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Published: February 12th 2010
So now that Australia had been ticked off it was time too visit country number 9 of our wee escapade. This leg would take us to the Fiji Islands for our little 10 day island break. Im sure you'll agree that after our hectic schedule of the 3 weeks previous we needed a little time off to relax in the sun.
James' mam had kindly arranged for us to stay in a nice resort for the last 5 days so we had the first 5 to do what we pleased. We found ourselves a hostel, had ourselves a good nights sleep and the following morning we had a look at the various options we had. Trips to the little islands off the mainland are the most popular thing to do when you visit Fiji and there are various trips of various length on offer. As we didn't have much time we could only really go on a short break for 3-4 days. One place we were recommended was Beachcomber which has a reputation for being the best party spot on Fiji. We had a look at the leaflets advertising it. We wanted somewhere a bit more laid
back with a bigger focus on doing activities rather than getting drunk and falling asleep at the top of palm trees. There was a flyer for a place called Robinson Crusoe Island that looked ideal. Loads of free stuff to do, food inclusive and the pics looked amazing. We jumped on it and booked 3 nights, leaving the following afternoon.
So safe in the knowledge that we had the next 3-4 days sorted we headed off for a round of golf on the course Vijay Singh practiced on as a kid. The last time i played a round of golf back home was with dad at Dale. I think i made it to the 5th hole before i retired with the most firey rage iv ever had. Id lost about 5 balls and nearly lobbed about half the clubs in the rough in sheer frustration. Needless to say i wasnt too optimistic about the impending 9 holes.
1st shot- andy+driver=bad. A huge bendy sliced effort that flew out of sight over a bank. I expected nothing better. Luckily I found the ball about a foot from the rough and continued play. My second shot was just as bad but
after that things went from terrible, to average...and some shots were even good! At one point i was on the fairway and a group of 5 professional looking men were coming the opposite way, they had to stop and let me take my shot before they could pass. I was terrified. My mind was playing over the two worst things that could possibly go wrong as they all stood and watched. Either I was going to scuff it and the ball would bounce along about 6 feet (a process which would repeat itself till i made it to the green while they all watched on, shaking their heads)......or...... I was going to slice it off in their direction, fracturing a skull or 2 in the process. I put my head down, took a deep breath, did a couple of practice swings before dispatching the most beautiful arching shot of my life, the ball bouncing a couple of times and rolling up to the green. One of the guys said "nice shot" and without thinking i had raised my hand towards him and given him a nod of appreciation like the pros do when they get a round of applause in
a masters competition. What a muppet.
Fortunately the rest of the game continued in the same vien. I kept a level head and got round the 9 holes, losing only one ball in the process. James provided the entertainment by playing a couple of corking mis-hits and getting the rage. As his ball would skeet off into the trees, i would be standing a safe distance away trying my hardest to not get heard laughing. Still holding his club, his knees and elbows would lock and his head would jolt back while pulling a face of pure frustration. Brilliant. Towards the end of the 9 holes the sun was going down fast and the frogs were coming out in force, they were everywhere. I stepped on a couple, a horrible feeling. It was tempting to see what would happen if one came face to face with a swinging 5 wood, but i decided better of it.
So, after playing the final hole in near darkness we totted up the scores. I had miraculously managed to emerge the victor by a few strokes. 55 in total. Well chuffed.
That night we watched Andy Murray beat Nadal in the semi final of
the Melbourne Open before we went to bed.
The following day we packed a couple of pairs of shorts and our suncream and got on the bus that would take us down to Robinson Crusoe Island, for what would in my opinion be the best few days wev had on the tour so far. As we headed down the coast towards the boat we were introduced to Kava by one of the guys that worked on the island. Its the local drink made from the roots of a pepper plant. It looks like dirty dish water and tastes like something very similar. Its served in a little wooden dish and downed in one (its disrespectful to sip or fail to finish it). Its not alcoholic but its meant to have a similar effect. After the first bowl your lips and tongue go numb and if you drink more the numbness spreads about your body...apparently. We didnt drink enough to become true "kavaholics".
