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Oceania » Fiji » Yasawa Islands
June 2nd 2012
Published: June 16th 2012
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The beach at Nadi
2nd – 10th June ’12 Fiji

2nd June ’12 Nadi

We arrived at Nadi airport at 8.30pm and the travel desk we were supposed to report to was closed! However a very helpful lady contacted Mama’s Tropic of Capricorn for us and arranged for them to come and pick us up. There were 4 of us altogether staying there altogether, so Howard and I climbed aboard along with 2 Tongan guys, one of whom was silent and the other one who was bizarrely (for Tongans) wearing little shorts and was really chatty. It turned out that he had been back to Tonga to visit family and was on his way back to Maui where he lives.

We arrived at the guest house and found we had a lovely room with air con and a balcony overlooking the pool and no bugs inside the room – fantastic! We went down to have a drink at the bar to celebrate being in Fiji and there we met the manager of one of the island resorts – Safe Landing, which was a bit of a co incidence as we had just been looking at their leaflet.

In order to make
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The Yasawa Flyer
trips to the various islands easier there is a really good brochure (Awesome Adventures) which lists them all, the resorts on them, what they offer and how much they charge. However by now our brains were totally boggled so we decided just to leave any decisions until the next day.

3rd June Nadi

A lovely hot sunny day with the sea out the front of the guest house and a pool at the back, breakfast on the patio in the sunshine, what more could you want! So after this post Tongan touch of luxury we went for a walk around the local area. It turns out that we are in a small road with about 6 tiny hotels/guest houses on it and nothing else, also as it is Sunday we are told there is no point in going into town as everything is closed. So we just visited the other guest houses and sussed out who had the best menus and the cheapest drinks!

We then just switched into ‘Fiji Time’ and lazed about, well I did while Howard sorted out our island adventure for the next 4 nights. Originally we had planned to spend 6 out
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Willlllsssssssssoooon!
of our 8 nights here out on the islands but the cost of that made us re think! Everything could be sorted out at Mama’s so it was quite straight forward and we were soon booked up.

Meanwhile I discovered Mama’s were doing a Sunday Dinner special so I quickly signed up for roast chicken, roast potatoes, veggies and gravy followed by ice cream all for £12, bargain. I have to say it tasted like heaven after a diet of cold meat pies!! Howard opted for the curry of the day at the hostel next door and felt the same way too!

Knowing we had to be up at 6.15am for the Island journey we went to bed and tried unsuccessfully to get to sleep. I must have dozed off though as I was woken up suddenly by someone tripping over and then sitting right outside our window discussing birds they had pulled and how one lad couldn’t get his little didgeridoo into Fiji. When I realised it was 1 am I decided to go and tell him where to stick his bloody didgeridoo but managed to restrain myself and just opened the door and asked them to
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Bounty Island
be move along, they nearly had a heart attack and they kind of apologised saying they didn’t think anyone was in the room.

4th June Nadi to Bounty Island

So at 6.15 when the alarm went off I staggered bleary eyed downstairs for breakfast. We then walked up to the road to wait for the bus to the port. The bus turned up and drove straight past us and after much shouting and arm waving a lady told us it was only going to turn around!

So we were on our way to the port to catch the Yasawa Flyer. The whole checking in, loading bags and getting on process was really smooth and straight forward and we managed to get seats right at the front on the top deck of the boat which was great.

After passing a few tiny little deserted islands in the middle of the sea – including the island where the Tom Hanks film Castaway was filmed, we arrived 30 minutes later at our first stop – Bounty Island, one of the Manucas group of islands. We were transferred to the shore in a small boat and were greeted by two
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Turtle feeding
people on the beach singing and playing the guitar – wow!

Soon we met Big Mama who runs the resort and she explained about the meal times – on the islands all meals are included as there are NO shops anywhere!! We then watched the turtles being fed – this was part of a conservation programme that the island is involved in to try and build back up turtle numbers. After this our rooms were ready and we were led along the beach to our bure. A bure is basically a small hut usually with a thatched roof and ours even had air con and an attached outside bathroom. Outside we had a hammock to lounge in and a couple of wooden chairs to sit in and watch the waves.

