Set amongst pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes, she found herself lost in the world of relaxation, solitude, and bliss.
The end of November had plenty of excitment in store for me. I had to make my way back to America for my oldest brother, Mike's, wedding. En route to America, I took a bit of a detour to beautiful Fiji. Now as I was trying to save money, I opted to take a tour for alternative budget travellers. I figured that you couldn't go wrong in a place as beautiful as Fiji. It might not have been the brightest move on my part, but I still enjoyed my experience. I arrived in Nadi and went to the office to pick up my vouchers for ferries and buses. The lovely people then told me to sit on a bench and wait for someone from my hostel to come pick me up. Well, no one ever showed. I waited about 45 minutes before I ended up linking up with two British girls who decided that we would be better off sharing a taxi. We drove through the island and it reminded me so much of the Caribbean.
Around dusk, we arrived at the hostel and I instantly felt excited to see the beach, water, and beautiful sunset. I felt like a bit of a loner as I was travelling by myself because there were lots of couples floating about and only a few backpackers here and there. I had a quiet meal and went to bed early as I was being picked up at 6 AM for my next adventure. The bus arrived and was filled with people. Some natives and others backpackers. We drove for about an hour and ended up at the port where there was a giant yellow boat being filled up with loads of people. Not really sure what I was doing, I handed someone my travel packet and watched them tear out various vouchers and put different tags on my bag. I climbed aboard the vessel and perched myself in the sun.
I spent over 3 hours on this boat stopping at various islands to unload the tourists and locals. The boat was so large that it would stop at sea and be greeted by tiny dinghies that would carry the people ashore. The people on the boat started to thin out and I suddenly wondered where exactly I was going. Eventually, my name was called and as I made my way down to the back of the boat I saw the tiny island that I was heading to and saw that it was filled with local people along the beach singing a welcome song. I felt relieved and happy all at once. I jumped into the dinghy with my backpack and set off to this tiny place. The people greeted me by repeating the welcome song and then shouted out a hearty "BULA!" which means welcome in Fijian.
The island I had just set foot on was called Kuata, and it is part of the Yasawa Island chain. It is one of the smallest islands on the chain and it is known for its tall volcanic peaks. Immediately upon arrival, I was directed to a small thatched roof gazebo where I would be able to get my rucksack and be taken to my dorm style room. The ladies that greeted us were beautiful as they were dressed in floral print dresses and greeted us with ear to ear smiles. One lady called out my name and told me to follow her to my accommodation. She walked about 50 meters to what resembled a run down sort of shed. Inside there were about 20 bunk beds side by side fitted with white flowing mosquito nets.
I was not too sure how I felt about the shed, seeing as the doors didn't close and there were spiders, ants, and mice running around everywhere. I felt a bit uneasy, but I told myself to chill out and relish in the fact that you are in Fiji! I decided not to waste anymore time in the shed and quickly threw on my togs (bathing suit) so that I could jump in the beautiful water. After a bit of a swim in the crystal clear waters, I decided to explore the island a bit. Since it was so tiny, I found myself getting around very quickly. I noticed that of the three beaches
, only one was really inhabited by people. It was quite a weird feeling not seeing anyone in sight on parts of the island. At times I felt like I had just landed on a deserted island!
Eventually, as the long day progressed, I met a few couples that were honeymooning through the Yasawas in Fiji. They had already been to a few other islands, so they shared their stories with me. They didn't exactly like the island we were on because they said it was a bit more "run down" than the others. I didn't really mind it seeing as we had the ocean and beautiful beaches...so where could you go wrong?
I mean I know that electricity and showers are important, and it did take some time getting used to not having such luxuries, but you learn to deal with it. Fortunately, as part of the package, all of our meals were included at specific times of the day which was the only bit of a schedule that was imposed upon us.
Although everyday brought about something different, there was a familiar structure to each new day. I typically would wake up around 6 AM as I would feel the sun beating on my face through the open doors of the shed. It was too hot to sleep and it was usually really noisy with the amount of people that were crammed into the shed. I found sleeping pills to be my only friend here. After rising, we would typically go get brekky from the "lodge" and spend the early morning enjoying the new day breaking. I wound wander around the island, read my books, write in my journal, swim in the ocean, and snooze in the hammocks until lunch time. At lunch there were always a few newcomers to the island, so I would try my best to befriend the travellers and hear about where they had come from. I made a couple friends on this island, but mostly I was partial to the local Fijians.
