Feeeeeeejeeeee experience

Trip Start Aug 18, 2008
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Flag of Fiji  , Viti Levu,
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bula! Fijian for hello! This is the most common world that you hear in Fiji. We landed in Fiji airport, got our bags and as we were walking through the arrivals area I could hear music. There was a Fijian band playing music, singing welcoming visitors to their country. It was definitely the best airport arrival greeting that we have had since we started travelling. So from our very first steps into the country everyone was all smiles and nice to be around.

We booked a tour around the island with Feejee experience and just had to confirm a few details with them so it was convenient for us that they have an office in the airport. We had booked our first few nights accommodation in a homestay. Basically it's like a bed and breakfast except the family are in the home. I really wanted to see the real Fiji so we couldn't think of a better way to experience it than stay with a family.

Unfortunately for us it didn't work out. We got a taxi to the house and there was no one there. It was starting to get dark and the house was in the middle of nowhere so we couldn't really just sit outside the house with our bags and hope that someone showed up. As much as our taxi driver would have liked us to do it, we didn't. We waited for a while and spoke to neighbours who said there was no one around. So there we were in the dark not long in a new country with no where to stay! After a quick flick through our welcome pack that we got from Feejee Experience we found somewhere to stay. This experience tainted my view on Fiji for a few days and made me wish I was back in Thailand.

We spent our first full day in our hotel just lying by the pool thinking how glad we were to have some sunshine again! As much as I loved New Zealand I needed to get out of the rain because it was a bit like being in Ireland! The next thing that happened has happened to me in every single country that I have been in since we started travelling, I got bitten by mosquitoes by the pool. I did get a few bites in New Zealand, mostly sand fly bites but it had been so long since I got bitten that the area around the bites was really swollen and red. So I had to stock up on more insect repellent.

We began our Feejee Experience on a Monday morning bright and early. After everyone was collected in the big green bus we went to Nadi Town for an all important ATM stop and stop at markets and shops to get some supplies and barter with the locals. It was a bit like some of our Thailand experience with hello, you like, come in, have a look at my shop......good price. That was just while everyone queued for the ATM. Nadi town is not a typical town, the roads are dusty and the shops are not all nice and shiny. They don't try to make it look like something it's not just for the tourists. There was a bad storm around Christmas / New Year and a lot of places in Fiji including Nadi were badly flooded.

After stocking up on water and food for lunch we were back on the bus and headed south to Natadola beach for lunch. Along our way we saw several cows and horses tied to trees or poles along the roadside. Natadola beach is a beautiful beach, it's in a nice quiet area with a resort and very peaceful, the perfect start to our Feejee Experience! We had our lunch here and people who weren't sunbathing played football.

Our first cultural experience in Fiji was at Malomalo Village, where our guide explained traditional customs in a Fijian village to us. Some of the houses have very
little furniture. After our the village we went sand boarding the Sigatoka sand dunes. I didn't partake because my bites on my arms were really sore and it was sandboarding face first!

We arrived to Mango Bay which was our home for three nights. Our “room” was not exactly what we had expected! We ended up in a tent! A very spacious tent with a wooden
floor but it was still a tent! The scary part was our bathroom; because we were in a tent we had to unzip the two zips to get to our ensuite, the tent partly covered the ensuite.

There was also walls for privacy but there was a space between the wall and the tent so bugs, leaves and rain could get in! One of the mornings John was using the toilet facilities when he saw something move in one of the trees. It was one of the resort employees chopping down coconuts.

They both saw each other and the guy who was barefoot up a tree holding a big machete just waved and said BULA!

For our entire time in Mango Bay it rained but it didn't stop us having a good time. We met three girls who were all travelling separately and together we passed our rainy days betting on crab races, playing musical statues and in the bar!

