Fijian Frolics

Trip Start Oct 11, 2004
Trip End Oct 24, 2004

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Monday, October 25, 2004

Bula from Fiji everyone!

Wow! Can this trip get any better? After sliding down slopes, hanging off telegraph poles, dunking off bridges, jumping off buildings and getting friendly with sheep in New Zealand, I was in need of a well deserved rest. Fiji (Fun In the Jungle Islands) has been just the tonic. Sun, Sea and Kava!!!

I'd arranged my Fiji trip with a local travel agent that was recommended to me (thanks Jess). It was a good service I received. My contact, Christa, meeted and greeted as I rolled off the plane. The excitement of the double Skyjump in Auckland had finally waned and I was pretty tired. Christa took me over to the travel agency house where they put up clients. A huge room with double bed to myself... luxury!!! After meeting the company owners and scrambled eggs on toast the next morning, I was driven through Nadi to the office where Christa sorted out my itinery. I had time to kill in town so I went for a wander...
Nadi is the first experience I've had in a developing country. Dogs running around, people just stood by the road waving at traffic shouting 'Bula!' whilst chomping on fresh fruit wearing no shoes... It's quite an eyeopener for someone whose only so far touched developed countries. Just walking along the main street in Nadi I was greeted by a local calling himself Sam. He asked if I'd been in Fiji long. "Actually no, I just arrived last night, I'm a bit wary of these over friendly people and I have a wallet full of money waiting to be ripped off. Would you kindly oblige the tourist that I am?!?" Sam took me to a shop which is apparently owned by local villagers so whatever is spent goes back to the poor children of the village. It's all a bit of a con to be honest. Guess who fell for it...
I was greeted with a Kava ceremony. (Kava is an age-old herbal drink. The root of a pepper plant powdered and diluted in water to create a happy, tranquil state!) My mouth went a bit numb with the stuff but I guess I felt relaxed. Ben, sporting an Arsenal shirt, blessed my journey to the Fiji Isles and promptly pushed some Fiji goods my way to buy. OK so I walked out the shop sporting an unwanted Kava set for $100 when it is only probably worth $40. Never trust a Gunner! Mind you I was quite happy with the matching three-piece sofa and curtain set they presented to me...

Christa told me off for falling under the influence of those nasty locals ripping off tourists. She then took the afternoon off (it was her day off anyway!) and took me to the nearby city of Lautoka on the bus. I was the only white guy on there which took some getting used to. She told me about her country, about the military coup a few years ago and how dependant they are on tourism. At Lautoka she did some clothes shopping (Is this how they treat all their clients?) and then we went to the local movie house. Back to Nadi we got an apparently licensed mini-bus. The driver was crazy, playing chicken with oncoming traffic... I thought I was a gonner! Christa just slept through most of it!!!

I was relieved to get off Viti Levu the next day and board the Yasawa Flyer that would take me to the islands. Fiji is actually made up of over 300 Islands. Some big, some tiny! The Yasawas and Mamenucas are the two main island groups. My first stop was Botaira Resort on Naviti Island which is part of the Yasawas. As we approached the place, the staff of the resort came out playing guitars singing their welcome song. Cries of "Bula!" all round. (Bula is basically Hello). A necklace of flowers was thrown round my neck and a coconut complete with straw thrust in my hand. At last, I thought, I have arrived!
Botaira is a small resort and at this time of year the staff outnumber the guests so the service was top class. The locals soon learned my name and changed it to the Fijian name "Mikeali". I was loving it. Even the owner's little 4-year-old, Citiveni, would shout out my name and urge me to play with him. Cute kid. The locals change their names to Western versions. Jeremiah became Jerry. (There were 4 Jerry's on the resort. Citiveni is actually Steve!) Knox was the barman who made the most effort with me. I felt like a king there most days. The staff were excellent. We played volleyball on the beach every afternoon but try as we might, Team International could never quite beat the Fijians. The food was amazing too. Even had afternoon tea with cake! Paradise!
One of the Jerry's even took some of us over to the nearby village of SoSo where we got to see the true Fiji. He showed us the church, the local ladies presented their handicrafts and the school leaders invited us to have some Kava as we watched the school sack race take place. It was a very humbling experience and one I won't forget! I made some good friends at Botaira, it was a shame I was only there for 3 nights. I'll never forget boarding the boat as little Citiveni was shouting my name and waving me off... "Moce Mikeali!"...Aw bless!

My next stop was the appropriately titled Bounty Island. It's only 48 hectares! I walked round it in 20 mins!!! It wasn't quite Botaira but I enjoyed it all the same. It was a bit more lively though and I found a good little crowd to mix with. I spent most of my time sitting on the beach in the blaring sun watching the boats going out, and coming back in again. Infact I think Fiji is pretty much paradise. I have never been so chilled out in all my life! Any more laid back and I'd be asleep!

My next stop was in the Mamenucas, Mololo Island, one of the bigger ones. I was staying at Walu Beach Resort which is actually the setting for the TV programme, The Resort, which was shown in Australia and NZ. Not sure if it made UK television though. This place was very nice. I was upgraded from the Dorm to a lodge which I shared with another Brit, Chris. We had a twin room each with a living room, fridge and balcony with a view! Bring it on! Unfortunately Walu Beach was fairly quiet this time of year. Think there were only 11 of us staying there with about 300 staff per person (or so it felt). Most of the other guests were Kiwis with one Ozzie couple. Good bunch of people who made me feel very welcome on my arrival. I pretty much laid by the pool, swam in the pool, walked round the pool, jumped in the pool and fell in the pool. Yes, I think I quite liked the pool. The staff were great too. They all made an effort to remember my name. Some I hadn't even met before knew my name!!! It was Chris's birthday when I left. He was determined to have an all day session and thrust an out-of-date Heineken into my hands as I jumped on the boat that morning. Shame I was leaving one day too early!

My fourth and final stop was Robinson Crusoe Island. It's a bit more lively then the rest and I figured I could let my hair down over the last few days of my trip. The staff at this place are very talented. Three nights a week they put on a show for the guests demonstrating traditional dances and songs with a bit of knife and fire throwing going around. It was quite spectacular. All the blokes there are pumped up to the eyeballs so I was strutting around sucking my stomach in and thrusting my chest out so I didn't feel too insignificant. B*sta*rds! My 300 sit ups a day are just not good enough!
It was a place to chill during the day and party during the night. I did both willingly. Hammocks are everywhere, you can kayak to your heart's content and the staff can show you how to climb coconut palms! (A very useful skill to take back to the UK!) I also got a full body massage from Akeneka (Fijian for Agnes!). It was only $30 for the hour. It was bliss. No more knots! The last night I switched to rum and cokes as we had a bonfire by the sea. Not a bad way to top it all off really!

Fiji is a beautiful place to come. I highly recommend it for couples (a lot of them around here). Perfect for a honeymoon. Britney Spears is here on hers. (Shame I didn't see her, I'm dying to give her a slap!) The islands are something else and the people are so friendly. I'll show you the photos soon! If you get the time and money... Just Do It!

So now I'm heading back to Sydney for three weeks before hitting SE Asia. I'll be back on the Ozzy mobile (+61424244469) if you wanna get in touch. Hoping to surf and skydive in Sydney before I finally leave. (Not at the same time!)

Till my next update...

Uncle Traveling Mikeali
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