Yasawa Islands, Fiji
So sorry we've been neglecting you. It's easy to get stuck in the laid back way of life. Especially coming from Fiji, where everything, is "Fiji Time!", which basically means, we're not rushing for anything or anyone!!! ;o)
We arrived in Fiji on Monday 2nd Feb after a gruelling 2 days journey. (London - Hong Kong- Mebourne - Fiji), and booked our Bula boat pass in the airport. We were then told that we had only 15 mins till the bus came, which may sound fine, but it's not when you've got a 22 Kilo rucksack on your back and a 9 Kilo Holdal and have to get cash from the bank before walking a good 5 mins up the road to the bus stop with joggers and thick t-shirts on! The moment we stepped out of the airport into the blazing sun, Mel tunred to look at me and said "Han, I'm shaking, I can't do this!" So, even though I was thinking the exact same, I took the role of Motivator (Miss, not Mr) and told her, "Yeah we can, come on!!!". So we stripped off on the main road at the bus stop and changed into strappy tops, and then into Shorts as soon as we got on the boat at Port Denarau. We picked a good seat in the air conditioned cabin, and settled in for a comfortable 3 hour journey to Mantaray, our first stop in the Yasawa Islands. About 45 mins out to sea, I'd jut fallen asleep when we were woken by the Captain over the tanoy saying that we would be returning to the port as some bozo had loaded the water pipe into the fuel tank by accident, and so we had to get it pumped out. Nice! We got back to Port, and sat there for nearly an hour with no news, then he announced that we would be leaving in a minute, and if anyone wanted to get off the boat to stretch their legs and have a look around the port, to make sure they were back on the boat by 10:30. The time at that point was 9:30. This gives you some idea of a Fiji Minute!!! ;o) So eventually, after 6 hours on the boat we arrived at Mantaray to be welcomed with a traditional Fijian song sang by the locals who worked at the resort. It was then that we had the first of our Diva-esqe moments, as we had booked at the airport and on the boat for double room accomodation rather than dormatories to ease us into our travels. However, Manatray's double rooms were all fully booked, so we upgraded and ended up staying in our own little "Jungle Burea" which is basically a little hut on stilts right on the beach with our own ensuite and and a huge double bed. There's only around 30 people on the whole island including staff and one boat off and on each day, so we left the doors open all day and night without worrying about our stuff. It was like the film The Beach where they have their own little community on the island, (minus the drugs and debauchery!) ;o)
We soon settled in on Manataray and decided to extend our stay to three nights. We hired snorkels and saw some amazing marine life! Bright blue sea stars, nemos, parrot fish, angel fish, sea snakes (most disgusting) and we even saw a shark one day. A little un-nerving, but not as scary as I'd expected, and Mel remained cool as a sea cucumber!
We also went on a trip to a nearby island to visit the villiage. Very nice to see some real Fiji life, but a little humbling to see the poverty. Still, they're all really happy, and Mel and I bought a few braclets etc from the 20 or so ladies who set up a little market especially for a our visit. We felt like royalty that they had gone to all that effort just for us and the two dutch boys who were the only others on the trip.
One night about 25 of the locals came over to Manatray to perform a few tradditional dances, fan, war, and a few others. The guys were pretty dishy with their chocolate skin and wash board stomachs, all acheived through hard days working in the skorching sun. They put our puny British men to shame! ;o) Mel and I got dragged up to dance about 5 times. I think we lost about 4 gallons of sweat that night. Mel was not impressed, but when a hottie takes you by the hand and leads you to the dancefloor, it's only courteous to follow! ;o)
After Mantaray, we got the boat to Waya Lai Lai (about an hour and a half back towards to the main land) Only to be kicked off as soon as we arrived. Aparrantly they had over booked by seven people, so we were all stuck back on a small boat to the neighbouring island of Kuata! To say we weren't best please is a bit of an understatement, but there's not a lot you can do when they dont have any beds free! Our mood wasn't helped by the fact that we had to lug our 4 tonne rucksacks to another island, and in the most basic motor boat you could imagine. The driver literally sits in the side of the boat opperating the engine (or on a plastic garden chair if he's really posh) and the rest of us squat in the bottom of the boat in puddles of water, and if this isn't enough, Mel and I always managed to get stuck right at the front of the boat so that when they're crashing over the huge waves you have the pleasure of having your butt pummlled and slammed into the floor of the boat with each wave! Paradise isn't all it's cut out to be sometimes! ;o) But we shouldn't have complained as we had our best night so far on Kuata. We played musical statues, pass the broom, and learnt the Bula dance, a Fijian twist on the Macarena. Then we sat under the stars and drank Cava (not the sparkling Champange we were quite looking forward to when we heard the name, but a local drink made from the powdered roots of a tree which you will get the full effect of if you walk out into the garden pick up the nearest clump of earth and chew on it! ;o) Anyway, the ritual is that you all sit in a circle with the local Fijian guy, he appoints a chief (who always drinks first) and a second in command (who drinks second) and each time they offer you a coconut shell of Cava, you clap once, say Bula, drink the mud water (as I have come to know and love it as) and then everyone claps three times with you and you all say Bula, then it's the next persons turn. You may be wondering why we hung around for at least an hour drinking this digusting concoction! Well, there are a few reasons. One being, that the local guy (john) also had a guitar and you know I can't resist a good campfire sing-a-long, and the other two reaons were the hot Italians sitting next to Mel and I! ;o) Matteo x2.
