Taveuni Island: Feejee Stylee

Trip Start Jan 18, 2011
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Trip End Dec 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
The Ferry of Doom
What I did
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Flag of Fiji  ,
Friday, May 13, 2011

J here..

This refers to the distinct laid-back atmosphere that only a tropical island can offer. The pace of life goes from bullet train to steam locomotive the further we venture from civilisation and feels very muchlike a holiday within a holiday. 

 The traditional backpacker fiji experience seems to be the Island Hopping pass that takes you to a variety of islands to the north-west of the main island. These islands all have a different atmospheres varying on party time to chill but we went off-the-beaten track and has taken us deeper into the country. We've come across along the way - a smiley, friendly bunch who seem curious to meet and greet visitors to their country. Very colourful and charming.
 
We spent the first day at the Bamboo hostel making some travel arrangements and visiting mud baths in the afternoon. The friendly driver of Indian descent took us into the countryside to a small clearing where we met Charlotte, a sweet Fijian girl. She explained that these mudbaths belonged to her clan and were very good for your skin (the mud not the clan). It was a large ditch filled with geothermally heated mud and was explained that it was really good for skin and hair. Felt really weird at  first but good. We washed it off in another pool that was heated. Lisa had a massage but the format was quite different than the usual! She was in a tent of about 15 old Fijian women all chattering, the occasional dog sniffing around for good measure.

The area is close to the airport and the beaches are not good so our travelling begins the next day as we leave on the local bus that chugs along the coral coast on the main island from Nadi.

Our time on Fiji is limited to only 2 weeks so from recommendations we have decided to head to the island of Qamea where the owners of Bamboo hostel also have a place. This involves a fair bit of travel (including 18 hour min ferry crossing) so to break up the journey we stayed in the Fiji Beachouse.
 
It's a resort on a wide shallow private beach set in lush manicured gardens with a backpacker-friendly price tag. The pool's good for a dip and there's a hut to sort out watersports. Staying here won't be a problem!
 
The place seems to have an atmosphere.. Typically, stopping at Fiji on a round the world ticket doesn't incur any extra mileage between New Zealand and LA so there were your fair share of Brits there. We busyed ourselves with a bit of kayaking, reading and getting into the swing of lazy beach life. A bit of relaxing may be needed considering the journey to come.
The next day we conitinued along the cloast to Fiji's capital, Suva to catch the ferry. This bus didn't have A/C but it was enjoyable nonetheless - watching Fijian life unfold as we bounced along the coast through sleepy villages.
 
The capital is a pretty crazy place that's as bustling as it is sticky. After seeking refuge for lunch in an air conditioned mall, we tracked down a ticket agent (damn, no cabins left) and began to board the 6pm ferry.

Not Ferry Nice
 
The last ferry we got was the Interislander in NZ about a week ago. It was neat - the checking in of luggage and organised boarding process. The various (clean) seating areas and amenities like restaurants and shops that we're all used to.
 
The 'Spirit of Fiji Islands' ferry shares none of these attributes.
 
The boarding procedure can only be described as a free-for-all! The scene greeting us at the ferry dock was one of organised chaos - two ships moored right next to each other with all kinds of vehicles getting on or off, cargo being loaded and lots of pockets of people either boarding or waiting about with blankets and bags of food. Good thing we arrived early to bag us a seat. Here goes... The luggage for foot passengers had to be taken with which meant lugging our packs up and down steep stair cases. We gleaned that both ships were going to the same destination - Taveuni, and such that both vessels were more or less the same. Error!
 
Once on board we darted around trying to carefully asses which communal seating area would be best for an 18 hour journey. It came down to a choice between 2 rooms. The first - a larger cabin that could seat around 80 - 100 people with aisles of reclining seats, a telly and air con. The second option was a smaller room but with only one aisle down the middle. On paper the first room seemed better - Lisa and I could have a small aisle of 2 seats to ourselves. The canteen was close and the A/C could protect us from the thick muggyness outside. Error!
 
First of all - that air conditioning was non-existent. The signs indicating to keep doors closed were either a relic from the 90s or a cruel ruse to fool unsuspecting backpackers. By the time we had realised, the boat had filled with passengers, many of whom had brough large mats for the floor. Very soon, the entire ship would resemble some sort of chilled out refugee camp with people all over the place including the outisde areas and canteen.
 
