Fiji 27th January - 13th February

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Oceania » Fiji
February 12th 2011
Published: February 12th 2011
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We flew into Fiji on ‘the world’s friendliest airline’ – Air Pacific. We were pretty impressed with the service, 2 complimentary drinks in the first half hour, decent sandwiches for lunch and plenty of leg room. It was almost a shame the 3 hour 50 minute flight wasn’t longer! We landed at Nadi airport and were disappointed to find it throwing it down with rain. We were soon smiling once more when we entered passport control and were greeted by a 4 man band singing us a welcome to Fiji song! We caught a shuttle bus to a hostel called ‘Smugglers Cove’ which we planned to be a stopover before heading out to the much prettier islands the following morning. Unfortunately we had arrive too late to book our boat which resulted in us having to spend 2 nights in Nadi New Town. There is very little to do here and the beach really isn’t great. We spent the day making use of the pool and free kayaks before watching Murray play in the semi-final of the Open. We also got upgraded and having spent our first night in the 34 bed dorm, we were pleased to be moved to a 4 bed air conditioned temporary dorm which we had to ourselves.

We were picked up at 7.15am (‘Australian time’ not ‘Fiji time’ which basically means on time rather than late!) and taken to Denarau Port where we collected our ‘Bula combo passes’. This entitled us to 7 days of island hopping on the Yasawa flyer catamaran, 6 nights dorm accommodation and 3 meals a day – this worked out to be the cheapest way for us to see the islands, although it wasn’t all that cheap – about £50 a day i.e. more than our travelling funds can really afford (hence why we opted for a 7 day pass rather than the 14 we had hoped to do).

At 8.30 the catamaran left the main island – Viti Levu and begun winding its way north stopping at each island for people to get on and off. We passed Bounty Island – where celebrity love island (tv programme) was filmed! We travelled on choppy seas for about 2 and a half hours before we arrived at Wayalailai, our first island. A small boat collected a group of us and our luggage and unfortunately the boat was a little too small for us all! We stopped after a minute and the men were instructed to get out and wait on some rocks whilst the ladies were taken onto the island. Wayalailai is beautiful, and once we had checked into our 16 bed dorm (built a former schoolhouse) we soon found ourselves a hammock each where we sat and read our books listening to the waves lapping at the golden beach – we had arrived in paradise! We were soon interrupted by the beating of drums that signified lunch was ready. We were impressed by the food and met a couple at lunch called Lucy and Phil, who became our travelling buddies for the next week.

The weather was incredibly windy and pretty cloudy and just like every other country we have visited so far, it threw it down! We seem to be following the wet season around the world! We had a lazy afternoon and at 4pm a group of us set off on a guided tour up a volcanic plug called Vatuvula - the peak of the island. Sam our guide was a huge rugby playing Fijian who walked in bare foot at twice the speed of anyone else! He carried a masschetti which he mainly used to chop up and eat ‘mango mango’ that were scattering the path. It was pretty steep in places and the ground was slippery because of the rain. After about an hour of climbing up, some of which was on our hands and knees, we reached the summit and were rewarded with amazing views of the surrounding islands. We didn’t marvel for long as the wind was even stronger up here and we were literally balancing on the edge of the rocks. We got half way down when a lady from our group realised she’d lost her camera. Sam then instructed Dan and Phil to come with him back to the top to search for the camera whilst Laura and Lucy lead the group back down the hill. Luckily the camera was found, but typically it was right at the top – Dan and Phil felt like hero’s and we didn’t hear the end of it (it was a “huge” mountain they conquered twice in fairness to them!)

The following day was Sunday and we were all invited to attend church. Our Lonely Planet had recommended doing this so we set off with our knees and shoulders covered to the local church in the village of Wayasewa. The women and men were separated and we had to sit along with the local children for ages until the service begun! The service was all in Fijian so we didn’t understand a word, but we enjoyed listening to the singing, although it was a pretty long service so we were glad to finally leave the stuffy church after 2 sweaty hours!

