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Published: February 20th 2006
Jimmy preparing the unappetizing kava
Two weeks of sun, sea, sand, boats, more boats, red sunsets and loads of snorkeling. Fiji looks just as you see it in all the travel ads and brochures. Azure sea, white sand, palm trees, volcanic landscapes, green hills and beautiful coral reefs. Our flight to Fiji was an easy 3 hours from Auckland, and we were ushered to our hotel - Nadi Bay Hotel - a few kms from the airport, where we had just enough time to dump our bags and join in a traditional kava ceremony. We had no idea we would get to taste the famous kava within an hour of landing in Fiji. Kava is ground from the root of a plant related to the pepper tree and mixed with water, so you can imagine what it tastes like - it looks like dirty dish water, but boy does it make you feel strange. It is actually a narcotic... We were all numb lips and light headed for an hour or so after. The ceremony was conducted by one of the guests, a Fijian named Jimmy, who used to work at the hotel. He was a great source of local information and a real character, so
Keith not showing how sea sick he is feeling
we had dinner with him that night and then fell in to bed.
Next morning we woke early for a bus ride to Port Denarau from where we caught the Yasawa Flyer (a big yellow catamaran) to the outlying islands of the Yasawa group. We had no idea the seas would be quite so rough and Lisa spent all of the 5 hour boat trip hanging over the back of the boat. It was a terrible feeling and lots of people were sea sick. The minutes seem to tick by slowly and we were wishing we hadn't been quite so adventurous as to choose the furthest island as out first destination. Anyhow, we finally arrived, jumped on a small boat and landed at our first resort, Safe Landing on the island of Nacula. What a beautiful setting. A white sandy beach lapped by clear, blue waters. We spent 4 days there, and had a great group of people to mingle with. All meals were served at a big table so all the guests sit together, and it proves a great way to get to know people. We played poker at night with plastic poker chips which Bo and
Fijian style Bure
Coconut falls are a serious hazard
Christy brought all the way from Arizona. Josie and Martin from London were a real hoot and we went hiking with them only to get lost in thick jungle and have to find our way back along the beach, full of cuts from the long grass and sweating from the heat! Our smiles returned when we found a little tea shop in a hut on the beach where we had instant coffee and orange cake to revive us after the hot hike.
On Sunday we attended a church service in the local village, and sat and sweltered in the summer heat and 100% humidity, but it was worth it to hear the local choir in action and see the kids in the village. That night was the Rugby 7's final between SA and Fiji. The whole village came to gather round the tv at the resort and it was us versus them in a very dramatic final. Actually, we were glad Fiji won, as the locals take the rugby very seriously, the women and children included.
Next stop was Tavewa island at Otty and Fanny's. They were so friendly and their son Harry is a trained chef, so
we had great food and home made banana cake. We ate fruit platters for lunch, our plates overflowing with fresh coconut, sweet papaya, watermelon, juicy pineapple and bananas. The beach at at Suva point was awesome, with white sandy beaches on two sides of the point at low tide, great for swimming and snorkeling. We went on a fishing trip with the locals, didn't catch anything but a few rocks! We thought we had struck it lucky when we were allocated the Honeymoon Bure (thatched hut) but it turned out to be a really old hut set deep in the mangroves. The mosquitoes were rampant and we had to wear long sleeves and trousers at night, yet the little critters still managed to bite through our clothes. At night it was pitch black and really scary trying to find our way back to the hut after dinner, with Lisa close on Keith's heels. We took to throwing rocks in to the bushes before we went forward, in the hope we would scare away any creepy crawlies, but also to scare away all the black mangrove crabs. We could hear hundreds of them scuttling away in to the bushes!
Keith learning the ropes playing poker at Safe Landing
next few days were spent at Mantaray resort on a small island just near Naviti. We signed up to do 3 dives. Unfortunately the visibility is not so great at this time of year as it is the rainy season, but we saw a huge spotted ray about 2 metres long, lots of reef fish, beautiful coral in all colours and forms and some huge underwater caves. There were lots of organised activities at this resort, so we made bangles from coconut shell and played beach volleyball. The snorkeling was excellent just off the beach. The deck/dining area is built high up on stilts on a peninsula so you can see the sunrise on one side and the sunset on the other. We enjoyed cocktails whilst watching the sun set. The villagers came to perform traditional dances the first evening we were there, and that was very festive with lots of singing and dancing. The Fijians are very friendly people and very laid back. Everyone we met remembered our names and we really enjoyed the serenades that each group pf staff performed on arrival and departure at each island.
Our last stop was at Sunset Resort on the island
Amazing water off Nacura Island
of Waya. At low tide a sand bar connects Waya to the little island of Waya Lailai so you can walk across and explore a couple of other beaches. We felt adventurous and Lisa was in dire need of some walking, so we signed up to go mountain hiking with Sam the next day. He took us through his village and then up a steep climb over streams, hillsides and long grass to a high point where we could marvel at the view. It was extremely hot and humid so we were grateful for a quick dip in a freshwater pool on the way down. Sam climbed a coconut tree and cut down some green coconuts. We drank the sweet juice thirstily and ate the soft flesh of the fruit until we were full. Our hike back was extended as the tide was too low for the boat to fetch us from the village, so we really felt drained by the time we got back to the resort.
It is funny how any little settlement for tourists, even the most simplest of grass huts, is called a resort. So it is worth noting that the resorts we stayed in
Starbucks - not quite
Enjoying instant coffee and orange cake
were of the simplest, due to budget constraints, and we had cold water only, a bed and a roof over our heads and if we were lucky a fan. Yet they were all clean and we had fresh spring water to drink on most of the islands. The food at Sunset was very plain and we felt a little starved after 3 nights there, especially Lisa, who thought she would be ill if she was presented with yet another fried egg! The staff here were really wonderful and we felt sad to say goodbye, but ready to head back to some civilization. It was quite a weird feeling being stranded on these islands, as in some you couldn't even walk anywhere except along the beach. In one sense you are at the mercy of the resorts as you can't pick and choose where you want to stay once you get off the boat. We missed the spontaneity we had in Asia where we could just turn up and decide on somewhere to stay. But even though it was low season in Fiji it was really busy with backpackers and we had to book ahead to get a bed to sleep
We spent many hours chatting in the sea out of the Fijian summer heat
in on all of the islands. We were surprised at how expensive Fiji was, even though we stayed in the most basic places, so it was lucky we only allocated 2 weeks to this part of our trip!
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