We depart eventually and I have to escape the room often to get fresh air - it must have been 36 degrees in there, easily. I get buyer's remorse as it seems the other room upstairs gets more ventilation. Ach!
 
We soon learn that there is a major drawback to being in the larger communal room... there is a telly.. and with this dumb distraction you get mothers.. who have babies. Lots.. of babies.
 
On that journey there seemed to be a never-ending chorus of babies! Screaming, wailing, gurgling, shouting - often in unison. Assulting from various directions. Our earplugs tried their best but the soundwaves were literally piercing the foam rubber, through the ear canal, entering the bloodstream and penetrating our hearts and minds. Not in a good way.
 
More frustration caused by the TV which left us irritable and perplexed. The first program was BBC planet earth. It was soothing to hear D.A explain the global effect of the solar cycle, even if we had seen that episode only recently. There was brief respite from the baby shrieking but it started up again during the next program. Bizarrely it was an ITV production - An audience with Lionel Richie. It was surreal yet funny to see him croon to an audience filled with minor English celebrities such as Lee from Blue and fellow big-faced Greg Rusedski. The annoying thing was that the babies started up again - the noise overshadowing the songsmith as he told cheesy anecdotes to the ITV news team.
 
Now, I'm not really a fan of his but it would have been *nice to have the option* to listen. To have the ability to hear his duet of Endless Love (with the usual Beverly Knight) instead of barely.
Refuge was saught in the 'canteen' and ate the sole dinner option of cold sausages and chips, but quietly realised that the only way to numb the aural pain was to try and sleep. The lights had already been turned off (at 7pm??)
 
We drifted in and out through the conspiracy thriller, Bourne Identity - the 3rd time we'd seen it on public transport in as many months. This would be interrupted with a recurring dream involving drop-kicking infants overboard into the warm ocean.
 
Possibly, the most unsatisfying night's sleep ever.

The ship obviously was in need of a deep clean. The place had cockroaches all over the place! It would not be unusual to wake up throughout the night to the sound of infant screeches in order to bat mini 'roaches off your legs with one hand whilst wiping your brow to get rid of the beads of sweat. Nice.
 
We came to, the sun rose and I walked around for something to do. I sat dazed on deck for a while, dodging the early morning sun but I retreated to my faulty non-reclining chair in the musty pit of heat below. We both fell into a woeful state of unconciousness until about 11am and were rudely awoken by the sound of the ship's public address system:
 
<< EMERGENCY. PLEASE PROCEED TO THE NEAREST MUSTER STATION FOR YOUR LIFE PRESEVER. TSUNAMI ALERT. WITH YOUR LIFE VEST, PROCEED TO TOP DECK >>
 
We started into life. Did you hear that??
Is this for real? What do we need? Hand luggage. Erm. *@!*!! 

 Right let's go. I'll get a couple of vests. Flip flops - probably don't need those.. Attenborough can't save us now.
.. sh@!*!! 
 
Thoroughly discombobulated, we scooted outside but as soon as the elderly  Fijian gent uttered the words.. It's only a drill - a tidal wave of relief washed over us.
 
Our shoulders dropped and words were said! Thanks sweet baby moses. I was readying myself for a prolonged swim in the Pacific! We went to the top deck and joined all the other passengers. Some giggling nervously, some nearing cardiac arrest.
 
Many hours passed (with the TV programs on repeat) and we arrived at the Garden Island of Taveuni. Eager to disembark the ship a.s.a.p we met a driver who took us to a beach where we took a bouncy speedboat to Maqui beach on the remote Fijian island of Qamea.
 
Needless to say.. the return journey will probably involve a plane.
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Comments

Steve on

Excellent and well-written. YOur heart-rending tale had me in stitches; mostly because I know what an extremely grumpy old man i would have become during that journey. Travel does indeed broaden the mind but I the heat, noise, no-sleep and the fire drill would definitely have had me committing Fiji-cide.

kim potter on

You shd write 4 a living ! Bril
fabulous descriptions n tales
loved it

xx

whichwaynow2011
whichwaynow2011 on

aha! many thanks. It was indeed an ordeal. Needless to say, flew back. Lots of Love from us from Oz. x

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