That afternoon, as the sun finally came out, Dan, Lucy and Phil decided they would swim to the neighbouring island, Kuata (Laura sensibly opted to play camera man!). After 90 minutes, Lucy and Dan returned but Phil had remained on the other island as the current was so strong he wasn’t sure he would make it back! The plan was that Dan would take a kayak over on a rescue mission. When Dan went to enquire about hiring a kayak, we were told the current was too strong and they weren’t letting people take them out today. Dan explained that Phil was stuck over there and they couldn’t believe that he had swum there and back in one piece! Luckily Phil eventually managed to make it back on a local fishing boat.

We snorkelled here and saw about 50 different species of fish! Although the choppy water made it slightly difficult at times. Dan and Phil also found themselves clambering around the rocky edges of the beach on an exploration mission; it seemed like a good idea to climb up the biggest rock and sit upon it trying to open up a coconut whilst the tide came in, in true ‘Fijian style’.

After 2 nights on Wayalailai, we decided to move on. We were taken back to the Yasawa Flyer boat and it sailed north for 2 hours to the island of Matacawalevu to a resort called Long Beach. And what a long beach it was! It really was paradise! Hardly anyone around, perfect clear waters and golden sand, palm trees with hammocks hanging between them, and a welcome party playing the guitar and singing us a song as we arrived! We chilled out on the beach for most of the day, and were taught how to open a coconut and prepare the cream by a local called Ruben. This inspired Dan and Phil, who wanted to collect enough cream to have with some rum in the evening. They spent over 2 hours cutting up coconuts using just a sharp stick and a masschetti, and squeezing the flesh to get the cream, before they found out the island had no rum, in fact it had no spirits what so ever! They were pretty disappointed, but it didn’t go to waste and the coconut cream was served as a sauce with dinner instead.

The next day the 4 of us went on a snorkelling trip to Blue Lagoon (where the film was set). The snorkelling here was much better as the sea was totally calm and the water was really shallow meaning the coral and therefore fish were really close to us. In places we had to really breathe in for fear that our stomachs would touch the coral! This got us excited about diving again, which we hoped to do once back on the main land.

After 2 very relaxing days at Long Beach, it was time to say good bye and move on once more. We only had a short trip on the Yasawa Flyer to reach the island of Nacula. We stayed at Safe Landing resort which was run by a really friendly Australian called Dave. We ended up sleeping in an all boys dorm which was pretty crowded – Dave saw this and offered us his room – saying him and his mum would sleep in the dorm! Obviously we didn’t accept. We’ve gotten pretty used to sharing a room with lots of people now anyway.

3pm was a good time at this resort; we’d walk down the beach to a little tea hut where a local Fijian lady made amazing cake and served huge portions with a nice cup of tea! Everyone literally planned their days around this! Safe Landing turned out to be a much livelier resort than the others we had stayed at. Dinner started with another Fijian welcome song and traditional dance. After dinner, it was races night! This involved everyone getting 5 shells to bet with on several races, ranging from horse racing, crab racing and team games, the funniest of which was where each team member had to hold a long football sock with a coconut in it between their legs and use it to hit an empty beer can up and down the room! It was pretty silly but good fun as most people got involved and there were a good crowd of people.

Another highlight of staying on Nacula was visiting a local village. We got to meet the chief and ask him questions about their culture, and then we went to the kindergarten where the kids sung to us, they were really sweet. Then we got to shop at the shell handicraft market before wandering around and heading back. It was a really interesting experience and nice to get away from just seeing the tourist resort side of Fiji. In some ways it reminded us of the villages we’d seen in northern Laos.

During our last night on the Yasawa’s, we got to try the local drink which holds a prominence in Fijian culture – Kava. It looks like muddy water and that is exactly what it tastes like! It’s made from Piper methysticum (a type of pepper plant) and is mildly narcotic and leaves your whole mouth numb! Kava ceremonies are really important to Fijian’s to welcome and bond visitors and its rude to say no to drinking it; luckily for us there was a big group at our ceremony so we only had to stomach a few cups of ‘swamp’ before it was over!

