New Time Zone...
Trip Start Jan 19, 2005
14Trip End Jul 29, 2005
We ended up having a nice final week in LA, despite the city itself not really being up to much (unless you have an obsession with concrete stars with unknown names written on them and a bus service where the buses ignore people waiting at the bus stop!).
The highlight for me was going to the Lakers v Knicks NBA basketball match at the Staples centre on the Tuesday night. We must have been a lucky charm for the home team, since they won their first match having lost eight on the bounce, so there was a really good atmosphere. We were sat right at the top of the arena - I could have touched the ceiling if I wanted - but since we were in the seats next to the aisle, we had a perfect view down to the court and of the whole stadium (and of the Laker Girls...)
Other high points in LA were a stroll down Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills, a day at Universal Studios and a nice walk up into the Hollywood Hills just below the 'Hollywood' sign
Our flight from LAX to Nadi went smoothly, especially since the overly camp Fijian air steward with Air Pacific took a liking to us (in hindsight, it was probably a liking to me) and kept serving us with free Champagne until we fell asleep. Having taken off at 10.30pm on 2nd April we touched down in Fiji at 05.45 on 4th April, and like that, we'd lost a day. We were greeted at the airport building by a group of Fijian men singing along to guitar to welcome us, and the stories we'd been told about dodgy locals clinging to you and trying to con you, were off the mark, and stayed so for the remainder of our stay.
Having pre-purchased a Fiji Experience bus ticket around the main Vita-Levu island of Fiji before we left, we felt obliged to do that, but after a long discussion with the info rep at our hotel, we decided it would be time better spent to visit just a couple of islands and relax after our arduous few months. Especially seeing as the bus looked like a 1950s school bus, only left 3-4 times a week and took 4 days to go around the whole island. Alternatively, we (randomly) selected one of the better looking islands and chose to rent a higher quality room for 4 days. We chose Mana Island, part of the Mamanuca set North West of Vita Levu, south of the Yasawas
The four days we spent on Mana were great and much more in line with the backpacker stereotype lifestyle we'd imagined before we set off. Having spent most of the first 3 months either in hotels or motels we'd distanced ourselves from 'backpackers' but here we met lots of nice people and couples with whom we drank and played cards in the evenings. We have been snorkeling, kayaking around the island and on the penultimate day we took a boat trip to the island where the film Castaway with Tom Hanks was filmed. We went there with a younger but nice enough Irish couple, although it is impossible to understand what they said, we just nodded and got the majority of the responses right!
Another great feature of Mana island was that we got free food included in the deal, and so we've eaten loads - 3 meals a day, including bread fruit, baked bananas, freshly caught fish, sweet potatoes, papaya fruit, water melon, pineapple, chocolate bread and local stir fries and curried vegetables
For the second week in Fiji, we went to an even more picturesque island called Nananu-i-ra to the North East of Vita Levu. Here we paid the same money we'd paid for room and food on Mana but just for the room so we were expecting good things, and we weren't disappointed. We had a beachside cottage with full kitchen, lounge, dining room, literally on the beach. We did similar things on Nanunu-i-ra including swimming, walking and kayaking, but we also took a boat trip out to go coral snorkeling, which was unbelievable. It was like a flower show underwater, and we had even bought a waterproof camera which we're only now getting developed, so will have to show you some other time. We also took part in a Cava evening. Cava is the local 'poison', preferred to alcohol and nicotine by the locals, and is made by crushing the root of the cava plant, wrapping it in linen, and soaking it in water, the longer the stronger
We reluctantly left Nananu-i-ra on Thursday back for a final night on Vita Levu before flying off to Auckland on Friday morning to meet up with friends.
Hope all are well.
Ben and Claire.