As much as it is nice to laze around the pool and ponder on life, we do get itchy feet and are getting involved in various activities. We have got into a routine of walking the beach a couple of times a day. We have perfected the art of crab spotting and observing the various coral, shells and coconuts washed up by the sea. There have been a couple of windy days which have made the sea very stormy allowing us to watch some impressive wave action.
3 is the magic number Waya Levu walk - Wednesday 19 October 2011
On our second day we had the pleasure of meeting Viri who took us on a guided hike of the Island. Our first stop was the local village where most of the staff at the resort live. This is made up of very basic huts and a small kindergarten which was donated and built by an Australian Builder and friends a couple of years ago. A number of the younger children were running around, shouting Bula (Fijian welcome), high fiving us and mimicking Stuart's walk! The older children take a boat on Monday mornings to a School on the other side of the Island and return to the village on Fridays.
The hike took us along beautiful sandy beaches and volcanic trails. At the halfway point we stopped to eat some fresh fruit and sat for a while on a huge rock looking out to sea. We saw a sea turtle in the distance and Viri talked about his two daughters and his current studies to become a minister in the village. We also discovered that he is the cousin of Lucy our maid and as with many people we are meeting he was very taken with Stuart's humour! A hot but very memorable little hike.
This trip has been about Stuart and I facing up to some of our fears. Today it was my turn to feel the fear and do it anyway! It was time to learn how to snorkel and with the gentle encouragement and guidance from Greg and Sheridan I completed my first ever snorkel in the sea. This was perhaps one of the scariest experiences of my life so far but I managed to survive and only swallowed about half the ocean in the process!
I would be lying if I said I completely enjoyed the experience because I was very scared for the most part. However, the coral reef and many brightly coloured fish are amazing and a memory that will live with me forever. I have since been out for a second snorkel with Belinda and Charlotte and was a little less nervous this time around. I have been challenging myself in the pool by swimming more lengths each day to strengthen my swimming and increase my confidence. We have the great barrier reef ahead of us so this will be the next snorkel challenge that I will set myself.
Thanks guys for taking the time to guide me along, I really appreciated your support.
I'm the man Brain over brawn
SB: The resort is small and encourages a sociable approach to mealtimes and evening entertainment. Not wishing to be party poopers I joined in the games night on the first Wednesday. This started with a limbo competition (I was eliminated first) and was followed by a game of control the balloon between two people (I joined with Ross and we were eliminated first). God I felt old and unfit.
The limbo was particularly frustrating as Greg had unilaterally declared that he and I were in an age group competition. Losing to the youth was okay but Greg's playful triumphalism spurred a competitive spirit that was not going to be satisfactorily addressed on the sporting field where Greg clearly had the upper hand.
The next evening would see my revenge as each dining table would compete against each other in a quiz night. Greg would start his mind games early - claiming to have a high score for the first round - before eating our dust in the overall competition (we won) and a tie breaking spell of paper, scissors, stone. The latter event was very sad for both of us as we lost to a young woman and a very small child. I did however at least score a point (to Greg's zero) which, according to Greg's criteria, left me the age group winner.
Leaving childish things behind, the quiz night was special as we started to get to know Greg and his wife Sheridan better and met Alan, Belinda and their middle child (Tess) for the first time. The Timms family were forced to join us and Ross for the quiz due to most of our respective tables abandoning us after filling their faces at the trough. We made a formidable team - our talent show Maori Motown mash-up was particularly strong with Alan belting out a moving piece a la Frank Sinatra before I mullered one of Smokey Robinsons classics.
KB: Stuart was on top form and deserves a pat on the back for fully engaging with the quiz. Alongside his singing, he also participated in the charade-off and provided the answers to many of the questions - once he started we just could not stop him! We were rewarded with a bottle of champagne and a champagne breakfast the following morning. Did you know that Elephants are the only land mammal that can't jump, Tomatoes are the biggest selling fruit in the world and that Einstein did not wear any socks…….
