Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Hello all
The latest update for you all this time on Fiji where we left yesterday. We have just arrived in Auckland and its bloody freezing but just looking at the photos makes me warm again!! I have added some photos for New Orleans, California, Los Angeles and The Cook Islands too so I am officially up to date!
Keep up the emails - some of you are very bad at emailing - shame on you!!
We are very much in civilisation again now so email replies should be more frequent too!

Anyway here goes............

Sunday 14th September
Fiji is a group of islands, the largest of which is Viti Levu and Nadi the capital. We had been told by a number of people (and Lonely Planet) to get out of Nadi as soon as possible as it wasn't a nice place. They weren't wrong. We arrived at 3am into Nadi and went out to meet the throngs of people offering accomodation. We were offered free transport, free email, 4 bed dorms, a beach location and a pool by Travellers Beach Resort for just $10 (3.30). We jumped at the chance and we headed straight there with Kevin and Brendan (The Irish Boys). We hit the sack for a few hours. When we woke up we headed out to get some breakfast at the beachside restaurant. It was a pretty awful beach, the water was brown and there was rubbish around. I headed to use the free internet and was told it was just free between 6.30pm and 9pm and it was restricted to 10 mins per person. The pool was covered in tarpaulin for "improvement works" I spoke to a guy who had been there two weeks ago and the pool was no different from then. It was in a pretty skanky place and we were advised not to walk into town even in a group. The one thing they did have was a booking desk for onward travel!!

We picked up endless leaflets and brochures and went to sit on the beach trying to figure out what to do. There were endless offers, trips, day trips, boat trips, bus passes and island hopping. We decided on a Bula Pass (Bula is how to greet people in Fiji) which was a 7 day island hopper pass and it was only $199 (Fiji Dolars now!) so only about 70 quid. A Catamaran takes a route from a nearby Nadi port called Denarau up into the Yasawa Islands it travels up stopping at 8 islands and then comes back stopping at them all again on the way back and you basically just jump on and off when you want. All we had to do was book accomodation for each island which was pretty easy as most of the islands only had one place where you could stay. They all offered all inclusive as you don't have a choice to go and eat elsewhere anyway. They were all around $40 - $60 (14-20 pounds) and that included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and extras. Alcohol wasn't included and we were told that the islands don't have electricity or hot water and you had to take enough cash as obviously Visa and Matercard were not accepted in most places.

We decided to book 5 nights accomodation at 5 different islands and leave our last night to stay at the onle we liked best. We would get picked up at 7.45am the next day so that left us the rest of Sunday. Sunday is a dead day on the islands as everything is shut. I headed to a hostel next door to use their internet facilities and spent 2 hours online putting on The Cook Island log and sending some last emails as I wouldn't be able to again for a week. I then called Air New Zealand to change our flights to Auckland because I didn't want to come back from Island Hopping and spend anymore time in Nadi or book another trip. We finish our Island hopping next Sunday night and we fly out 3.45am Monday morning so a just a night to kill in Nadi. Kevin and Brendan were also doing the Bula Pass but they had booked different islands so we would say cheerio tomorrow but we will hook up again in Auckland. We all grabbed a Pizza at the Hostel next to ours and got an early night for our early start tomorrow.

Monday 15th September
We were picked at 7.45 by a big yellow bus that took us to Denarau bay where we jumped on a big yellow catamaran. We were only going 35 mins till our first stop which was South Sea Island, home for the next 24 hours, Wow, I couldn't believe it when the cat stopped at the smallest island I had ever seen. This was a real island. You can see the size from the photo but even that makes it look quite big. There was one building in the middle which had a 30 bed dorm upstairs and a bar/dining area downstairs and that was it. It took exactly 3 minutes to walk around the whole island at a leisurely pace. There was a swimming pool in the middle and some hammocks and sun loungers on the beach with thatched parasols. This was real paradise. The funny thing was this little space of sand gave us the busiest day we have had in a long time.

Everything was free to use and the really friendly staff wanted you to have fun. First we took a paddle board out which is a cross between a kayak and a surfboard with a glass bottom so you can see the fishes. We paddled around the whole island and saw 1000s of fishes. When we got back they were taking out a snorkelling trip so we grabbed our masks and flippers and jumped on the boat. They took us about a mile out to the reef and chucked us off the boat and left us to snorkel back. We saw manta rays, sting rays, zebra fish, puffer fish and literally thousands of others. Someone else saw a reef shark but unfortubately we didn't see one.

