Bula friends and family!
We hope you have not missed us too much as we have been resting and relaxing on the sunny island of Waya, a small but beautiful part of the Republic of the Fijian Islands.
Sit down, relax, turn the TV and your mobile off and set aside some quality time as we combine our writing efforts to bring you up to date with our Fijian adventure in a series of blog entries.
This flight tonight leaving Los Angeles - Saturday 15 October 2011
At around 11.25pm and after a dull evening at a poor airport we began to board our flight to Fiji - Air Pacific's flight number Fiji 811. The friendly airline staff, dressed in colourful patterned uniforms, showed us to our seats on the top deck of the liveried Boeing 747.
A young Fijian man sat next to us on his first flight home for four years. Apart from the time a small child behind kicked the back of his seat, he beamed all the way home, very happy to be returning from chilly Edmonton to see his parents and siblings.
Strangers in the night
SB: Before we boarded I performed my usual pre-flight routine - basically looking for potential signs that I am in a disaster movie.
This is important to me as I don't look like one of the survivors. No, I look like the men in the background who are just making up the numbers. You know the type; they tend to show pictures of loved ones before being sucked out of a hole in the fuselage that Charlton Heston will paraglide into later to replace the pilots who have come down with food poisoning. Put it this way, if it was an episode of Star Trek I would be the guy in the red uniform that no-one has seen before who is melted by sulphur rock monsters just before the first advert break. That's why I check out my fellow passengers to see if the character ingredients of a good movie are in place.
Members of the church are my key indicators. A big red warning light should flash if a nun with an acoustic guitar accompanies a sick child on board or an older priest is travelling with an angry looking younger one. The nun and kid make it (just in time for the lifesaving operation) but clergymen tend to die after being uncharitable (if they are senior churchmen) or doing something wildly heroic. The latter heroism is usually a consequence of the angry priest regaining his faith following an act of sacrifice by an old person played by a fading star of yesteryear (Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Fred Astaire etc.).
So there I was at gate 104 checking everyone out. No nuns and all the kids look healthy (too full of beans in some cases!) so that's good. But wait. Who is that? It's Jesus and he has an acoustic guitar! That has to be a good thing right? Surely the second coming won't be ended in a plunge into the Pacific. In this TV age Christ will surely "die" on Britain's got talent, "crucified" live by the pawns of Satan: Piers Morgan, the Hoff and Amanda Holden.
You will be glad to see that we, Jesus and his Guitar all made it to the lovely Isle. Note to Jesus - don't let Judas persuade you to go the auditions. Listen to Simon Peter (not Simon Cowell) and go fishing. Oh but take your own wine and enough fish finger sandwiches for the others.
What an atmosphere
SB: The film choice was good on the flight. I watched Super 8 and then Transformers the Dark of the Moon before changing channel to the flight details map. Why is the map and the accompanying speed, altitude and temperature details so fascinating? I can watch it for hours and did so on this flight as we were passing both the Equator and the International Date Line in the last hour or so of the flight.
Whilst visuals are always good for keeping me interested during the flight (I can never sleep) the most memorable thing for Karen and I was the Russ Abbott type song that played over the speakers at the beginning and end of the flight. The lyrics to the chorus went something like:
I'll buy you fish and chips if you just swing those hips and do the rhumba
I'll get you bacon and eggs if you will move those legs and do the samba
Entries are invited for new versions of the same song. Here's my go:
You'll have your fill of Dim Sum when I see you wiggle your bum and do a Go Go
I will ply you with wine if you can swivel your spine and do the Pogo
Island in the sun
We touched down in Nadi (pronounced "Nandi") at 5:30am on Monday 17th October. Crossing the International Date Line meant losing an entire day - we hope Sunday 16th October was an enjoyable one and that we did not miss too much. Having been 9 hours behind you guys for much of our travels we are now 12 hours ahead. It is making our heads hurt thinking about what day or time it is in different parts of the world so we are doing as the locals do and operating on Fiji time - where everything happens at a relaxed and leisurely pace or does not happen at all!
