Oh, The Places You Will Go….

First day in Fiji 

Sunday 26 January

Setting of from Auckland on the main stretch of the journey was okay after the mad panic between terminals, due to the wrong boarding time being printed on my ticket, after running and dodging the slow plodders in the 28c heat was already flustered. That was only the start of frustrating process before I got safe to the hostel I was staying in. 

Although I had seen the Hobbit safety demonstration 8 times, this one was actually slightly different due to the amazing first and business class travel and the air couches.  Walking through and thinking this is what you could have had.  It was half empty and most of it was actually filled with Elderly people from Fiji. We had already been warned that it was very cloudy and humid in Fiji, so unfortunately I missed out on seeing the fantastic scenery from above.

The moment I got of the plain the change in humidity hit me.  Inside I could he hear yucaliees being played, however I was one of the many people who had suddenly started to take pictures of planes. Well the art work was good and the whole plane was decorated with hobbit characters. Inside the airport it was very hot and sticky, the two men were busy playing away whilst people stood next to them for a photo, mean while so 20 something elderly ladies were all lined up in one queue.  Having taken my time to get off the plane I just followed the English speaking people. After ¼ hour I realised in was in the Fijian residents queue and moved over. I was not the only one shortly there was a queue behind me of all those who had suddenly realised.

Finally I got to the front of the queue and then clear immigration, having the remainders of a bad cough and cold I hoped I did not cough in front of them.  One of the questions on your landing card

  • Have you had any of the following in past 10 days, Headache, Sickness, Cough or cold and diarrhea.
  • Have you been near farm animals i.e. sheep, horses cows
  • Have you been trekking or visited a forest.

There were loads others, but I lied and thankfully they did not inspect how clean my shoes were.  To busy with those who had suitcases full of food.  After one painful process I made it down stairs, to find the Feejee experience help desk to get my itinerary and vouchers.  The lady on the door was less than welcoming or friendly.  I then managed to get to the desk and got the dimmest person ever to check me in. After showing my confirmations and passport 3 times he could not find me on the system or in paper work, was already  sweating buckets by now and in need of water.  He then phoned head office to see what the problem was as they were claiming I had not paid.  Finally a co worker finished with other customers and walked over and picked up my envelope in seconds and was on my way.

The drive through Nadi was actually quite surprising to me as I had not imagined it to be more developed than the Domincan Republic, the towns looked really dusty and shop windows dark and many with wire over them, the streets were not over crowded and it was great to see that there were few big franchises such  as Mcdonalds and Chicken Express. 

lush green, fiji scenery
First views after the airport

Over all the scenery was lush green everywhere, obviously due to being located in the tropics.  Houses were all built on stilts and most were bright colours.  In floods there houses were safe from water and also acted as shade from the sun.  The roads were not too bad considering there was one main high way which went round the island.  Drivers were not too bad, though when ever the road was clear we did drive down the middle of the road, some times to avoid cows which had escaped and wild dogs.  The number of wild dogs in Fiji was very high. 

Soon I got dropped of at one of the hostels in Nadi, I could not remember if I got first of second choice, but was wary when I was only one getting off.  I arrived to a very quite hostel, only 4 residents around pool and the bar.  There were actually more members of staff than residents. After I had been checked in and found out I was the only one in my dorm, decided to hit the beach to cool off or try to refresh, however the sea was actually warmer than most indoor swimming pools. 

After a shower I opted for some tea and decided on the veggie pizza.  I know I am weird for having a cheese-less pizza but it was most random pizza ever, veg wise.  Mash potato, carrots, red cabbage, green cabbage, onions and fennel.  Was weird and could of done with more chilli and garlic but that’s just me.  My first sunset in Fiji was beautiful as the sun set over the sea even though it had been a cloudy day. 

Capricorn hotel fiji, beach sunset
Sunset at the hotel

Since I had no room mates and there was nobody about under the age of 50+ decided early night before starting 4 day Feejee experience. It was actually hard to relax after being settle in one place for 7 weeks and not actually working and relaxing.

