Welcome to Fiji; Island of the Gods. The first thing that strikes you when you get off the plane in Nadi is the heat. The beautiful, suffocating heat. Goodbye jumpers, goodbye coats, goodbye woolly socks! Just the old SE Asian favourites of shorts and a T-shirt. I felt a bead of sweat on my forehead and found myself saying; 'hello there little fella, it's been a long time
. How you been doing?'. Turned out he'd been doing just fine. But he was glad to be back. A quick look around my hotel – the Blue Water Lodge – swiftly brought back the differences between so called 'poorer' countries hotel rooms and hotels in general and those of the more prosperous nations I've visited. They're much better. You actually get towels
which our friends in Australia and New Zealand wouldn't dream of providing. The sheets and linen are crisp and spotless, rooms capacious and the atmosphere relaxed. The people who work here seem to take some pride in doing a good job rather than the minimum expected. That's the main problem with getting back-packers to work at your hostel for free board. The work sure does suffer. Look at me; I arrive in a beautiful island paradise and it just makes me whinge about places that aren't beautiful island paradises. There's a nasty English habit I shall be looking to shed along with my pasty-white skin.
On my first full day in Nadi, Monica – a Taiwanese girl who was pretty much the only other person staying at my hotel - and I went to visit the town centre
. Not long after arriving we were approached by a charming gentleman who insisted upon giving us the 'Traditional Bula Welcome Ceremony' to Fiji. This consisted of us going to his shop, taking our shoes off and drinking four bowls each of a crazy concoction – cava - that almost certainly had some dubious/illegal substances in it. Suitably intoxicated he then tried his very best to get us to buy some of the local flotsam and jetsam on sale in his store. It is clearly a tried and tested routine but it didn't work on us so he then tried the emotional blackmail tactic and then he just outright asked for money for the welcome ceremony. This is not the first time nor I dare-say the last time that this sort of thing will happen abroad, the white man is often seen as little more than a wallet and it's a real shame because you always end up not on the best of terms with the vendor. Unless you buy a bowl for $160 he thinks you've stiffed him. He even tried to sell me some of the ceremonial drink powder but I didn't fancy my chances of getting that
I think it might have been Jim Carey's obsession with Fiji in The Truman Show
that first made me want to come here
. That film must have done wonders for the tourist trade here. I was stuck though between visiting the 'inner' islands that are all sun, sea and hammocks and the 'outer' islands which offer a more honest view of Fiji. Cold beer and air conditioning or spear fishing and crafting jewellery out of coconuts? That
is the question. You'd think it would be a no-brainer but after nearly two months in Thailand the beach life has lost some of it's charms. Beach fatigue, if you will. Don't get me wrong, it's a great way to spend your time but on most of these resorts you could be practically anywhere on the planet and not know it. So I decided on a compromise. In the middles of the main island is a resort that combines some of the comforts of the islands but also has access to the local tribes and Fijian cultures. Best of both worlds, if you will. And it is a famous resort; kind of...
The resort is called The Beach House. it was the place Celebrity Love Island
was filmed in 2006. Starring such cultural luminaries as Paul Danan, that 'bad boy' of ballroom dancing fella, that model who was later in court for something, Calum Best and many, many others
. The people who work here are very proud of this fact and the place is exactly the same as it was back then. Except the two way mirrors have been taken out. There I met Norbert, Patrick, Kim, Kaz and Charlotte. The gentlemen are German and Swiss respectively and the ladies are from England. I was sharing my dormitory with Norbert and Patrick and they were already friends with the girls. And yes I know what you're thinking; Norbert is the greatest name in ever
. I should point out that Patrick's full name is Patrick Bonjour so he's no slouch in the name department either. When I put 'Patrick Bonjour' into my spell checker it gave me the options for what I really
meant to type of Patrick Bourbon or Patrick Bonkers. I really can't decide which is better. But I digress... The weather in Fiji had been playing silly beggars for the first four days of my trip and, a little ahead of schedule, the rainy season appeared to be upon us. That would have been ruinous. Luckily this only lasted until the middle of my ten day trip and then things started to look up.
Once the sun came out my stay at the Beach House consisted of a lot of sunbathing, learning Spanish, Kayaking, table tennis, and playing pool
. And they sell strawberry daiquiri's for next to nothing and they taste unbelievable. So you can guess what happened to them. We also spotted the state of one of the pet dogs here, Pinky. He had fleas the size of gerbils roaming around him and Kaz, Kim, Charlotte and I decided to do something abut it. We purchased some de-fleeing shampoo and set to work. The first thing you realise when de-fleeing a dog is that dogs do not like to be de-fleed and will not co-operate. So after an hour of chasing him around the gardens we had to lock the poor blighter in the shower and offer up some 'tough-love'. It really was for the best but we had a hard time convincing him of that
. After the ordeal, and I think my dumping a bucket of water over his head as a last 'rinse' was the final straw for him, he slinked off and spent the next few days glaring at us from the other side of the pool. One day, when he's got kids of his own, he'll understand. The English, Germans and Swiss all left me on the same day but I was lucky to have them replaced with five Irish girls and Mark, an Irish guy, straight away. Mark had actually been there for a day or so already and we became chums when I noticed he had a guitar with him. I'd tell you the Irish girl's names but I can't be sure. There were definitely Abigail's, Zara's and a Sandra but I'm not sure which was which. We had one particularly memorable night 'entertaining' the Irish ladies with songs over lashings of cherry vodka and lemonade. Boy, the Irish sure can sup some ale.
I say 'memorable' night but I don't remember a great deal of it. In a good way.
I also had a memorable conversation with a Finnish girl staying there called Maya about malaria. This brought back memories of a conversation earlier in my trip with a friend who refused to climb Mount Everest as it wasn't enough of a challenge. Here Maya proposed the almost as preposterous proposition (?) that all
Malaria medicine causes Malaria. Also malaria in South East Asia isn't very harmful anyway so the best thing you can do is always cover your arms and legs and wear three different types of mosquito spray and don't get bitten. I always enjoy it when revolutionary medical techniques like this are put forth by people and wonder how in almost all cases they haven't tried it themselves. Maya hasn't even been to South East Asia. I know a few travellers who don't respond well to the tablets and so have to make do with sprays and a good deal of luck but I had never spoken to anyone before who dismissed them out of hand as a waste of time. I smiled politely. There was no point arguing the point. We were in Fiji sat by a pool drinking daiquiri's. Why spoil it? She continued; “I met a man who had been to Asia twice, took the tablets and both times he contracted malaria immediately.” she gave me a look that said 'So that's the end of that
discussion. It was fun chatting to you. But we have the conclusive evidence in now so you run along.' I couldn't let that one go. I just couldn't
. “He took the medication twice and got the disease both times?” I repeated. “Then he is both the unluckiest person on the planet and, as he has survived a disease that kills over a million people a year twice, the luckiest
person on the planet. Or he just made this all up. Or you're
just making this up to prove your point.” I didn't say the last bit but I was thinking it really quite hard in my head.
And so ten days in (on?) an island paradise flew by and I had to fly off. Next time; I shall be leaving Fiji and flying to Chile via a change of plane in New Zealand. I arrive in Chile two hours before I leave Fiji. How do I manage to do this? Am I James Bond using his magical time machine? No! I'm Dan Mcmurdo. And I've got fifty seven hats.