Taveuni - "The Hidden Gem of Fiji"

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Oceania » Fiji » Taveuni
June 24th 2009
Published: June 25th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Day 9, Wednesday, June 3rd

This was a long day of travel. Ferry ride to taxi ride to airport, where we loaded onto a small sea plane type vehicle. Then that plane made one stop before arriving on the island of Taveuni. Then shuttle ride about 45 minutes to our resort...yes, resort it was. The place was so big and white and clean with modern seating and hammocks. There was a pool and what we thought was a hot tub, but just a kiddie pool I suppose. Caitlin and I shared a room, since the hotel got rid of their dorms and we jumped up and down at how clean and cool it was with a good size balcony overlooking the sea.

We got our bathings suits on because we thought the pool had a hot tub, but ended up just hanging out in the hammock together and watching the enormous amounts of fruit bats fly over us and around. There were a couple of trees on this back patio area that attracted them during sunset. When one dropped a large load of guana next to our hammock we decided to get up and take showers.

I don't usually rave about a shower during my travels, but this shower mechanism installed in our room was amazing! You had the option of using three different sets of shower heads. One in particular was a huge 12 inch by 12 inch square with water spouting out ever 1/4 inch. Felt absolutely amazing. Probably because it was also our first hot shower in over a week.

Then we make it down to the dining area on the back patio, where we enjoy a three course meal. When we were first picking out our choices there were no prices on the menu. I don't think we cared at that moment, but when they came back later in the evening with the prices, from there on out we only ordered one item with the occasional split of dessert. Man this place ended up sucking the money out of us. Beautiful and great, but too expensive for our 'backpacking' budget. I almost wanted to cry when we got the bill at the end of the three nights. It was definitely great food though. There was a trio playing soothing music, and after that showere and before we knew pricing, we were in heaven. We hit the sack early and got about 11 hours of sleep! Whew.

Day 10, Thursday, June 4th

Next day was all about relaxing, but somehow the morning started a bit stressful. Caitlin and I had gone all the way to Taveuni for the Great White Wall and some good diving, but they staff was saying we might have to dive in a completely different area because there was a group of divers who wanted to dive in this other area and they had been staying longer. I didn't understand the point of a reservation and confirmation then. On top of that, they were saying that they had no instructor for Caitlin, because he left a few days ago. And they kept confusing us and saying Caitlin should go at 3pm today, so she can dive tomorrow, but that's not how her package was supposed to go. Super confusing, and thry keep tossing us to different people for different stories, but finally the head manager nigel sorts it out and it turns up an instructor is coming in the morning for Caitlin and I'll be the only one out in the boat for dives. If the conditions are right, I'll get to the Great White Wall.

Next we take a small boat ride from the resort to an island not to far away to snorkel. The snorkeling was amazing! Better than even some of the diving off Mana island. It was a great suprise and the island was full of interesting shells. After snorkeling we climbed up on the rocks and jumped around. I kept looking for unique shells and Caitling sat down for a bit. I point this out because as it turns out, she got aniliated by sand fleas (we think this is when it happened).

We enjoy some provided orange juice and cookies until the boat comes back for us. Back at the resort we sun bathe and play with a rescued puppy and bat watch with binnoculars I had brought and not used yet. There was a beautiful sunset and great dinner thereafter. Nigel bought us a glass of wine and chatted us up until we decided to hit the hay. Oh, and can't forget about another great shower.

