Carving the Kava

Trip Start Nov 03, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of Fiji  , Western,
Monday, April 12, 2010

Got a week here, what to do? Well in a nutshell, surfing and lots of it. Well I surfed and Sofie played the beach lounging surf girl to perfection as she wasn't sure she wanted to have a go at it (she should've imo)

We were a tad undecided on where to stay in Fiji as there are literally so many islands you could chose to go too but many are heavily geared for tourism, stupidly expensive and/or have a really Club 18-30 vibe about them and neither of us really wanted to go down down any of those routes. In the end we stayed on the mainland of Viti Levu, 5 nights near Nadi  - a place that many people I spoke too gave a bad rep but I quite liked and 3 days/2 nights in a village home-stay, more on that later.

Our friend Stella (lives in Hackney too bizarrely) whom we met in Thailand at Bottle Beach and spent a good few weeks with in Ko Pha Ngan, was also heading to Fiji the same week. So we arranged to meet-up out here too and she was fresh outta doing surf school in Sydney so it kinda set the tone for our week there. Sorry Sof!!!

Hooked up with a local firm called Fiji Surf who were real nice guys and took us out to a couple of beach breaks at a place called Natadola which is apparently the 7th most beautiful beach in the world and we could see why. Huge shoreline, amazing back-drop, big waves and craggy rocky outlines. Only problem being is that they have built a shockingly garish luxury hotel complex slap bang in the middle of it called The Pacific Resort or something, but thankfully it was set off the beach so you didn't really see too much of it. They saw us at happy hour though!!
As they were already taking out a girl from Manchester called Frances to teach, we all went along with - amazingly Frances lived around the corner from us on Mare Street so this was getting pretty weird I thought, like some strange Hackney Triangle of sorts with none of us actually originally from the place we all called home now.

Now I hadn't surfed properly for about 20 years, the last time was with my cousin in Cornwall so I wasn't too sure how I'd initially fare at this again, but armed with a 9 foot polystyrene soft-board monstrosity, I soon picked up where I'd left off when I was 11 and caught a few waves early on. Definitely getting the bug for this again I thought. Didn't really need a great deal of tuition apart from being reminded how to pop up on the board properly - but it's like riding a bike, once you know how to do it, you don't really forget so I was all set quite early on. 
Great afternoon in an amazing surroundings, couldn't ask for more really.

Next day more of the same only reef breaks this time and world class one's at that. The same firm took us out on the boat for a surf/snorkel trip to Wilkes Passage, a pretty famous spot in very close proximity to the highly insane Cloudbreak, Namotu Lefts & Restuarants spots amongst others close by, think Kelly Slater and WSC events and you're there - unfortunately those aforementioned breaks are only surf-able if you stay on American/Australian leased islands at the cost of US $500 per night. This is a bit of a sore subject with Fijian surfers and rightly so I think, as although these islands are in a sense 'leased' for vast sums of American dollar (I heard 5 million quoted) whereby a couple of Fijians literally get rich overnight. The new tenants then go and invoke some "local fishing rights" rule which in effect bans anyone not staying on these islands (Tavarua & Namotu) from even swimming on that reef never mind paddling out to catch one of these incredible waves on a board. They also employ 'heavies' with jet skis to forcibly remove anyone cheeky enough to attempt one on the sly, even if there is no one else staying on the islands surfing the spot! Damn shame that surfing has become so commercialised that people have literally put a price (and a heavy one at that) on something like a wave, but it's big business I guess and people get mad keen to protect their investments at whatever cost. You can be one of the fabled lucky "17" that when they have a weekly rotation on the Saturday whereby people leave and people arrive on the island (that's the other crazy thing, you have to stay 7 nights on either island), you can go surf it but I just saw that as a token gesture and a weak one at that - the whole point of surfing is going out when you want, and more importantly where you want.

Luckily Wilkes isn't in that remit so you have a relatively clear line-up (no other people about) all the time and if the tide isn't too low, you can catch some great waves onto the reef. I quickly learnt that this is a way bigger deal than a few small beach breaks I did the day before and it was a well intense session, the coral cuts all over my feet testified to that but I cannot stress just how worthwhile it was even when you get pounded by relatively small 7 ft sets (waves coming in) trying to get back out to catch another one.
We had such a good time that morning, nobody else about, in the middle of the South Pacific in crystal clear water whilst attempting (and sometimes achieving) to fly along water on a 8 foot board, I was in no way ready for the speed of a short board but upgraded from the tank I had the day before and got on well with it. Must surf more is now my new mantra, I just wish I got into this in my early twenties and not early thirties as it is proper tiring paddling constantly.`

Sof and Frances just wanted to see these amazing waves and do a bit of snorkelling so it was just me, Stella and a top top guy called Nick out there for about 4 hours until it became so dangerously shallow on the reef that one wipe out could've easily resulted in mainland hospitalisation. Still, I had one of the best days on this trip so far out there, and I am definitely planning on a trip back to Fiji sometime very soon for more of the same. It's just too much fun. 
Apologies for the deluge of surf speak in this bit, but it's hard to explain all of this in any other way.

