Like the Littlest Hobo, it was time to move on from Octopus Resort. Unlike the trusty dog however we had done nothing of benefit. We did not reconcile a child with his workaholic father or make a bitter old widow a better member of her community. On the positive side, nor did we chase cars, moult or sniff a strangers bum.
Before we left Fiji altogether we had a few days on the Big Island (Viti Levu) to prep for the Kiwi's (people, birds and fruit).
Oops upside your head Boat trip from Waya Island to the mainland - Thursday 27 October 2011
On the morning of departure we popped into the Octopus Resort office to check out the time for our boat back to the mainland. We were in no hurry as our flight was a few days later so we just needed to get to a hotel near the airport. As we left the office we both noticed the forecast for the day - moderate to rough seas. I began to dwell on the Perfect Storm (a movie that was on during our stay in Los Angeles) and the Poseidon Adventure as I contemplated the next ocean trip.
Expecting the worst I put all of my valuables and travel documents in sealed plastic bags. The locals were amused as I withdrew my plastic encased wallet to pay a final bill.
After the traditional song of farewell and some hearty handshakes with the Octopus Resort team we headed off from the beach in a small boat out to the Magik - the dive boat that had taken us to the Island. I managed to scrape my shin as I moved from one vessel to the other as part of a manoeuvre that left me doing the splits between the two boats and nearly lost the two valuables that I had not encased in plastic!
The first part of the trip was rough. Our Captain seemed to catch the tip of every wave and almost swamped the boat at one stage as he surged in to a beach to drop off a couple of locals at a nearby Island. I gripped the most solid parts of the boat and my butt cheeks very hard as we hit the rough waves but soon relaxed (don't worry, only my grip) as the water changed to a mill pond once we were close to the mainland.
Funnily enough, I knew we were okay as soon as the captain moved a red plastic bar stool from under the wheel and sat down. During rough seas he stood up - all the better to see the waves to hit that would make it as uncomfortable as possible for me personally during the voyage. I am sure that he would have only been happier if he had a boat load of haemorrhoid sufferers on board. I supressed mutinous thoughts and focused on the next opportunity to consume Fiji Gold to calm me down.
We jumped off the boat quickly and boarded a minibus that transported us to the Airport Novatel. Back home the working day is not complete without the traditional tea break. Here in Fiji the tradition seems to be for every worker to have a "lie down under the nearest tree" break. They take it very seriously and we saw fine examples all the way from the marina.
Dirty old town Suva City Trip - Saturday 29 October 2011
Sorry Suva but you will not be on the most visited cities of the world. Our day trip was a good way to pass the time but the ultimate destination was not as enjoyable as the journey there and back.
We were joined by two Australian couples and an American couple. We were entertained by Sai (a big Fijian) who having agreed that politics were off the agenda proceeded to tell us about the cost of living, lack of universal education and various unfinished Government projects.
On the way into Suva, Sai pointed out Banyan Trees (huge great trees introduced by the Indian workers to shelter their cattle) and Chomsky's Thumb. This is a small outcropping of volcanic rock that features prominently on the 10 Dollar bill and is named after one of the first sugar mills owners. Apparently Sir Edmund Hilary failed to ascend this rock as part of his training for his succesful Everest Trip but came back after Everest to finish the job.
Sai cracked jokes and sang (beautifully) to entertain us on the way back. He didn't seem to like New Zealanders - apparently they taste like sheep! The number of Aussies on board probably influenced his views.
We passed through Korolevu. This is a small village of some 400 people whose claim to fame is that it produces professional rugby players of both codes. Every year this unremarkable looking place has two players representing Fiji's national team - not bad when you consider that the population of Fiji is over 800,000 and most are built for rugby. Lote Tuqiri is the village's most famous son but all those who make it out send back money to sponsor education and sport in Fiji.
Whilst there was great buzz (around the market in particular) Suva City needs a bit of work. Apart from a few high class shopping areas and the odd hotel, the only decent building I saw housed the Fiji Revenue and Customs office. The quality of building was matched by the new Range Rovers and other large cars in its garage. The same old story everywhere I guess.
The new Government building has been empty since the military coup several years ago. The derelict Grand Palace Hotel was neither grand, a palace nor a hotel (unless you count builders and rats as guests). It should be back in tip-top condition once the "project" to rebuild it is finished - an exercise probably dependent upon agreeing "lie under tree breaks" with the local work force.
The soldiers and policemen looked smart (albeit in a Camblewick Green kind of way) as they drove along in their (rumpety, bumpety army) trucks or stood guard at the government buildings. Karen took a picture of the beanpole soldierguarding the empty Government House and I wondered how effective he would be if the military coup action kicked off again.
Captain Snort and the Boys at the Fort in Suva seemed to be on permanent operations during the nights. There were rockets and bombs going off everywhere. A rumpus on the other side of a small forest beside the hotel we were staying in seemed to indicate that the whole of Nadi was up in arms. Rioting being a revived British pastime I checked my blackberry for messages in case any Fijians were keeping people informed of the best places to loot (we needed to stock up on a few things pre NZ) but nothing appeared.
At some point it sounded like the opening scenes from Zulu. I half expected Karen to announce to me that lookouts from the top of the Hotel had reported back that Fijians were on the horizon, "thousands of 'em". At that point I would confuse my Michael Caine movies (as every bad impersonator does) and shout at the forest in a cockney accent "Don't point, your bl***y spears, at me!"
But no, it was not a popular uprising or the Italian South African Job. It was actually the final few days of Diwali - the Hindu festival adopted by the whole of Fiji. Missing bonfire night back home we were delighted with this aspect of the "festival of lights" as it involved copious explosions and bonfires. We sat and watched from our hotel balcony each night as different backyard displays took place around Nadi.
There have been times in Fiji when I have had the feeling that we were living in some secret hideaway for runaway soul stars.
Ike Turner seemed to be on lead guitar during the Meke and I swear that Ray Charles (complete with small dark glasses) sat next to the Vicar when we visited the church. I kept looking for James Brown but he never turned up. Tina Turner's dress did, wrapped around some bloke trying to impersonate Beyoncé during the games night on Waya Island.
In a similar vein, on our way to and during our trip around Suva I found myself thinking that a lot of Fijians look like the actor Yaphet Kotto or rather they looked like his characters Katanga/Mr Big in Live and Let Die. I raised a Roger Moore eyebrow as I considered that Mr Kotto would make a good king of Fiji but hoped that he would not revert to character and feed people to alligators.
The Bump Flying to Auckland - Sunday 30 October 2011
On our scramble up to the peak the previous Monday I was wishing I was on a boat trip instead. On the boat I was regretting that we were not flying back to the mainland. However, after the dipping and diving during this flight I was praying for the landing and regretting that we had not decided to take a six month road trip around Britain.
Neither Karen nor I had ever felt turbulence like it. I gripped the seat arms and tightened the belt so much I almost sliced myself in two. I'll tell you how bad it was, I found myself watching Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Shores to keep my mind off the planes movements.
We finally landed and zipped through all of the customs and environmental checks. I am a little surprised about getting in to be honest as there are people back in the UK (bosses, teachers, authority figures generally etc.) who would attest that I can be very bad for their environment. However, after a quick check to see that we had cleaned our boots properly we were allowed in.
We landed late in the evening so required a quick kip in a Best Western before we picked up a car and headed North. That, however, will be another tale.
For now my friends, relatives and random blog readers, goodnight or is it good morning?