Day 11, Friday, June 5th

Today was allllll about the diving and what a freaking day it was. I got to the dive shop and squeezed into a long (very tight) suit and cover up and then they said we needed to wait out the ocean current for a bit, so I fell asleep in a hammock until they called me about 8.30am. The conditions were right for the Great White Wall, so I was stoked! We drive a boat out about 30 minutes to the other side of the see into what's called the Rainbow Passage. Then we dive in and I'm holding onto the dive master's hands the whole time because there's still a bit of a current and we have to go down almost 80 feet (which I'm only certified to go 60 feet, but what the hell, they seem to be cool with it). We go through a passage way through the coral and I can't believe it - so gorgeous. I turn on my camera at the beginning of the dive, and low and behold the damn thing is dead - right from the get-go! Darn! You all know how I love taking pictures. Soooo, you'll just have to imagine for yourself or google The Great White Wall and see if you can find any good pictures of it. We go down through a tunnel and end up on the side of a huge wall of soft purple and white coral. They're just swaying back and forth with the current on the side of the wall. If I were certified to, we could have gone a lot further down and seen a lot more white, but I still got to see a lot of it. We brushed along the side of the wall to another passage and down and through we went. I was so amazed. I love tunnels and tricks, so this was so fun for me. When we got through the last tunnel that left the wall, we entered like a coral "mall" - shops and shops of coral. I couldn't believe it. We saw an octupus, a giant clam, popcorn shrimp, turkey fish, a mini white crab hanging out in soft coral, clown fish, parrot fish, angel fish and more. It was so beautiful. The day was super clear and sunny, so everything was super bright and colorful. Too darn bad my camera was dead. I will just have to remember this morning on my own.

Then we get up from the dive and we hang out for awhile. This is mandatory before we do my next dive. We eat cookies and have some orange juice and I just hang out with the divemaster, Paulo, and Nia, the driver. She's reading a book about "How to Shit Around the World". I think it was left on the boat by someone else, but it's a pretty funny book about how to survive around the world, what to eat and what not to when you're just camping it basically. Kind of funny.

Anyway, second dive was to Annie's Bommie, which Rob, the divemaster from Mana recommended. This was gorgeous as well. It was a long hump of coral going down the ocean. Here I saw even more. Tons of garden eels hanging out on the bottom floor, moray eel, trumpet fish, reef sharks (2 white tips), unicorn fish, nudi branches, sea cucumbers and more. The coolest thing ever is the blushing coral. Paulo told me to touch the tip of it, and the entire coral does a wave of color change from pink to bright white. It was soooo cool. I couldn't get enough of it. Everytime I saw it from there on out, I had to tap it to watch the trippy wave of color change. So beautiful!

When I got back to camp, I was on a high. I thought Caitlin would have been done with her introductory dives, but she hadn't even gone yet. They pushed back the meeting time to 2pm. We had lunch together and this is when she first showed me the bites on her legs - TERRIBLE amounts of bites. She thought at first they were bed bugs, but bed bugs can't do that I don't think. We came to the conclusion later that it must have been from the small island as she was sitting on the sand longer, but geeeez moneez these suckers looked like they hurt and she had scratched them some, so they were looking like they could get infected. Anyway, Caitlin did her introductory dive anyway and really enjoyed it I think. The trainer was super nice and took her into the sea. She'd like to get certified, but she's not sure how soon she'll be able to do it money-wise.

This night the resort does a buffet dinner / Meke dinner and provides some traditional Taveuni dancing. Check out the pics of the huge fish! Super delicious meal. I tell you this resort was a treat, but took a pretty penny from us.

Day 12, Friday, June 6th

Before we head out to the other side of Taveuni, I head out for two more dives in Rainbow Passage. It was the main reason for going to Taveuni, so I had to soak it up as much as I could. Again, I was the only one going out, so I was able to have one-on-one attention from the divemaster. Paulo was able to show me so much more that I would not have seen if I were in a group. The first was to Jack's Place. The current was so strong, that when we were doing our five minute stop at the end of the dive, I was holding onto a rope for dear life because if I would have let go, I would have gone flying. I was flying horizontally through the water while holding onto the rope. This was another coral mall. My camera was charged this day, so I tried to take some good pictures. With the current being so strong though, the visibility wasn't quite as good. I see more reef sharks, lobsters with blue legs, garden eels, clams, rock cods and more. We went about 75 feet down for about 42 minutes.