After the morning session we all went out snorkelling, good spots out here. Lush coral of all shapes and sizes and lots of colourful tropical fish. Sof saw a black-tip reef shark and took a blurry photo of it, I caught sight of a a few Stingrays. On our way back to the mainland though we had a family of Dolphins follow us playing around in the wake and I got lucky with one or two shots catching one in full flight.

Needed something different from Nadi Town at this point, as where we were staying and the places in and around the area were full of kids bang on the "FeeJee Experience Vibe" (see 18-30 references) and maybe I'm getting old but drinking games that involve no alcohol and the same psy trance tracks on constant repeat just ain't my thing.
Ian the surf dude told us about a village home stay place near Natadola Beach that sounded too good to pass up, so that's exactly what we did. Rent boards. Surf for 3 days. Live in a Fijian village with a great family. Get fed. Sorted. A very humble experience and one that was only rudely interrupted for a brief moment by my mate Andy phoning me up at 6am to tell me Spurs had just beaten Chelsea 2-1, something I rather excitedly did to him 18 months or so back when he was travelling, only I woke him up at 4am in Australia - honours even sir or perhaps I just edged you out on the unsociable hour wake up tip? (we did Arsenal 2-1 a few days prior in mid week, so Fiji is clearly a lucky charm for us Tottenham fans!). Anyway I wanted to be up early to catch high tide so he did me a favour. Nice one Bundock ;) I got some great waves that morning too..

The village we stayed in was called Sana Sana and the family we stayed with were totally amazing. The lady who ran the show Torika (who we sadly don't have a picture of) was so welcoming towards us (and a fantastic cook) and her husband Maikeli is a very funny guy indeed. They have one son called Mooses and look after her brothers daughter kids. We hung out with them on the Saturday down the beach and Sofie & Stella went to a proper Fijian Christian/catholic church service on the Sunday - I was already in my church so to speak (the sea) so opted not to go with.

So Stella & I (sofie in this case is I) went to the church service to experience another culture. There was lots of preaching almost to the point the priest was screaming! No clue what was he was saying as the service was in Fijian. Well, one chapter I followed and it was about how a woman should "please" her man. Stand by his side whatever he did. (we had the English bible and was shown where the priest was reading from) It's a very "man" driven society. I had a feeling that all the women in the village were there but most of the men was home nursing hangovers, As they can do what they want but the wife must be good and go to church!! 
Stella and I was sitting at the back of the church but was soon escorted to the front as we were guests. We even got the psalm-book and managed quite well to sing along to the psalms. It was a massive choir and they all wore long green dresses. And "lord" they were hot- they were dripping with sweat! On Sundays they go to the church 3 or 4 times! Pretty religious folk these Fijians. The service was 1.5 hours long and I'm not religious myself but it was nice to be able to join them and see what it was all about.

So whilst Sofie & Stella were singing "hallelujah, praise the lord", I was quickly realising that I was pretty gutted we only had the one week in Fiji - partly down to the fact I had the surf bug bad and partly because there were so many other parts of it I (we) wanted to go and see and just didn't have time too in the end. Fiji though isn't as cheap as some may think and as we'd already stuck down a hefty 50% deposit on our beach hut on an island called Aitutaki in the Cooks, so we were kind of forced into leaving to maintain our motion eastwards. If only Aitutaki had surf-able breaks it would've been no problem at all, sadly I found out it didn't unless you had a death wish and a penchant for being lacerated by razor sharp coral.

So that was in effect our 7 nights & 8 days in Fiji done and dusted, wicked place for sure and one both of us would like to get over to again to explore further afield than just Viti Levu and a few of the islands. 
Would've liked to have stayed there longer for sure, maybe 2 or 3 weeks in hindsight.
So now onwards now to Auckland for a couple of nights before flying out to the very remote Cook Islands, which is about as far removed from the rest of the world as you can get.

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