FIJI

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
1
38
118
Trip End Feb 18, 2007


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Where I stayed
Colonial Lodge

Flag of Fiji  , Viti Levu,
Saturday, April 22, 2006

When we arrive in Fiji, the National rugby team are also about to arrive, so trying to squeeze past the hysterical masses and out to the car park to find our hostel pickup was a challenge, to say the least. Two hours later and after 3 phone calls to the hostel, our driver finally appears. Welcome to a concept known as Fiji Time, where everything is approximated to about the nearest 5 hours

Fiji is ethnically split, almost 50/50, between the native Fijians and the Indians, who descended from the original plantation workers brought over by the British. Itīs quite clear that the Indians dominate business, and run most of the shops, restaurants and hotels. Fijian fear of Indian domination has caused some tension over the years, and has led to various political problems and a few coups.

When we arrive at the hostel, we are met by the owner, a typical Indian businessman, whose eyes light up and who rubs his hands with delight, when he realises we havenīt booked any trips or further accommodation yet (money! money! money!). It was a mistake telling him that, as now he wonīt give us the remote control to the air conditioning (itīs very hot and humid at the moment in Fiji) or let us pay for the room, until we go back down to Reception after settling in, and discuss possible tours with him. So we decide to play him at his own game, and pretend that Patty is ill, canīt come down, so Marc canīt book anything until heīs taken all the brochures up to the room and discussed the options with Patty. Oh and we need the remote control for the air conditioning please, as our chocolate Easter bunny is slowly turning into a drink, in the incinerator type room.

The next day we take a 3 day trip to Mana Island, the hostel we wanted to book is supposedly full. Quite how our current hostel receptionist knew that without even calling, we donīt know, so weīre put in the "only" hostel with space left. Probably the brother or cousin of our current hostel owner. This is how things work here.

When we arrive in Mana Island after an hourīs boat ride, we are pleased to find a laid back island with only a few small Backpacker resorts. We spend the days chilling out on the beach. On the first night, we attend something very typically Fijian, a Kava ceremony. Kava is a mild euphoria-producing infusion made from the root of the Piper methysticum scrub.

You sit down on the floor in a circle around the chief, who makes the drink from the kava powder and water, by wringing a dirty rag, several times, with his hands in a wooden bowl. Gee, if weīve escaped this whole journey so far without food poisoning, Iīm sure that this is where weīll get it!
Patty drinks 2 cups of Kava, which tastes like muddy water, Marc braves 4.
After 4 cups you can kind of feel your tongue and back of the throat go numb. Afterwards, you donīt half sleep well.

The second day we decide to go and cause some trouble, and call in at the supposedly "full" hostel to enquire about availability. Of course, as expected, there was plenty of availability. So we tell them what we were told by the other hostel. Within seconds, the owner is on the phone to the other hostel having a right go at them. It was so funny.

The supposedly full hostel has a cool bar and veranda over looking the bay. We go back to the bar that night and enjoy beer, cool music and a crab racing competition, all under the light of a full moon. When itīs a full moon here, out on a small island, with no artificial light pollution, it really is spectacular. It lights up the bay so much that youīd think it was dusk or dawn.

Back on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu, we join a hop-on/hop-off backpacker bus and experience a great Island Night, with a show and a buffet which is cooked the traditional Fijian way, with hot coals, underground.

The next day, we get dressed up in Sarongs to visit a traditional village. After which, we head off for a 4 hour hike through the jungle.
We wish the guides would explain themselves properly in this country. We were told that we would need to walk through a small ravine at the end of the track. What this actual meant, is walking for an hour down what started off as a stream, and turned into a small river, sometimes waist high. Of course this is more suited to sandals and swim shorts, rather than zip-off trousers and hiking boots, which is what we were wearing.

All was forgiven when the small river joined a much bigger one and there were inner tubes waiting for us. Thatīs right, this is an activity called tubing, where you sit in a huge inner tube and float down the river, cool. However, yet again, with special thanks to our useless guide, for not telling Marc until the very last minute, that on one of the bends, in order to avoid the rapids, he had to get way over to the right, it was too late to avoid them. Despite Marc paddling his heart out to try and get right, the current was too strong and was already pulling him towards the rough and bubbling left side of the river. Marc, in spite of displaying a very worried face, got through them with just a few bumps, when his bum bounced down the rocks. Patty, who was behind, saw what was happening to Marc, and managed to get almost over to right in time, and got through with just one bang of her bum against a rock from the river bed.

Dirty, wet, scratched, battered and bruised, we make it over to the capital Suva, where we were pleased to find a delightful and comfortable Homestay. If youīre ever in the capital of Fiji, we can definitely recommend Colonial Lodge as a great place to stay, with a friendly family and great home cooked food.

The final day, we visit another local village, a school and some more nice beaches, before heading back to the airport town of Nadi.

Overall, Fiji has been a very interesting place to visit for both culture and scenery. The people are also very friendly and in a genuine way, except in Nadi central park, where they just want to try and sell you drugs. The island of Mana was a cool laid back retreat, but we realise we havenīt seen the most paradisal islands of Fiji. However, if the pictures we have seen are anything to go by, paradise awaits us at our next stop, the Cook Islands.
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