We all left on the same day to go to Pacific Harbour we were hoping for some sun but it didn't happen! It had rained so much that it wasn't safe to do our trek in the Namosi Highlands. So that left us with only tubing the Navua river! As I am not a strong swimmer and there was no life jackets I didn't do it but still had to spend the day going up and down the river on a long boat. It rained for the whole day and we were given sheets of plastic to hold over our heads to stop us from getting wet as the boat had no shelter from the rain. I ended up getting as wet as anyone who had tubed down the river!

After tubing and lunch we went Pacific Harbour and stayed in Uprising Beach Resort. From the moment we got there it was a disaster. We wanted a private room but we were told they had none but they had also run out of beds in the dorm so half an hour later two camp beds were brought into the already cramped dorm and I was given one of them. When we got into the dorm the first thing I heard was bed bugs! Not something you ever want to get in your bags or on you. It continued to rain for the whole evening so we decided that we would only stay for one night and try and get to the islands as fast as we can as we had spoken to people who had just come from the islands and said they had lots of sunshine!

After dinner we were in the dorm which housed easily thirty people and at a quick glance I saw something on my bed....a dead bed bug. I put it in a tissue and myself and Sara marched to reception demanding to be moved. They were fully booked up and moved us a mile down the road to an empty hostel. After the bed bug issue Sara wasn't sure if she was going to stay as we only had the option of one night or four. A lot of people only stay in Uprising because they do a shark feeding dive something that both Sara and John wanted to do but we can do a shark dive in Hawaii. The next morning was very sad because Hayley, Jennifer, Sara, John and myself had all become very close in the short time that we had spent together and had to say goodbye to Sara.

On our way to Volivoli Beach we drove through Fiji’s capital Suva. Before we left for Fiji we were not sure if we were able to go because the media in New Zealand and Australia were reporting rioting in Suva and advising people not to go to Fiji. There ended up being a media black out and only decided that we would go because John spoke to a Fijian person in a pub who had been in a Fiji while the news was still reporting rioting. As we drove through the city there was no sign of rioting and you never would have guessed that anything had happened there.

We went to Wailouta village to meet the chief in a traditional sevu-sevu (kava) ceremony. On our way we were met by people waving to us. Our tour guide told us that the people in the area know what days the green bus drives by and the approximate time. For people in this area the people on the Feejee Experience bus are the only white people that they see!

Kava is a plant that they drink. Basically they pound the roots of the kava plant and add a little bit of cold water. When the chief hands you a coconut full of kava you have to drink it as quick as you can then clap and say bula! Kava tastes horrible! I have never drank dirt but I am guessing it would taste similar to kava! My tongue went numb after drinking it!

Some people went bilibili rafting down a river and played water rugby with the local kids and others didn't. To play rugby you had to go down the river so you couldn't do one without the other. Myself and Jennifer had opted not to do it and started to watch a dvd on my laptop when a local boy from the village named John got onto our bus so we chatted with him.

We had been sitting up eating Oreos so I offered him one handing him the packet and he never gave it back! Jennifer was looking at me because it was a new packet and also the last one! We didn't take it back off him instead we let him take it home to share. He was such a nice child with a nice big smile but it was also really sad speaking with him because one of the first things he told us was that his brother was killed in the flooding that hit the island around the end of December.

When we got to Voilivoli we saw an amazing sunset which is the best I have ever seen! It was the last night of our Feejee Experience so there was lots of games followed by a bonfire and drinking mango rum cocktails into the night.

The next day we didn't leave until the afternoon so we everyone had a chance to stay in bed! We stopped at Sabeto Valley to get into the mud pools and hot pools. What can I say the mud pool looked disgusting! We had to walk down a wooden ladder to get into it. After the last step my feet just sank into the mud! It was such a horrible feeling at first because it was warm and from my feet to my knees were just stuck in mud and leaves and god knows what!

A dead frog was thrown around in the mud pool at one stage! It was funny as we all moved around the mud pool trying to find the “good mud” and rubbed it everyone! We went from the mud pools to the hot pool which was nice clean water to get all the mud off.

