Stuck on the island!

Trip Start Dec 09, 2009
Trip End Dec 10, 2010

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Where I stayed
Downtown Hotel & Backpackers

Flag of Fiji  , Viti Levu,
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

As we tried the door to the room it was locked so I knocked a few times but figured they must have given us the wrong key. Just as I was about to head back downstairs I heard the door open behind me, who should be stood there holding the door open but our Canadian friends from the day we arrived.

They had got the day earlier boat off the island and had spent the previous night at the hostel.

They were packed and ready to leave as their flight was 6:45pm that evening.

We had a brief chat about our last night on the island and the fact we now had a surprising three extra days to explore the mainland.  Just before they left Fiji for good they left us one parting gift, a Fiji backpackers guide to help us out over the next few days.  Then they left for Melbourne.

The next morning we discussed a tour of the highlights of the west coast of Viti Levu, or "mainland Fiji".

We had discussed prices with the Canadians so had a rough idea of prices for a taxi for the full day.

Having discussed it in great length with the tour guide we managed to barter him down to a reasonable price.  He offered us the full day's tour of the island along with one free night bed and breakfast and one night half price.  So in total we paid $140FJD for both tour and accommodation which works out roughly as 23.00 per person.

 The kindly barmaid had introduced herself on the way out so we agreed to go and have a few drinks in the hostel bar that evening; after all we thought we deserved them!

That Night we waded our way through three party combo’s of beer before heading off to bed.

The next day we set our alarm for 8:30 to give enough time for breakfast and to meet our tour guide in reception at 9:00 – of course given Fiji time this meant we didn’t leave until around 10:15.

Perfect timing.

We set off north from Nadi towards the inner island – the further inland you go the hillier the terrain becomes and the more dense the rainforest becomes.

After about half an hour we arrived at our first stop – The Garden of the Sleeping Giants. 

This tropical garden once belong to an affluent gentleman named Raymond Burr who had a sight fetish for Orchids – the garden was more of a walking tour up the Sleeping Giant mountain into the rainforest and tropic climates of the inner island.  It began with a short walk through a tunnel surrounded by said Orchids and past a lily pond full of frogs all perched on the pads.  We walked around for almost an hour through the forest before descending back into the garden and back to reception for a glass of tropical fruit juice to cool down.

Our driver was at waiting and we were soon heading to our next destination, the mud pools and hot springs of inner Fiji – Now these mud pools had to be seen to be believed.

We pulled up to what looked like open farm land with a small shack at one side with children playing outside and washing baking on the line.  A young boy waved the van around along a very dubious “road” and into an even more dodgy car park.

We got out and the boy explained about the mud pools and how long they had been there then we were shown the changing room to get into our skimpy bikinis.

The changing room was three pieces of corrugated iron pushed into the soil, with no roof, door or floor.  There we were two young girls flapping around with stringy bikinis’ trying desperately to hold the towel in a position so as not bare all to the driver and young boy.  I must admit I think I gave a passing goat a good eyeful. 

Once we had finally properly dressed ourselves and wrapped our sarongs around us like a dress we stepped out of the changing rooms towards the pools.

An older bloke then came to meet us and show us what was next.  At this point you can forget your luxury spa treatment, mud pools and think more monsters of the black lagoon!!

The mud pool was a whole dug in the ground with a tree for some slight shade and a ladder made of tree to clamber into the warm water.   The floor of the pool was a thick clay like substance which you immediately sank knee deep into, a very strange feeling.

We then had to smear the clay from the bottom of this pond all over ourselves, head to toe in thick grey clay!  Once this process was complete we had to clamber back out and stand in the middle of a field for a further fifteen minutes while the mud baked onto our skin.  If ever I have thought something was a wind up and a cameraman was about to come dashing out of the undergrowth this was it.

After the fifteen minutes we were permitted to enter another pond, this time without the comfort of a tree ladder.  We dived into the pool and began scrubbing off the thick claggy clay until we white again.

When it was all done we were hauled back out of the pond to scurry back to the corrugated iron shelter to quickly whip of our mud clad bikini’s and slip back into our proper clothes ready for the rest of our tour.  Apparently looking ten years younger!

The bus took a while to bounce back down the mud and gravel roads of the inner island to the main road which would take us back through Nadi and out towards the Southern coast line.

We visited the Coral Coast, Natadola beach (the best beach of the mainland), Sigatoka Sand Dunes and Sigatoka market and our very own little village.

We ate dinner on the coral coast and I had delicious fish and chips despite the fact I had ordered chicken and chips, but no one’s complaining when the fish are about five weeks fresher than the chickens!

The villagers of the Lataui village took the time to show us around their place, introduce the chief and explain their traditional pottery with which they make the majority of their cash, or so they say!!

Once we’d had a tour of the village we were sat in the town hall which was were the ladies make and display their pottery as well as a meeting place and general hub of the village.

We were adorned with leafy leis and fanned with palm fans for the duration of our stay.  The ladies sung and danced with us taking great pleasure in making us do the conga around the building.  We were shown how they make their clay creations and then (of course) offered the chance to purchase some.

Despite the fact I’m convinced this was set up only for tourists, there is no denying the origin of their pottery was truthful and for $5.00 I couldn’t turn it down.  They were so very patient with our lack of understanding and would take the time to explain the artwork.  I plumped for a very pleased looking frog which my lady friends explained in great detail.

Our last stop was the one mile stretch of Natadola beach – with its horse riding through the wake and one deserted five star resort.

By this time though we had been travelling all day and were knackered so chose just to go for a splodge and a look at the pretty coral which had washed up on the shore.

On the way home as we headed back through the inner island again we experienced Fiji rain for the first and only time.  Never have the heavens opened quite like that, the light was drained from the sky and great torrents of water were gushing from every high point.  Thankfully we didn’t leave the safety of our van and just enjoyed the sound of the huge droplets on the tin roof of the van.

We were back in the hostel less than an hour later and went back to the bar for some more of those party combo’s.

The next day was our last full day in Fiji and our last opportunity for a look around and to grab those souvenirs.  We walked through fruit markets, handicraft stalls and boutique shops of the high street and managed to hitch a ride to the outer lying and very posh Denarau Port which is home to the Radisson, Westin and Hiltons of Fiji Island.  It has its own eighteen hole golf course, numerous tennis courts and a marina.

As this was still the off season there were few yachts moored in the harbour but there were still some monsters.

We walked around shops and restaurants that line the marina, looked in Hard Rock Cafe Fiji and bought a souvenir t-shirt from one of the tourist shops.

Getting back to Nadi was a little more difficult than getting out and we had to flag a taxi to drop us back home.

We took one more look around and then headed back to pack and get a shower.

We ate our last Fijian dinner at a local curry house – Fiji mainland is highly populated with Indians so the culture and food live strong here.

We both ordered the house special style Julie Burns got chicken while I opted for Goat!

It arrived on a metal prison style tray with separate sections for each of the sides.  We had rice with a popadom and japhatti, curried potatoes and a sliced salad with mango chutney.  With a tropical fruit smoothy to wash it all down.  It was very tasty and a great was to end the trip.

Our flight left at 9:00am the next morning so we were up and out by 5:00am to catch the bus to the airport.  We did indeed get there with three hours to spare, not taking any chances this time!

We bumped into a couple we had spent 4 days on the island with and sat and drank coffee with them before their flight left for Brisbane.

Our flight left dead on time and we left Fiji behind.

Australia here we come!
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