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Island hopping

sunny 30 °C
View Around the world in a few months! on Labgirluk's travel map.

Thankfully this flight was uneventful and on time. After about an hour in the air we flew over the northern most tip of the North Island and out of NZ air space. The next land we’d see would be Fiji, a group of islands in the South Pacific ocean. On landing and going through customs I was thankful I had declared food items on the landing card as, not having checked their rules, honey is on their no go list for biosecurity. Luckily they were willing to store it, for a fee of course, at the airport for me to collect as I leave the country. 15fjd was still cheaper than the cost to have sent the jars home from NZ. Just glad they weren’t destroyed automatically. Glad I’d made sure they had remained sealed too... As a result of the customs delay I had to wait for the next airport run shuttle. After checking in (shuttle bus had to take a detour via bread and kava shopping!) I got my bed in a 34 bed dorm, thankfully split into pods of 4 so not too bad. First things first, boots and trousers swapped for flip flops and shorts (I’d already stripped down to my strappy t shirt at the airport to cool down)! From there headed out the back of the hotel straight on to the beach before having dinner in the restaurant. That night was free kava time night so felt I should experience this fijian specialty while it was on offer... The 2 guys were set up in the sand pit entertainment area with a large blanket on the ground, the large kava bowl and a couple of guitars. They were also entertaining us with some good singing too.
On coming to the blanket you take your shoes off and sit in front of the men and say bula (hello in fijian) and have a bit of a chit chat. The kava is the powdered root of a tree so they have the powder in a muslin type pouch and soak it in the liquid (water with some kava already in) in the big bowl and squeeze out some more. If need be some more water is added. This can be repeated as they need to top up the main bowl. To accept kava (drunk out of a coconut shell bowl) you clap your hands one on top of other like you are cupping a spider to throw out of a window, not like ‘well done’ flat handed, and say bula. You then have to drink the kava in one go (is a suspension so if you don’t the kava will drop to bottom of bowl) and then cup clap 3 times. This type of clapping is apparently a sign of respect in Fiji. I was on my own to start with but then a couple of others joined and I had to drink again! Couldn’t described flavour really (bitter, woody possibly) but you could feel the tingle on your lips, gums and tongue after drinking it. Listened to a couple of songs and then said thank you (vinaka) and headed back to my room and repacked for my week of island hopping. Thankfully I was coming back to the same hotel after so could leave my big bag behind and just take what was necessary for the week... Saved a lot of hassle.
Once at the port I picked up my tickets – for some reason mine weren’t already printed out so they printed them again and then it was time to board the ferry. I was heading to Long Beach resort first (I had booked a 1 coconut deal so that meant more basic accommodation etc but meals included so people were all going to different places depending on their deals and what they’d booked) so had a 4 hour catamaran ferry ride to my first island. Passed quickly enough and chatted to a local student who was with a group heading to one of the furthest resorts and had a task to ask others on the ferry about why they chose Fiji etc. Had a good chat while sitting in the sun...
Finally arrived at Long Beach resort just before 1pm and a few of us disembarked into a small tender while any luggage/parcels were passed down from the ferry. This was to become our norm for the next few days.... The tender then took us from the deeper water where the ferry could go to the island beaching the boat as close as possible. Then it was clamber out and walk through the shallows to the beach (this also became the norm and shoes were pretty much discarded at this point). The guys from the boat carried the luggage.... We were welcomed by Kitty, one of the ones on the tender and had the ways of the resort explained to us. This was a family run resort with pretty much everyone being related to each other in some way and all very friendly. Meal times were eaten together and were whatever Toby the chef made. He was amazing at adapting the food for the various dietary requirements (mine and another girl’s) as well as cooking for the others. It was simple but plentiful and tasty. We ate at set meal times and were announced by the beating on a big bit of hollow wood as a well walking up to the sleeping area and yelling whichever meal it was.... Also no paddling at low tide as there was an increased risk of being stung by a sting ray as they burrow in the sand if they don’t get out in time before the tide gets too low for them to swim off...