After the pools we visited an orphanage which was our last thing to do on Feejee Experience. It was really sad but also nice to visit. The people who care for the children are really nice. All of the kids were so happy to meet us and mesmerised by our digital cameras so they took a few photos. We were given time to buy things for them at one of our stops so we bought them school supplies and games like snakes and ladders.

We all spent our last night together then said our goodbyes. Hayley was flying home two days later and Jennifer was going to the islands then had a month left of travelling.

We went to Robinson Crusoe Island and were supposed to stay for five nights but when we arrived at lunch time and went for lunch we realised that we would not be able to stay because I would starve! It is a small island with one resort on it so you can only eat when the resort feeds you! Unfortunately for me all I could eat was rice and a few lettuce leaves! Not really enough to survive on for almost a week! They also have a severe seaweed problem, it covers the whole beach. It is so bad that a university in New Zealand is studying it! So we left on the next boat back to the mainland which was a few hours later!

We went to Octopus Island Resort which was a little piece of heaven! The island has the resort on it and also a village on the other side of the island. The only problem was that I had got an ear infection, had to take tablets and drops for my ear and was warned by the doctor not to get into the water for four days so I couldn't snorkel when I was there!

I was really jealous when John was out snorkelling because I had heard that snorkelling in Fiji is just as good if not better than the Great Barrier Reef which I had loved! Octopus Island Resort caters for backpackers with a dorm but also has more higher end accommodation with private bures. When we got to Octopus we met up with Jennifer again which was nice for the few days that we were on the island. Every night the resort has entertainment organised for us which varied from traditional Fijian dancing to games or an outdoor movie screening.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to go to mass in the local village so we went. It was all in Fijian apart from the welcome we got from the priest in English. Even though we didn't understand a word that was said or sang it was nice and the choir were really good. We drank lots of water during the ceremony because it was really hot and the fans were not on because it is not summer there! On the islands, when you leave the staff sing a farewell song to wish you well. It's a song that you hear a lot as there are two boats leaving a day so by the time we left the resort we knew most of it.

We left Octopus Island for Mantaray Island. It was a bit of a shock to go from a really really nice resort, one of the few that has hot water for showers to go to a resort with bottom drop toilets! I thought it would be horrible, we only went because you can snorkel with mantarays beside the island. But the longer we stayed on the island the more I got used to cold showers and island living without luxury!

As we are in Fiji we are on Fiji time so time does not really matter apart from meal times! So when is time for food someone will beat a drum that was up in the restaurant section or if it was time to snorkel with mantarays they would beat the drum on the beach.

A guy from our resort would go out on in a boat between two islands (where there is a large channel that the mantarays like to hang out in) check to see if the mantarays are there and then come back to the island and bang on the drum to announce the boat is going out for mantaray snorkelling! We went out in the little boat and the driver pointed out the mantaray to us so everyone jumped off the boat into the water. It took me a minute or two to jump, i had expected a ladder like i had used before!

There was around twenty people on the boat when we went so we spread out a bit in the water. Some parts of the water was really clear we could see coral and lots of fish! As we were waiting for mantarays and looking for them i just happy out looking at the cool fish because it was my first time to snorkel in Fiji! Three mantarays went swimming by us. They were around 3 3.5m wide and pretty difficult to keep up with! Majority of the group tried to keep up with them. That left John, me and some other person in one area .

All of a sudden a massive 5 5.5m wide mantaray appeared and just slowly started floating around under us! It was going really slow so were able to swim along with ease and just take it all in. Even though it's such a large creature it was very graceful. It really was amazing, the water was crystal clear and we were just floating around watching it. It was definitely worth the hardship of getting out of the boat!

I spent most of the next day walking from the beach out to the sea where I was instantly met by coral and amazing looking fish that all varied in shape, size and colours. There was lots of star fish, sea cucumbers, three striped humbug, striped surgeon fish, regal angel and many more we even saw two sting rays!

I had a great time in Fiji especially the islands. The farewell song is really sad but lovely. The staff of Mantaray sing it with some of it translated into English.

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