The next day (06/03/09) we checked out by 8 so that we could go on the shark dive. We got in our beloved boat (yes you guessed it, right at the front) and were off with our snorkel gear and ready to face some deep sea predators! It was only about 10 mins in the butt pummelling that we turned to each other and asked the question: " How the hell are we going to get back in this boat if they just drop us in the middle of the ocean with no ladder etc?". The worried look on our faces soon passed along the other ladies in the boat, but wasn't enough to stop us backward rolling of the side of the boat (in the middle of the ocean) when the boat finally stopped! At first we didn't think we were going to see any sharks as they took a while to come around, but then one by one they all appeared and when the local guy hand speared a small fish and broke it for them, they soon started to circle below. Before anyone begins to panic, I can reassure you by saying that they were only Reef Shark and not known for attacking humans and the largest of the 5 that we saw was only about 1.5m long. But it was quite an amazing experience never the less. When it came to getting back in the boat, the panic began, butnot for long, as one worried look at Moses (our boat driver) and we were instructed the turn our backs to the boat so that could hawl us over the side. This he did with great ease! I have never gained such speedy respect for aman before, and doubt I will ever! ;o) After the shark dive, we did a little sunbathing, but could only manage about 40 mins as it was so hot, even with a strong breeze. This is the only sunbathing we've done since we left home, and we burnt to an absolute crisp. Mel had lovely blotchy legs where her suncream wasn't rubbed in properly, and I have big square patches of red on my foot where the flippers rubbed the sun cream off, which have now turned a lovely dark brown. Too bad the rest of me isn't as good a colour! Still, we do have pretty good tans considering we tried to stay in the shade most of the time! ;o)
We left the island and made our way to Beachcomber aka Party Island. The stories we'd heard had put usoff slightly, but when we arrived we found that the 80 bed dorm we were to be staying in was actually only about 30% full, and quite comfortable if not for the fact that ywe had to get used to not having space to leave all our stuff sprawlled out. This would be our home for the next and final three nights of our stay in the Yasawa Islands. The first night was the busiest of the three and was speant with Corey and Riaz (two Canadian Guys we'd met in Manataray), John and Jenny (Irish) and Tom, a guy from Norfolk who's birthday was at 12 midnight. We played a few drinking games which ended in Mel and I downing all sorts of concoctions, but thankfully, the watered down spirits meant that we were still pretty audible by the end of the evening. the following two days and nights consisted of lazing in the shade doing crosswords and puzzles with our new friends, floating in the sea and attending meal times. All very strenuous I'm sure you'll agree! The eveningns got a litle wilder, but only in the dancing sense. We did make a larger attempt at getting drunk on the Saturday night, by drinking the bottle of vodka we had bought in the Port and carried with us for the previous 6 days, but even that didn't have much effect. It seems we've become hardened drinkers without having to actually consume any alcohol! ;o) Needless to say Beachcomber didn't exactly live up to it's "Party Island" rep, but we did have a good three days there. Saw some amazing tropical storms, followed by the biggest bestest rainbows you'll ever see, and made some great friends (sorry Becky, we lied) ;o) Best of all was Adam Fawsi aka The Tardis. Had a great few days with him, good laughs and a few D & M's (Deep and Meaningfulls to all those none Ozzies out there) and loads of "In jokes!". We definitely plan to meet up with him in London upon our return.
As we had an early flight to NZ on 10th March, we had to spend our last night on the main land at a hotel not far from the Airport known as Sky lodge to all the tour opperator, but would have been better named Frog lodge as the place was full of them.
Here is where our second Diva moment occurred. We walked into a 10 bed dorm (piece of piss we thought after the 80 bed dorm in Beachcomber) only to find that the bed's were crammed so tight that you could hardly sqeeze between them, the only two beds left were on the top bunks and one right next to the freezing air con unit, and the other 8 inhabitants had taken up all available floor space so that there was no chance of us sorting our rucksacks before our flight to NZ. So we paid the cheap fare of FJ$26 (roughly 10 pounds) to upgrade to our own double room with ensuite, and had a comfotable nights sleep and a chance to re-pack our ever-decreasing rucksacks. (So far we have donated belongings to the staff in every place we've stayed).
The flight to Auckland was pretty smooth, but we had the collect our baggage and change terminals to get the connecting flight to Christchurch. Another big rush, but all paid off when we boarded the plane to find that we had been checked into Business class by the guy at Fiji airport. Whoop whoop! How the other half live. luxury chairs, loads of space, and a curtain to divide us from the riff raff. Too bad this was our shortest flight to date! ;o( And that leaves us in NZ, Christchurch which we shall update you with in our next blogg.
Take Care. Han and Mel. xxx