Upon arrival at our first Fijian island, Tavewa, the main boat came to a stop about 100 metres from the shore, where a small speedboat came up to collect us, along with our bags which were skill-fully tossed over the sea into the smaller vessel
. We pulled up onto the sand to be greeted by the resort staff, singing and clapping to welcome our arrival before handing each of us a cocktail. With neither of us having any hostel experience before, we imagined it couldn't be too bad in Fiji. We threw our bags down in the 20 person dormitory and headed straight for lunch; another buffet service of Fijian cuisine. After a quick tour of the island we jumped on another speed boat with some English girls and a German lad, where a local Fijian took us to a hidden beach just a few minutes away. As said by one of the workers when we arrived 'dump your bags in the room and come straight back out, you don't want to waste a single minute whilst you're here' - and he was quite right too.
The water looked impossibly clear and the waters temperature was equally as hard to believe. We spent an our of two in the sea, chatting about each of our travel experiences so far and where we were heading further on. As promised we were collected and returned to the resort where we walked through the dense bushes and trees up to the peak of the island. The view of the distant island as the sea began to set was spectacular. After dinner we were entertained by some traditional Fijian dancing followed by a fire dancing display performed by some of the locals. We then headed for an early night, apprehensive to as to how much sleep we'd be getting at our first hostel
. Ali awoke in the morning to see a praying mantis had joined up at the end of the bed, our first encounter with the local wildlife.
We sat down for breakfast at 7:30, disappointed at the clouds that covered the sky and wondering where yesterday's sun had gone. We weren't sitting on the beach for too long before the heavens opened and a tropical storm had arrived, not what we'd hoped for. At lunch time the boat arrived to take us to our next resort, Blue Lagoon, situated on another island a mere ten minutes across the sea. Just as we arrived on the shore, the clouds disappeared as quickly as they had arrived and the strong sun and bright blue sky were back in view.
We'd been very happy with our first resort, Coralview, but it was instantly clear that Blue lagoon was leagues above. Again, little time was wasted before we headed out into the sea to snorkel the reef, accompanied by a lad from Cheltenham called Jake. We followed the reef, swimming through several schools of brightly coloured fish, and soon came across a shelf edge where the reef dropped off. After observing the small predatory fish which occupy the reef shelf we began to head back to shore, it was clear that snorkelling was not Ali's best activity as Joseph and Jake regularly heard crunching noises only to find Ali dragging his oversized legs through the coral in attempt To unblock his 'faulty' pipe
. After meeting two German lads, Max and David, the five of us headed for dinner followed by the evening entertainment: 'Survivors'. This involved completing some island activities such as opening a coconut, with the prize of a champagne breakfast upon the beach the following morning. Despite being the youngest and the somewhat more naive of all six teams we set our sights firmly on the champagne. Gambling our way through rounds somehow we had managed to reach the final round, with the question, 'Name the 70 staff members here at the resort' with the first team to give a wrong answer being the losers. We named a measly two then as we began to struggle Ali calls out the native Fijian name of 'Pete', with all other team members looking at him with a rather baffled expressions we kisses goodbye to our much anticipated champagne breakfast. Rather sourly we all went to bed to experience what would be the smallest dormitory we would inhabit in Fiji, just seven beds, imagining due to the small amount of people, a good nights sleep was on the cards...this was shattered when the boys' snoring woke everyone up at regular intervals. Morning rose and we had planned to move to another island that day, but perhaps due to the new found friends we had made and the luxury accommodation, we extended our stay another night. Spending the day again snorkelling the crystal blue waters and strolling the small island we were stranded on, we eagerly anticipated the night time event: international crab racing! We attended a Fijian language lesson during the day in the hope of becoming fluent enough to stay on these amazing islands but with only gaining a couple of words we did what we did best and lazed on the beach
. Evening came and so did the Fijian sport of crab racing. After choosing a hermit crab and tipex'ing our bed numbers on the shell, we awaited the start of the race, the prize being a $30 bar tab. Reaching the finals are Joseph's and Jake's crabs making it through, the group were confident that free booze was on the horizon! Narrowly loosing to a giant hermit crab and despite our best allegations of bloody doping, the boys had once again missed out on free alcohol, gutting.
Staying up to host our own crab racing 'til the late hours we eventually went to bed hoping for a full nights sleep. Spending half the morning in bed and the other half on the beach our time at the desirable Blue Lagoon resort was up, saying our goodbyes to our new found mates and with plans to visit each other in the home countries we boarded another small boat to a new found island, Waya Island. Not long after checking in it was time for dinner; the theme being seafood. The portions very much dissatisfied the boys as they asked for more and more food. After dinner we were invited to join the local Fijians as they sat by the beach and drank 'Kava' - a traditional Polynesian drink, made from the roots of the Kava plant. Joe couldn't force it down and compared it to taking a cup to the Thames and filling it with water and sediment from the bottom. We chatted about life in Fiji and they were more than happy to answer our questions. One young chap told us they play rugby against the other villages on the local islands every Friday and they drink Kava in the evening afterwards. I supposed like we would go for a pint in the pub after the game. They train everyday and a donation was given from New Zealand to allow a gym to be built in the village.
The following morning we took the steps at the back of the resort up to the peak of the Island and back down through the woodland on the other side
. We passed several Fijians as they made their way from the village to collect firewood, and we cautiously stepped passed pigs who roamed freely outside a handmade sty. As we made our way towards the beach, we came to a large rock with the words 'welcome to Nalauwaki' painted on, next to which a man with dreadlocks sat wielding a machete. "Bula' we said, apprehensively, before he span round and took a swipe at Joe's face with the knife. Only joking, he shook our hands and asked us where we were going. In the distance we could see the small village, just a stones throw from the shore. We didn't have long to explore before heading back to catch the boat but it felt as if we had stumbled upon a hidden civilisation from hundreds of years ago, where the majority of inhabitants had never left the village in their entire lives.
The 10 hour flight from LA to Fiji was an overnight ordeal which meant due to the time difference we would loose Monday completely, arriving in Fiji on Tuesday morning despite departing California Sunday night. Due to the flight being extremely quiet we managed to secure the emergency exit seats - aka seats with sufficient leg room to withstand Alistair's giant legs. We were even offered seconds of our meal which included mash potato, a highlight of the trip so far. We awoke on the plane ready for our 5:30 landing and soon after it was a short bus ride from Nadi airport to the boat before boarding an island hopping boat. We travelled for a further five hours to an idyllic Fijian island, situated at the top of the Yasawa Islands. It was recommended to us that we start at the top and work our way back towards to mainland, spending one or two nights on each island.