We had been told there was no swimming at low tide as the sea was full of coral and ‘sharp things’ so we decided to walk round the island before lunch and this took us 30 minutes! Lunch was great a help yourself buffet with pretty good food – including corned beef!!! It was still low tide and we then discovered high tide wasn’t until 6pm so we returned to our bure. By now my niggly head ache turned into a full blown killer and I ended up taking the only tablets I could find – left over from Mexico and fell asleep in the hammock having hallucinogenic dreams!!

Dinner that night was fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great slabs of roast beef, oooooh I was in food heaven indeed! Afterwards we listened to the staff singing and playing Fijian songs and then went to bed.

5th June Bounty Island to Draqawa Island and the Barefoot Lodge

After a good bug free night’s sleep we had breakfast and by 9 am were being sung farewell by the staff and were back on board the Yasawa Flyer for another 2 ½ hour journey up through the Yasawa Islands to our next destination. The islands varied in size from tiny little dots in the ocean to quite large obviously inhabited islands and the landscape got progressively more rugged and hilly as we headed north.

We arrived at Draqawa Island and could see our resort nestling between 2 beaches on a headland, once more we were met by singing and guitars. We were taken on a tour of the resort, during
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Big Mama says Bula!
which all the various activities available were explained – I had a terrible moment of déjà vu and thought I was back at brownie camp for a while…..3.30 jewellery making 4.30 volley ball 5.30 sunset drinks 6.30 Dinner 7.30 Polynesian evening etc Everyone else was about 20 years old and didn’t bat an eyelid at this!

Then we were taken to our hut, to say it was rustic was being generous! It was all wood with a tin roof and a window in each wall which you could prop open with bits of wood. There was a mosquito net though which was just as well as there were gaps everywhere!

We had also met a member of staff from Barefoot back at Mama’s and he had warned us that the food portions were tiny – designed for back packers as he put it ha ha. So we were dreading lunch but as it turned out they weren’t that bad, the food was ok so it was survivable! We also managed to sneak away after lunch and avoid the activities!

Once more it was low tide so once more no swimming. Our hut was on the mega windy beach side so we went for a wander around and had a bit of a sunbathe and a paddle on the other non windy beach whilst gazing enviously at the superior safari style tent accommodation on this side. Howard actually asked about an up grade but at an extra $120 each we decided to give it a miss, oh well we have got 3 toilets and 4 cold showers between 10 huts/dorms nestling in the woods so I’m sure it will be fine…

Once again we got followed by a dog but managed to loose him, we met the local chief who introduced himself and shook our hands, we kept seeing him and he kept shouting out Bula Mister Howard!! Bula is Fijian for hi, hello, welcome etc etc

As we went to take our places on the wooden benches for dinner that night we were met by the Aussie manager bloke running around shouting out ‘we’ve found water!’ When the current owners took over the Barefoot Lodge fresh water was being brought over from the mainland by boat and they had a 6 month contract during which time they had to locate their own fresh water supply on the island. It was now 2 days before the contract ended and they had at last struck lucky! So big celebrations were set for tonight with all the local workers and the Chief coming to join us.

So after an ok meal the celebrations began, a couple of staff dressed in traditional clothing performed various dances from around the South Pacific Islands, there was then machete dancing and finally a fire show. This was all really good until they then made everybody get up and forced us to do dances! Not good!! Age was no excuse!!!! I think it was doing this weird hip thrusting jumping forward that had my back starting to go…… we then all went inside and Laila the village chief (what a lovely man) welcomed us all and asked us to join him and the other village men for Kava.

This involved sitting cross legged around a special wooden bowl with little legs. An old wooden door was brought in and put down for us to sit on and then the ceremony began. Kava is made from the root of the plant and in this case sachets of the powder were poured into a kind of cloth bag resembling an old sock and then water was added. The guy in charge of the bowl then swirled the sock round and kept twisting it and swirling until the water turned into the colour of a muddy puddle. Half a coconut shell was then used for scooping the liquid out. The Chief then announced a chief had to be nominated for the group and he decided it would be his friend Mister Howard the English Chief!! Ha ha, this meant Howard had to have the first drink in every round! So a good coconut shell full was passed back to him and it had to be downed in one. Well I don’t know why I laughed as I had to have the second one!! So back and forwards went the coconut shell until everyone had had a drink and then a second bowl full was mixed up and so on it went. After 2 helpings I had had enough – it didn’t taste very strongly it was kind of like chalky water but it did make your lips and mouth go tingly and a bit numb. Kava is supposed to just relax you and that’s
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Preparing Kava
it but by the way some of the younger members were glugging it back you would have thought it would get you high!