Second dive was somewhere called The Ledge. It was kind of like a mushroom top that we just circled around. The current was so strong that we kind of stayed on the back end though. This was a great spot for nudi branches and blushing coral. There were some blind shrimp digging in and out of the sand and I picked up some sea cucumbers (those things are so squishy and strange).

Well, that was the end of my dives in Fiji. When I got back to the resort, Caitlin's legs had swelled up even more. She was not in the best mood, especially when we waited outside for like 45 minutes for the local school bus to take us to the other side. It was only $2, so it was definitely the most budget friendly option, but she was almost ready to buy us a taxi ride. The ride reminded me of a Costa Rica trip to the rain forest with huge bolders and rocks in the road that we had to go over, since the paved road in Taveuni ends near the airport and we were going about an hour past the airport. The ride was about 2 hours total and we were all squeezed on with local school children and adults. A couple of American and English Peace Corps joined on the bus and new Fijian. One of the locals didn't know this though and when the bus was too full joked to the others about having the white people get off. The Peace Corps joked back with them and it became a big joke, but I'm glad they were there to ease the tension. It was all a bit strange. Most people were nice and smiled to us, but as we got closer and closer to Lavena, our end destination, Caitlin and I figured out that we were not quite dressed appropriately. Our shoulders were not covered and we had shorter shorts on than the rest who were mostly wearing surongs.

Anyway, we arrive at the "Lodge" finally and it's pretty 'quaint' or 'basic' as I should say. 😊 We have a room with two twin beds, and the floor is split with two different run down wall papers. The bed sheets have stains so I just use my sleeping bag each night. Niko, the local Peace Corps contact who has been living there for 2 years now, says they're having a local fundraiser for the school if we'd like to join. You basically purchase kava for someone else and they usually buy you one right back. You get to decide how much you'd like to spend each drink. He's really funny about the way he tells us to dress differently though. He says twice if we need a "sulu" as they call them in the village or surong, then he has extra. And wearing a shirt or t-shirt would be good. Caitlin and I had already got the hint, so it was a bit of a running joke about how much he brought it up to us. We were still in our room when he was telling us, so we just hadn't had time to change yet. By this time Caitlin's legs were pretty bad and stinging, so Niko was nice and found us some of his cortisone cream and other anti-bacterial cream. I was Caitlin's little doctor and applied the stuff to each of her 50 bites.

Caitlin and I hadn't eaten yet, so we asked the lodge keeper if we were able to get any food. She said sure, and went to ask someone in the local village if they had something for us. She said dinner would be ready by 7:30pm. What a feast it was. Caitlin and I could have shared one plate, but polished off both of them almost. Crazy bits of pork, noodles, root sticks that were like potatos, taro, some beans and who knows what else. We were starving so we didn't care, and this is not the place to be picky. Their village 'store' only had some cans of tuna and maybe some sweets. I can't remember, but there was really nothing but one shelf worth of random things.

A local comes by and asks Niko and Caitlin and I if we want to have some 'kava' - which you're not supposed to drink unless it's made by the village, but Niko says it's okay and we can have a try. Caitlin and I taste it and it's like pure sugar and pineapple juice or something. I can't really remember, but it was not very good. We then walk over to the village fundraiser and put down $10 Fiji dollars which is like $5 US dollars and we start a tab of kava drinks. We buy the local guide a drink and he buys us one back. We buy Niko a drink and he buys us one back. Then someone random will buy us a drink and we buy them one back and so forth and so on until Caitlin and I can't possibly take anymore. I can't really describe the way it tastes...maybe a little bit like dirty brown water. You're supposed to tell the person buying it for you if you want 'high tide' or 'low tide' so they know how full to make the coconut that they scoop the kava out from out of the community pool of kava. It was a good experience, but did make me a bit sick in the stomache. It's not the cleanest way to drink really, but it was nice to help out the local school. In the end, whoever gave the most money, won some prizes. Caitlin and I didn't know until the next morning, but we won a huge bread/scone cake.

