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Published: September 14th 2007
"BOLA!" from Fiji!! Our evening flight North West and out of the South Pacific from Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands to Nadi, Fiji, in the West Pacific took only four hours by my watch but by crossing the International Date Line, we effectively "lost" a day and switched 22hrs. Instead of calling the UK and being 11hrs behind, we are now flipped around to 11hrs ahead of the UK. Confusing eh??
We'd been thouroughly advised by many parties to - in no uncertain terms - "get the hell out of Nadi ASAP"; however, by landing in the evening, we had little option but to find a hostel and suck it and see. In actual fact, our experience was positive. We got picked up at the dodgy airport (where even the duty free folk hassle you into their shops) and driven across town to the Horizon Beach Backpackers. Luckily for us, the much plusher Smuggler's Cove Resort next door, is co-owned so we dumped our gear and headed straight for there.
We were thirsty for a pint after the flight but before we could get our order in, we were summoned over to the Kava drinking locals in the corner
to be cordially induced in the ways of this indiginous concoction of weed and water. Els Belles, this stuff is like muddy wash; nevertheless, the numb mouth effect was certainly different. After a couple of cups, we sloped off to the bar to begin a two week affair with Fiji Gold, the Tennants Lager of the Pacific.
That evening, we met cool, young English traveller Jason, Val, an Irish girl on holiay from Sydney, a young Dutch bloke called Paul and a German girl called Leeza, who was on her last night away from the motherland after a year on the road. Given we hit it off so well with this bunch, we decided to stay an extra night and also so we could figure out our next 2 weeks in Fiji. The next day, we sat at the travel desk in the resort and plotted a trip through the Yasawa Island group by buying a "Bula Pass", a 7 day hop on/hop off ticket to ride. Sorry Els, we missed Bobo's Farm 😞
That evening, we drank at the bar with our new found friends which set us up ugly to be collected by coach the next
morning at 07:15 - when will we learn? The bus dropped us off at Denerou Harbour, where we boarded (what was to become the familiar) "Yasawa Flyer" catemaran. Our strategy to the Yasawa Islands was to sail 5 hours North to the most distant group of Islands and then hop our way back South to mainland Fiji. It was wonderful to travel on the catemeran, past South Sea Island, Bounty Island, Treasure Island - all just small mounds of sand protruding from the ocean, topped and fringed with palm trees heavy with coconuts.
At each stop, the Captain would do a boarding call to passengers scheduled to stop at any given island. The catemeran would slow to a stop in the open waters of the sea and from all angles, smaller boats with outboard motors would appear and dock against the larger vessel. There were no docks, let alone harbours. The tourists would collect their things, get on the small boats of the resorts and speed off to the sandy beeches and coves. "What were we in for here?" we thought! Finally, our call was broadcast: "Passengers for Sunrise Beach Resort..." "Thats us - lets go!" As we took
out our earphones and grabbed our gear, other passengers dotted around the catemeran also started to collect their things. I liked that about the island hopping, looking around the boat at all the unfamiliar faces and wondering if we were going to be joking and laughing like old friends by the end of the evening with some of these people.
So now it was our turn. We clambered off the catemeran and onto the smaller resort boat to be ferried through the blue waves to the Sunrise. The sea was deep green, like the colour of the green stripe on your Aquafresh toothpaste. As we neared the beach, we realised that this was not a 'resort' in the same terms as we would use the word in Britain. On the beach, all the staff were smiling, clapping and singing us a welcome song as we approached. This was wonderful, to hear these voices across the waters lulling us ashore to our home for the next three nights. Imminently, the speed boat beached itself into the sand and we all jumped out into the water to wade ashore to Nanuya Leilei island.
We were all then welcomed by the
Smuggler's Cove Crew
Val (Ireland), Jason (England), Paul (Holland), Leeza (Germany), Me and Trung
main Fijian dude at Sunrise, named 'Queen'. Little did we know at this point how entertaining Queen was going to turn out to be. After another welcome song, we were given a simple set lunch of rice and vegetables then taken to our 'bure', a 12 person mixed dorm of six bunkbeds. Meal times were set at 8:00, 12 noon and 7 and we quickly got used to ploutering around the island then hearing the ring of the hand-bell in the distince to tell us that food was ready to be served. The dorm was a wooden shed, with no glass windows, just mosquito nets and a thatched roof. There were no lights in the dorm, in fact, electricity on the island was rationed between 7-11 in the morning, then from 4-11 at night. No phones. No televisions. No internet. I'm telling you, I loved it and I didnt miss these mod-cons at all over the next ten days. Why would I? A fifteen minute walk up and over the hill behind the resort, to the other side of the island was THE Blue Lagoon, as in Brooke Shields movie circa 1980. It was beautiful there and we were able
to snorkel out deep to the coral reefs and watch tropical fish go about their day to day business. Before this trip, I just thought The Blue Lagoon was a chain of chippies in Glasgow but now I've seen the light : ) At the beach, we were able to break the ice with some of the other guests who had checked in with us and it was cool to meet Kristina, Steph and Naomi. Later on that evening, during Bingo(!), we met Croyden Vicki and the notoriously fun Karen. At that point, we had no idea that we would bump into these five girls throughout our time in the Yasawas and what good times and laughs were in store.
Before I forget, I should describe, as best as I can, Queen's Bingo. It was the funniest game of Bingo I've ever seen, like some sort of frenetic speed bingo, not just because it was so fast, but more because Queen reeled off the numbers so quickly that you would think this boy was on speed. I won a hand; the prize - a packet of salted nuts. The next two days at Sunrise were spent snorkeling during the
day and then snoozing off these energetic excesses in the comfy hammocks. Each evening, Queen would ensure some after dinner entertainment. One night, we had Bingo, the next, he told us his well rehearsed anecdotes, including him staying at Oprah Winfrey's house and then he blew us away with his uber-camp dance interpretation of Billy Ocean's "Get out of my dreams, get into my car' - hilarious. Hopefully, ill manage to upload a video of that. Queen was so funny, very "ambiguous" and some entertainer.
On the final evening, Queen held a Kava ceremony and I had the privelege of being "Kava Chief" and sitting in the middle and calling new rounds of the mirky water for everyone in the tribe. That evening, we must have drunk at least a litre of the muddy Kava wash, which made for a lovely nights sleep before heading off the next day to our next stop in the Yasawa's, an island called Naviti.
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