Then the guitar came out and the village men started singing so it was all quite jolly, then it was announced it was one of the staff’s birthday and a cake appeared and everyone sang for her. By now though the Aussie manager bloke is well drunk and getting increasingly obnoxious and taking the mick out of all the young girls – he obviously thought he must appear as some sort of laid back island god to them but in reality he was just a prat! This plus the fact that my back was feeling very dodgy and the fact that the bonfire on the beach had been cancelled due to high winds we decided to call it a night.

So after a final visit to the loo by torchlight we headed for the hut and just crawled under the mosquito net and got into bed in the pitch black, I was taking no chances by putting a light on!!

6th May ’12 On to Nacula Island

We were up bright and early having survived the night – there is a lot to be said for not being able to see in the dark!, but my back was in agony and walking wasn’t easy. However by 11 o’clock we were on a small boat heading out to join the Yasawa Flyer once again.

It took about 1 ½ hours on the Flyer travelling further north amongst the islands until we reached the pickup boat to transfer us to Nacula Island and Safe Landing where we would be staying for 2 nights. Once again as we neared the shore we were met by the staff playing the guitar, singing and dancing. As it was low tide we had to jump out of the boat and wade through the seaweed to get to the shore.

The resort is spread amongst a small headland with beaches on both sides, the accommodation looked out over the beach we arrived at and the dining/bar/shop/activities hut looked out over the other – it was a wide sweep of a rocky bay with a small tea house half way round and another resort at the other end, but very picturesque in a rugged way.

We stayed in
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Safe Landing
a nice bure with proper mossie screens on the many windows and a lovely wide verandah to sit on but only one chair to sit in. Inside we had a big ceiling fan and a separate bathroom. There were flowers decorating the bed, the sink and the loo – a nice touch.

Only 6 of us guests were staying here, 2 young welsh girls – Gemma and Becka. who had just finished uni and 2 Yanks – Jeremy a lovely big guy on his first trip out of the states and Max who was full of himself, both of whom I would guess were late 30s early 40s. Also at the resort were the owners Australian dad and nephew who were on holiday and a right couple of characters.

As it was…….yes you guessed it…..low tide again we just lazed around and tried to keep cool.

At meal times a huge conch shell was blown to summon you and the dinner that night was an Indian style vegetable curry, with a great soup and homemade freshly baked rolls. It was actually really nice being so few of us and that night we all ate together. Once we
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Safe Landing Bay
had eaten we met Philip the activities organiser cum manager cum person who did everything. He was a really lovely young camp Fijian lad who wore a sarong and had a flower behind his ear.

Philip decided as there was only 6 of us our activities for the evening would be learning the Bula (welcome) dance which I opted out of due to my inability to straighten up and Howard because he is like that – I had to restrain him from heading off to the room. So we were the audience and clapped the others efforts.

This was followed by a game of musical onions (I kid you not!) – think musical chairs, Philip insisted I could do this as I could just walk round the table, the prize was a free drink and won by one of the welsh girls.

We then finished off with a quiz, 3 teams and a bucket full of shells, one of which was awarded for each correct answer. Philip conducted the quiz very seriously and if a wrong answer was given he would say ‘that is incorrect’ in a very proper voice. The best question was – what is
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Safe Landing Bay
the name of the tower where Big Ben is housed? No one got it despite hundreds of guesses, the clue was - they talk to each other and the answer was – The Clock Tower!! Amazingly we won the quiz and got a free drink. It ended up being a lovely evening, made a bit special by there being so few of us.

The bar area shut at 10pm, which was also when the generator was switched off and we were told this was because drunken people from the resort had made noise and trouble in the village and so the Chief had lodged a complaint with the police and this was the result.

So we headed back to our rooms to get ready for bed before the lights literally went out! It was a hot sticky night.

7th May ’12 Nacula

We were up and ready in time for the 8 am breakfast conch, mainly due to the hot, sticky night we had spent and the hot sticky morning as the generator still hadn’t been switched back on! Still it was pancakes for breakfast, after which Howard went back to bed and I joined the
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Farewell song
welsh girls for the weaving activity!!