Monday – Feeji Experience 

Feejee Experience, my journey, Fiji, backpacking, adventure
The Feeejee bus

Woke up early to bright blue skies and beautiful beach and was able to sit outside and have pancakes for breakfast.  Shortly after Amy our guide for the four days, came bouncing up to reception, and introduced herself.  When I saw the big bus was not sure what to expect, however we were soon told that there were just going to be four of us on the trip. The last 2 guests Dan and Toni were staying in the posh area of the Island we were on Viti Levu and was a bit of a drive but nice to see more of the island.  Some of the bridges over to the man made island looked a bit dodgy but the driver seemed confident. 

With all four guests on board we introduced ourselves to our little family.  Amy our guide was keen to share lots of things about the villages and the town and pointed out the many houses that had been damaged by floods yet the families still lived there and were all happy dispite loosing there belongings.  Amy also pointed out on the road side how people sold things in heaps and bundles and not by weight.  The road sides had lots of people selling fresh fruit.

 Having been to other third world towns before I was extremely pleased that everyone thought it was a good idea to stick together. We had enough time to get our shopping done in Nadi and much to the lads dislike we found a sarong they were happy to wear.  The shop assistants were not to pushy, once you walked past them they left you alone.  The supermarket was much different to what I expected, it actually seemed to have more of the random stuff that Lidle has in than food.  Thankfully I was not alone in the search for food for lunch, nobody managed to find anything suitable so it was lunch at a resort.

 

Natadola beach, Fiji
Beautiful Natadola beach

After a short drive to the beautiful Natadola beach we headed for the sand.  The beach and sand was beautiful, however the shades of blue nearest our beach were darker and soon found it very rocky and was covered in sharp coral and we ended up moving round the beach.  The sand was to hot to walk on there was not much shade. 

 

After trying 2 more spots we finally found a passable area of sea to stand in. Having been sensible and put sun screen on earlier I was first in the sea.  Having been to Oz twice and not seen one snake, saw 3 waters snakes in 5mins.  That turned out to be least of our problems.  A security guard approached Toni and mentioned there were Jelly fish and guests being stung the others decided to leave the sea much to my disappointment.  We headed back to the bar and got a bar snack and ice water.  We did not venture back in sea and ended up sat in the shade due to the heat.

sandboarding, rain, fiji
Sandboarding

Next we headed of to some sand dunes for sand boarding.  Within 5 mins of reaching the dunes the heavens opened and the wind picked up, we then found out that sadly we were not going to appear on next years brochure due to bad weather.  Amy still as enthusiastic as ever got us out and showed us where to climb.  The rain was lashing down and the wind made it hard to stand.  After finally getting to the top, the wind nearly blew three of us off the top. When it was safe we moved to the edge of the dune.  Sadly it was black sand but was still a good height.  By now I was wetter than wearing clothes in the bath and just wanted to go down.  Having seen how steep and fast Amy had gone, I just hoped I could keep in control. Despite digging my toes in it was still hard for me top stop, however I made it down safely. We only had one turn each and then headed to the hotel for the night.   The children were not put off by the rain and loved playing in the mud pools and the river. In the UK, USA, and Oz etc everyone would be in on computers and moaning, but even the locals were chilled walking about.

 

Sadly it continued to rain and the hotel was lots of outdoor chalets without signs.  After trekking round we finally got to our dorm.  Inside the tall wooden hut were 10 beds each with mosquito nets, which made it very cosy to sleep and I felt like a baby in a Moses basket. The showers and toilets were out side and not the best, but they served there purpose.  We wandered round for Carva ceremony at 6ish, of course it 6.30pm by the time it started.  We all entered to lean-to and took of our jandles, thongs or shoes.  The man in charged changed our seating positions as the females had to sit in corners with legs at an angle.  He then told us all about the cava plant and how in villages it is illegal to drink alcohol and if it is found the police will shame them.  Cava they said was a relaxing drink that all villagers drank.  It was made from the root of Cava plant. The older the root the better the flavour. The power was placed in a linen square and tied up.  Water was then added, the ball of powered was then lifted in and out of a giant pestle and motor till it reached the right colour. 

cava, cava ceremony
Mixing the cava, fresh for us

 

Even though it had been raining we still had another beautiful sunset.  The menu for dinner was less than exciting 6 items on the menu, although reasonably price I could not get over how a bowl of green salad could cost more than the other meat and fish dishes.  On principle I went for the pasta, which was fettuccine, in cream with a little garlic, not very appetizing or tasty, but it was food. The others were none too impressed either and desserts were another let down so we were all hungry. 