It was here that I realised that my tickets hadn’t all been printed out, as all the full monty extra activity tickets were missing. Had great fun then trying to call Awesome Adventures and fix it. They confirmed I was full monty and would send my tickets with the boat the following day. After that it was learning how to make the most of Fiji time and relax, or play with little 1 year old Wane (such a cute kid) the son of one of the family. His mum Megan, a Scott who met and married one of the guys, was more than happy for us to help entertain him as he didn’t seem interested in having his naps at all... Other than that it was chill in a hammock, settle in and eventually play volleyball (yeah, I’m still not any good at it!) with some of the others staying at the resort too. When they left to go on a walk Alex (another girl doing same package as me) and I decided to go to the beach and take sunset photos. Afterwards we think we opted for the better activity as got good photos compared to the others and didn’t have to do a walk in the heat either...
After dinner we chilled some more and then all but Alex and I went to bed. We stayed up chatting to Wane (intermediate as we called him – baby Wane’s dad’s cousin I think is best relationship I could figure) and he made us Fijian tea – lemon tree leaves in hot water with some sugar to sweeten it. Think this is about the only tea I could ever drink, as not really tea in the true sense but flavoured sweetened hot water. We just chatted about Fijian culture and how Fijian families work compared to British/European ways.
The following day was a busy one, heading up to the northern most part of the islands to visit the caves. Not really knowing where they were we were surprised when we were in the taxi boat for about an hour, with a stop at one of the other resorts to pick up 2 others. When we got there we had to strip to our swimming stuff in the boat and leave all our stuff there. We climbed out of the boat and waded to shore where we were told that there was another group currently in the caves and he would call us when it was time. In the meantime we had a look at some items for sale and I bought a pretty bracelet. When it was time we had to walk back into the water and around a bit of rock to some steps (health and safety not really big here as rocks were quite slippery), up those and then down some to the 1st cave (ducking under a low hanging rock while going down the steps!) and into the water in the cave. This one had an open roof so could see what we were doing. Once the previous group were out it was our turn to go to the next cave – via a 2 metre underwater pitch black tunnel – which was completely dark when the guide’s torch was facing the other way. Once all were through we were told some stories but a mixture of people chatting in an echo-y cave and a Fijian accent it was difficult to understand it all. After that it was back through the tunnel to the 1st cave and time to get out and head back to the boat.. The others managed to get in gracefully (water was deeper than when we got out and rocks were slippery and they were all taller than me – my excuse and sticking to it!). I, on the other hand, apparently looked like a seal getting out! Not elegant at all but it worked and gave them a laugh.
From there we headed back to our resort and away from the rain that was now coming down. It also felt warmer as we moved south too. We got back in time for lunch and welcome the new guests to the island, and say bye to those heading off. Once they were settled in we got our snorkelling gear and with those and a towel we headed to the resort boat to go snorkelling in the blue lagoon. As it was low tide we had to walk through the shallows (that we’d been told not to walk in due to risk of sting rays in the sand!) following Wane, as he’d have scared them off, so his route would be ‘safe‘ and into a little blue boat. Wane then punted us across the stretch of water to goat Island – so called due to the wild goats that live on it – and around the edge of that to the resort boat anchored at deeper water. All because it was low tide... We then headed up to the blue lagoon and the corals where pretty fish swim. We were also given some slightly mouldy bread to feed the fish. On with our fins and in the water we went. I had my camera with me so could take photos and videos underwater properly this time. Got a pretty amazing video of the fish eating the bread out of my hand. While we were snorkelling the boat went off to do some shopping and went to pick up some kids and a local from our island who had been on that island for a picnic... By that time we were getting a bit cold and bored so we were thankful when the boat turned up. The return trip also involved mooring over on goat Island and getting the other boat back over to the resort. Toby the chef came to get us and had great delight in pointing out all the sting ray to us from his stood up position in the boat – as we were sat down we missed them all. We also spent the crossing trying not to rock the boat as it didn’t feel that sturdy with us all in, but Toby claimed that as long as he was smiling there was no need to worry... After a tepid shower (no hot water in the island unless you boil it) Fijian tea all round it was.
After dinner we made sure Wane carried out his agreement to show us how to basket weave with coconut tree leaves and then a coconut demo – which coconut is good or not, how to husk it with your hands and a stick, how to open the coconut with a rock (where the weak point is) and then how to scrape out the meat. Some of us had a go at that using a special scraper. Still hard work but better than a knife or anything else. From there he got some cubed papaya, squeezed on a bit of lime juice and then used another part of the coconut tree to act as the muslin and squeezed out the coconut milk from the meat over the fruit. Rather tasty. Def want to try cooking more with coconut milk from now on. Creamy but not cream and both dairy and lactose free. Can’t be a bad thing at all.
