Underwater Beverly Hills

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
Trip End Feb 06, 2006

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Flag of Fiji  ,
Monday, January 9, 2006

There have been a million times on this trip where I've caught my breath and thought "this was worth the thousand pound plane ticket 10 times over" and Fiji produced so many of those moments.

I woke up in Suva after getting the bus straight from the other side of the main island the previous day. The bus journey was just great.. It reminded me so much of Belize, with the cheesy music going, the open sides of the bus and the locals chatting away. Weirdly they were playing 'Mangel Panday', the film I saw in the cinema in Bollywood!! Not so weird when I read a bit about the indentured labour history of the Indo-Fijians. Thousands of them were shipped over in the 19th and 20th centuries to help on plantations and after serving their 'indenture' term (a nice word for slavery..) the majority chose to remain in Fiji. There is quite a bit of racial tension apparently but I never saw or felt any in the two weeks I was there. Anyway! I quickly realised that travelling alone in Fiji is never travelling alone!

I heard that song "oh baby baby it's a wide world... It's hard to get by just upon a smile girl". Not in Fiji it's not!! All you have to do is smile here and women try to feed you, families try to take you home!! People are genuinely falling over themselves to help you. It was just such a great place to spend time in. I had a little bit of paranoia about travelling alone after the episode in Makassar, but that was slowly and surely beaten out of me after the fifth stranger made me share her bag of mangoes.

I had decided to avoid the main backpacker hangout (the Yasawas) and went for a more remote island south of the mainland; Kadavu. I went for the flight so I could get a good view of Fiji from the air...

I got to the airport and the flight was cancelled, so I made Air Fiji pay for my taxi back into town (It was cancelled when they sold me the tickets) so I got to the Air Fiji office in Suva and they said "but Ma'am why don't you get on the 2pm flight?", hence another Air Fiji funded hour long trip back to the airport!! I was only mildly irritated as this kind of stuff happened all the time in Indonesia and you'd have more chance of getting the check-in girl to eat a taxi than pay for you to get in it.

So I got to the tiny airstrip and saw the 6-seater biplane (heheh!); was getting flashbacks to the last time I was in one of these and hoped the same thing wouldn't happen again as I had no parachute this time. Convinced the pilot to let me sit up front as the 'co-pilot' - "as long as you don't touch the pedals love" (Seeing as my mum's partner is a driving instructor I am well versed in not touching the pedals thank you very much!). In all the excitement I forgot my camera (doh!) but suffice to say I had my face glued to the little glas bubble that was the cockpit the whole way, you can imagine how big my grin was! Approaching Kadavu was a bit like viewing Kong's Skull Island, except better weather and nicer coral reefs. The landscape looked decidedly murderous though... We were only flying at 5000 ft and I just couldn't believe I jumped out at 3 times that distance... Being in this little thing was like being in a cocktail shaker when we flew through the clouds, what a great ride!

I landed and phoned for a pick-up, well aware that it takes them about an hour and a half to get to the airstrip. In the meantime I was befriended by a group of Fijians and by the time Bruce came to get me I didn't want to leave! I made Bruce stay and join in the drinking on the beach for a while before we headed back to Albert's Sunrise guesthouse. These guys were brilliant, Fijians have a wicked sense of humour.

We started out on this little boat and I was just in awe of the rugged, green, blue sandy island. Then the rain came and I remembered something in the Lonely Planet about boats with no radios or lifejackets... hmmm I definitely had the realisation 'it would seem I'm in one'!!!

But honestly though, what could I have done? Sometimes it's just not feasible to kick up a stink or demand certain standards. It would have left me in the middle of nowhere and I did actually want to go to the resort! I just put a piece of tarpaulin over me and braced myself for the swells. Come to think of it, for the million times I've grinned so hard my face would crack I can match with the serious thought "I am going to die"!!! By the time we arrived me and all my belongings were drenched. Only problem were the travellers cheques, AMEX ink runs! always knew they were crappy! I left them out to dry and a crab somehow managed to claw through 500 quids worth... (a quick little rant... I hate AMEX purely because we had so many hassles getting money in Indonesia with anything other than AMEX cheques, which I didn't have at that point. so I get my mum to bring another load of cheques to me in Malaysia (all AMEX) and guess what? no-one wants them. They all want Thomas Cook, which I used up in Indonesia!! Arrgh. For the record... american dollars are only useful in Indonesia and some parts of Central America)

Anyway! back to the story.. so it was very dark and I was shown to my bure (pronounced 'buraay'; traditional thatched cottage) which they had very kindly given me to me for the price of the dorm. To be honest, for the price I paid I should have been fanned to sleep by two loin-clothed warriors. Well not quite, but Fiji is not cheap, especially in the remote places. I brought my own food to save money, which largely did the trick.

I showered by the light of two little girls holding up a kerosene lamp (they wanted to check I was ok! bless) and then I joined about 15 other Fijians on a straw mat to sing songs and drink Kava. Fijians speak a mix of Fijian and English so I understood most of what was being said. They also speak English with the most gorgeous accent I've ever heard. We had a really good night. The kava was weird, made from pounded kava tree root and mixed with water to produce an opaque honey coloured liquid, drunk from half a cocnut shell. Except it doesn't taste of honey... oh no. It tastes like bark. Fijians drink it 'high tide' (full cup) or 'low tide' (half cup). They also have 'gay tide' if you're being a wimp... They're not overly accepting of homosexuality!! You clap your hands once, drink it in one, then clap again 3 times. It is rude to refuse a cup if it is offered to you. I drank until I couldn't feel the back of my throat and my lips tingled... I evidently picked a good night to arrive! I think the strangest moment was looking at my watch and noticing the UK at 12 hrs behind. I thought about you all going to work as I sat in the middle of the jungle getting high off tree root...!

The two girls wanted to sleep in my Bure to keep me company, so came along whilst I brushed my teeth and told me stories about the demons in the forest. We got into bed and they announced they wouldn't be able to sleep there as the devils would get them.. Having heard the fear in their voices and having some experience of Belizean chilren's fear of forest spirits, I told them to take the lantern and go back to the main house. They did this, leaving me alone in the dark, listening to the sound of the waves on the reef and imagining hearing steps outside the bure. I finally fell asleep in a room alone for the first time since I left Oz.

Woke up the next day really late, dried my stuff, read, snorkelled and played volleyball. Fijians LOVE volleyball, they play for at least 3 hrs a day! I had 2 PE lessons on it when I was 16 so was essentially a handicap, but they didn't care, they were too busy having fun to notice. Fijians really do never stop laughing! I had a great week in all, and met some great people, including 3 Fijians on a break from uni. Sam, Esther and Gordon kept me company and made me laugh a lot! Thanks guys!
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