Bula from Fiji!
After some of the worst turbulence the world has ever seen on the flight from Auckland to Nadi – honestly, at one point the plane hit an air pocket and must have dropped a few hundred feet – we made our way to our hostel for the night, The Bamboo Backpackers. There was a storm brewing which actually ended up making us wait for our luggage for an extra 30 minutes and when it rains in this little tropical country, it rains!
Before we’d got to The Backpackers, we’d befriended a lovely couple from Tongo at the airport called Ken and Estelle. I say they’re from Tongo but Ken was a Kiwi and Estelle was French, but they both lived in Tongo. They were great and were very helpful in schooling us about Pacific Island life and, as they were staying at The Backpackers for the night, we agreed to hook up for a beer once we’d ditched our bags.
The hostel was really decent and the staff very helpful. Nadi which isn’t Fiji’s capital but has the country’s only international airport is basically a gateway to the numerous islands that form the archipelago which is Fiji. And, The Backpackers, fully accept this and are therefore super keen to help you on your way although the tour operator woman who booked our ferry tickets did have us over.
Anyway, before we go into what we’d for booked the mainstay of our Fiji stop-off, back to Ken, Estelle and the bar.
Ken had already mentioned to us about kava. Kava is a root taken from a traditional Fijian plant, ground into powder and mixed with water. It looks like dirty water and pretty much tastes like it too but over here they smash it back like it’s going out of business. They do it in a ceremonial way, very chilled out, sat around a big bowl with a couple of guitars and a ukulele singing tunes and smoking lots of cigs. The drink is supposed to contain some active ingredient which helps to relax you – probably similar to weed, I guess. although we didn’t really feel like it effected us much, but that may well be because we’d had a good number of beers anyway.
So, we had a bite to eat, some traditional fish dish and accompanying spinach balls, which were really fresh and lovely, and swilled it down with some Fijian gold lager (for me) and vodka lemonade (for Mill). then we set down in the kava circle, making friends with most of the other backpackers who were partaking.
Now, we’ve not covered ourselves in glory here because we went ahead and booked a beach hut on one of the many islands without really doing our research. We soon discovered that the only ferry leaving to get to Nacula (which is part of the Yasawas group of islands), the island where we’d booked, left at 8:30am and you had to have pre-booked it, and you had to be at reception (of The Backpackers) at 7am, and the ferry took 4.5 hours to get to Nacula, and it cost $716 (£285) return, and the resort we’d booked had a hidden charge of $109 (£260) per person per night for food. So, after a number of beers, we grabbed the tour rep person on the front desk, who had already clocked off for the night and wasn’t all that happy to help and booked the ferry figuring it would be more expensive to have to pay for a room we weren’t going to stay in than to sack it off and search for alternatives.
Roughly, we awoke in the morning (Ken did mentioned the stinking hangover drinking kava encouraged) and dragged ourselves to the shuttle bus which was to take us to Denerau Port. One first piece of advice to you is do not do a 4.5 boat journey after a night on the piss – it was not nice. The boat stops off at about 20 other closer, equally lovely looking resorts on the way to Nacula Island too, so all in all we were a little bit gutted we didn’t look this shit up and book something closer.
Anyway, we got there in the end and the serenade off the resort staff did help to get over the pain of the journey and the expense of the whole thing. We got shown to our hut and had a little explore of the place. Now, we should have also done our research when we booked the trip because February is the second rainiest month in the Fijian calendar (with Jan being the wettest) and this ensures about 300cm of rain falls in the month. Luckily when we got there it was just overcast so although there was no sun, it wasn’t raining at least and was about 29 degrees – so humid as it gets really.
The resport put on some really cool activities: snorkelling, yoga, hill treks, crab racing, cave excursions, basket weaving and scuba diving to name just a few. We pipped for the 5pm yoga class to get started with and despite getting eaten alive by mosquitos, Milly managed a Child’s Pose and I creaked into Downward Dog…just.
A traditional Fijian curry buffet was on the menu for dinner and we dined with a couple of Swiss lasses and a couple more German lasses. Milly said that one of the German girls looked the spitting image of Jessica Simpson but I wasn’t too sure. Mill wasn’t happy when the four of them gave up speaking English to opt for their mother Deutschland tongues, saying it was rude, but to be honest the Germans at least didn’t have much to say for themselves anyway so I was happy to not join in the convo.
We had an early night as the kava session of the previous evening had taken its toll and we couldn’t handle another heavy one.
The morning came and so did the sun. You could now see the resport in its full beauty. Literally, right on the beach front with beautiful clear waters and a number of water activities which you could chose to partake in. Hot on our list was a snorkelling experience as we enjoyed ourselves previously in Phi Phi. So we booked this in for the next day and set about lounging around beach and poolside. At 3pm there was a pool volley ball competition which we were both raring to have a crack at. Unfortunately though Milly got a bad stomachache so she declared herself injured and I had to play on for the both of us.
It was a great game and one of the greatest fruits came about in us making the acquaintance of a wonderful couple, Joe and Jordan. Joe is from Nottingham and Jordan from Cardiff and they’ve been living in Austraila of the past 18 months or so. The best thing to do when you first get to know someone is to drink rum so we therefore passed many of the next hours digressing about life and drinking 58% proof Fijian rum with cola. Good times.
They don’t call it the rainy season for no reason and it properly lashed it down for the next day. The wind was also pretty mental so there wasn’t much we could do but sit about and play cards with our new best buddies. Pretty much all activities were off apart from basket weaving and we didn’t fancy that much. We somehow managed to get sunburnt though whilst playing a bit of curby poolside. Just shows how strong the sun is over there, Joe’s shoulders even blistered.
The evening came and after dinner we caught the attention of the a Chinese family who were staying there by playing Scrabble. I’m pretty sure it mustn’t be a game over there because they were fascinated with it, even with their limited English.
The next day, our last, still didn’t improve much although we did get a brief bit of respite in the morning and we all hired out some SUPs (which are like surfboards which you can stand on) and had some fun in the sea. I must add that Milly was particularly good at this and put the lot of us to shame. I, on the other hand, was just enjoying falling in far too much to want to stay on my board.
We did start, but had to abandon, and attempt to walk up the local hill summit. It started off quite nice as there was a place where all the trees had shed their petals to form some sort of pretty catwalk, but it was so wet that we couldn’t keep our footing and we called it quits not long after.
Soon after that it was time to board the boat back to Denerau. The sea was really choppy and although thankfully this time we weren’t hungover it still was not a pleasant experience. About half way through the voyage we said our farewells to Joe and Jordan as they were stopping off at one of the other island resorts and we carried on to Nadi to where a storm was laying siege.
Here was our view from the boat:
Have to admit that we felt like there was unfinished business with Fiji, mainly because the weather was toss but also because we concentrated our research beforehand on the other places we’ve visited (probs because we had the shortest time here). The place is lovely and so are the people. I think in the years to come, the tourism industry will mushroom (there were loads of hotels being thrown up all over the place) and this is also driving prices up significantly. On the mainland they didn’t seem too bad, but on the islands and the transport getting there its quite a dear do.
Tips for anyone planning a short trip in Fiji: Only go to the Manacunas Islands – They’re closest to the port in Nadi and therefore cheaper.
If you go to the islands, take your own alcohol. Don’t get stuck with their prices.
Try not to go in the rainy season but if you do, pack some activities which you can do if it does rain.
Anyways, lets see if LA and Venice Becach can deliver some more pleasant weather.
Vinaka Fiji, see you again someday.