The lovely Philip taught us how to weave bracelets from rushes and it was actually really good fun. We found out he had worked at several of the island resorts, including several 5 * ones but that he preferred it here as the staff were all nice and at our prompting he agreed the guests weren’t snobby, it is also close to where he lives. I have by now also noticed that several of the male staff appear to be rather effeminate and I wonder if this is an area where being gay is accepted.

It rained hard most of the day and we even had thunder so the day was spent reading. Lunch today was pasta and yesterday’s vegetable sauce which meant when there was a break in the rain a quick dash to the tea house down the bay was essential! The coconut and banana cake was a god send and we even managed a short hike up the hill to the lookout.

Today’s boat saw the departure of the welsh girls who were headed to Barefoot (so had questioned us closely about it) as they are in their
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Hindu Temple
20s I am sure they will love it and the arrival of 4 new people – 2 Swiss, 1 German and 1 French. This made for a completely different atmosphere.

That afternoon I was the only person for the coconut demonstration so Philip showed me how to open a coconut, gave me a drink of its milk and then using a big knife showed me the best way to get the coconut flesh out which he then presented to me in half a shell. Mmmmm delicious and kept me going until dinner!

The generator packed in so dinner tonight was by the light of kerosene lamps balanced on old food cans and all the assorted local bugs decided to join us. Tonight’s meal was sausage goulash and mash, all in the same sauce as before and never have sausages tasted so good – as it was dark we couldn’t see the additional meat that may have landed in our plates so we ate it all up regardless! Max had smuggled in his bottle of rum and gave us all a tot, but as he was drunk he was rather obnoxious to Philip, asking him stupid questions and the
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Mama's Tropic of Capricorn
German lad was just as bad, so no games that night. Philip was telling us about the ‘Cannibal System’ that used to exist in Fiji and apparently strangers were all fair game to be eaten but between the hours of 6pm to 6am there was a curfew and everyone had to stay indoors, if you weren’t you were then fair game also even if you were a neighbour!! I asked him about marriages and generally you have to be 21 to marry but traditionally girls are kidnapped and forced into marriage by the men so it is quite common for a schoolgirl to be married, the government have passed a resolution to abolish this practice so things are slowly changing.

Finally the generator was fixed, turns out all the wiring in the resort had been done backwards but they got it going again. So we headed off to bed at 9.30 and by 10 the generator was switched off again!

8th May ’12 Back to Nadi

We were woken up early today by lots of chatting and looked out to see a boatload of villagers all setting off from the beach right outside our hut. Breakfast was at 8 and we had to check out by 9.30am so we just got up and packed. Once again it was a cloudy drizzly day so we hung out in the dining area, there were no activities, Max, Jeremy and the German were all out doing a snorkel safari and the others just stayed in bed. Jeremy was so excited about his snorkel safari and kept singing the name – if I ever hear that term again I will always think of him! So we just sorted out our photos and read.

By 12.30 (our departure time) we were informed that there were problems with the Yasawa Flyer and so we wouldn’t be leaving until 3.30 aaaarrrgggghhhh. We had no option but to pay extra so we could have lunch and just waited around.

The staff performed a farewell song for us which was lovely but there was no sign of Philip, I asked one of the others where he was and was told he would be in later, however he soon appeared and came up to me. He said he was in the village and someone told him I had been asking about him. I explained I just wanted to say thanks and goodbye, we had a photo and then he gave me his email address and name on facebook, bless him.

Finally we set off for the boat, a different company had been called in to pick everyone up and all the resorts this far up north had to make their way down to a different rendezvous point to try and make up some time.

We sat inside as it was raining, then the sea got really rough and the sick bags were passed out, I was given 2!! I must have looked as green as I felt, fortunately thought I didn’t actually have to use them but it was a close call! Hooray for dry land!!

We finally got back to Mama’s Tropic of Capricorn at about 8.30pm and they were all glad to see us, they had been worried when we didn’t arrive on time but eventually rang Awesome Adventures and found out about the boat problems. We had a meal at Mama’s and then just went to bed.

