Trip Start May 26, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, April 14, 2006

After the trauma of several hours flying to and from Vanuatu we finally arrived in Fiji. We were almost 5 hours late and cos of this we had missed a cruise organised as part of the package. We got to the hotel absolutely exhausted as we were up at 5 that morning in order to catch the flight (after few bevys for Davy's birthday) and got settled in. The hotel was really nice. The staff were really friendly and once we got all of our bags up we decided to have dinner in the hotel. I had a nice one but Fiona was to begin a hate/hate relationship with what is her staple diet - chicken. We had a few beers and a cocktail and hopped into bed for some much needed sleep.

We popped out of bed the next day to pick up the next part of our package which was car hire for 3 days. So we got ourselves a nice little car for bombing around the island or so we thought. They have a saying over here called "Bula Time". Bula means hello, goodbye, and just about everything else. It's a laid back way of life and it's slow!! While driving around the island I noticed several cars with 50k/ph stickers on the back. This turned out to be a threat as opposed to a guideline so we spent a lot of time sitting behind a car that couldn't be any slower if the guy was out pushing it. It was a good way to take in the scenery though.

We had managed to reschedule the tour that we missed the previous evening so we decided to stay local and we headed to Denaru to the resort areas of the island. We went down to the Sheraton and Westin to have an old snorkel. What was very strange was that all of these people who were actually staying there were sitting by the pool, which was on the beach. So we were about the only people actually in the sea. The sea was very shallow and very warm and it was really nice but cos it was so shallow we had to walk out quite far so there wasn't a lot of fish to see so we just had a paddle around. The water was so warm even compared to Aussie so it was nice to have a swim around and it got us nicely hungry for our dinner cruise. So we had a few drinks by the pool in the hotel and toddled off to the cruise. We got there to a nice complimentary glass of Champers which was a really good start. There were also a couple of guys with guitars singing away. While we were having a few drinks and starters they were asking people where they were from and singing relevant songs. We got "It's a long way to Tipperary". So we had some nice beer and wine and some song and dancing. We went below decks for dinner. The whole atmosphere of the night was really nice. At the end they gave a presentation of traditional tribal dress and we had a few photographs and headed home after having a great night. At the bar we got talking to the barmaid and a bloke staying at the hotel and several beers later we made it to bed a little worse for wear.

The next morning we decided to head off down south towards the other main city on the island. Our first port of call was Natadola Beach. Now we had a rough guide or lonely planet or guide to the arse crack of the world or something for Fiji and we were told that this was probably the nicest beach in the whole of Fiji. So we followed the instructions and took the poor little Toyota Echo (A saloon version of the Yaris.) up and down some of the worst terrain known to man. We soon ran out of tarmac and then we ran out of gravel and we were driving on dirt roads. We were up and down more times than a Thai hooker. We heard some scraping sounds coming from under the car which didn't sound too healthy but we carried on regardless. After about 30 minutes of this madness we came across a small town where the ground levelled out. We finally got our first view of the beach unfortunately the road was blocked by a fallen tree and some boulders. Ahead of us the ground sloped up quite steeply so I decided fuck this for a game of soldiers might as well at least get a look at the beach before we even consider going on. So I hopped out and legged it to the beach to have a look and it was pretty impressive however it was completely deserted and there was no sign of any roads or access to it. So we gave up the ghost and headed back. We didn't even get a picture of the little town cos when fi went to take a shot one of the villagers stuck his head out and gave us some serious filthys so we got out of there as quick as we could. Once again another 30 minutes of roller coaster action was ahead and then we finally saw tarmac. Driving back the way we came what did I notice only a sign for the fucking beach we spent the last hour to get to. It seems the travel guide, which had directed us into the jungle track that passes as a road over here, was printed in 1992. Needless to say I wasn't too happy. Of course this wasn't the last of the adventures. When we turned down this road eventually we came to a dead end. Either we turned into some private property or we drove over a disused railway bridge. The bridge proclaimed that it could hold up to 12 ton so for a second I actually considered driving over it but then I realised I had left my fedora, whip and junior adventurer id card in my other underwear and I wasn't actually Indiana "bleedin" Jones. So we turned around and eventually stumble our way onto the beach. I have to say it was worth the effort.....just!

