The friendliest of people, most beautiful of white sandy beaches, clearest of crystal lagoons and a whole new way of telling the time!
Oh and arguably the most important thing…Westlife are still huuuugggggeeee in Fiji!
Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Today…. the day that never happened! During my flight from LA, USA to Nadi, Fiji, I passed the International Date Line; the imaginary line of navigation on the surface of the Earth that changes one calendar day to the next. A day never lived, very strange to think.
Thursday 23rd November 2017
A very early arrival in Nadi at around 6am local time after a 10.5 hour flight. On route from customs to baggage, the very sweet touch of some of the staff singing a lovely welcome song set the tone for Fiji for sure. Courtesy transfer from the hostel to Smugglers Cove Resort and naturally only being 7am it was waaay too early for check in. Still, I was able to store my luggage and relax by the beach for the day.
Upon checking in, it was to be the biggest dorm I have stayed in so far. We were like cattle. 32 bunk beds all packed in super close together. This may not make for the most peaceful of nights somehow!
I realised that now having all the NYC marathon goodies taking up extra space in my bag is not doing any favours in helping it to shut every day so I used a little time to go through it and have a throw out any unneeded items. I feel like I have been ruthless but I am now definitely running out of things I can chuck.
Bag still full but successfully repacked, time for bed ahead of the early departure to start island hopping tomorrow.
Friday 24th November 2017
This morning ‘Awesome Adventures’ picked us up at 7.00 am, taking a transfer of around an hour to get to the Port Denarau to join the Catamaran that would take us out to the beautiful Yasawa Islands.
People on board were getting off at lots of different stops and a smaller style speed boat came to collect you and your belongings from the main boat seeing as the water by many of the islands is quite shallow. The crew literally throw your bags overboard in to the little wooden boats below. How we didn’t lose one I’ll never quite know! Still that aside, there were such lovely welcomes from the families at the stops on route; fresh coconuts being handed out, ladies singing and dancing and everyone seemed to be smiling.
Four hours later and it was my turn to get off at Long Beach Island, home for the next few days. We were welcomed on to our little speed boat by Chris and Jacob who lived on the Island and who’s family run the resort. A few minutes crossing the waves and we stepped on to the most beautiful little place, our own little piece of paradise…like something right out of castaway.
In the background I heard the all too familiar accent of a fellow Scot, Megan, a lovely Scottish lass who had fallen in love with the South Pacific… (and a Fijian boy!). She and her family were so welcoming, giving us a little tour of the island followed by a tasty lunch. I met two lovely girlies from Bristol, Hannah and Holly, not realising that they would become such special friends (and my entertainment!) for the next week.
After lunch we took a snorkelling trip to Blue Lagoon, which was a prime spot for seeing all of the little fish, rather than corrals. We had some food to feed them from the side of the boat to encourage them to come up to see us before we jumped in and whilst some managed a cheeky little nibble of your fingers in the process, they were rather cute to watch. We had just over an hour in the water. It was great fun and what seemed like a brilliant spot for my first snorkelling experience! So many little fish to see but on this occasion, I didn’t quite find Nemo. I’ll keep looking. The star jump did reach new heights though…or lows…the underwater variety!
Although the surroundings resemble paradise, Fiji is very much a third world country. There’s no hot water as it’s very expensive to heat and you can’t drink the water (other than from the rain water tanks) as there’s no filtration system. Most of the islands are generator powered meaning there is only electricity available
during certain hours of the day. The islands rely on most of their supplies being grown or imported from the mainland on a boat that only visits once per week and unfortunately many of the islands are forever recovering from cyclones meaning many of the families live in very basic wooden style huts.
After dinner we had a very cute campfire on the beach and got to know some more of the guests. Later tonight Fiji were playing Australia at rugby. Our host family invited us as their guests to watch the match with them which was super kind. It really struck me the sense of community within the island. Members of the extended family and friends from the local village had also joined as the family at Long Beach were fortunate enough to have a TV. When you think of how it compares to home, most houses have multiple TVs with one person in one room, another watching something different elsewhere, but here we were (about 25 of us), all crowded around one tiny TV set, complete with fuzzy screen from the old fashioned ariel connection and the folks couldn’t be happier.
