The last leg - I had to get up at 3 on Tuesday after about 2 hours sleep from all the sorting but got a taxi to the airport and then slept really well on the plane for the 3 hour flight. I got to the airport, picked up my bag and could feel the heat; it was a nice change to the New Zealand winter!I got a lovely Bula welcome as I came out of the baggage claim, there were four men on guitars singing their hearts out and I was greeted by a man who I had a lovely conversation with and who helped me with where to go.I was going to have to get used to the friendliness, you get into a state of mind where you presume anyone coming up to you wants to sell you something or get something from you, very sad but it was a very nice way to start the week, I'd have to stop being so sceptical!I stayed on the mainland for that night in Nadi Bay Hotel, when I got there I had a bit of a nap and then soaked up the Fijian sun by the pool feeling very tropical for the afternoon!Nadi seemed quite dirty so I was only staying one night and then going on to the touristy islands for the week ahead. I had tea in the restaurant with someone from my room that evening and then was so tired that we got into bed at 8! (I read till 9 to make it slightly more justifiable) but we had an early morning to get up for the boat so was trying to catch up on the sleeping!
So we got up at half 6 and got everything ready, I left a big bag of stuff I've bought along the way and the woolly jumpers and had a huuge breakfast, toast, cereal, and cooked brekkie! It made a change being in a resorty/hotel rather than a hostel. We got picked up in a big yellow bus and taken to the Denarau Port, got given our accommodation and food vouchers and jumped on the boat. I had a 3 to 4 hour journey up through the Yasawa Islands but unfortunately it was a really cloudy windy rainy day, so it didn't look quite as I'd imagined Fiji to be.
I got to Nanuya Lailai Island, my first stop, it was called Sunrise Resort and it was just a few huts integrated into the Fijians village behind, it was so small and such a nice way to start off the trip, we had a Bula welcome and tucked into our first lunch. I'd got to know a nice couple on the little boat ride over to the island. In the afternoon we walked over to the other side of the island through the bushes and jungle type vegetation to the blue lagoon.The snorkelling was really good here apparently but again as the sun wasn't out it didn't make the colours look so good so we had our fingers crossed for the next day, we walked back around the island on the beach which was really nice.
We had veg and egg for tea that night and then we took a walk up in the dark along the beach to Los Teahouse for banana cake and tea! It was a separate village and we were sat in the room with a long table and then the family's bed in the corner, it felt very cultural. We went back to our village and listened to Sula's stories from over the years and she told us how respected whales teeth are in the Fijian culture so if you want to get a girl or some free accommodation all you have to do is bring a whales tooth and other all sorts of interesting stories. We played some card games and then the electricity ran out so we got into bed hoping for the sun to make an appearance the next day.
I had a really good sleep but woke up with a few mozzie bites, I've survived for the rest of the trip but the Fijian ones must like me, we had about 5 different versions of bread with jam for breakfast this morning, then after breakfast I got picked up by a water taxi and had an extremely bumpy ride for about half an hour to the Sawailau Caves, (your tummy got left behind on every wave it was like flying!).
We got to the Caves and climbed down some steps to the water, and jumped in to a refreshing temperature, we swum around for a little while, it was a beautiful open cave, with huge walls and then the sun shining through the trees at the top. After that we were going to swim through to a closed cave but we had to go through an underwater tunnel to get to it which was pretty scary!We took a deep breath and one of the drivers torpedo pushed us through and we had to swim towards a torch that someone was shining through; it was probably only a few metres but still didn't feel very nice! We came up the other side and it was absolutely pitch black, we swum through to another section and there was a tiny hole out to the sky above us which let a little bit of light through!Once we'd swum around for a bit we went back through the scary hole and into the open one, the Fijians were climbing up the walls to ridiculous heights, it must have been 15m upwards, up the slippery rocks and then jumping off, couldn't believe how high they were going! When we came out from the cave it was like a miracle, the sky was bright blue, the sea was turquoise, the islands soo green, it was perfect, the sun coming out makes it all look so different so we could warm up on the way home, feeling good soaking in the sun, it was a really nice trip for the morning. We got back in time for lunch and then said goodbye to everyone who was getting back on the boat to go to another island, so I went for a wander around the island and sat on a rock out in the sea and read my book for the afternoon which was very relaxing. A new lot of people came that afternoon, but there were only about 7 of us in the whole place that night, it was so quiet but it made it really good. We went back to Los Teahouse for chocolate cake this time before tea and then after our dinner we had a crab race. We all chose a hermit crab and it had a number on its shell, mine being number 20- Boris! Then they started in the middle circle of sand and it was the first to get out of the outer one, it was great fun and so simple! Although mine decided to curl up in his shell and sit in the middle- very uncooperative! After this we learnt the Bula dance and then did a sun dance as it had been stormy again that day, I'm not sure we were quite good enough at it though! Sula had said that when the weather turns how it was they get 8 days of stormy windy weather then a couple of days of rain and then it goes beautiful again, I was there for 7- great news! After doing the most exercise for a while dancing around we all played some cards games and had a really really good evening, the weather was starting to not matter if the experience was going to be like this for a week.
The next day I got up after a bit of a sleepless night and we had our scones for breakfast again, our sundance obviously didn't work last night, it was such thick cloud and actually quite cold- who would have thought it of Fiji!We just read on the sun lounges for the morning in our hoodies! And took a walk up to Los Teahouse to have a look at the jewellery.On the way we found a stall under the palm trees with nobody around, we liked the bracelets and so just left the money on the table and hoped somebody would see it! Just before lunch it started to tip it down, so after lunch we said our goodbyes and got on our little boat in our raincoats to get to the big yellow boat, I'd only been their 2 days but it was a bit sad to leave the community - it had been such a nice day to start off the trip.