After 2 nights at Safe Landing, it was time to catch the catamaran back to the main land. We’d finished at the most northerly island so had a 4 and a half hour journey back – luckily the sea was really calm so we had a smooth sailing back to Denarau. We were then shuttled in coaches back to the hostels in Nadi Town. Ideally we wouldn’t have wasted another night here, but we didn’t arrive back onto the main land until 5.30pm and we were told it ‘wouldn’t be safe’ to attempted to go anywhere else in the dark! We weren’t sure what to make of that but thought we’d take the advice. We checked into Nadi Bay Resort Hotel this time as Phil and Lucy were already booked in to stay here. The dorm was pretty comfy with air conditioning and single beds, so no waking up when the person on the top bunk (normally Dan) turns over and makes the whole bunk wobble!

After one night here, we said our goodbyes to Lucy and Phil – hopefully we will see them again in New Zealand, and we caught 2 public buses along the Kings Road to get to a small town called Rakiraki. These buses have to be some of the worst we have travelled on (which is saying something at this point in our travels!) They were so crowded and uncomfortable! The bus kept stopping and we’d pick up another group of people and we’re not sure where they all went but somehow we all fitted in! After about 3 hours we arrived and had to catch a taxi for the last leg of the journey, down a bumpy track to Volivoli Beach Resort (as highly recommended by Amy). We were impressed when we arrived – huge swimming pool, clean modern dorms, nice seating area, and hardly anyone else around! They were running an offer – pay for 5 nights and stay for 7. Now it’s not like us to stay still for so long, but having spent way over our budget the previous week, we decided to take the deal and try to live as cheaply as possible for the rest of our time in Fiji. So we spent the week enjoying the luxury of a swimming pool and not really doing a lot else other than reading, making videos, catching up with the blog etc. The start of the week saw sunny weather each day but it deteriorated to lots of solid rain by the end of the week.

Luckily Volivoli has self-catering facilities (well a ‘kitchen’ with just 4 gas rings and a few saucepans) which helped keep costs down. We had to take a taxi back into town one day to fill up on supplies. We visited the fruit and veg market, but decided it all looked pretty past its best so we just brought bananas and a pineapple and settle on frozen veg for the week. Our temporarily vegetarian diet mainly consisted of scrambled eggs and beans on toast for lunch/breakfast, and either super noodles or pasta with frozen veg for dinner! Yummy! We even reached a new low, when the tin we brought thinking it was a tomato pasta sauce turned out to be a tomato ketchup refill – not a meal we’d recommend! The resort was really empty, one night there was only 4 people staying in the dorms that can hold 64, and only 4 people in the rest of the resort! Some nights were slightly busier when the ‘Fiji Experience’ bus pulled in for the night, but they normally only stayed one night and then moved on again.
We booked to dive here at the end of the week. Unfortunately, as bad timing would have it, Dan started to feel unwell with a throat and ear problem. Diving can cause a lot of damage to your ear drums because of the pressure under water, so following the advice of the dive instructors, we cancelled our dives. This was a real shame as we’d heard nothing but good things about the diving in Fiji, but we were consoled somewhat when we heard that the heavy rain meant visibility was down to 7 meters (we’d had 20m in Thailand) and when we read we can dive together when we get to Chile.

After 7 nights at Volivoli we were well and truly relaxed, but also craving a bit of activity and a change of scene– good job we were soon to fly to New Zealand where trekking and extreme sports are on the menu. Since leaving the UK we hadn’t slept more than 4 consecutive nights in the same bed, so doing 7 made us have real itchy feet! We caught a taxi and 2 public buses back to Nadi and checked into our 3rd hostel in the town, called Bamboo, as we’d heard this was half the price of the others. One night was all we needed before and early start to catch out 8am plane down to Christchurch.

So after 16 days in paradise its time to say goodbye. We’re glad we avoided the cyclones that are prone in this area at this time of year. Fiji really is beautiful and is home to some of the best beaches we have seen yet, but if you visit don’t waste time in Nadi. Now it’s off to New Zealand where we might need to get rid of some of our shorts and t-shirts and buy some warmer gear! Lets see if the rain follows us to NZ ......

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