On the boat out to the island we were introduced to Latu, a Fijian lady that would prove to be a hit with all of us as the days passed. As we approached the beach we were
greeted by the locals and the visitors who were already staying on the island. They were standing on the shore singing songs, clapping their hands and shouting "Bula" at the top of their voices. We reciprocated as loud as we could. As the days passed our "Bula's" became a lot louder and we almost sounded like locals by the time we left.
That afternoon we went through some initiation activities and held a hermit crab race. We all picked a number which had a corresponding crab that was warming up in a tin can. When the time come for the race the tin can was up-ended and the crabs set off on their marathon 1 metre race towards the edge of the circle. Number 33 was my crab. I failed to spot him during the race as for the entire duration of it the useless kritter was lying on its back at the centre of the circle flailing its legs and nippers about like a new born baby.
After the crab race came the "turtle viewing". I wont go into detail on this one incase anyone who is reading this ever goes to do it themselves. You'll understand why if
After a game of volley ball we had a Kava ceremony to welcome the new arivals. An Italian guy called Dimitri was chosen to be the chief and I was picked to be the spokesperson (a bit of a misnomer as i didnt have to say a word the whole time). We both had to get dressed up like the locals and sat on a straw mat as everyone gathered round. We learned the proper way to drink Kava and had a couple of bowls of the stuff before having our dinner with our new companions as the sun set.
After the sun had disappeared the locals that worked on the island put on a show for us. The men and ladies split up and did their own dances. The males performed some tribal war dances and the ladies (Latu included) did some hip swinging numbers. By the end of it they were spinning knives and flaming sticks around their heads. It was very fitting that it was Up-Helly-Aa night back in Shetland, the smell of burning parafin and dancing like an idiot made me feel very close to home. THe show was all very well practiced, a
After they were all done they were looking for a few guys to volunteer themselves to dance with a few of the Fijian ladies. Id had a few beers by this point and my hand instantly shot up into the air. I was pulled up onto the performance area, awaiting 3 others to follow. After nobody else put themselves up, Craig and James were dragged out along with another unlucky man. The music started and we had to copy our lady's moves. Lots of hip swinging and delicate arm movements. Pretty embarassing but well worth the free beer we earned for doing it. That night, once the daytrippers had left to go back to the mainland, there were about 20 people left staying on the island, so we all stayed up, had a few Fiji Golds, chatted away, had a shuffle and sung some songs around the bonfire.
The following day me and Craig took a couple of kayaks with the intention of paddling round the island. It only takes 20 mins or so to walk around on foot so its a tiny little place. However as we got around the north end of the island, is
was obvious that getting around would be impossible, the tide was so far out that we would have had to take a huge detour around the mangrove swamps.
During the afternoon we relaxed on the beach and chatted away to our new found friends. On the days we were there we made friends with an engaged English couple Emily and James, an Aussie called Brad and his girlfriend Tess, a Welshman called Chris and two more English girls called Lara and Mary. We all got on like a house on fire.
That night we had another small Kava session to welcome a few new arrivals and played a couple of games. The first one was a bit difficult to describe but everyone knows the second one. 2 teams, 2 sticks and a set distance between them. On the word go the first player from each team runs to their teams stick, puts their hands and forehead on the top of it and with the other end on the ground they have to spin in a circle 10 times before trying to run back to their team so the next person can go. What a blast! I had never played it
before and was in absolute fits of laughter from start to finish. Nobody could do it. Each person would spin around 5 or 6 times then fall to the deck in a dizzy mess. After they had managed to get the 10 spins done they would try and get back to their team, running sideways and often falling over in the sand (myself included). It was sidesplittingly hilarious, and tears were genuinely rolling down my face throughout.
