The Island we are staying on is simply beautiful and is providing the perfect setting to completely chill out. The locals who work at the resort have so much spirit and Stuart and I are enjoying learning about their families, culture and traditions. They live a simple but very happy life and the little children in the village are adorable. Special thanks must go to Lucy, Ravi, Yaba (The Fijian Daffyd) , Viri, Ameo, Dewally and all the other staff at Octopus who have worked so hard to make us feel welcome and entertained during our stay.
The guests staying at the resort are equally fun. We have met so many lovely people from different parts of the world with interesting stories to tell. It is reassuring to meet people in our age group who are also travelling and learn from their experiences. Greg and Sheridan from Utah have been particularly inspirational and we wish you both continued success with the balance in life you have achieved - good on you! Greg - I am convinced you and Stuart were separated at birth as your dry humour, wit and wisdom are scarily similar. The one difference is that you have a better hairdresser and sense of style so it's not all bad.
Irish Andy we thank you for the beers and keeping us entertained with stories of your time working for Heineken on our first night. We hope you return to Perth suitably refreshed and ready to tackle the new challenges which we are certain will come your way. Be careful of those sharks now!
Ross we hope you made it safely to New Zealand and look forward to meeting up with you again in the coming weeks. Keep taking it each day at a time, enjoy the adventure and don't worry about your brood and Herbie the cat - they will all be fine.
We have also enjoyed spending time with Pat, her daughter Julie and her son John who is nine years old. They all emigrated from the UK to New Zealand some years back without any regret. Thank you for taking the time to give us tips about where to go when we arrive in NZ next month and for the offer of a visit. The same goes for Keith and Suzanne from Adelaide - you are more than welcome to come and stay with us when you visit Banbury again. Your volunteering adventures have given us something to think about when we plan for the next trip.
Finally our quiz and mealtime buddies - The Timms family (Alan, Belinda, Charlotte, Tess and Harry). You have been a hoot. We have so enjoyed getting to know you all. Remember kids you swim like fish, climb mountains like monkeys but play pool like donkeys - keep practising. Charlotte - good luck with the Wisdom Teeth, Tess keep working hard for that house in the South of France and Harry have another doughnut! See you very soon when we catch up again in Nelson.
To all the other people we met in passing we wish you safe onward journeys.
Over to Stuart for the next bit who has spent much of his time on the island getting acquainted with the local wildlife. He has taken great pleasure sitting for hours trying to get a shot of a butterfly, lizard or bird. His perseverance can be witnessed in the photos, but to get to this point I had to delete a vast number of random pictures - thank goodness for digital cameras! You will notice the lack of sea-life. We did try to get him in the water but he stood his ground - quite literally……
The wildlife here is firmly water based but I have still found plenty of thingies to 'photograph. It is like Bellamy's backyard safari sometimes with various insects at war (the ants are winning) and the local lizards hunting flies by the poolside.
We had a couple of resident lizards outside the Bure. For most of the time they seemed to be taunting me as I would sit for ages waiting to take a picture only for them to turn up when the camera was tightly zipped and velcroed into its carry pouch. These speedy lizards are smooth, like slow worms, with yellow stripes down their sides, a dark green tail and thin fingers on the end of small slender legs. I think that they are skinks. I have seen one other very small lizard with a wide, spade like head and fat ball shape endings to its fingers. I would imagine that it was a gecko.
The wasps are amazing here. They are huge with pointed abdomens, very thin waists and large thoraxes. Their heads are very sharp so that the whole effect is very sci-fi. The good thing is that they are, like most wasps, solo hunters of small insects rather than the annoying social type buzzing around the beer gardens and picnics towards the end of the British summer.
Spiders seem to be split into two categories - the nasty looking bright coloured type spinning large webs in the forest and the large hairy type ambushing creatures on the floor that can be found in the accommodation area. The jungle based ones are very beautiful with their brightly coloured spearhead shaped bodies and intricate webs. Fortunately I have not seen the village based ones in the flesh but have seen what I originally thought were many dead ones, including one outside our Bure. It took me a little while to work out that the dead spiders were in fact the shed outer layer of those spiders that had grown too large!
It has to be said that even the mossies are stunning as you examine them before (trying to) crush the life and the blood they have just taken from you out of their vicious little bodies. Some of them have grey-speckled shiny dark bodies which gives them the effect of having a customised metallic paint job.
Of the insect world, only the monster cockroaches really bother me. Something about their rapid scuttling across floors as you enter the room is very creepy. Other than that the place is crawling with ants and millipedes of all shapes and sizes. Some of the larger ants are farming mould on the underside of the palm tree in our shower area whilst the smaller ones are dismembering any insect that crosses their path.
Dawn chorus just the other side of our Bure wall awakes us each morning. Generally this consists of birdsong and the odd larger insect but on a few mornings we have heard a pig right outside. This has coincided with meat feast nights and I must say that the pork has been lovely. Thank you pinky and perky.
What about the birds, I hear you say (Mr Lakin). There are Mynah like birds cheekily bouncing around the dining area and singing in the palms outside our room. They are joined by small black birds with a shallow crested head and bright lower tail feathers. Brown dove like birds with speckled breasts patrol the grassy areas and herons swoop low over the beach at low tide hoping to capture crabs on the beach and fish in the shallow waters.
The hermit crabs are the best bit though. They are comical as they scuttle around in various shells acquired and shed as they grow. The smaller hermit crabs have small rounded shells but the bigger ones acquire conch shells in a variety of spectacular colours. As you walk along the beach, the crabs feel your vibrations or see your shadow and retreat into their shells hoping that you are not about to attack. A few feisty ones will pop out to try and nip you if you pick them up but most pretend not to be at home.
On the rocks in the middle of the beach are the more conventional hard shelled crabs that hide in the rocks when you approach but do so backing off so that their pincers are protecting them until they get under cover. They have a lovely metallic dark blue colour with the end of their pincers and under shell often marked by bright purples, pinks and other lighter colours.
Small fish occupy the same larger rocks as the crabs and move by leaping and wriggling across the vertical and horizontal planes of the rocks. They have suckers on their bodies to keep them attached to the rocks. Whilst they are never far from the sea they seem to have no problem in living out of the water for long periods.
Food has been a major feature of our time on the Island and we have allowed ourselves to indulge a little, safe in the knowledge that we have lots of hiking miles to come. At breakfast time I have enjoyed Meusli and an exotic array of fruit including pineapple, papaya, melon, fresh orange and banana. Stuart has opted for doughnuts, pancakes, muffins and what look like fairy cakes - yum, yum.
At lunch time a conch shell is blown at 12:30ish and like Pavlov Dogs everyone slowly rises from their sun loungers to enjoy either the catch of the day (beer battered or grilled), salads, the daily specials or homemade burgers - all accompanied with either fries or cassava (locally grown potato). All food was freshly cooked and quite delicious.
We have enjoyed a variety of evening meals including curries, fresh fish, grilled chicken, steak and various other meats with undetermined origin! The puddings have been amazing but I am a rubbish food connoisseur so am unable to tell you the exact ingredients but there were lots of exotic fruits, lovely cake like mixtures and the odd dollop of ice-cream.
All this food was washed down with stubby bottles of Fiji Gold. I was particularly pleased to read on the label that this lager is less filling and has less calories so felt justified in indulging in a few extra!!
Right! That's it for animals and vegetables. See our next instalment for details of our adventures on and (in Karen's case) around this particular mineral.