SB: My inability to swim more than a few lengths and point blank refusal to even consider snorkelling amused both locals and visitors alike. My insistence that I am a "land based northern European mammal" soon meant that people gave up trying to persuade me otherwise.
Everyone kept mentioning that the sea was just like an aquarium to which I responded in that case I can just visit the next aquarium and enjoy the same pleasures without the masks and stay completely dry.
Some people were confused as to why I might visit a small place surrounded by water. As at other times I drew inspiration from the water hating Chief Brody in Jaws who, when asked why he lived on an island responds "It's only an island if you look at it from the water". I could rest and relax on dry land - and I did, very successfully thank you.
Do the conga Friday 21st September
It was time to don the glad rags and enjoy a Fijian Meke. After a feast of Fijian food we were given flowers to put in our ear (left hand side if you are single and right hand side if married) and were treated to a number of traditional songs and dances. The singing was rousing and the dancing (mostly) co-ordinated! It was a great atmosphere which concluded in all guests doing what I can only describe as a Fijian conga around the pool. Ross and I enjoyed this bit as we had the pleasure of dancing with a very hunky, young Fijian man! Ooh, ooh, ooh come on and do the conga……..
Give me that old time religion Nalauwaki village Church visit - Sunday 23 October 2011
SB: The loss of an hour due to the change to Daylight Saving time fooled many. People thought they had an hour to check out (at 10am) but had to quickly finish their breakfast and push their belongings into cases as the staff chased them up for their room keys. We thought we had more time before we had to set out to the church in Nalauwaki Village but quickly scuttled back to our room to get ready when we realised the time.
The instructions for a village visit are the same at any time - women must cover their shoulders and knees - but on this occasion it was also necessary for the men to cover their knees. That was a shame as mine are lovely - I have a matching pair you know.
As we approached the church we could see many of the small children of the village in their Sunday best. The girls had on pretty white dresses and the boys wore white shirts and small sulus (the local kilts).
The church is the largest building in the village and occupies a prominent position in the centre. There is a grassed Village square in front of the church entrance with the other three sides of the square bounded by white washed village homes.
The building, also white washed but edged in light green, is a brick built building approximately seventy metres by fifteen with a shallow triangle of a roof. Behind and to each side of the pulpit are small seating areas for elders of the village. One man sat to the right of the minister leading the service when he mounted the pulpit and three or four other elderly men sat to his left.
Two tapestries were hung on the wall behind the pulpit - Christ as the Shepherd tending his flock by a watering hole and a faithful reproduction of The Last Supper.
In front of the pulpit and to the left of the aisle were four rows of benches at right angles to the pulpit. This was the choir area. About a dozen women choristers occupied in the front two rows with a smaller group of their male counterparts taking up the rear two.
Visitors were seated in the first two rows directly in front of the table. On the opposite side of the aisle (directly next to the choir) sat the youngest children of the village. These children (ranging in age from three years old to seven) were a mass of wriggly arms, legs and cheeky faces throughout the service, starting out quietly but gradually becoming noisier as their patience ran out.
One small child ignored the rules and walked around regardless of the action around him. He eventually found his mother in the choir seats and spent the rest of the time staring at us whilst following her around as she sang. Another small child who appeared to be chewing on his bible joined Tess and Charlotte at the end of our pew before an elder child scooped him up and returned him to his family further back in the church.
Several of the young men of the village led the service which was almost exclusively conducted in Fijian. We were welcomed to the service by one the choristers early in proceedings but otherwise played no part in proceedings other than to stand when the congregation did and bow our heads during the prayers.
The singing was beautiful with very complex harmonies and multiple vocal parts sung perfectly and effortlessly. No instruments were used - the choir took their tuning from one of the female choristers who sang a single phrase very gently before the rest of the choir joined in.
The adults mirrored their children in immaculate white dresses and formal sulus. The ministers all wore ties emblazoned with religious symbols. At the end the head minister of the Village walked forward from his position at the back of the church and spoke a final, impassioned prayer. Service over he thanked the young minister who had led the service and congregation fled out of the church in good humour.
