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Sunday 17 Mar 2013
Nacula, Fiji

Fiji Time... and relax!

Fiji Time: the slow, relaxed pace that everything and everyone in Fiji follows.  

My flight out to Nadi was with Air Pacific, Fiji's national airline.  The flight itself was good, but the sound quality on my seatback tv was terrible, even using my own headphones, so I couldn't watch the movies.  Instead I caught up on my Burma diary and realised that 6 weeks in New Zealand will do a lot to distort your memories of the previous trip.  I must try and keep up with this blog as I go around to stop that happening again.  I'll have to compare notes with Anna and Bryan when I get to Newcastle...

Coming in to land at Fiji felt a bit like landing in Zanzibar - palm trees and ramshackle tin huts heading off as far as I could see.  The humidity hit like a wall as I left the aeroplane onto an open air walkway.  The hills beyond the airport were rapidly disappearing in the mist of an oncoming storm.  Like Australia and New Zealand, there are strict quarantine laws about bringing in certain food, and materials to Fiji, so I had to ditch the last of my seed and nut trail mix and my beef jerky before going through to the passport queue.  This was my first introduction to Fiji Time.  It took 45 minutes to get to the front.  I asked the immigration lady if she would mind, please very nicely, stamping my passport on a page already used, as I am trying to keep my clean pages for future visas, etc in a bid to make my passpport last for the whole year.  She said that was no problem and smiled a big Fiji smile... then stamped it on a clean page. D'oh! She then realised what she had done and apologised profusely.  Oh well, hopefully they will use the same page to stamp me out again.

Despite the long queue for immigration, there were still no bags going around on the carosel when I reached the baggage hall.  A few minutes later an announcement told us it was going to be quite a while before they could get the bags off the plane because of the storm.  I bought a bottle of water and sat down to wait, listening to the thunder outside and the rain hammering on the roof, wishing I hadn't been quite so hasty to throw away the last of my food.

Two hours later, I finally got my rucksack and made it through quarantine checks to spend another hour at the Awesome Adventures counter collecting the paperwork for my trip and waiting for the transfer to my hostel, Smuggler's Cove.  By the time I arrived, I had well and truly missed the sunset, despite landing at 3pm.  I was put in a 38 bed dorm, divided into 4 bed sections, but it was surprisingly quiet for the number of occupants.  I sat out on the terrace for dinner, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake.  I was vaguely aware of a few annoying flying things, but I had sprayed Deet on my legs so I wasn't too concerned.  However, by the next morning it became apparent that 'dinner' had, in fact, been me... It took a while for all the lumps and bumps to separate but I had picked up between 35 and 40 bites between my knees and ankles alone! Luckily they didn't itch too much, but I still replaced my bug spray with a new can from the hostel shop before venturing out to the islands.

We were dropped off at Port Denarau and our bags tagged up with the resort we were going to first, then we headed up the jetty to a very bright yellow catamaran ferry with 'Awesome Adventures' plastered across the front of it.  No mistaking that boat, then.  After a rather unpleasant experience in Thailand a few years ago, I was nervous about getting seasick on the journey as my resort was the furthest away, but the sea was calm and the interior was airconditioned, so I stuck on an audiobook (now onto Stephen King's Dark Tower series) and relaxed.  

The scenery was beautiful.  Deep azure waters in all directions, green forested islands jutting up out of the sea - very reminiscent of the TV series Lost - white beaches with palm-thatched huts grouped together along the shore.  At each resort, a long boat came out to meet the ferry and exchange passengers.  We also dropped off quite a few day-tripper passengers at some of the bigger resorts.  By the time we reached Nacula island at the head of the Yasawa chain, there weren't too many people left on board.  I was picked up along with two Norwegian girls and taken over to Oarsman's Bay Lodge resort, where the staff were lined up on the decking singing us a traditional Fijian welcome song.  It was fabulous! 

The resort was made up of one main building: an open sided dining area, sun deck and bar downstairs and 10 bed dorm upstairs; plus a number of small beach huts called Bures, which each slept 2-4 people.  This resort is run by a group of local Fijian families and helps to support the nearby village.  All meals were included, which turned out to be a hot breakfast, hot meal at lunchtime and a three course dinner each night - delicious food, but far too much for a day spent sunbathing, snorkelling and reading a book in a hammock!  We were only 6 girls in the dorm and one other guest in the Bures, so we all ate together at mealtimes.

Mary and Marie, the Norwegian girls, and I were taken out to the Blue Lagoon reef for a snorkelling trip soon after we arrived.  We could see plenty of fish from the boat, but our guide attracted even more by throwing bread over the side and causing a fish frenzy - I am pretty sure this is not up there on the scale of ethical reef management!  I jumped in, trying hard to avoid touching any of the fish, only to discover the guide was actually aiming at me with the bread to attract more fish for me.  He had the best intentions, no doubt, but it was actually quite disturbing to have so many fish around me that I hardly dared to move.  Once I swam off from the boat a little way, I was able to move more freely and look around at the amazing coral and the thousands of fish all around.  There is something very calming about drifting in the water and watching fish go about their business.  I saw some huge blue starfish, multicoloured parrotfish, angel fish, and even an anemone fish swimming in and out of its 'anemonemonemone' home  - not quite Nemo, but it still made me smile and sing the 'Just keep swimming' song in my head while I watched...

I finished the afternoon walking along the beach looking at tiny hermit crabs and writing Fiji with small pieces of coral washed up along the tide line.  I was engrossed in my task, when I was suddenly greeted by a very enthusiastic dog who walked all over my artwork! I couldn't really be too annoyed with him though because he made me turn around and see the sun was ready to set.  He then stood knee deep in the sea watching the fish, making a beautiful silhouette in the sunset, before charging off up the beach after his friends.

It was my first Fiji sunset after two busy days of travel and it was a beautiful hint of what the week had in store for me...

 

 

 

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