 

Given it was the quiet season there were not a lot of guests.  The other lad that was on his own attempted an early night, however ended up getting lost and taking the wrong turn and was back to where he started.  The night’s entertainment was international sand crab racing.  

mosquito net for a bed
my grown-up moses bed
crab racing, Fiji
Taking bets for the Fiji Crab race

Ten crabs from different countries with different names, and you had to bid for them, well you chose to!  The process was long and drawn out (people spend money at the bar) but soon 10 crabs were allocate.  The man brought down the crabs in a bucket and put them in the centre of the circle. They all had numbers on and the bucket was lifted after a countdown. My crab never woke up but finally 2 crossed the lined, and it was over. After all that I headed to bed, found the room on 3rd attempt after going in 3 wrong rooms.  My next trip outside in the middle of the night to the toilet was not fun, had to use a different door, went for some toilet roll and 3 skinks ran out which made me scream!  I then spend 10 mins trying to find my room and got back into my cosy Moses basket.

Tuesday 

Well after a reasonable nights sleep almost 9 hours I was still quite tired, though I did lose so time due to the toilet incident.  Having seen the evening meal, I did not have high expectations for breakfast.  The Australian couple had been told that it was one of the best resorts, all of us agreed it was not good.  The continental breakfast was worst one ever! The water melon might as well have been polystyrene, the pineapple was dry, the jam looked like jelly and the bread was stale. Yet again four hungry guests and I ended up eating the remains of my coconut biscuits.

    watterfall       waterfallplay

There were 3 water falls and we need to get to the top, we left all none essentials at the bottom and started the climb round narrow ledges and roots of trees. Soon we were at the top and able to jump in a cool off in the water.  We had the option to jump off the water fall 4 meters high as long as we could scramble a cross the rocks and shimmy along the roots of trees making sure we held the specific tree roots.  My first jump killed my ears and nose, but not content tried again.  Having made sure it was deep enough managed to dive off. We then walked down through the waterfalls and swam in the pools for a little longer. 

 

fiji-walk

Then we started to walk down to the mangrove which seemed the longest walk ever and everyone was close to loosing shoes as we walked through the knee high mud.  Finally the long boat took us slowly down through the cool mangroves and took in the scenery as we listened to the birds and other animals. 

 

 

After a mad dash morning we arrived at hotel at lunch time and had a much better lunch which actually had flavour.  We managed a quick swim in the sea, sand not as white but much better in the sea and just like clock work it rained again at 3.pm, just like the previous two days.  We were then room bound. The bedroom was a big dorm in called the tree house.  The showers were much better and they were indoors.  After a bit of a long afternoon, it became a case of waiting to meal time, and then the pool competition, which was cleverly organised so everyone would drink as late as possible and not be able to use the  $50 bar tab.  Toni and I decided to support the lads and stayed and chatted. By the end at 11.30 pm when they were about to play the final we left!

 

By this time I was wide a wake and could not sleep, did not help that we could not find a light switch and I could not find my glasses, but what made it worse was the air con.  The temperature was bearable but every time the blades rotated it made a ticking sound like the clock inside the crocodile in peter pan.  Was lucky if got 3 hours sleep so was thankful there was a lot of driving involved in the day ahead.

 Wednesday 

We were all feeling  more tired than ever and were actually quite glad there was a lot of driving involved.  Today was our school visit and our traditional Sevusevu ceremony, to the boys it was the day they had to wear a skirt!  We left the hotel and soon arrived at Suva, the capital of Fiji.  The town did not look as bad as Nadi and the shops did not feel as grey and dusty.  We were told that the shopping centre would have everything that we needed so this time we did not have to venture past the men and women trying to lure us into their shops and off load tat that we did not need and probably would get stopped going through immigration.  I had not bought any for the school as I guessed school stuff would be cheaper for me to buy here. For 30 exercise books and two large boxes of long pencils it cost about £4.50 in Fiji $13. A lot of people are on no more than $2 an hour so to them it is expensive going to school which is compulsory.

