On the morning of Sunday 29th August, the legend that is Ron (Bluch) dropped us at the airport for our flight to Nadi (pronounced Nandi?). After an easy 3 hour flight, we stepped off the plane to the much welcomed heat of the Fijian tropical climate (that we had hadn't felt since Thailand!) and were met by a nice bunch of Fijian fellas playing their traditional mini guitars. We hopped on our shuttle bus, meeting Kelly, the small Grenwich gash and set off to the Nadi Bay hotel. We had a nice meal of fish and chips before watching the pretty petrifying film, 'Flight 93' in the hotel's cinema. We had a few ridiculous games of pool and then bed.
Monday morning was the beginning of 'the Backpackers World Travel Fiji f*** up'! On arrival at the port, the boat had no confirmation of our booking. Indeed this did little to inspire the reputation of Backpackers w*** Travel. Somehow (and we don't really know how) we blagged our way onto the Awesome Adventures boat and headed out in the sunshine to Manta Ray Island, a piece of tropical paradise in the Yasawa islands a few hours north of the mainland. We made it after a little over 2 ½ hours and transferred mid-ocean onto a smaller boat to take onto the island, where we were met with more singing and guitar playing. The island was especially nice and close-knit - very chilled out, very Fijian. Dumping all our stuff in our 40+ bed dorm, we went up to the bar area in time for lunch. The food was really good here; Dan even indulging in the occasional baked Wahu (fish) and curry. We were introduced to two of Kelly's Maancunian Yid friends, Ben and David, before cotching on the beach for the remainder of the day. This place was as close as possible to paradise; so quiet and isolated and so chilled out due to the fact that everything runs on 'Fiji time'! Dinner again was good and tonight's entertainment was balloon dancing, the concept of trying to wiggle a balloon between two bodies from top to bottom. Jamie is still certain that he and fellow lanky yid Ben should have won, but it was an honorable effort in unhelpful conditions. As was the case most nights at Manta Ray, it was an early night.
We were woken the next morning by the sound of the breakfast drum, ate and headed for the beach, despite the cloudy weather. At 4pm it started to absolutely pour with rain (Thailand-paddle bat-monsoon-esque) so we were forced to stay in the bar?dreary, but s*** happens. That night after dinner, the local villagers came to perform traditional Fijian song and dance, busting classics such as 'Bula' and the 'Farewell Song' - timeless. We were then invited to join in and dance with the locals, accompanied by singing from a bearded woman who looked like Eddie Murphy! They all then had to cram back into a little boat in the torrential rain to head back to their village! Wednesday was also a bit of a washout. It rained the entire night before (obviously the s*** bure dorm leaked, but over some other suckers) and continued to pour the whole day! On the plus side, Alison (from Kiwi bus) arrived with two surprisingly pleasant Essex girls, Emma and Laura. Praise the lord the rain calmed down later that day but our hopes weren't overly positive for the next day. That evening, we had a limbo competition, Jamie proving how inhumanly flexible he is, only to be pipped to victory by rugby lad Lister. The game then evolved into picking up a cardboard box with your teeth, which also suited Jamie's elastic talents. We watched an old game of rugby on Fiji Sky with Paul Chaplow, brother of West Brom hero Richard before bed.
Thursday morning we awoke in glorious shock to clear blue skies and intense sunlight. J went off for a wicked dive in the morning before returning to the beach to start proper tanning! We made the most of the sun all day, said goodbye to Kelly and the yiddos and had a proper chilled out Fijian day. Played our first game of beach volleyball with Aba (Fijian warrior/hunter of wild goats/hero) before going for dinner. Paul randomly suggested having a crab race for entertainment, asking Sami the barman if it was possible. Less than two minutes later, Sami returned with a box of 25 crabs from the beach! Neither of our chosen crabs were successful however. Later that evening, J may have made the biggest error of traveling by inviting two oversized annoyances to play cards. Big mistake! After a few games, we managed to lose the gash and went to bed.
The following day was another glorious one. We dived together for the first time before returning to the beach for extensive sun treatment. The afternoon resulted in hiring kayaks with newfound Swede, Lena and transporting ourselves across a small passage of the sea to a deserted and even more secluded beach opposite our normal tanning spot. Kayaked back for a spot of beach volleyball before the villagers returned in the evening for another traditional spiel. This time we were better prepared for their songs and strategically placed ourselves so as not to dance with some smelly fat, Fijian. We enjoyed Eddie's performance and the legendary farewell song before we had a traditional Cava ceremony. Cava is a drink made from the powdered root of a tree mixed with water and is meant to act as a mild hallucinogenic. In fact, this was just like drinking dirty foot water out of a coconut shell but was still a cool experience.
Saturday (notice the trend) we sunbathed all morning (from 9-1 to be exact) and after our final lunch, prepared to leave Manta Ray. There was a nice little farewell ceremony including singing and a tug of war and then we boarded the boat to our next destination, Beachcomber Island. This was a much smaller island than Manta Ray and arguably more desert-island like. We stayed in a 120 bed dorm which was a mad experience and were reunited with Paul from Accrington before a beer and fabulous BBQ dinner! Headed over to the aptly named 'Sand Bar' for a couple of drinks before bed. No surprises here, Sunday was spent on the beach, developing our encouraging colour. J had a nice snorkel in the afternoon, stalking an octopus hunting its dinner for a substantial length of time! That evening we ploughed our way through our bottle of 50% vodka with the help of Paul, German Melanie and Essex girl Nicki, before heading to the bar for some shots through straws and a nice little bop.
On Monday 6th August (s*** it's our fifth different month of the year to have been traveling in!) J got up early to do a couple of amazing shark dives, seeing at least 10 sharks, some reaching over 2m long! After a bumpy journey back to the mainland, lunch was enjoyed by all before heading back to the beach for a final attempt at frazzling our bodies in the sun. We said an emotional goodbye to Paul (legend) and boarded the boat back to Nadi on the main island. In the strangest turn of events, we found Nick, Nick and Craig sitting in our bed at the Nadi Bay Hotel!! It's a crazy f***ing world! Not so excitingly, we also reunited with Liz the Unitarian Manc and the two annoying walruses from Manta Ray! Tonight we watched 'The Queen' in the hotel before doing some washing and packing before our flight to Sydney tomorrow.
Highlights of Fiji - Best Fish: baked Wahu. Best song: 'Fijian Farewell Song'. Best Fijian: Aba. Best newfound chum: Paul. We're back to Sydney tomorrow before the longest Wednesday of our lives on course to Johannesburg to start our final adventures in Africa!!