Day 13, Friday,

June 7th
Niko was going to come over and make pancakes with us in the local kitchen, but since we won the scone cake, he just brought over some jelly and we ate a huge chunk with the jelly. We signed up the night before for a five hour kayaking trip, so we waiting around for another couple to join us from another town. Boy would this end up being the highlight of our Fiji adventures. We start out with calm waters and out into the ocean we go. Caitlin and I are in a double kayak and right away the tide is too low and we get stuck on some rocks, so I try to carry up the front and let Caitlin stay sitting until we get to deeper waters. It works for most of the time, but eventually I think she has to get up. Okay, back to the water we go. Doopety Doo Dah, Yippety Yay. 😊 Okay, then we kayak for about 45 minutes and reach the mouth of a river area that we have to enter from the waves. Of course we're going to tip. We don't but we do get clobbered by the other couple going with us. The lady didn't really like to paddle and her husband was having to steer on their own and we just got to close to eachother. The wave pounded them into our kayak and went on top pretty much. I lost my precious blue and purple, beautiful water bottle to the river and the other couple lost their oars. We gather up the lost oars and I try to look for the bottle, but I'm figuring it sank to the bottom since it was metal. We carry on up the river to a couple of beautiful waterfalls. We hang out for a minute and then go right back to the opening where we came in. Now we have to get back out of the sucker and the waves are big.

You have to time it just right and start heading towards the waves during some moment of intermission. The guide tells us "Go! Go! Go!" and Caitlin and I paddle for our lives. The guy infront of us gets turned around a big and then we hear the guide yell "Turn around! Turn around!". Caitlin and I thought he was talking to both of us and
Passage to Great White WallPassage to Great White WallPassage to Great White Wall

Before Camera died
the guy, so we turn only half way around before a huge waves starts approaching fast. I get freaked out and don't feel like tipping over, so I tell Caitlin I'm getting out. The look on her face was so precious. I will never forget her expression of "What the hell are you doing to me?". I'm laughing as I write this because it was so funny and we did end up surviving, but not until after a few more moments of drama. The kayak of course tips and we're in the middle of wave crashing land. We turn it back over and I'm holding onto it while Caitlin's trying to get some ground in her flip flops. Every time a new wave comes though, the kayak shoves close to Caitlin's face and I don't know what to do but just let it go at that point. I do and then I keep hitting a really large rock underwater with my knees and legs and I start yelling really loud and winey "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" and then Caitlin thinks I've broken my leg or something. I finally make it out of wave crashing land and the guide helps Caitlin walk over the rocks back to calmer waters. At this point, I really don't know if we're going to make it back out, but the guide assures us we will. Okay, guess I'll trust him. Up in the kayak we go again. This time, we're not turning back under any circumstances. An intermission of waves presents itself and Caitlin and I start yelling, "Row! Left! Right! Left! Right!" I say "Come on Caitlin, row for our lives! Row for our lives!" and the yelling continues until we make it up and over the last threatening wave. It was freaking ridiculous!

We then kayak to another river opening, but this one is much calmer. I wanted to get a picture of us entering in, but at this point Caitlin did not want to take her bag off of her back because who knows if a repeat could happen and we could lose everything. Eventually as we enter the calmer waters she takes the bag off so I can have my camera. Oh, I wish you guys could have been there on this trip.

We make it to another set of waterfalls. We have a bit of lunch first and then we swim up to the start of the falls. They're gorgeous. Caitlin stays put on the side of the walls and I follow the guide up to the first fall, which is like a slide you can do on your butt. The slide shoots you so far down into the water that I got a nose full of water. The other guy kayaking with us did it too and was able to console with me about the rush of force it pushes you with.