The rest of the evening was chillaxing (only word for it) before all crashing once again.
The following day a few were heading further north and Alex and I South in the afternoon. After chilling for a bit in the morning we both had some quality play time with baby Wane – Megan reckoned she could have had a lie in with all of us looking after the baby and him happily letting us. Even Wane (inter) helped and kept him occupied with a guitar til Wane jr got some orange to eat. Alex and I were both going to the same island, about half an hour south, but to resorts next door to each other. Alex headed to Korovou and I went to White Sandy Beach. Both lovely but very different. Both owned by the same family – sisters I think – but very different styles in some ways. Think as Korovou used to be a 2 coconut (slightly higher standard accommodation) resort the amenities were better. They had a pool and the dining area was larger and a volley ball area. They did have a 17 bed dorm though...
I was welcomed to White sandy beach with the ladies singing traditional Fijian songs and offered a glass of fresh orange diluted in water - tasty. This was another small resort, but bigger than Long Beach, with bungalows for couples/twin beds and then 2 dorms, one with 8 beds and other with 6 beds. There were only 6 of us so they split us between the rooms so all were only on bottom bunks, 4 in one room and 2 in the other. After dinner we were treated to some entertainment from the ladies and a couple of the guys. Unlike long beach, which was predominantly men as front of house, white sandy beach was mainly run by the women with the guys helping out as required (boat, some activities, background stuff). For the evening entertainment we had songs and dancing, with one of the guys joining in the singing (siti – not sure how to spell his name but that’s how it sounded like!) and one only joining in for the dancing (Abo) – could only presume he didn’t like singing, or couldn’t sing! After a few songs we were then all made to get up and join in... Thankfully it was sort of dancing, and no singing, and kind of follow the leader so that wasn’t too bad. After that the others opted to go over to the other resort to see the others they knew there. I opted to chill in a hammock and read for a while but ended up chatting to Abo, who’d come to entertain us with riddles and the like but had found everyone gone, finding out more about the resort and who’s who etc.
The following day was supposed to be swimming with manta rays but I’d taken ill after breakfast and daren’t leave the resort..... Luckily Abo kindly agreed to take my camera with him and record the manta rays for me. Looking at the footage after I think he did a better job than I would have – he could dive better than I can (can swim under water quite happily normally but put fins on me and a snorkel and mask and I become a floatation device!) so he got some amazing close up footage of the 2 manta rays they found. I spent the day either in a hammock or in bed resting – sleep wasn’t happening for some reason and def no eating was happening – til the following day.
The next day I felt a bit better and managed a pancake and Fijian tea for brekkie. The day turned out to be a bit of a wash out, quite literally. It had been raining quite heavily during the night and this looked to continue on and off during the day. I just about managed to get my washing in before it was wetter than it was before it went out! At one point it was raining so hard the water was a good inch in places – thankfully I’d pretty much abandoned shoes on arrival at the islands a couple days before so just walked around barefoot the whole time so the rain made no difference there. As a pick me up I got myself a nice full body massage and boy, was it good and needed. They used coconut oil and nothing else so I also got moisturised at the same time... At some point during the morning, while trying to entertain guests when they can’t go outside due to the torrential rain, logic puzzles were started... Abo started with one that I figured out but one of the German guests, Maya, had a good one that I couldn’t figure out (still can’t) but I was called for my massage so ran away and never figured out the answer... The boat picked up the North bound passenger pretty much on time, to the surprise of those at the resort, as I think they were expecting it to be late due to the weather, but no new guests on that boat. The southbound boat would be at least 2 ½ hours later once it had gone to the other resorts and turned back, and factored in the weather... Thankfully by the time it was my turn to leave it had stopped raining and the guys were really kind to me and the others in the boat as the ferry guys commented we were the first people to arrive on board dry.....!
