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February 22nd 2017
Published: June 8th 2017
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Today was a travel day from Rotorua to Auckland to Nadi, Fiji. We heard a rumor of bad traffic near Auckland so we hit the road at 7am, hopefully the last of the early days this trip. We decided to get driving and then stopped on the way at the most random food place in a rundown town. Literally, a small shop on the country crossroads. I ended up with a soggy but good sandwich, a custard pie and something colorful but unidentifiable. Me, "what's that?" Pointing at brightly colored cake. Cafe guy, "a Lolly cake. Me, "what's in it?" Cafe guy, "Lollies." Hm. Candy cake? 'Cause the closest thing to a lolly that I grew up with is a lollipop, and that's candy. So let's just run with it. And it was delicious, too. Tasted like chocolate and marshmallow. After a few hours and more pictures of Laura's incredibly awkward sleeping positions (the girl truly amazes me with her ability to fall asleep just about anywhere under any circumstances), we arrived at Auckland airport. We quickly conferred and decided that the total death toll for New Zealand birds this trip came up to four, in only eight days. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for flying right into our giant van. It's impressive because in all my years driving, I've never hit a single bird. Though I think I have run over a couple squirrels.

We unloaded and headed into the airport, caravanning all done for the trip. We had a bit of a wait, once again, to get out of New Zealand. I ate a ton of sushi- which was light compared to all the hearty meals I'd been eating the past number of days. We took turns guarding our luggage pile and roaming the shops- most things were too expensive to consider buying, though.

I think we mostly just read and napped on our afternoon flight to Fiji- it took all of three hours.

Once in Nadi, I was uncertain as to how this would go. The island, I'm told, is quite relaxed. I booked everything through AwesomeAdventures Fiji, and then directly with Coralview Resort. I was just trusting that this company would be there to greet us at the airport- how we'd identify them, I had no idea. We got to security again, a little nervous considering how crazy New Zealand had been. Dude. The guys at security were laughing, having a grand old time, barely even looking at the xray monitors as our baggage went through. They'd verbally ask if we had anything to declare- NOPE! (which was true)- and that was that. No searching through bags. No deep cleanings. Just Bula! Only Billy stopped, and that was because he had some leftover packaged food he wasn't sure if he should declare or not, so he brought it to their attention. I think they confiscated some canned fish or something, and that was it

After security, we immediately ran into our guy- our driver. He escorted us to the AwesomeAdventures office, where we took turns picking up our vouchers for tonight's beachfront hostel, our boat rides to/from our resorts for the next week and then for Mantaray Resort. Next, we hopped into our van with two other travelers and set off for Smuggler's Cove. I'd like to note that these are all backpacker resorts, and the accommodations this leg of the trip were very good to excellent considering that's their base. He talked about the town and local culture. They're very modest in dress, I had read, and noted that as we drove through Nadi. All the women wore shirts with sleeves, and everyone had covered legs. When in smaller villages, we were also expected to adhere to the culture. Nadi itself isn't very pleasant to look at. Many of the houses, those that we saw, were small and decrepit. I didn't know that was what I was getting myself into. I started feeling, right from the start on this island, like the privileged American I apparently am. I use "apparently" lightly. It's one thing to say you're privileged, it's another to finally be faced with it. And I feel like this is the first time in my life I'd get to know people on a more personal level from a more impoverished culture than my own. Despite that, these were incredibly kind, happy people. Whether this was a front because we're tourists, or it's their reality and I'm just naively cynical, I really don't know, but it's something me and my group of friends discussed on more than one occasion throughout the following days.

We were dropped off at our first accommodation for the trip, Smuggler's Cove. It was a multi-level building right on the beach with options for small dorms, large dorms and private rooms. I'd read mixed reviews about the place but it was the reasonable option of the three hostels. We were only spending one night here, anyway. We immediately ran into our friend, Joy, who wasn't with us on the New Zealand portion of the trip but was now joining us for some relaxing Fiji time. She'd already been propositioned by a large male Fijian offering to keep her company- which she of course turned down. Chris and I checked in and immediately darted for the laundry. We needed clean clothes and I doubted we'd have a washer and dryer available to us on the small islands. After starting our load, we headed out to the back patio for drinks. I was very confused about not being allowed to use the swimming pool so I just went ahead and started drinking and ordering food. Our whole group followed suit- lots of food and drinks. We watched the sun go down, took pictures on the beach with a purple sky, Laura found stray cats to play with, we even saw horses gallop by (yup, right on the beach). The mainland coastline isn't very pretty, which is just as I had read prior to the trip. The beautiful beaches tend to be on the small islands, where we were headed out to tomorrow. On a very long boat ride.

I'm not really sure how many drinks we ordered- there was definitely alot, not that they were strong. It turned out there was a very long free show at the hostel that night. We watched women and men take turns doing cultural dance routines, some similar to hula. Next up was group dancing. I suspect that because our group had ordered so many drinks, we were easy targets to be dragged out onto the floor. All except Chris, who had the camera ready to return the favor of filming his dancing the haka the previous night. We drunkenly followed along with the dance moves, which weren't difficult when you were facing the group, but after we'd make a turn, face a different direction, and suddenly you're in the front... ohhhh boy. Good thing I was drunk- DON'T CARE! Then we got to watch fire dancing. Guys took turns throwing and flipping a fire baton around. Not really sure how they manage that one without getting burnt. It was very mesmerizing to watch. Halfway through the next round of (very odd) group dancing, I was exhausted, and Chris and I slipped off to stuff our clean clothes back into our packs and pass out in our air conditioned room. We had another early day the next morning. I keep thinking we're done with early days, only to realize, oh yeah, one more.

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9th June 2017
Purple Sunset

Bula Bula
Love Fiji

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