We got back in time for lunch having built a big apetite. We had a huge buffet and bbq of pasta, fried rice, fish, steak, chicken, sausage and salad followed by fresh pineapple, watermelon and banana. It was lovely. After lunch we took out a sailing catamaran which was brilliant. It was so fast and funny knocking Simon overboard which was surprisingly easy!! When we got back with the cat there was a submarine trip going out which was really cool. Its the base of a boat where the walls are made of thick glass. It was like doing a lazy dive and not getting wet. We got back in time for afternoon tea and biscuits which were lovely. We then chilled on the beach in the shade for a while, it is hotter here than The Cook Islands, we lay in the hammocks and dropped off.

We woke up a short time later and took a dip in the pool followed by a bit more snorkelling as it is the best place I have snorkelled at yet. We had showers and changed and headed down for dinner which consisted of pumpkin soup followed by beef stirfry and rice and all the fruit you can eat. It was lovely. We washed it down with a couple of bottles of wine whilst watching the sun go down. Heaven!

Tuesday 16th September
We woke up and headed down for brekkie of scrambled egg, juice, coffee, toast and cereal. Our ferry to the next island was at 9.30am so we headed out to do a bit of snorkelling and then got our stuff together to leave. before we left we booked another stop here for Saturday night as our last stop on our Bula Pass.

Our big yellow Cat turned up and took us at a good speed further up to the Yasawa Islands. We were stopping at Kuata about an hour up. It was quite a bit larger than South Sea. we were greeted by the locals and shown to our thatched bures. There were lots of caves and rocks on the island so I went to explore them after a bit of lunch while Simon had a sleep. There were loads of crabs in the rocks, scuttling away when I got near and there were lots of rock pools with loads of sealife , mussels, sea leeches and even a snake which slithered a bit too quickly for my liking. I headed back to the bure to wake Simon for afternoon tea.

We had a Village trip arranged in the afternoon on a nearby island so we gulped down our tea and headed back to the beach where a boat was waiting to take us to the nearby village of Waya Lai Lai. We were greeted by the village school children and they showed us around their school. They have 2 classes and they had been learning about different cultures. They had a corner dedicated to Australia which they had done recently and they had pictures of koala bears and teddy kangaroos. They were learning about New Zealand at the moment and they showed us the hacker which was really cute as they were all between 6 and 8 and just smiled all the way through it with their gappy teeth. They could have given The All Blacks a run for their money!

After the school we went to meet the chief of the village. You have to present the chief with some Kava which is a root dug up from the ground at the island. The chief and his son and grandson then perform a Kava ceremony where they make tea out of the root with cold water and then pass it round in a half coconut which you have to clap, then accept the drink, say Bula, down the Kava in one, then clap your hands 3 times in appreciation and smile, which is hard when you have just drunk muddy water. It is not alcoholic but it does make your mouth go numb and it is said to give you "sweet dreams". If you drink enough it also makes you hallucinate. After 3 cups each we were entertained by some Fijian dancing. There was a spear dance and the villagers who didn't dance sang and played music. When the entertaining was over we headed back to the boat for a sunset journey home. We got back and headed along the lantern lit path to the dining room where we were going to have Lovo, a traditional Fijian meal cooked underground in a cave. Another Fijian tradition is to eat with your hands so no cutlery was handed out. The food was really good. After some dinner we listened to some singing and music from the staff before heading back to our bure.

Wednesday 17th September
We got up for some pancakes and fruit for breakfast and then headed out to explore the rock pools and caves again and saw lots more crabs. Our yellow Catamaran was picked us up at 10.30 today to take us to the furthest North of the Yasawa Islands called Nacula. It was just under 3 hours on the boat and we jumped onto our water taxi where we were taken to Nabua Lodge a small resort accomodating just 14 guests. The water looked like someone had poured food colouring into it as it was so blue and crystal clear. We got off the water taxi and were shown to our bure. We got some lunch and then went to lay on the beach for a few hours to do some reading. We did some snorkelling and then went for a walk along the beach watching the sunset. We got showers and headed out to dinner which was another BBQ. They had caught a huge White Snapper while they were fishing and it was gorgeous. After dinner the locals played music and we played Shithead. I headed to bed when I saw the Kava coming out!

Thursday 18th September
We woke up at 8 to the sound of the breakfast bell and headed to the dining bure where we had doughnuts and juice. Its funny how life seems to revolve around meal times on the islands. We chilled today on the beach again sunbathing and snorkelling pretty much all morning. We got chatting to a couple who had just travelled through New Zealand and they gave us some names of places and tips of good campsites for our campervan. We had some lunch and then headed to our next island.