We parked and hopped out. It looked like a real local family place and it was choc a bloc full of Indians so obviously we headed up the beach as far away as possible. We found a spot where the sea came in and split the beach in two so you could swim from one side to the other. While we were picking a spot we were approached by an old guy who offered us a boat ride. We didn't have much time or money with us so we said no and he guilt tripped us something terrible saying "this is how I earn my living" and stuff. He gave us the puppy dog eyes and shuffled on. But we were there to swim not prop up the local economy so we got our snorkel on and went for a nice swim to the other side. On our way over Fiona was frantically calling me so over I went. She said that she saw a sea snake so I basically swam for my life but when I turned around she was still there. It seems that she was telling me not to warn me, like a normal person, but to get me to help her look for it, like a lunatic. I crept over but we couldn't find it again. Of course I got great fun out of telling Fiona that it was a figment of her imagination. Every time she couldn't find anything I kept telling her it was with the sea snake. We paddled around for a while and got to the other side to take a little break. The water was clear but there wasn't a lot of fish around to be seen. So we had another little paddle and then hit the road. We had planned on heading all of the way to Suva but the time that it took us to find the beach kinda put a dampener on that so we just continued down to the coral coast and had a look down there. We stopped for some lunch and then we went into a resort to have another snorkel but we had a lot of hassles parking and didn't like the look of the place so we headed home. We were pretty tired after the long day and so we headed back to the hotel and got some take away from the local offie and had a gourmet feast of McDonalds and chilled for the night. It had been a long and stressful day. However while we were relaxing I got a text message from my sister sue and was informed that I will soon be an uncle. So I called home and found out that my brother Jonathan and his wife Noreen are currently brewing a sprog so obviously I had a few beers to celebrate.

The next day the weather wasn't so good so we headed north to Latoka. We were going to see an orchid garden. This was set up by Raymond Burr, of Ironside and Perry Mason fame, years ago to display his collection. It had some amazing displays of plants and even had a huge pond full of fish and frogs. We stayed there for a while and had a wander around. It was a nice place and we got some complementary juice when we were leaving. We drove around for a while taking in the sights before we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner. We were told to try out a local restaurant so we headed out later that night to the Bounty restaurant. It was a real local place. A bit dingy to tell the truth but it was ok. Fiona finally gave up on the minging chicken but I said what the hell. Unsurprisingly it was really nice. Fiona wasn't too upset though cos she had a nice veggie curry. We had dessert and then proper dessert. They had some of the cheapest cocktails on the whole island and it would have been rude of us not to take advantage. I tell ya I could get used to this cocktail lark if they were as cheap in Sydney as they were here. Get's me all misty eyed bout the Chocolate Bar cocktail specials back at home (ahhhhh faaaaaaaaaaaatttttt frrrrroggggssssss!!). So a merry night of eating and drinking was had by all. We retired to bed early as the next day we were up early for the highlight of the holiday. A full day island tour!!

