"We have arrived in paradise, well Nadi anyway..!"

Trip Start Oct 04, 2004
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Wednesday, November 3, 2004

I think you always know when you have arrived in paradise, especally when the first thing you see when you step off the plane are locals playing their guitars, welcoming you to their country. A nice touch when you have to queue up for your passport to be stamped. We had definetly arrived in Paradise. We had arrived in Fiji!

Observant readers of this would have noticed that we lost a day flying from LA to Fiji, this being due to us crossing the international date line mid flight. It was strange to think that we never got to experience Tuesday 2nd November 2004, but we did realise that because of this, we also lost a day on this beautiful island.

There's a famous saying in Fiji, which is "ah... Fiji time" roughly translated as "it will happen when it happens, no rush" We were to experience this a little earlier than expected as this was the excuse passport control gave for us having to wait over an hour to get our passports stamped! It would have actually taken longer, but we changed lanes and strangely enough were allowed through the Fiji Nationals only line. Oh well Fiji Time!

It was after getting them stamped we were greated by a tour guide for Fiji Experience. Before even introducing herself to us, she made sure we were both wearing a shell necklass around our necks. Nice touch we thought! Little things like this can really make a difference! In no time at all, some one had collected our bags and had had them loaded into a complimentry taxi waiting to take us to our complimentry hotel. I think i might like this place!

We only actually scheduled 2 weeks in Fiji, something we regret now as we didn't see nearly enough of the country as we would have liked to. Because we only had this short amount of time to see the main island (Viti Levo) we decided to book ourselves on the highly recomended Fiji Experience tour. Fiji Experience are a tour company that have been operating in Fiji for a few years now that run big green buses around the main island for Backpackers, enabling you to travel around the island in a minimum of 4 days. They were a good choice for us as they were reasonably cheap, you were able to jump on and off if you wanted to stay in one place longer than you expected, and they also took you to a lot of places you just wouldn't be able to goto if you were by yourselves. More about them later.

Although we could have stayed in Nadi for a few days, there wasn't really much to do in the town, its only really there because of the airport, so we decided to catch the bus that same day and start our tour. The only problem was that the bus left at 8am and it was now 5am. With the prospects of 3 hours sleep, we decided to stick it out and stay awake! Well i had slept for 9 of the 11 hours on the aeroplane so i wasn't feeling to bad!

The buses were actually quite nice. They were a good size, sat about 40 people say, and thankfully were fully air conditioned, as the heat from outside was becoming unbearable already, even at 9 in the morning! After a quick introduction from everyone, we got going. It wasn't long until we made an aliance with a few other travellers. Your hear about them later so i'll give a quick introduction. There was Helana, a girl from oop North, Dean from Lincon, who was hillarious as he was always moaning, Rob from Brighton and Viv from America.

We drove for a couple of hours down Queens Road, Viti Levu's main road around the island, before we arrived at what is arguably one of Fiji's most spectacular beach, Natadola Beach. As you can see from the photo's, you can see why. It was nice to be at a beach of this quality 6 hours after landing in the country. This is definetly what we needed after America!

We stayed here for 3 hours taking part in beach volleyball, body surfing in the sea and snorkeling at the nearby reef. It was also here that we experienced Fiji's love for Rugby. A group of locals came down and challenged us to a game of touch rugby, we had a great laugh with them, although their idea of touching must be different as on two occasions one of their players pushed me completely into the sea!

Also for the first time in our lives, we were given the opportuntiy by the locals to ride their horse's bareback down the beach. Worringly, they didn't seem to bothered by the fact that me, Dean and Dan had never ridden before, instead they just gave us a stick each and told us that we "hit harder for faster!" Easy! Although the horses weren't running as fast as the horses on the Loyds Bank tv commercials, they were going fast enough for us! Our grip on the bit of rope getting tighter the further and faster we got! I really didn't think we'd enjoy it as much as we did, but we all loved it, not everyday you ride a horse down a beach now is it!

The Fiji experience book sums it up quite nicely

The local villiage boys often bring their horses down to the beach and offer rides. Now for those of you that have attended a pony club in Surrey or similar during your younger years, please don't expect your ride to resemble any of your previous experiences. For a start the feed in Fiji isnt the same as back home so the horses are a lot skinnier. Additioinally, grooming an animal in Fiji is a foreign concept (it is a little weird if you think about it hard enough) and equipment such as bridals, reins and saddles are commonly thrown together in the form of a bit of rope and a blanket. Therefore if riding a psycotic, anorexic horse along a beach with limited rope control is your cup of tea, then Natadola is the place for you!

I couldnt have put it better!

Moving on from Natadola Beach, we cruised along to a coastal villiage called Malo-malo. Before we got of the bus to look how a real Fijian Villiage operated, we all, including men, had to don our lovely Suva's that we were told to buy before getting on the bus (for you and me its a sarong). Apparently it is a great faux par not wearing one in these villiages and is also very disrespectfull, so with much difficulty we tied them onto us and followed our driver and guide to the bure.

The bure is the mani building in the villaige. It will always be the biggest building there and would be used from anything from local meetings to social occasions. The reason why these are so umbelievable are that they are completely hand mad by the villiagers. The one we entered had apparently lasted through 7 cyclones and not a single nail was used in its construction. Only weaving was used.

After watching the local women weave in the bure, we were taken by the kids around their villiage. It was really weird though as they were all desparate to hold our hands. Each kid fighting over who's hands they could hold! They loved the attention though, and were happy to teach us Fijian words if we taught them some English! Although we all enjoyed this visit, we did all wonder how much of what we saw actually happened day to day, and how much was just a show for us? Either way you couldn't say a bad thing about their friendliness. Everyone would stop what they were doing and would come out of their straw huts to say Bula (Hello). Before leaving we were shown a school that they had just recently finished building. It was cool to find out that the whole cost of the work was funded by donations from other Fiji Experience travellers. It made giving a donation at the end more satisfying.

If that was enough, Ray the driver had one more activity for us to do before taking us to our hotel. Sand boarding at Sigatoka sand dunes. This is an archaeological site so we had to be carefull where we walked but walking on the sand dunes for the first time was like walking on an untouched mountian range with fresh powder shaping the slopes. Only there wasn't a chair lift to get us to the top, so we all had to walk, which if you can imagine walking on quick sand isnt easy!

By the time we had got to the top we were all so knackered it took us 15 minutes to get our breath back! All sand boarding really is, is you trowing yourself down a massive sand dunes on top of a body board. Good technique is essential, I found this out the hard way, falling off half way and crashing painfully to the ground. We actually got it on film and you can actually hear me hitting the ground! I called it a day after that!

Feeling tired, jetlagged, sandy and rather sun burnt we were dropped off at the hotel Fiji experience recommended, the Crow's Nest. For F$20 about 8 quid we had a villa that slept 5. It was actually here that we found out that Bush had won the election again, must to the disgust of Viv. After trying in vain for 30 minutes to remove all the sand from every oracle, we sat in the bar and sampled Fiji's no 1 beer, Fiji Bitter (good recomendation Toby!). It was then that we realised that we were sharing the same hotel as the Kiwi All Blacks. We actaully all queued up together for dinner which was really weird, espiecally as i wall taller than nearly all of them! I tried to get some free tickets for the rugby but it fell on deaf ears! Oh well it was worth a try!

We had had a great first day in Fiji, surely it couldn't get any better than this?

Joke of the day

couldnt find any Fiji related ones i'm afraid!

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. As they lay down for the night, Holmes said:" Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?"

Watson said, "I see millions and millions of stars."

Holmes: "And what does that tell you?"

Watson: "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorogically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes: "Somebody stole our tent."
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