijian, they did have a very passionate and sometimes scary pastor which did speak some English for the obvious foreigners.

The next day Nicci and I took a nice long walk after lunch and a dog started to follow us before eventually leading us. We walked to Sunset Beach, over an hour away over some sharp hot rocks, the dog lead the entire way. Finally we went into the water and the dog just waited for us before returning back with us. After dinner we had more fire dancing and we all learned the Bula Dance.

As we said our goodbyes to the entire staff at Mana Lagoon they came out to sing us a farewell song, it was very sweet. We were dropped off at the party island of Beachcomber, but just to catch the ferry to our second stop, Kuata for six nights. Kuata is owned by the same community of the island opposite it and the locals were building new buras. When we asked about it, they said the workers don’t get paid anything, they just help out cause it helps the community. The profits from the different hotels and lodges are put right back into the community. Even at the last place, everyone knew or was related to someone. At first I thought everyone was being friendly (and somehow they always remember your name) because they wanted you to buy something so they can make more money. But all the money goes right back into it, they all live on the most basic of stuff besides kava, a very simple but happy life.

Our hut here was much nicer and bigger than the previous place but still had a cold shower. When we arrived there were four other people but they all left later that day. So our first night, it was just me and Nicci, you know what that means, we fell asleep early, lol. The food here was also much better than the last place, with bigger and healthier portions. The next day we did get another person that came to the island, and Nicci was happy cause it was a girl from Nottingham, the same city she grew up in back in England. So the three of us went snorkeling that afternoon and it was some of the best snorkeling I have ever seen. Amazing colorful coral everywhere, the brightest blues and purples I have seen with tons of tropical fish in the clearest blue warm water. It was amazing. That night I made a big mistake...

Before I say my mistake, electricity is rare in many of the islands in Fiji. The three places we stayed all used generators for only a few hours a day so everyone rushes to charge things like phones and computers. After snorkeling we decided the three of us will watch a movie on my laptop while it was charging. Suddenly, we were surrounded by the locals. They don’t get many chances to watch films here so when they saw one on, word spread quickly. The next day Nicci and I had locals coming up to us all day asking if we were watching another film that night. We even had people knocking on our door to ask. It was actually cute but did put a lot of pressure on us to watch films every night, one night we went to bed early and I think some of them were close to crying cause no film that night. Even the kids loved them and they don’t speak English, but I did just throw on Finding Nemo cause I knew they would recognize the fish.

The next day brought more new people and an upset stomach to Nicci, so she took it easy. I spent most of the morning suntanning topless until Nicci felt well enough to come out, and she made some bracelets with a local lady on the beach. While she was doing that, I started looking for some nice seashells along the beach, and ended up finding one of those huge ones in perfect shape but it was so smelly I couldn’t justify bringing it home. After dinner the hostel put on a game night which was highlighted with crab racing. They would paint numbers on the shells and dump them all in the middle of a huge circle, the firsts ones out moved on to the next round. I had lucky number 7 but due to a local 5 year old girl screaming when my crab came near her, costing me the win, I ended up in 3rd. No movies for her that night.

In the morning I signed up to do a snorkeling trip to see sharks. After a 30 minute choppy boat ride we jumped in all excited, but no sharks. There was though tons of pretty coral and colorful fish again. The guide then went spearfishing and with some of the fish he caught, cut them into pieces and started feeding the fish. Suddenly, a blacktip reef shark about 4 feet long came out for some lunch. The guide would swim down and start feeding it by hand and would try to grab the fin and ride it. The shark was obviously scared of him which made all of us feel ok snorkeling above it. Then suddenly, another bigger shark came and grabbed Nicci by the leg and brought her under. I had to act quick so I took a deep breath and went after them. Using just my tiny swiss army knife I was able to free Nicci and become her knight in shining armor. I saved her life. Ok after the second shark came they just continued to feed them but Nicci did cut her leg on some coral. That afternoon we went snorkeling again but in the spots right off our lodge, still amazing.

After another morning of shell picking, I decided to buy some jewelry from the local ladies. That was our last night and the staff decided to make Nicci and I a special meal and gave us our own table and presented us with a flower garland and cocktails and sang us their version of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane.’

Back on the big boat to our next island, Naviti where we stayed at White Sandy Beach Resort for five nights. A fresh cut coconut drink was waiting for us on arrival and shown to another nice bura right off the beach. The best part was the outdoor shower with some plants covering where they need to. Another night of dancing, which turns out this is what they do every night so we did end up skipping a few of them. Once again I became Nicci’s hero by killing a big cockroach that was waiting for us that night. It did provide me with some entertainment the next few days cause I threw it outside after and the next days the ants were all over it. They kept moving it but they didnt know where to go with it. I found it funny to watch.

The days consisted of more sleeping, lying around in hammocks, collecting shells, playing with the dog Kujo and the cat Rose, and swimming. One day we took a trip to a local village where we were greeted by the locals in another Kava ceremony. Meanwhile, the local women setup all the handmade jewelry on sheets in one big circle for us to browse. I did end up buying some stuff as well as a sarong for me. Afterward, they took us thru the village, everyone coming out to say Bula, and to a local school. There were about 40 kids in the room between the ages of 2-25 (sorry i’m not good at guessing ages but my real guess would be 9-13). As a class they all started singing a welcome song to us before they split into groups and sang more for us. They all looked like they were having a blast.

The next day consisted of more snorkeling. Even more tropical fish, this time on steroids. They were huge. We saw some big Morrish Idols (the black, white and yellow fish from Finding Nemo). After the 5 nights of not doing to much cause the sun seemed to disappear we packed to go back to the mainland. We did start doing research on South America, where we head to next. In Nadi, we checked into a hostel recommended by many travelers we met, Smugglers Cove. It was amazing, since I only had about 12 hours there, Nicci is on a much shorter flight to Brazil, we did some laundry and for the first time in weeks we had some internet and the chance to actually order some food from a menu!

While Fiji was not as developed as I thought it would be, it was an amazing break from the rigors of travels. I still can’t believe how friendly the people are and they always go out of their way to say Bula and introduce themselves without an agenda of trying to sell you something. Even though everything really does run on ‘Fiji’ time, you can’t blame them and it helps to sit back and enjoy everything around you. You are always hearing a guitar and singing anywhere you go and they love to do their dances. The sense of community here is like nowhere I have ever seen, they really do look out for each other. Its a very simple life but it was real nice to see kids playing outside all day using their imaginations. For example one kid was playing with a windmill made from a leaf on a long strip and letting it blow in the wind.

I am going to miss Fiji but now I start my journey to South America. I say journey cause according to my round-the-world ticket I am supposed to be in Europe right now. So after speaking to them a few times about my options, its actually cheaper for me to fly back to Germany to catch my next flight to Brazil. So I have a ten hour flight to South Korea. The next day I have another ten hour flight to Germany. I get in at night but I will have a full day in Frankfurt before catching a 13.5 hour flight to Rio. Throw in the extreme time changes and thats a lot of flying and messing with my internal clock. But it also give me a chance to write this much quicker than the last few!

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