Arrival in Fiji

Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
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Trip End Aug 16, 2006


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Flag of Fiji  ,
Sunday, March 12, 2006

The ten hour flight actually passed reasonably quickly, mainly because I was watching the back of my eyelids for the majority of it and enjoying a horribly slobbery sleep. Still we landed at 5.30am Fiji time, so I didn't exactly feel particularly rested. I was impressed to see that despite the early hour, the temperature was already nudging towards the high 70 degrees Farenheit. Stepping off the plane the hot tropical air slapped us in the face, I certainly wasn't looking forward to walking around with my rucksack on in this heat.

We got through customs unscathed, although we did do our usual trick of picking the very slowest moving line out of the seven or eight we had to choose from. At one point there was such lack of progress at the desk, I wondered if the custom's official suffered from narcolepsy.

Still we weren't exactly in a rush to be anywhere, as we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be at the port in Denarau, although we weren't exactly sure how we were meant to get to the port due to our last minute booking of the trip. Fortunately we found the Awesome Adventures stand in the airport and they helpfully ushered us off to their office. Unfortunately the handle on their door wasn't exactly stable, so when Lynne opened the door, the handle became detached and hit her hard on the forehead. So hard in fact that later in the day a lovely big bruise came up.

The Awesome Adventures' helpdesk told us to walk down the road outside of the airport until we reached a bus shelter with a thatched roof. As soon as we walked out of the airport, we received several offers of help (which we quickly realised was code for "please can you pay me money and I will taxi you to Denarau"). We politely declined all of them and prayed that the bus shelter would zoom into vision as soon as we walked out of the airport gates. We did quickly find a thatched bus stop, but we weren't sure if this was a fairly common sight in Fiji, so we weren't sure if it was the right one or not. We had a nervous wait of several minutes until some other backpackers came into view and joined us at the same stop.

Standing there waiting for the Awesome Adventures bus to show up, I got a quick education into how to drive in Fiji. Certainly the horn seems to play a much larger role in Fijian driving then it does in the UK. Every single time a car goes past, it is apparently obligatory for the horn to be tooted, there are then further blasts necessary for changing lanes, pulling out, pulling in and whenever you hear that the road has been silent for more than 5 seconds. I wouldn't be surprised if beeping your horn featured as an obligatory part of the Fijian driving test.

The bus showed up after about thirty minutes and we gratefully embraced the air conditioning onboard. The bus called around a few hotels, picking up further guests before heading towards the dock where we would be boarding the boat. Gratefully we handed over our rucksacks to the waiting staff with only the slight nervous thought that they might not make it to the first island at the same time as us. We climbed onboard a fairly large boat and once everybody & all the provisions were loaded we departed to Bounty Island.

A twenty minute boat ride later, the main boat slowed for long enough for us to complete a daring mid water transfer to a smaller boat that then took us the short journey through shallower waters to shore. Bounty Island looked the same as all the other islands that we passed on the way, lush green tropical plants and trees, surrounded by a turquoise blue sea that is absolutely crystal clear and white sands. For those of you who were sad enough to watch "Celebrity Love Island", Bounty Island was the place that it was based. We saw the shell of the building where all the celebrities lived for all those weeks and the swimming pool (now empty) where they used to frolic.

After checking in, we were shown to our room (sorry Bure), which is a self contained hut with a double bed and bathroom.. It was actually far less basic then I'd imagined it was going to be and my heart did a leap of joy when I saw that it had an air conditioning unit coming on the side of it. Despite it only being 10am, the heat was already fairly stifling and I knew the a/c was going to be a God send. Our hut is literally right on the beach and we even have our own little hammock and sun lounger to while away those long hours in the sun.

As lunchtime approached, we strolled down to the main building and we were served some good, healthy, nutritious food (maybe this two weeks will help to repair the damaged caused by our American diet). We sat down and joined our fellow backpackers to shoot the breeze. Most of the current guests seemed to be students from the University of Fiji, who were on the island as part of their tourism course. As a result Lynne and I were much in demand to complete surveys on why we were visiting Fiji. Still we were more than happy to help, as they were such warm and friendly people.

One trip to the hammock later (which is not easy to get in and out of gracefully or safely!), the rest of the afternoon was spent in a bit of a jet lagged haze, drifting in and out of sleep.

Evening saw us back at the main group of buildings, inside a ceremonial hut for a brief talk on life in a Fijian village. It seems to be deeply shrouded in tradition and full of respect for their fellow villagers. We then witnessed a Kava ceremony, which is a drink that they make out of ground up powder and then add water to it. The chief apparently decides how strong the brew will be that day and the resultant drink looks a bit like dirty dishwater. It also apparently can make your tongue go numb if you over indulge. Luckily tonight one person was chosen to be chief and sample the mix, we were spared (but I think we might have to sample the stuff later in the trip).

Walking out of the ceremonial hut drenched in sweat it was time for dinner and more conversation with the students (and more surveys being put in front of us), before the very welcoming staff entertained us with guitar and vocal versions of Fijian songs. All the guests who were leaving the island the next day were asked to stand up and sway as the staff played a special "Farewell Song". There was a game of rugby on the television that was off to the side of the room, the men playing the instruments made no attempt to hide the fact that they were watching it whilst playing, as their heads were turned right towards the screen and not facing front.

Midway through this the skies suddenly opened and the island was drenched in a torrential downpour, still we were safely under shelter and it helped to bring the temperature down a little bit. Also happy hour was well in swing by then, I had a beer and Lynne had a cocktail where I think they forgot to put any mixer in, judging by the strength of the thing. Hoping that people would be sufficiently relaxed by happy hour, the karaoke machine came out next. Due to nobody stepping up to the microphone, all the women were made to stand up and sing (predictably) "Dancing Queen". This was followed by "Living Next Door To Alice" (where the only bit that they all seemed to know was "WHO THE F?*K IS ALICE" refrain from the Chubby Brown version of the song. I have no idea how they knew this version!).

Having sung their hearts out, the women then thought the men in the room should suffer the same fate/humiliation. Unfortunately we didn't have the same safety in numbers around the microphone, as there were only four men present. The first song we struggled with, mainly because it was in Spanish and was devilishly fast version of La Bamba. Not quitting while we were ahead, the member of staff went to select another song, pressed the wrong number and chose us a song that was in Chinese. Rather than press the reset button, he suicidally decided that we'd bluff our way through.

Each time the microphone was passed to one of us, we had to do some impression of Chinese singing (fortunately there were no Orientals present, as this was probably highly offensive!). As the room filled with high pitched Chinese sounds, I began to dread the next time the microphone was passed to me, so in a moment of inspiration/madness I thought I'd quote a few items from a Chinese menu (Sweet Sour Pork, Beef Chow Mein, you get the picture). This seemed to bring the house down and led to us getting second wind, with other members of the group then going into karate fight scene noises.

Each time the machine then gave you a rating for the song you'd just sung, our Chinise massacre got the highest score of the night, higher than the next song that we did, which was actually in English (a Stevie Wonder song).

Our backs were to the (baying) crowd, but luckily no bottles were thrown and we managed to get back to our Bure in one piece!
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