Met up with Alex in the downstairs seating area – along with 3 others from the Korovou resort – but she was looking peaky already. Kindly lent her my travel bands as I didn’t need them. I seemed to have had no issues with boats and choppy water during my travels – which surprised me knowing how ill I used to get on boats. We endured a 3 hour trip including a chat with the on board travel agents about the fact that the planned seaspray experience (boat trip to castaway filming location, bbq lunch, swimming etc) had been cancelled due to maintenance and had to choose between a refund or a day at mala mala beach club with a $50 food and beverage voucher. As the island we were going to, South Seas Island, was really small and gets over run by day trippers (200 due the day we left) Alex and I opted for mala mala. If nothing else it would be nice to see how the other half live and visit a 4th island plus it was bigger so would absorb an extra 200 people more easily.... We also decided that if weather was going to be horrible we’d cancel and get the refund...
Reached south seas a bit later than scheduled (due to the weather and not Fiji time!) and transferred to the tender without any issues. On arrival we were given the usual spiel about meal times, what can be done free of charge and about heading off/checking out the following day before being shown to our dorm. Their had been stories going around the island about bed bugs in this dorm and to head to the right hand side. First thing checked was the mattress around the seams/edges. All looked OK to us. We then headed back downstairs to wait for the dinner drum... Just my luck dinner was curry, curry or curry. The veg soup also seemed to have a curry flavour about it (asked chef what spices were in it and he didn’t appear to know what cumin or turmeric were so didn’t feel very hopeful that it would be free of those spices as he claimed!) so I left it after 2 tiny tastes and I just had a bit of rice and pineapple for dessert. Stomach didn’t like that so headed to bed dead early.
The following morning I woke up early (not surprisingly after the early to bed the night before) and managed to read till nearly sunrise. Then I sneaked out and watched the sun come up. This island was pretty small – could walk around it in 3 or 4 mins – so was easy to find east and catch the sun coming up. Another one to add to the collection... From there it was shower, pack and check out in time for the transfer to mala mala about a 15 min boat ride away (seriously, if you don’t like boats visiting the islands off the mainland is not for you!). We got there about 5 mins ahead of the mainland ferry bringing the hordes to the island. We managed to check in, get our chit card and grab the loungers we wanted before the masses descended on them... I headed straight into the sea to cool down as it was already hot and little to no breeze around. Didn’t stay in too long but it was nice for cooling off.
The rest of the day was spent moving from the lounger to the pool back to the lounger to lunch back to lounger and then the pool again... Generally a very veggie day – almost too much vegging... At the end of the day we caught the transfer vessel back to the mainland and our island hopping adventure was over. We were all transferred back to our respective hotels (Alex and I were on different buses so had to say bye at the port) and time to check back in to the dorm of 34! It was heaving as there were a load who’d arrived from the airport that day to go island hopping the following day and us who were staying a night or 2 before going on to new places.... After sorting out my bed I headed outside as could hear music and cheering and wanted to check out the entertainment for the evening. Looked to be some Fijian guys dressed in sulu’s (sarong type wrap – over shorts thankfully) showing a big group Fijian dance moves. My amusing. After that they moved on to a fire show with double ended fire sticks. They then moved us on to the beach to continue the show finishing up with 5 of them spinning their fire sticks while in diff positions, including on backs, shoulders and in their backs in the sand. Video’d some of them as they were pretty impressive, even if one did try to set his sulu alight when passing the stick through his legs! A minor blip in the grand scheme of things.
The next day was my last in Fiji. After checking out I moved all the way to the sun loungers, out the back of the hotel facing the sea, and found a shady one to chill out on for the day. Pretty much didn’t move apart from to buy water and order some lunch... Soon the time came to get changed and head to the airport. Luckily there was a girl also heading to the airport so we shared the taxi, and the cost. Once there I had to head back to arrivals to collect my honey. While there picked up a free sim card so I could have Internet for the 3 hours I was in the airport – they give you 1.5-2gb free for 48hrs so you have time to sort out what you want as a package. Not bad...
After that check in and wait.....
1 week was def not long enough for me in Fiji.... Almost wished I could have moved my LA flight to 4 days later and stayed there and then just transferred from one flight to the next. But it wasn’t to be (not wasting prepaid hostel booking!) and LA was somewhere I wanted to see to say I’ve done it.... I will be going back, and sooner rather than later I feel. I’m not done with Fiji yet.....

Posted by Labgirluk 23:14 Archived in Fiji Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises snorkelling caves hammock relaxing blue_lagoon manta_ray island_time fiji_time clear_water

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