Trip Start Jun 06, 2005
Trip End May 31, 2006

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Bula from Fiji.

Hi everyone, well this leg of the trip was definitely a tale of two halves.

The first five days was spent in and around Nadi, on the main island Viti Levu, and the last five was spent on Mantaray Island, which was like being on survivor but without the tasks.

Nadi is the capital and quite different to anywhere else we have been up to now. The area is quite rundown and it is not very safe to walk around at night (even in groups), but it was interesting nonetheless. It has a high concentration of Indo-Fijians all wanting to sell you anything and everything. Like the good old Quality Grog Shop!!

We landed at 4 o'clock in the morning and took a cab from the airport to Beachside Resort, which was about 15 minutes away. We started to get worried when the driver pulled off the main road and onto a dirt track with no lighting. We proceeded for a while on the unpaved roads and the hotel appeared out of the gloom. The hotel pleasantly surprised us and we started planning what to do over the next few days. Due to the location we realized we needed to rent a car and on the hotels recommendation we chose Khan's Rental.

The car turned up and we thought how nice it was of the guy to be cleaning the floor mats for us. The car was a fairly old Japanese import and we quickly realized why he had been cleaning the mats. Depending on which corner we took depended on whose feet got wet from the leaking aircon.

We decided to head north to Raki Raki, which is about 130km away. The road conditions varied from bad to worse as we meandered through various villages all of which are very poor.

One of the main industries is still the sugar cane. Huge fields and cane trains can still be seen everywhere. On average a worker gets US$30 for three weeks work, and hard work it is.

There was not that much to see and as we approached Raki Raki the left rear tyre blew out, a few choice words were said about Khans Cars I can tell you. We changed the tyre and decided it would be silly to carry on so we headed back driving as carefully as possible so we didn't blow out another tyre. We called Khans on our return and told them politely to pick up their hunk of junk and refund us the next four days hire. We finally got our refund over a week later.

As we moaned about what had happened we mainly hung around the hotel for the next few days and the heavens opened for the next 3 days straight. It wasn't cold, just wet so we spent most time in the pool. The rain did bring out lots of Cane Toads from the nearby fields and apparently if you lick their backs you can hallucinate. We didn't try it!

Beachside Resort was not bad at all. Our room had everything that we needed and it was clean. The food at their restaurant was fantastic and we enjoyed a wide range of foods over the week. There just wasn't much to do at night except for our last night there when they had a singer on. We met this lovely Irish couple, Elaine and Ollie, and had a great time with them, as you can see by the picture!!

After a mixed start to Fiji we headed off to the Yasawas group of islands for 5 days at Manta Ray Island Resort. We had to take the Yasawas Flyer catamaran to the Naviti Group, which took about 3 hours.

The first day was overcast but from then on we had bright blue skies and very hot temperatures.

The snorkeling there was amazing. We thought that Tahiti and the Cooks were good but this place was unbelievable! We were snorkeling twice a day for two hours each time. Once again we saw a white tip reef shark and a sand ray. We went for a dive with the dive company there, Reef Safari, which was okay. We saw some beautiful corals of all shapes and sizes but to be honest we saw more when we went snorkeling. We had booked two dives with them but we felt that their safety standards weren't up to scratch so we left it at that. We even told them that we thought the dive wasn't that great and the visibility was crap. Pete, the guy who went with us, got a free dive because he had complained which ticked us off just a little because they didn't even offer us one.

Our room was a small hut-like structure that was right on the beach. There was a double bed inside and some shelves. The only thing that we didn't like was that there were no locks on any of the doors.

The main bure was great. There was a fantastic sunset deck from which some of the pictures you see were taken from. The cocktails and the food were pretty good too. When it was time to eat they beat on a drum that could be heard from anywhere on the island. Breakfast was at 8, lunch was at 1 and dinner was at 7. Lunch was the best meal of the day and dinner wasn't too bad either. (The only problem with dinner was that you couldn't see what you were putting on your plate!) There was an array of dishes and all the fresh veg, fruit and fish that you could want. We never went hungry!

After a few days we had our day pretty much planned out - breakfast, snorkeling, lunch, more snorkeling with a bit of kayaking, happy hour and then dinner.

On the Friday night the local villagers came and sung and danced for us. The women did theirs dances and then the men did theirs. The singing was really good and we both really enjoyed it because we hadn't seen much culture since being in Fiji. When they left some of the hotel staff asked if we wanted to try kava. We all sat around on a grass mat and drank this stuff. It was bloody awful! It looked like muddy water and tasted like it too! Fijians drink this almost every night and more so on special occasions. After that experience we thought that we wouldn't try it again. The staff at the resort were all from the local village and they couldn't do enough for you. They were all so happy and were always singing and loved to hear anybody else sing, so you know I had to! We sat around drinking kava and singing along to a guitar. (It wasn't the same as being at Hanrahan's though!)

We had decided that we were going to go on a village visit so we left the resort by boat and headed toward the village. We didn't know that it was Sunday and that we would be going to a church service so the lady that worked at the resort took us to her house and dressed us for church. Walking to the church we looked around at the houses, which were mostly one-room homes or tin shacks. Everyone we saw in the village was smiling and saying hello. As we went in the children were reciting their Sunday school homework and kept shushing us because we were talking. The choir came in from the outside and it was the most amazing noise that we had ever heard. An old lady even gave us her hymnbook to read along with the singing, which was nice.

We reluctantly left the island and had to spend one more night in Nadi before we flew to Auckland.

New Zealand will be our home for the next two and a half months and that's where we are now.We have spent 1 week with Rob and Mary and will be heading for the South Island on Monday.

Lots of sunsets photos at the top again....check them out!!

Jack is back and will be traveling with us to look after the sleepervan so keep a look out for him!!!
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