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Published: June 15th 2010
Our first island sunset
And so to my last port of call, the Pacific islands of Fiji. Part of me was ready to fly straight home from Auckland, but my friend Tash had booked to come and spend two weeks with me in Fiji, so I was excited about seeing her and having one final bout of down time before heading home. Tash greeted me at Nadi airport and we took a taxi to our hostel, then caught up over a cold drink. This was Tash's first time travelling as a backpacker (i.e. no package tour), and she'd agreed to dive in and leave everything open other than our first night's accommodation - in a mixed dorm (very much new territory!). We hatched a plan to island hop on the Yasawas, a chain of islands to the west of the main island, Viti Levu, booking travel and accommodation as we went. But our plans to catch the early morning ferry were dashed when we decided to head out for drinks with our dorm mates. Tash was on beer for the first time, so about six bottles and numerous shots ('taki' as they call it in Fiji) later, we crashed into bed and slept right through
Face to face with clown fish at the Blue Lagoon
our planned departure!
Determined to make the best of what was left of the day, we checked out and drove down to Denarau marina, where we booked transport out to the closest island we could get to... a tiny pin-prick of a place called South Sea Island. With lots of help from Silina and Aunty Phylis at the booking desk, we arranged our first few nights' accommodation and hopped on the boat after lunch on the waterside. Despite being the nearest island, South Sea was the last stop for the afternoon ferry, so we sat back and enjoyed a two hour cruise around the Mamanuca Islands, sizing up the islands for potential future stops. The sun was setting as we arrived at South Sea... a tiny patch of sand fringed by coral reefs, accommodating 32 people. We stepped onto the beach and checked in, then parked ourselves on a sunlounger to watch the dark orange sun dip over the horizon... our first night in paradise! We were sharing the island with just fourteen other guests, and a combination of jetlag and hangovers saw us tucked up and asleep not long after dinner.
The next morning it was time
The Blue Lagoon
to board the Big Yellow Boat (aka the Yasawa Flyer) and head out on our island hopping adventure. We'd decided to start at the far end of the islands and work our way back, so our first day would comprise a five hour sail past all the islands to Coral View, a resort on the island of Tavewa. We arrived to a warm Fiji welcome, with much hand-shaking and singing, and lunch before checking into our dorm. Coral View doesn't have much of a beach, so we changed into our togs and walked 20 minutes along the shoreline to a sandy bar fringing the famous Blue Lagoon, where the water was warm and shallow. Lounging in the sun, we got chatting to Andy, Kate and Helen, Brits all travelling together, and Tom and Carl, a Brit and a Swede who'd met at their hostel in Nadi. So after a few hours cooling down in the sea, we went back to the resort for dinner, followed by drinks and some iPod tunes under the stars. The night was the first we heard Kate's story about a girl they'd met in Australia who always complained about not having enough money... imagine Vicky
Sunset from Coral View
Pollard shouting "but I can't afford it can I??!!"... our first Fiji catchphrase was born!
What's good enough for Brooke Shields is good enough for me, so Tom (now nicknamed Anders - I forget why!) and I charted a small boat and sailed over to the beach where the 1980s film Blue Lagoon was filmed. It's a gorgeous, pristine white sandy beach, with some great coral just offshore. We had the place to ourselves, so while our guide snoozed under a palm tree, we snorkelled and strolled along the shoreline. All the usual tropical fish were here - clownfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish and a few of my favourites, the moorish idols. After a few blissful hours we went back to the resort and spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around in hammocks. Needing a bit of exercise, a group of us decided to climb the small hill behind the resort to watch the sunset, which we did with a clear view right across the Pacific. While the Germans donned walking shoes, the Brits and Swede opted for flip flops... fine on the way up but a poor choice for the slippy descent! We got back to the resort just
Tash, me and Carl at Sawa-I-Lau caves (photo thanks to Tasha Munns)
before dark, and were treated to a knife and fire dance show. There were four male and three female dancers... the men sported frills around their waste and legs, and danced to an assortment of Fijian party hits... not particularly traditional, and producing an effect somewhere between the Chippendales and the Village People. But the fire twirling was impressive (Anders nearly lost a toe during the knife dancing... more practice required) and it was all topped off by a great meal and free beer competitions.
Tash and I had decided to stay on at Coral View for a third night, but everyone else was departing at lunchtime. Tash, Carl and I spent our last morning visiting the nearby Sawa-I-Lau caves, a series of flooded caverns offering a bit of adventure. The first cavern is open, with crystal clear water about 20 feet deep. The second is altogether different... enclosed and accessible only by a five second swim underwater... in the dark. Tash, with impaired vision having been hit in the eye by a falling palm leaf earlier, decided not to try, but the rest of us went in. It was dark and pretty confined, but luckily Ben was on
hand with a torch to show us the rock formations. Then it was time for the slightly easier swim back out into the main cave, to watch Ben and other mad Fijians clamber up the slippery walls to dive 15 metres into the cold pool below... not one for the faint hearted! Back to the resort for lunch, then it was time for the group to split, with everyone but us heading south. So we bid farewell to Carl and Anders, and said a see you later to Andy, Kate and Helen, who'd all be at Long Beach when we arrived the following day.
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