Fijian people are extremely happy with life and what they have. In a world where we are constantly striving for the bigger, or better, or more expensive, top of the range version of perfection, I think we could learn a lot from their way of thinking and contentment. It seems sad to think that our priorities are often very different back home.
Unfortunately on this occasion the score meant it was a victory for the Aussies, but a fab way to spend the night all the same.
Saturday 25th November
As included with my Awesome Adventures package, I had a voucher to go on a caving trip. Joe, who lived on another one of the Islands ran the little speed boat taxi, “Joe’s Taxis” that took you out and back to the cave, picking up some people from other islands along the way. Whilst it was pretty cool to see, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The actual boat ride however was super exciting (just a shame I can’t upload the videos on this version of the programme). The waves were slightly on the choppy side to say the least, making for some white knuckles as I tried to hold on! Possibly off the seat more than I was on it, but all part of the adventure. I could definitely get used to riding the waves my daily commute!
One of the best things about being in paradise is that there’s not really that much to do. No signal/convectively bliss! You don’t half realise how much you rely (or how much time you waste) on a phone until you’re in the land of nae signal! So tough going as it was at times (naaaat!), the afternoon was spent in a hammock with my book.
That was until Jacob gave us a brilliant coconut demo, teaching us all about how to husk and scrape the coconut, all the different qualities it had and what is could be used for, as well as turning it in to a tasty dessert with some papaya and lime juice.
Training was going to be particularly difficult here seeing as even on Long Beach, there were zero routes other than along the beach but I’ll give it a go and if worst comes to worst, I will keep the cardio up with swimming in all this beautiful water in the Ocean.
In the evening we treated to a great nights entertainment in the form of some traditional Fijian dancing by our host family. Lively, great fun and audience participation essential, made for laughs galore and so nice in the way that everyone embraced it and joined in. Everyone wore traditional Fijian dress, the native kilt, the Sula (sarong) with the ladies in the most beautiful of bright colours and prints and the men either in dark or the more traditional woven style. Stupidly I never took any photographs, but I guess sometimes it’s important just to enjoy the moment.
And then came the sunset…
Sunday 26th November 2017
Sunday is very much seen as a day of rest in Fiji. No activities run on the islands so the only thing that we could opt in to do was attend the local church service. Most of the people staying at Long Beach had decided to go along.
Though Fijian people are quite easy going (slight understatement!), it is really important to them that you show them respect, particularly in the local villages outwith the resorts where anything goes in terms of dress and rules. While in the villages, you must dress modestly. Women must cover up, wearing long dresses or sulas and make sure their shoulders are covered at all times. It is also seen as an insult to the chief of the village if you wear a hat.
Megan had us well prepped on the dos and don’ts as we had to walk through the village to get to the church. She lent the girls sulas and we all made sure we had something with longer sleeves to cover up. The walk through the village itself was pretty tough going, not physically but emotionally, especially in some of the more secluded areas just beyond the resort.
Here we are as foreigners, paying money to be in paradise and there are local people who barely have four walls around them for shelter. People rely greatly on the land to grow some crops to support their families and there were random goats, cows and pigs just wandering free amongst the land that the locals would recognise as theirs from the boundaries of the number of palm trees.
The church service, though all in Fijian didn’t disappoint. Some of the most beautiful singing you will ever hear, all harmonised beautifully with not a note of backing music. It lasted around an hour, with many of the local children and their parents playing key roles in proceedings.
On the walk back to the resort, we were lucky enough to have Megan give us a guided tour of the village, including a stop off at the local Primary School, Somolevu Catholic School which was amazing to see, so different to home.
Firstly, the building remains open all the time…we were able to just walk in and wander around. The classrooms were extremely basic, no carpets and lots of furniture crammed in together, no computers, no fancy laminated resources. When filled with children, I can imagine it being extremely busy. What was lovely though, even although the surroundings seemed very grey and a little run down, similar to our rooms at home, the walls were covered with colourful examples of children’s work.
In the afternoon, we were transferring to White Sandy Beach for island number two and I was really lucky that Holly and Hannah were doing the same tour as me.
Unfortunately thanks to some of the other guests who had recently arrived at Long Beach, we had not heard the best of reports about the next resort but I guess time will tell. Some farewell cheerios to the family and back on board the catamaran for the short transfer to our next stop, same routine with the luggage and speed boats.
