Helloooo, as i sit in far flung beijing this is the first of my efforts to drag this thing up to date as its been quite some time since the southern alps of new zealand! For our two weeks in Fiji, we booked to spend a week on the main island of viti levu, going round on the feejee experience bus and leave most of the hammocking for the second week and a spot of island hopping in the beautiful Yasawa islands to the north of the mainland. Our first night in Nadi i finally met Mikey after a ridiculous wild goose chase at the typically fijian Nadi airport ("fiji time now, baby") and after a couple of del-boyesque cocktails at our hostel went to hit the 'nightlife' of Nadi, at quarter to twelve on a sunday. Literally as we got there we were invited to come and join in drinking kava with some locals (kava is a local drink which is the diluted root of a plant, it looks and tastes like puddles) something that would probably not happen back home. You often drink it in a big group, forming what is referred to as a 'Kava ceremony' where you take it in turns to drink from a bowl made out of half a cocnut until the entire batch of Kava has been dispatched. This bizzare but heartwarming experience is about getting to know your fellow drinkers and we were often fed the mock idea that once the Kava ceremony has been performed, we are welcome back into their house forever. Quality! Second home in the pacific.... They were extremely friendly tho and even our cynicism evaporated in time as stayed up drinking kava and rum and coke half the night with our fijian chums, even if communication was limited to "jonny wilkinson... big player... newcastle", i didnt wanna tell them that i knew more about shola ameobi than jonny wilkinson. Our first day on the bus out of Nadi we were fairly relieved to get on the bus and out of the town after one mock kava ceremony in a shop and requests from indofijian shopkeepers for a donation "for the village" too many. We stopped at our first of Fiji's idyllic beaches and heard from our bus driver, Bola the enticing fijian belief that the human race first evolved after a woman popped out of a piece of sugar cane, hance the thriving sugar cane industry in fiji. While i have no doubt this is true i was somewhat sceptical at the time. We spent the afternoon sandboarding down 60 degree steep dunes, where mikey and i did a surprisingly good job at appearing competent.
Our second stop was on the Coral Coast, to the southeast of Viti Levu and a really gret 'Flashpacker hostel', which is basically an upmarket backpackers. There was a really weird American guy who ran it "who would have loved to party on down with us guys all night" despite living with his ridiculously good looking Norwegian girlfriend and he was intent on generating fun, complusory fun at all hours of the day. So for the next 36 hours, football followed softball,followed fishing, followed waterpolo, followed eating the fish we caught, darts tournaments, pool tournaments, table football tournaments, tournament tournaments, volleyball, kava ceremonies, phew! but he did give us free beer. After our extra day on the coral coast we had a new bus driver, Henry for our trip to Suva. Henry was not your archetypal hard-as-nails rugby playing machine of a Fijian that we had become accustomed to as much a flower in hair donning, sarong wearing camp guy who giggled relentlessly at our accents. Our first stop was a 3 hour trek into the heart of the Makatibu mountains and (very) wetlands. As you can tell by the pictures this was not the coolest of days ever and absolutely knackering. So we very relieved to head to a waterfall jump next, which apparently according to Henry was 15-20 metres. Woohoo! There obviously existed a slight language barrier cos inreality it was about 2. This was most disappointing, not least because i cant even think which unit of distance he might have been using when describing it as 15-20. Anyway we tubed back to our coach down the Navus River which was about the most relaxing way ive ever travelled and very welcome after the mornings trek. En route Mikey reckons he saved a German girls life (to be fair she was floating downstream alarmingly fast) and when he was done playing Baywatch we headed into Suva.
Suva, the capital of Fiji is the largest city in the pacific and has been subject to many a military coup in the last few years, most recently last year. Its also the spot where Feejee Experience head for their 'big night out' and Henry gave us some very helpful advice this time saying "if you do get drunk in Suva, make sure you give your wallet to your friend." Obviously he is a very clever man who is well aware of how much money a couple of english pissheads can blow on a night out! We decided to stay an extra day in Suva to sample this fantastic, bustling, slightly filthy, unstable city and went off politico-exploring in search of coup-based stuff. Didn't find very much. We managed to blag our way into Government House, saying we were two politics students writing a thesis on 'Governments of the Pacific' something i must get round to doing one day) and somehow got accompanied by a Fijian military official to the newly appointed Prime Ministers Office but once inside got turned away for not wearing trousers! Aaahhh so near and yet so far to the heart of power... Fine if thats the way the Fijian militarised government wanted to treat genuinely interested tourists, we were done with Fijian politics. Instead we went shopping, bought a stupid T-shirt and played tennis in the rain. An evening of more karaoke based antics where we beguiled the locals with our best Celine Dion impressions did very little to impress our new driver, the slightly scary Bo, but it went down better with passengers. Next day, on to a town on the East Coast called Rakiraki and we had an absolutely fantastic day. After yet another Kava Ceremony, a drink which we were really starting to get a taste for by now we moved on to a Fijian primary school. We were told in advance by Feejee Experience to bring some stationary as a present for the kids but were somewhat dubious as to how appreciative they would be. Unfortunately Rakiraki was all out of X-Box's and so we slightly sheepishly turned to meet a bunch of 7 year olds armed with some rubbers, paper and a protractor. We were delighted to find that they were totally unimpressed with these gifts and they were infact for the headmaster of the school. We spent a really enjoyable couple of hours at the school and it was so refreshing to see the enthusiasm of the kids and how much fun they were having and how much interest they had in what us Europeans and Americans had to say. Kids that only dream of leaving the mainland but are so unbelievably friendl, approachable and will interact with you in a way we would never do in the west. We ended up having a good old alphabet sing song with the youngest class, then saw how worryingly advanced the older class' maths was, before moving on to Volivoli beach resort for more Kava ceremonies. BORWING!!!Our final day on the bus was headed back to Nadi, stopping off in a really random town of Ba for a curry and got to use a toilet shaped like a football (my personal highligt of Ba). We then moved on to the Hot Mud Pools, up the road in Sabeto. Why on earth the rich and famous pay hundreds to soak in this natural muddy s***e i know not. Its frankly disgusting. So on that note, we were finished with our week long tour round the island of Viti Levu. We moved on for a week of island hopping round the Yasawa islands, at the end of which spending a day on Tom Hanks island (might actually be called something else) where they filmed Castaway and spent a day upon a live-aboard cruise. My particular highlight of the week however was getting what can only be described as a two hour long rugby lesson from the Fijians, during a friendly game of touch rugby on the island of Navutu. All the islands we went to were fairly similar in truth, the beaches were cool but not that amazing and i think if we had stayed another week we would have gone clinically insane! Despite the fondness many people have for the paradise of the Fijian islands, Viti Levu was a far more enjoyable week. I guess theres only so long you can spend lying in a hammock on the beach. So after one final night in Nadi, in Ed's bar we said our Vinakas to Fiji and went our separate ways once more, Mikey back to Australia and me on to meet Punch in Singapore.