Fiji -Nadi [nandi]
I arrived at Nadi airport after an 11 hour flight and with a 19 hour time difference, it was 9pm and i was exhausted! I had a little trouble getting in at first as i had brought some leftover food i had from the US which had to be declared and in my tired state i'd filled in the visa form incorrectly. The staff were really nice and helpful and didn't fine me the $500 they could have for me effectively lying on a visa form! When i eventually got through there was a three man band playing and singing some Fijian music which cheered me up straight away. They had so much energy despite it being quite late by this point. I got into arrivals and was relieved to see my airport pickup courtesy of the hostel hadn't given up on me and left! The guy picking me and another person up insisted on carrying my bag for me and we made the short trip to the hostel. On arrival my bag was again carried to the reception and after checking in i was shown to the dorm, it seemed i would never have to carry my bag again! I put my stuff down and decided to have a quick look around before heading to bed. I passed a circle of people all singing along and playing guitars and ukeleles, as i walked past the Fijians all called Bula! a word which means hello, cheers, life, and many other things! They invited me to join and i was handed a bowl of Kava. This was a Kava circle after all! Kava is a traditional drink made from a root ground up and mixed with water. It is served from a traditional Kava bowl and everyone drinks out of the small Kava cups which are mini bowls made out of coconut shells. The drink numbs your mouth and tastes slightly like aniseed. I had no idea what it was when i was offered it but i wasn't going to be rude and turn it down, despite the fact it looked, and tasted a bit like muddy water. Later i learnt that it is a mild sedative and is actually illegal in the UK! However it is an important part of Fijian culture and is rude to turn down when offered. You can however ask for a 'low tide' meaning you get just enough for a mouthful. If you're brave you can ask for a 'high tide' or braver still a 'tsunami' but you can't leave any in the bowl once you start drinking it! It is also polite to clap once before taking the bowl, say Bula! then clap three times after finishing the drink. This tradition happens every night in most hostels in Fiji and is accompanied by songs and guitar playing. It is a really nice way to relax and chat and meet fellow travellers!
After the Kava ceremony everyone heads to the beach for a bonfire and more songs, one traveller had a flute and it made for some beautiful music! I headed to bed pretty soon after the bonfire started as i was exhausted but i was already pretty much in love with Fiji! The locals can't do enough for you and are always happy and welcoming. So far so good!
I was only planning on staying in Nadi (pronounced nandi) for 3 days before moving on however i fully embraced 'Fiji time'! Fiji time is how the locals explain how everything is always late, unavailable or very vague. Nothing is rushed and there will always be tomorrow is the general consensus here and it was such a nice change from the intensity of the states. I ended up meeting some great people and we all just kept extending our stay by one night each day saying, we'll organise something tomorrow! After a week of doing pretty much nothing except sunbathing and drinking kava i decided i needed to see more of what Fiji had to offer. I tell a lie though i did make some jewellery out of a coconut shell, and feed fish bread! :).
I had planned to travel around the Yasawa islands but after talking to the staff at Bamboo who have a travel desk to help you organise your trip around the Fijian islands i realised it was pretty far out of my budget. That area of Fiji, although stunningly beautiful has been so commercialised that they were wanting $1,150 FJD for 5 nights, that's about £400!! Considering i was paying £4.70 a night at Bamboo hostel i wasn't prepared to stretch to that! The guy at the travel desk was really helpful and suggested i go to some of the cheaper islands which are just as beautiful but more off the beaten track. So i booked three weeks across the Coral Coast, Taveuni, Mana and Bounty islands. I was excited to go off and see some smaller island life!
The group that had formed during the last week at Bamboo were all heading different ways so we had a night out at a Fijian bar called Ed's bar as a farewell, it was such a fun night and we were the only tourists there, we showed the Fijians how to take full advantage of happy hour and had a great night!