A minibus picked us up at Nadi airport, dropping us off at a small harbour (Vuda Marina) on the eastern side of the main island. Our travel companions included Andy from Waterford (currently living in Perth), Pat, Julie and John originally from the UK (now living in Auckland) and Ross from Bath - oh and a double mattress and various food supplies. More about the lovely people we have met later.
SB: Arriving at the harbour there was a boat. It was a small boat. I hoped for a smooth crossing and a comfortable seat but I found myself muttering Chief Brody's comment to Quint in Jaws when he first spies the shark, "You're going to need a bigger boat".
We mooched around with our fellow travellers whilst the boat was loaded with supplies for the resort and our bags. All of the passengers were seated on the side that would be facing away from the sun as we crossed the ocean, our weight being counterbalanced by the goods and bags on the sunny side. The crew consisted of the captain and one crewman.
The trip was pleasant with only a few entertaining bumps and drops as we hit the tops of waves. There was a good view back towards the main island and out to the smaller islands to the South West. An hour or so later we reached our destination the fabulous Octopus Resort on the island of Waya, part of the Yasawas chain.
Our first view of the resort was stunning - a collection of Fijian style buildings were spread out along the shore at the right hand side of a palm fringed crescent shaped sandy beach. A coral reef could be clearly seen a few metres from shore, broken only be a small channel allowing fishing boats and snorkelers to access the sea.
The small heights of the island could be seen behind the accommodation. The lowers slopes were carpeted with forest that was broken up by grassland and volcanic outcrops towards the peaks. The top surfaces of the beach side rocks were freeze frames of the lava flows that had originally formed them but some had been worn away underneath by the actions of the tide. The rocky tips of the highest points of the island were also largely rounded but less smooth and interspersed with the occasional ragged peak.
The draft of the boat was too deep to navigate the reef so we had to transfer to a genuinely small boat manned by two smiling Fijian men. They transferred us quickly before making several return trips to pick up luggage, goods for the kitchen and the mattress.
KB: Stuart and I were appropriately dressed in our heavy jeans, walking boots and jumpers - we did not stand out at all from the locals! The crossing took about an hour and was spectacular. For the most part all you could see was endless ocean interspersed with little islands. I really enjoyed the crossing despite a fear of deep water and the fact there was not a life jacket in sight! When we arrived at Octopus we were greeted by the staff of the resort singing a traditional Fijian welcome. They have amazing voices and so much energy - it was a perfect start to our stay here. Jumping from a small vessel to reach the shore in jeans and walking boots is a challenge. By this time Stuart and I were dripping not only with sweat but now sea water. We looked a right sight.
… in the middle of the palms.
We were relieved when we finally arrived at our little Garden Bure (# 18). This is a traditional Fijian style house built using many parts of a coconut tree. Garden Bures such as ours are a mid-range option at the resort, cheaper than the beach side Bures but a few dollars up from the good quality dormitories occupied by the real back packers. Whilst we did not have the private hammocks that some of the garden Bures had, we felt we had the best one as it had a wide, shady veranda and the best view of the garden.
Our little home includes an outside shower - it is very liberating showering under the heat of the sun or the night sky. I am often joined in my shower by lizards, ants, moths and mozzies - they are no longer my enemy and we are now good friends. When we sleep at night (under a huge mosquito net) you can hear the ocean in the distance and various sounds of nocturnal animals which is surprisingly relaxing. We are awoken to tweeting birds, singing cats and I am sure I have heard a pig - not quite so relaxing at 5:00am in the morning but we have kind of got use to it now.
SB: It was a pleasure showering in our private open air bathroom with its greenery and a backdrop of the jungle above the resort. On some mornings a tan could be started as you shaved and the outside space allowed us to make use of our travel clothes line so that we could keep up with the laundry.
Lucy, a lady from the local village, was our allocated maid during our stay. She made up our room beautifully, always laying out fresh flowers and making sure we were looked after for towels and bathroom goods. It was fascinating to talk to her about her family and village life. She had three children and one grandchild. Every other Villager we met seemed to be a relative - no great surprise when we discovered that her parents had 21 Grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
The scene was set for some perfect chill out time.