The youngsters of the Village finally released their energy and we were high-fived on our way - Karen teaching some of them the "high-five, low five" variation we exchange with our nephews and nieces in Dorset.
The hour and a half ceremony reminded me of my Methodist Sunday school days back in Cookham, particularly when the Kids started to play up! My church going ended when John Harvey called at the front door to ask me if I wanted to play football one Sunday morning (I did). After all, Jesus saves but in those days so did Peter Shilton.
Swing Low The Rugby World Cup Final
A huge projector and screen was set up at the poolside which allowed guests, villagers and resort staff to watch the Rugby World Cup Final. There are lots of Kiwi's staying at the resort so there was a strong sense of anticipation but nerves were high throughout the game and a collective sigh of relief when the ref's whistle blew at the end of the game and New Zealand were the new champions. Congratulations to the All Blacks - lets hope it is an England/New Zealand final in four years times.
Flying high now Mountain Peak walk - Monday 24 October 2011
SB: Another chance for the SB Rocky pose as, spurred on by young Harry leaping from rock to rock, a group of us tackled the challenging Mountain Peak walk.
With Ameo (a cheery local father of five girls and one boy) as our guide we headed out over the hill. Passing the pigs, beach and Village we set off up the side of one of the largest peaks on the Island. As we left behind the beach we passed by plantations of all of the local produce and beneath mango and coconut trees. Forest tracks alternated with paths through open grassland and scrambles over rough volcanic rock.
A stream was forded near a small pool that would be a cooling stop on our return. A short while later we stopped to eat fresh fruit that Ameo had secured from the Kitchen before we left. We admired the views as we devoured the succulent pineapple, orange, melon and papaya. As we set off we were 20 minutes from the peak.
Greg had completed the walk the previous week. He warned me that the final few metres involve an almost vertical climb before reaching a small, windswept peak with drops on three sides. At the start of our world trip I would not have finished this walk but Harry's blasé attitude (he was as fast as the guide and walked barefoot whilst I was cautious and shod with full hiking boots) encouraged me to push myself just a little bit.
For further encouragement, as we approached the end of the walk I gave myself a deal - finish the walk or go snorkelling. Being a belts-and-braces person, I applied one last technique to push on - the Homer Simpson empty head. Basically, I decided that if I did not think about anything and just went for it I would be up and on top before I remembered my lack of spine.
I let everyone else overtake me before the final few steps and followed Alan to the bottom of the peak. Thinking he would leap up with no bother, I put the empty head plan into effect. However, I had time to think as Alan took his time to start the ascent. This was not a physical or mental ability issue but, as I found out soon after, the foot holds were slightly larger than our stride patterns so getting the right starting position and hand holds was not straightforward.
Ameo was about 3 metres above us, offering his hand so we easily made it to the top of this first part of the final climb. Whereas everyone else soon stood up and walked the remaining few metres, I crabbed my way on all fours until I saw a small level area beside the flag at the top. I reached the flag and squatted down. Ameo, happy to have pushed this final European muppet to the top, sat on the cliff edge (next to Karen) and Harry bounded about like one of the goats who had left their messages on the peak. I remained very low with a pained expression - even my Rocky pose is carried out squatting down.
There were great views from the top. Ameo pointed out goats and the odd wild dog that was hunting the goats. Shouts were exchanged with villagers working on the plantations or beachcombing below the height. The full extent of the village could be seen, including the church and sports field. It was worth the little effort to reach the peak.
Making our way down was easier than we had anticipated although most of us (with the notable exception of Harry) slipped at some point on the loose earth. A few of us swam in the pool by the stream - I tried to capture the wildlife rather than take off my boots for a paddle. On the beach we met Ameo's wife and his four year old young son Jacob before making our way back past the village and other the hill to the resort. A great walk a small reminder of the hiking we have done and the tramping to be experienced in the land of the long white cloud.
Let's get some perspective here. It is not a massive height compared to some of the walks we have done and not that difficult for most but it was probably the most disconcerting height I have been on. One insignificant baby step for mankind but a good stride for me.
Next stop - the mainland