After lunch we would engage in some sort of activity and on this island they offered fishing, jewelry making out of flax, basket weaving, diving, hiking, village visits, and snorkling. I made some cool bracelets and head pieces out of bush!
The afternoon usually entailed more sunbathing, swimming, and snoozing followed up by a game of volleyball with the locals around 4 pm. I definately got back into my volleyball while I was there!! I was typically the only girl amongst the local Fijian men playing it up. We would play until it was dark and then it would be time for supper. Usually after supper, a traditional Fijian ceremony of some sort would take place. I witnessed fire dancing
, learned the Bula dance (which is the Fijian version of the Macerena), had a few bonfires on the beach, learned how to tie a sarong about 50 different ways to the sound of music, and took part in Kava ceremonies every night. Kava, for those that don't know, is the root of a pepper tree ground up into a fine powder, dowsed in giant bowl of water through a mescalin cloth, and then served to each person in a tiny coconut shell. There is usually the leader of ceremonies who rants in Fijian and has to start the ceremony with the first shell full of Kava. When it comes to your turn to take the Kava, you clap once, receive the shell, say "BULA", drink the kava, and clap three times.
After my first night on the island, I befriended the local cheif after a kava ceremony, who then introduced me to all of the locals. I felt like a celebrity by the end of my three days there as they all knew my name and would greet me saying "Bula Kelly!" as the passed me by on the walking paths.
After three days in Kuata, I said my farewells to the lovely people and made way on a dinghy to the big yellow boat. This time I was going farther yet again to an island called Naviti.
I spent an hour and half on the boat and then went through the same procedure as before to get to the island to this resort called Korovou Eco Tour Resort. Once again, I was greeted by the lovely locals singing the welcome song and shouting "Bula!" at the end. Of course I was enjoying shouting Bula back at this stage, an act which they appreciate, but also laugh at you for! Needless, to say, I came to Korovou a bit more experienced to the Fijian lifestyle and ready to make the most of the experience. My days were still structured the same way as before (yes there was volleyball here too!!) and some of the people from the first island ended up being here for my first night as well. This time, however, the dorm was significantly bigger and I found
myself huddled next to 32 Fijian people on the ground every night living in fear of giant spiders and sweating to the point of complete discomfort. Did I mention there was no electricty or showers? The only water available on the island was in bottles and it was quite pricey for just one. Minor details of course.
Korovou had a different feel than Kuata. The people were younger and very friendly. They also had a pool next to the lodge, which is where I spent most of my time as the ocean water here was ridden with coral reef and fish that kept on biting me!!
I made friends with the locals yet again and was able to take part in the Kava ceremonies each night. One evening, my friend, the local fire dancer, took me about a mile down the beach into the middle of the bush. I was a bit nervous, but there were three girls with us and we had a flashlight. We saw some lights distant in the bush and then saw flax mats laid across the ground with about 20 Fijian men sitting in a circle around a giant Kava bowl. We were introduced and told to sit in the middle of the circle. They were all speaking Fijian around us and every now and again we would hear our names being said. My local friend did all the speaking and bartering for us and would pass us the coconut shells filled with kava every now and again. It wasn't until later on that we discovered that this was a local fundraising event to send one of the local's sons off to university. I was very fortunate to take part in this event as it was completely different from any type of fundraising that I am used to. Just goes to show how different cultures can be.
After three lovely days in Korvou, I was once again picked up by the giant yellow boat.
I said my farewells to my friends here, as I got on really well with the locals on this island.
I spent three hours on the boat back to Nadi, not really feeling refreshed, but rather exhausted from making the most of my experiences. When I arrived back in Nadi, I taxied back to the airport to wait for about 6 hours for my flight to America. I found a shower in the public restrooms and even though it was mank, I have never been so delighted to take a shower in my life! Fiji was definately an interesting experience for me. If I ever go back, I won't go alone. The people are lovely, but at times, being a female I felt a bit unsafe walking around the islands alone. It was a much needed bout of relaxation and I am glad I was able to experience such a beautiful part of this world!