We boarded at 1pm and travelled 1/2 mile before getting off again into our next water taxi to Nanuya Lai Lai which is famous for its Blue Lagoon where they filmed The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields. We arrived to be greeted by Kevin and Brendan who had run out of money and were waiting for us as they knew we were getting there today. They were flying out tomorrow to Auckland and this was their last night in Fiji so we lent them some money so they could pay for their night accomodation and get the beers in!! A group of us to a trek across the island through a coconut plantation to The Blue Lagoon on the other side which is just a gorgeous sweeping bay with the whitest sand and aquamarine water. We went snorkelling and it felt like we were in a fish tank there were so many fishes. Some even came up and nibbled your toes, it didn't hurt and the fish were tiny but it still freaks you out about and gives you visions of pirahna attacks!!

We walked around the bay to the East of the Island where a short swim would take you to Turtle Island. You can't go there as it is private, owned by an American businessman who rents out his bures for $2,000 US a night with a minimum of 6 nights bokking. So we wandered back to our 15 quid a night all inclusive bure instead!

We got in some drinks and I noticed they had some tins of Gordons Gin & Tonics so I quickly changed my allegiance from frothy Fiji Beer to G&Ts. We headed to dinner and had a lovely chicken casserole with baked potato and turnip. The four of us headed out to the beach with our drinks and swang on a hammock looking at the stars. There are literally thousands and thousands of stars here its amazing. Mars is pretty bright too here. It was a nice night with a bit of a breeze. We sat chatting for hours until it was bedtime.

Friday 19th September
We got up and had a game of beach volleyball after breakfast. It was highly amusing and quite painful at times!! We had to keep running into the sea to cool off and get the sand off from all the diving for the ball. It was pretty breezey today so I lay in my hammock writing my diary while Simon and the boys played touch Rugby. It was soon lunchtime where we had a vegetable curry with popadoms. After lunch we once again packed our stuff together and jumped in the little boat to get to the Cat. We got on the Cat and we were heading back down the Yasawas to an island called Naviti where we would spend our 5th night at Coconut Bay. We said our goodbyes to Brendan and Kevin as they were heading for their flight. We were greeted at Coconut Bay by all the staff singing and dancing a welcome dance for us. We were shown to our Bure on the beach with a big hammock out front. As this island hopping is so tiring, Simon went for another sleep and I went to lay on the hammock reading my book and listening to Norah Jones.

We headed over for afternoon tea of cakes and tea and coffee and chatted to our fellow residents before resuming our places on the hammock with a Hello magazine lent to me by a girl called Rachel. It was only 2 hours till dinner!!After dinner we were promised "Nite Activities" which was a game of "pass the stick" and musical chairs! This was followed by some Fijian dancing and then they played this one song from Ronan Keating that they played over and over. We had a good laugh with the locals before hitting the sack.

Saturday 20th September
We had delicious pancakes with golden syrup for breakfast and then headed out to the hammock with Hello again. A local lady walked passed and asked if she could look at my magazine with me so we both sat and looked at teh pictures. She pointed to a picture of Justin Timberlake and said "he used to go out with Britney but now Diaz"! These people have no TVs or radio yet they know their stuff from the mags that the tourists bring with them and leave behind for them.

It was soon time to head to the boat where we had our 3 hour journey back to our favourite place, South Sea!! We arrived at South Sea at 6pm and got chatting to some people. We had dinner which was scrummy and a few beers.

Sunday 21st September
Last day in Fiji!! We had a long day today! We did loads of snorkelling and kayaking and laying on the beach to catch the last of the rays for a while! South Sea is just the best way to spend our last day, its so small and the people are so nice and there is so much to do.

Our ferry back to the mainland was only a short trip and then we caught the free shuttle bus which does a tour of all the hostels and hotels. We asked to be dropped off at Raffles hotel because it is right across from the airport. It was 7.30pm by the time we got there so we went in and they had a big screen playing bad films and a bar. We sat around for about 3 hours before changing into trousers and long sleeved tops and having our fleeces at the ready which felt weird as I have worn shorts and vests for 2 months now. We tried to get a few hours sleep at the airport and they eventually opened the Air NZ desk at 1am. We checked in and headed to pay our departure tax and fortunately the desk was closed so that saved us the $60 fee - great! We went through to departures where we had a wander around the shops and killed another couple of hours. Finally at 3.30am they let us board the plane and we took off at 3.45. It was just under 3 hours to Auckland where the current temperature was 11 degrees C!

Well I will leave it there for now. So far NZ has been great and we are heading out tonight for a bit of a Cook Islands reunion with 6 of us and then maybe head North tomorrow for a couple of days. Hope the travelogues are not getting to dull and the photos aren't making anyone quit their jobs!

As always lots of Love
Liz and Simon xxx
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