Being the day of rest, the remainder or our time was pretty much spent relaxing…which really was no hardship!
Monday 27th November 2017
Well, the food at White Sandy was interesting to say the least…..at risk of sounding ungrateful, aka dreadful! Feeling a little bit like we were torturing ourselves, every conversation seemed to resort back to dreams about food! Our expectation of tropical fruit and tasty seafood unfortunately couldn’t have been further from reality.
After breakfast I took another snorkelling trip, this time to the coral reef where there was so much living coral to see. The most beautiful colours and gorgeous little fishes, I think I could have swam around there all day. Not only is the water in Fiji the most amazing shades of blue and turquoise to look at from the surface, it is every bit as stunning and clear at the bottom.
In the evening, our hosts put on a fabulous show after dinner with more traditional dancing and beach games. ‘Land, Sand and Sea’ and ‘Bang Bang’ being two of my favourites.
We had a camp fire and chatted until the wee hours under the stars…does it get much better than this?!
Tuesday 28th November 2017
A chilled morning, farewells to the folks of the resort and then an afternoon aboard the Catamaran to get to South Sea, the last stop on our island tour. The tiniest of the islands in the Yasawa group… just a little more than a bump in the sand. The photographs don’t quite do it justice to show how small it was. You could walk around it in just 3 minutes!
We were in time to watch the most beautiful sunset with dinner and what a dinner it was! After almost a week of the most weird and wonderful concoctions… chicken salad and all the sides! Hallelujah…we were in heaven. And when the manager of the island joins you for dinner, you know that’s a good sign!
After dinner, some more great fun for tonight’s entertainment; games, crab races and talent show! The staff explained that with limited electricity in many areas and little to no electric devices, it is tradition to play these types of games or do dancing to pass the time in the evening which I think there is something very sweet about.
Starting with crab races (*see disclaimer), everyone had to choose a crab and give it a name, mine being ‘Wee Jimmy’. The crabs were then all put into a little hollow in the centre of a two track circular track in the sand. The first crab to reach the outer ring of the track was the winner. Wee Jimmy was a little slow to get started, probably the last to leave the ring, but he had a steady pace and was soon in the lead to finish with a top spot on the podium! Woohoo…winning me a can of Fiji’s finest!
*No crabs were harmed from participation in this race and were released freely back to their home environment of the sand patch of their choosing when the last athlete made it home.*
Next up, the talent show, hosted by none other than the guests of South Sea. Each person was asked to perform something for the purposes of entertainment and I didn’t think everyone would be quite ready to hear my rendition of the Gambler so I was struggling to think of what my ‘talent’ would be!
Holly made for a tough act to follow by setting the tone for the entire show, up first with thee best mega mix of Beyoncé, Whitney and Spice Girls I have ever heard.
I decided to try and teach everyone some ceilidh dancing…the Gay Gordon’s, Scottish Country dancing – school style! Everyone joined in (even the Fijian staff!) and someone randomly had some Scottish themed music on their phone from Outlanders which really was ideal. Everyone joined in which made for good fun all round (I hope). Here we were in the middle of what seemed like a desert island giving our best ‘yooochs!’…(difficult to translate to the locals!)…all we were missing was the tartan.
And to top off the night, one of the staff played guitar so we enjoyed a little sing-song under the stars before bed…great fun.
Wednesday 29th November 2017
Today the full day at South Sea. Hannah and I woke early to catch the beautiful sunrise….amazing and afterwards we enjoyed the most delicious cooked breakfast….yes! A cooked breakfast…we have been spoiled!
All of the activities here were included as part of our stay and seeing as the weather was insanely hot, we spent the full day pretty much in and out of the ocean…paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, swimming!
In the afternoon a lovely spot of afternoon tea featuring fresh pancakes before it was time to get ready to leave to head back to the mainland.
Check in back at Smugglers for our last night and a brilliant dinner after a week of island dining!
Thursday 30th November 2017
A lovely farewell lunch with the girls before getting ready to head to the airport, bound for Kiwi land. I was so grateful to them for all of the fun we had over the last week or so…fab memories made with special girlies who will definitely remain the best of friends.
For now though, Fiji you have been spectacular. Bula Vinaka you beautiful island, special times!