Once the games had finished, and after being blown away by Lara and Mary's card tricks, we headed off to the other side of the island with one of the workers for another bonfire. His fire making skills were slightly lacking, his theory being that if you throw some parafin over some logs and light it you will have a bonfire. Once the parafin had burnt off the fire went out so we searched around for some smaller sticks and kindling to get a proper one going. Once we had a decent blaze going the guy that came with us decided to chuck some more parafin on it to give it a bit of extra juice. Unfortunately he got a bit too close
and the whole tub of parafin ignited in his hand. It was then that he proved to us that his fire extinguishing skills were just as poor as his fire lighting ones. Now, I had to do a small fire safety course for my job a couple of years ago and under the section "How to deal with a flaming open-topped tub of parafin", I dont recall anything being mentioned about drop-kicks. This guy had obviously been taught otherwise. He swivelled round to face the sea, dropped the fireball and hoofed the thing as hard as he could towards the water, setting his foot on fire in the process. He hopped around for a couple of seconds till he extinguished himself, before tending to the tub, which, despite the force he kicked it with, hadnt quite made it to the waters edge, and had to be manually extinguished with a few handfulls of sand. It sounds like quite an incident but we were laughing away during and for a good while after it.
On our final full day on the island we had a "Join the tribe" themed day. After breakfast we had a chance to go into the
forest and find materials to make our very own tribal outfits for that evening. That afternoon we were left to assemble our costumes from whatever we could find. Sebs, one of the workers, cut down a few palm tree leaves that people could use to make grass skirts from. I was right in there, hacking away at the thick fibrous stalk to make it thin enough to be able to wrap around my waist. I made a shell necklace, and another one with leaves and stuff on it, some leaf shoulder pads and found some vines to wrap around my arms. The other guys all put the effort in and we all looked pretty unique when the time came to dress up after wed had another game of volleyball and eaten our evining meal.
The evening kicked off with yet another Kava ceremony to welcome more new arrivals, followed by the judging of the best dressed islander. We had to individually take centre stage and perform a few seconds of tribal dancing while the locals judged us. A new arrival ended up winning the best dressed male and Lara won the best dressed female (although she did have a little
extra help from one of the workers).
We moved on and played a couple of games with the losers having to do a stint in a wooden cage which was assembled earlier. We had a few drinks and had a lot of fun. As it was Daves birthday at midnight we arranged for the Fijians to sing him happy birthday and get him a drink from the bar. Good times.
We finished the night in true Robinson Crusoe style with a midnight bonfire (think iv failed to mension so far that the power generator switches off at midnight, so after this time we had to rely on fuel for light and acoustic guitars for music). We all gathered beside the fire and Sebs the human jukebox fired out some singalong classics on the old 6 string. We sung songs till the early housrs before heading back to the dorm. What a day.
We were very sad to be leaving the island the following day, but we were given a good send-off. More song singing, shouting and waves were exchanged as we chugged off back to the mainland. Everybody had had an amazing time. The staff were so enthusiastic and
friendly, the place was a paradise and the people we met were great.
And so it was back to the mainland for another 5 or so days. We were staying at a nice place at Denaru near Nadi for the remainder of our time. We didnt get up to much during these days. Highlights included Lara and Mary visiting us to make pancakes, relaxing by the pool, getting a semi-decent tan, catching up on blogging and playing a few games of volleyball with the folk that worked on the resort.
All in all Fiji was immense. Robinson Crusoe was probably the highlight of my trip so far. It couldnt have been much better really. Amazing weather, cool people and a grade A location. Would highly recommend.
To all those at home: hope everyone is doing well. Hope the festive period was lots of fun and that Up-Helly Aa was a roaring success (fom hat iv heard and seen so far it seems to have been). Try and not have too much fun till I get back in June. Sanna if you could delay your Birthday bus by a few months that would be just super. Unfortunately i
dont have an address here in New Zealand that you can send my birthday presents to in a couple of weeks time, so just leave them at/post them to my house in Shetland and il get them upon my return. Would be good to hear from everyone that iv not heard from in a while. Thanks Nicola for the email you sent telling us all about life back home. It was much appreciated...and yes, even though it was a bit of an epic, i read all of it and enjoyed every single word.
Much love everyone. Hopefully the next time i post something il have jumped out a plane or thrown myself off a bridge. Not in an suicide attempt im sure you'll understand but in a thrill seeking act either attached to a parachute or a bungee chord.
ps. forgot to mention in my last blog that we went to the Steve Irwin Zoo in Australia incase your wondering where all the pics came from.
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