After paying 20 cents to go to the toilet which worked out as 6 pence or 11 aus cents or 12 nz cents and for that I was allocated a bundle of toilet roll.  I would have been too embarrassed if I needed to ask for more.  After that I negotiated the supermarket, which was a lot cleaner and better laid out compared to those in Nadi.  Still not great choice of food but got more water and biscuits and headed back to the bus. Just before we met the villagers we stopped to but the sarongs on.  The boys actually did not mind when we got there.

Nasautoka, dancing, performing, Fiji
Nasautoka School children showing of their dancing skills

We were supposed to go to the village for food but being typical Fiji people it was Fiji time, so it was off to the school in Nasautoka.  As we got of the bus the heavens opened.  The children all headed towards the school hall which was just concrete with corrugated metal roof. The poor children on near the outer wall were getting dripped on but they did not mind, they sung 2 welcoming songs very enthusiastically, with big smiles on their faces. The quality of their uniform varied, but they all attempted to wear something green that covered their knees.

 

The children continued to do various dances, and but a lot of effort into it and were keen to be noticed, they all wanted to be at the front both boys and girls. They were all very happy and even got us involved in a dance well running round in a circle with arms and legs going everywhere.  At first all five of us remained seated not wanting to look a fool, which I guess is norm in western society.  After tripping up over Matt’s flip flop and making all the children smile we were allowed to sit down and present the children with the gifts we had bought. 

At the end we then gave the school children a speech and what we had learnt from them.  We then had a tour of the school (four class rooms for 6-13 year olds.  They all had tables and teachers desks but not all had cupboards.  There was a lot of work in English and teaching the children about valuing and respecting each other. Finally we left and headed over to the village hall for the Sevusey ceremony.

Sevusev ceremony
Our important meeting with the village chief.

The Sevusev ceremony starts by you the appoint chief of the group asking for acceptance into the village.  Since they had to be male we nominated Dan, much to Matt’s delight. Dan then had to ask permission to enter the village hall and who was the chief which sounded something like too-ranga nee koro . A half kilo bundle of waka is the appropriate (and required – you should never show up in a village without it!) Thankfully Amy had wrapped up a root in newspaper which looked like the shape of a rounders bat. Dan was special so he had to enter through a separate door but we still needed to each take off our shoes and say some like “do ar oo arh” basically it meant I am at the door, can I come in”. 

 

We all entered the room and were given set positions around the room. Men sat cross legged and women with legs together at one side.  Apart from the mats there was nothing else except the essential cava mixing bowl which looked like a giant pestle.  The man behind the bowl said lots of chants as he made the mixture and then a man in a long grass skirt comes in with a long green branches and hovers it over the bowl.  I was so glad I knew what we were in for with the taste (a peppery dirty water. It took a while to go round and give everyone there bowl of grey water as certain people had it twice. If somebody was receiving it you cup clapped 3 times and said bula before. If you were drinking it, it was one cup clap and the bula or “maca” which means empty. As time was getting on a second person came to give us a cup of cava to speed things up.  This man must of read my mind as I only got a small bowl.  After we had done the rituals we then left the room whilst lunch was prepared, which gave us chance to look and buy village crafts.

fiji-lunch
Traditional Fiji lunch

We then had to wash our hands and re-enter the room.  We all sat on the floor and were told what we were about to eat and that it was traditional Fiji Food and we ate with our hands.  Being veggie my only option was cucumber and some plant relating to spinach made into a baji or roll with egg and fried, it was passable but far from filling.  I also had breadfruit which is bland and tasteless along with boiled Cassava which again needs flavour. 

 

 

Bilibili Raft, Feeejeee experience
Bilibili Rafting, feeling the cold

 

As we left to go to the river for Bilibili rafting we got changed in somebody’s front room, all it had was a mat, a mirror and side table.  There were a few pictures on the wall nothing else.  Still with our sarongs wrapped round us we boarded the rafts, boys on one, girls on the other and took a leisurely ride back down the river. After that it was time to get changed and hop back on the bus to our hotel for the night.  No soon than we did the heavens opened and winds blew.  With a few hours before breakfast we were bound to our rooms and subject to either children dancing or the news.

After a quick run across the gardens, we made it to dinner.  Seemed to take forever and a day to come, but at least it was hot and had taste. None of us were in the mood for drinking with the thought of the cyclone stopping our journey back to Nadi.

 

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