Now we had booked both tours as part of the package before we came over. When we missed the first one because of flight delays they let us reschedule it but when Fi rang them about it they had no record of it. So we decided to double check on this booking and surprise, surprise (it's Cilla 'ere) there was no record of us. We rang the number given to us and got it sorted out. Then we looked at the tickets and the tour that we were supposed to be on and the name of the tour on one of the tickets was different. What had actually happened is the tour operators had booked us into one tour and then given us the tickets for another so basically we had two to choose from. We were going to go with the tour we were not supposed to be on cos it looked better but the original one turned up first so we didn't want to risk having no tour so we went. We did the usual round up of the other resorts and of course we picked possibly the most irritating family on the planet. They were Indian-American (Think Apu not Tonto) and they managed to instantly make a bad impression. We were stuck there 5 minutes waiting for one of them to show up!! Finally we got on our way and reached the boat. We headed off to Beachcomber Island and it was a beautiful day for it. The boat had to stop a fair bit away from the island due to all the coral so we transferred to a smaller boat. It wasn't a proper glass bottom boat bit did have two large glass panels where you could see the coral and fish. Some of the coral was so high that the guy had to take the engine out of the water and let it glide so it wouldn't damage the coral. We got to the island and it was like something out of a movie. All white sand, palm trees and wooden huts. Even the pub was in the sand! We had a couple of scheduled outings so we relaxed by the bar and then went off for a snorkel. We wandered down to the water and the first thing we noticed was literally hundreds of fish just inches in from the waters edge. Of course when I say we I mean Fi who managed to get through them. I ploughed in unsuspecting only to have a handful of the bastards bounce off the side of my head with the rest of them, according to Fi when she stopped laughing, went flying over my head and out of the water. We swam around for a while, say loads of coral and fish but unfortunately a load of tiny jellyfish must have been there cos we got stung all over, not bad just really itchy. Once we got out and had a shower it went away. We then went on a proper snorkel out off the boat. We had to go a fair bit out and got a good look out the bottom of the boat. When we got to the prime spot we jumped in and it was amazing!! Some of the fish were as long as your arm and the water must have been 30 or 40 feet deep in parts. There was a group of people doing a scuba dive right below us. We swam around for a while but it's never long enough. We climbed back on the boat and headed back for some lunch. The lunch was nice enough, a buffet type of thing. The whole time they had this little group of guys singing away so it was cool. We were supposed to head off for fish feeding but we were busy drinking cocktails so we missed it. They had a beach activities hut with wind surfing, canoes, Jet Ski's etc. Of course just as we went to check it out it closed for an hour but we went for another snorkel while we were waiting. We had a choice to do something and see turtle feeding or catch the second lot of fish feeding. I was up for some windsurfing and Fi loves the turtles so we decided to hang around. When the hut opened I was told that it wasn't windy enough for the windsurfing so we both hired out canoes and the plan was to canoe to one of the other islands and chill out and head back. Didn't really go to plan though!! We started paddling away and we were doing ok for a while but when Fi was looking for ways to lash her canoe to mine so she wouldn't have to paddle anymore I got a little worried. Also some arsehole on one of the Jet Ski's thought it would be real funny to go around us in circles creating a bit of wake. Fi wasn't impressed and I have to admit if he had gotten close enough I would have paddled his ass....literally. We made it most of the way to the other island but again the coral was getting too close and we didn't want to be stranded so we turned around and headed back. We made it back on the beach exhausted but it was a bit of fun. We headed around to the turtle feeding and it wasn't quite what we were expecting. The guy had 3 little turtles that he has in a little pool that he looks after until they get a bit bigger. Of course everyone else said that the fish feeding was excellent. Typical!! Anyway our island trip had come to an end. We hopped on the little boat and back out to the ship and back to the resort.

We got back totally knackered but it really was one of the highlights not just of the holiday but of the whole time we were away. We just flaked out that night and ordered a room service pizza (oh the decadence) and had a few beers. The mixture of the beer and a truly massive pizza pretty much did us in. Plus that and the fact that we had to pack cos we were getting turfed out at 10 in the morning (Bula time my arse) meant we took it easy. We had planned to spend the couple of hours between sit by the pool sipping cocktails. Of course when we got up the next morning it was like Dublin in January, absolutely beating down. So we had little choice but to collect our bags and head to the airport. When there we just got our selves something to eat, something to read and of course munchies for the plane (couldn't depend on our $3 windfall) and got settled in. We were flying back through Brisbane and so got into Sydney quite late. It was a really good break. The scenery was amazing and the people were really friendly. I would recommend Fiji to anyone who finds them selves in the neighbourhood. The local beer was Fiji Bitter and Fiji gold. Basically they do what they say on the tin. The gold is smooth and light (a birds beer in other words) and the bitter was strong and really tasted like beer not some coloured water. I can't recommend Fiji higher to anyone who happened to be in the neighbourhood. Pure class.
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