Then there's another taller fall, 45 feet up, that many people jump off of. I'm all for it. Until I get up there! The trek was pretty steep as it was that I knew there was no going back the other way. And to get to the 45 foot fall, there was actually a hidden fall that I had to jump down to get to the main fall. The guide says this was a test drive. The guide jumped the main fall first to show me where to jump from and then he climbed back up to sit with me until I was ready to go. He even held me right in front of where I was to jump so that I'd feel more safe. I had to jump a meter out to make sure I cleared the ledge, which was the most scary part about it. I had eaten water with the two previous dives, so I knew I needed to hold my nose this time. I finally jump about 20 minutes later or so and with holding my nose, I think I popped out my ear drums, so they were ringing for awhile. BUT! I did it and I survived! 😊 I was pretty proud of myself for sticking through it and trusting that I could do it.

We get back to where we left our stuff on the side of the river and eat a fresh coconut and relax for a second before our next hour or two of hiking. It starts raining on us and I had slipped on some rocks and Caitlin had hit her head on a board near the bathroom, so we weren't sure what else could happen to us on this trip. We see some local pineapple and taro plants and cross a pretty cool goonies bridge. There's a ton of shells along part of the way, so we keep a few of those.

When we get back, we were served complimentary pancake rolls, so for dinner I was thinking - gosh, it must be noodles. What other starch can we eat? You know the Figians don't eat a lot of fruit and vegetables in their diet, which is why their life expectancy has been lower than other cultures. It's getting better, but this villiage is still very orginal. Dinner is a big goolash again of fish, pork, lobster, noodles, root stick potatos and more. It was pretty good. I mean I would have eaten anything really. Well...maybe not anything.

Day 14, Friday, June 8th

Needless to say, when we got up that morning, we were ready to get out of there. Especially when I saw a cockroach on the bed I was sleeping on. Niko had called the place "Peace Corps Jack Pot", but Caitlin and I at the end were ready to beg to differ. Don't think we could do what he'd done. We were first planning to go to another set of waterfalls this day, but we decided to nix those plans and head to the airport town for a relaxing day of massages and beach time. The couple we kayaked with said they were staying at this place across from the airport with a beach side massage table and great food menu with vegetables, so Caitlin and I were all about this. First we endure another school bus ride starting at 5AM!, full of school kids and then the bus dies for about 30 minutes while trying to go up a hill, but it ends up working again - thank God! The ride in and out of town were beautiful. Reminded me a bit of Kauai.

We got to the hotel, Coconut Grove and had a delicious breakfast. We signed up immediately for massages on the beach and just relaxed all day. They had a kayak we could have used to go snorkeling to a nearby island, but we said no thanks. Heheh. We'd had enough kayaking at that moment. We hop on our flight at 4pm to the main airport in Nadi where we'll stay for the night and leave the next day for our separate ways. A taxi driver with six fingers delivers us to the hotel we're staying at. The room was a bit smelly, but did the trick.

I gave Caitlin some of my stuff to take back home. God only knows why I brought that camping tent that we never used. We caught up on some email, watch the movie "He's Just Not That Into You" and hit the hay early.

Day 15, Friday, June 9th

This is the day we leave Fiji. I was so asad to leave Caitlin and teared up when I got into the cab. I was about to start the beginning solo adventure in Australia. Caitlin had to hang out until about 7pm that evening and I was leaving about 10am, so there was quite the gap between our flights.

Everyone says how responsible Caitlin is, and how blonde I can be sometimes, so get this...I get to the airport (remember this is the start of my solo adventure) and the first thing that comes about is that I don't have a visa to get on the flight to Australia. THANK GOD they make it easy to go to the nearby internet cafe and sign up online and get a confirmation immediately for a holiday visa. Whew! Slid by on that one, but it was a laugh I had to myself as I started my adventure alone without the 'responsible' one. Heheh.

Next blog will be about Australia. I have a month there. I've already endured about 2.5 weeks, so I have some catching up to do. I'm in Townsville now with not much to do, so I figured I'd try to get the rest of Fiji out. Sorry I'm not faster this trip!

Love you all!


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