9th May ’12 Nadi

I was looking forward to our visit to the’ big’ town of Nadi, we sussed out the bus and walked to the end of the road where it would stop. Several taxi drivers shouted out that we had missed it and not knowing whether this was a con or not we just hung about waiting but no bus arrived. Luckily Jerry from our hotel pulled up and offered us a lift down to the bus stop on the main road so we jumped in, he told us how much to pay and immediately a bus turned up. We spotted the start of the ‘high street’ so got off and headed for it with no real idea of how to get back.

Nadi is a bustling small town with one main street and a few smaller ones leading off it, there were lots of supermarkets, several flashy department stores, a few Top Shop type shops and smaller tourist/craft shops in between. It is also the most Indian town outside of India that I have ever come across! There were gold Indian jewellery shops and sari shops everywhere, 99% of the staff in all the shops were also Indian and the supermarkets sold Indian food and the cafes and restaurants were all selling Indian food. Several times Fijians came up to us and said please go to the craft market as it is where the Fijians make and sell their goods not like in these Indian shops. It is no wonder there is so much racial tension in this country. So after going to have a look at the massive Hindu temple at the end of the road we found the craft market – a very small place and even there, there were Indian people selling goods amongst the Fijian.

After we had finished in town we attempted to catch a bus back, we had come across a tourist information kiosk and they told us we needed the purple and white bus that came once an hour. What they didn’t tell us was that once an hour literally meant one bus at any time during each hour! After 30 minutes of watching buses of every other colour stop and pick up passengers I had a word with one of the drivers who told me our bus wouldn’t come for another 1 ½ hours. Just as we were figuring out our maximum price for a taxi a taxi driver (Indian) turned up and asked if we wanted a ride, as he quoted less than our max we jumped in.

The other striking feature was the number of closed shops and shops selling flood damaged stock and our very chatty taxi driver told us that there had been massive floods in January and then again in March and many of the businesses had yet to reopen. As we crossed over the river we saw a film crew and it turns out Bollywood are in town making a movie!

Back at Mama’s the tide was out so we had a swim in the pool instead. That night there were frogs everywhere and then it rained.

10th May ’12 Last day in Fiji and onto Hawaii

As our flight wasn’t until 10pm we were allowed to keep our room until 1pm which was great. So we just lazed about. Howard rescued 3 frogs from the hotel pool using my sandal as they couldn’t get out and were looking knackered, once they were out we then had a swim.

We packed up and put our bags in the store then Howard went on the very expensive internet to book accommodation for Hawaii while I wrote up the blog. When he finished he told me he had seen a notice on the desk asking for travellers who wanted to take part in the filming for the Bollywood movie! I was gutted as they weren’t needed for another 5 days, ah well another chance for fame slips through my fingers, ha ha. I then splurged out on an hours’ internet and managed to finally post most of the Australia blogs. When I finished I found Howard being talked at by an older New Zealand guy who had to qualify for the most boring man in the world award! It was such a shame as what he was saying would have been really interesting if anyone else had been doing the talking.

He was telling us about his and his wife’s travels. They had spent the last year in very diverse parts of the world (e.g. Greece and Nigeria) and had done it for next to nowt by doing voluntary work - church stuff, building work, IT and house and dog sitting, he clearly thought we should be doing the same thing and kept labouring the point that this way they got to have a ‘real’ cultural experience and by implication we weren’t! hmmmm a hut in Nigeria just as fighting is breaking out….. no thanks!

We ended up having Sunday dinner with him and his wife (we were the only people having it so not much option really) and his wife then told us all about the virtues of living in a village in Greece and doing an old lady’s gardening while she cooked meals for them. They kept saying we don’t like hanging around in hotels its not real, it made no difference when I said we don’t hang around in hotels we are out walking and seeing things all the time, so I gave up and didn’t mention some of the ‘hotels’ we have stayed in or how you couldn’t get a more local experience than those we have had!!

Anyway we said goodbye to Mama and promised if we return to Fiji we would be staying with her again (which we genuinely meant), by then she said her 10 ocean rooms would be back in operation – they closed them due to flood damage which they had fixed when they then had a fire and were back to square one. So if anyone wants a lovely, cheap place to stay in Nadi please consider Mama’s – it was great!

Then we were at the airport and everything was on time and we boarded our night flight to Hawaii.

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