The next island I went to was called Naviti Island, Korovou Eco Tour resort, this one was much bigger than the last one, we jumped off the boat and waded in to the beach with a Bula welcome of singing and guitars on the way in.We were given flowers in our hair and then checked into our dorm, the biggest on I've stayed in so far, I think there was about 100 beds in there! It was a very different atmosphere to the last one and more of a holiday resort. There was a crab race to start the afternoon off and then we just sat and talked to some people on the veranda- we had a step by step explanation to solving the rubix cube! Very complicated! We went and watched the others play volleyball with the children from the village and then braved the cold showers before tea. We had a big buffet dinner and then a big dance show on the terrace afterwards. All the children were on a two week break from school so they joined in, they did the Bula dance and then showed us all the ways to wear a sarong- they made a proper shirt out of it and everything! Then there was a fire show which wasn't quite as impressive as the ones in Thailand but the fact that the trees were hanging down inches above them and they were setting the wood terracing we were sat on on fire added to the effect! I had a really good night just talking to Vicky (the girl I'd met just before leaving NZ) and a marine archaeologist who had so many travel stories it gave me the bug to do more!
We got up for a breakfast of fruit and pancakes sat looking out to sea, it was very picturesque.That morning I decided to go on the Manta-Ray snorkelling trip, we got kitted out with lifejackets and snorkelling gear and jumped on the boat at 'Fiji time' 40 minutes later than we were supposed to. We had quite a long boat trip over to the bay and it was absolutely tipping it down, I was not too impressed shivering and wet.We stopped in the bay and the guides would spot them when they come up near the surface and then we'd all jump in and it would be such an adrenaline rush - you had to jump in straight away and then search around against the current and then jumped back in the boat (with huge difficulty, the whale flop is not an attractive position) and then they'd move on and you'd do it all again, it took me a while to get the hang of it and I jumped out of my skin when I saw my first one which was heading right towards me, they were huge and the front bit of them looked like fangs, it was scary at first but then they moved so freely it looked so relaxed compared to us swimming against the current! I got to see about 3 or 4, it was really good but such hard work and we saw some beautiful coral whilst in our chase.
We got back to the island and had lunch and chilled out by the pool for the afternoon- the sun came out!!! We were so happy! It had taken 4 days so we were making the most of it now, it was beautiful. All the children jumped on the boats to go back to the mainland to go back to the school so the village seemed much quieter that afternoon.In the afternoon I walked over to Honeymoon beach for a bit of snorkelling and chilled out reading my book. We played cards in the evening with some very nice French Canadians, witnessed the most spectacular sunset, had a smaller Bula dance and then a stick game which involved us running around in circles passing on a stick- don't ask, it looked very silly!
The next day was Sunday; we got up and had breakfast, packed our stuff up for the next island and then got ready for church as there was a service we could go to. It was the Korovou Amazing Grace Church- it was a lovely service, full of singing and energy but it was in English and directed at us which was a bit of a shame, we were hoping to see a Fijian service as some of the other islands did but they must have had theirs at another time on this one, but it was a beautiful experience none the less. We chilled out by the pool for the rest of the morning, the sunshine had come out again it was beautiful and then after lunch I jumped on the boat again, I had about a 2 and a half hour journey south, to South Sea Island, it was a tiny island you could walk around the whole of it in about 5 minutes! As it was a Sunday we didn't have a Fijian welcome this time and we had a very strict lady host so it was a bit of a change from what we were used to! We had a crab race in the evening again, but I felt terrible, I dropped mine and he lost his shell- I made a crab homeless! He looked very naked without it, I felt so bad. We just chatted in the evening but most people went for an early night, I stayed up for a while but then it was just me and two guys and it got a bit awkward so I made a b-line for bed.
We got up and had the biggest breakfast yet, scrambled eggs, beans on toast, cereal, jammy toast and fruit, I couldn't quite work out how they could have a toaster on an island where you could see the sea all around you but it was a good breakfast! The sun was out and me and two others got on the big white cruise ship for a day sailing around the islands. The cruise ship took us to Mana and we jumped off and got on the "Seaspray".We got on and were greeted with champagne and fruit! We got the sails up and went to Modriki- the Castaway filming island; it was absolutely stunning, turquoise water, coconuts everywhere!We went snorkelling and explored the rest of the island, it looked like paradise.
We had a BBQ lunch on board, it was beautiful weather and we got to Yanuya Village. We were greeted with a Kava ceremony, it was disgusting! Tasted like muddy water and just made my teeth feel funny but it had to be done at some point in Fiji! The village people put on a market by the beach and there was so much beautiful jewellery, all made from coconuts and shells from the sea. I bought quite a lot as I'd taken out too much money for the week so used it up!
We got back on the boat, the children were all playing in the sea and there was one boy who had made a kayak out of a polystyrene block just floating along, and he found a beautiful shell in the sea and gave it to me, I was very touched. On the way back to the island I chatted to two very nice Ozzy women on holiday, I got on the boat back to the mainland and bumped into everyone who I had met along the way. I spent the night in Nadi Bay Hotel again and had tea with a girl from the islands and a lady who she'd met somewhere along the way. I just spent the rest of the night packing up ready for the flight home. I had a bit of a sleepless night though as I was absolutely covered in bed bugs from the previous night, I'd lasted 5 months without any bedbugs and got them for the last 2 nights as I could see them on the beds from the hotel now too, it was not a pleasant thought and so had a 42 hour journey home with itchy bites all over me.
But it was all over, the 4 months had gone so fast and I had had the time of my life, and I am just planning the next trip of the lifetime now, it is incredible.