Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bula from Fiji

Didn't get up to all that much in Melbourne. James took us to some of the tourist spots like Chapel St. (a  trendy shopping street with lots of fancy cafes too) and St. Kilda ( a kind of beach side area.) It was great to meet up with Luke. The 3 of us went to an AFL game in the MCG together. Setanta Ó h'Ailpín's team were playing and he had been tipped in the paper as one to watch so were all excited about seeing him. Just our luck that he was pulled a few minutes before the game, we never found out why. We enjoyed the game anyway, but it might have helped if we actually knew the rules! Half the entertainment value was from the fans around. Listening to their shouts and jeers was hilarious, worse than any hurler on the ditch!

It was on to Fiji then. We flew in to Nadi, which is on the West Coast of the main island. In the sea just to the west of it there is long chain of little islands. The islands at the bottom of the chain form the Mamanucas and the ones above that are called the Yasawas. There is only one boat a day heading to the Yasawas and it leaves at 8.30am. Unfortunately our flight was delayed and so we missed it. Instead we decided to hit South Sea Island in the Mamanuca group. We were welcomed onto the island by a group of musicians and lots of Bulas (Bula is the Fijian version of Céad Míle Fáilte (welcome) but they really apply it, we were made feel very welcome. Now we weren't expecting the island to be very big, but it was absolutely tiny. It must have been only 100m across. I swear you wouldn't even fit a GAA pitch on it. To walk the whole way around the island, at the waters edge when the tide was fully out took less that 5 minutes. It was just like one those little islands you see in cartoons, literally just a ring of sand with a few trees in the centre.

That night the staff at the resort organised a (hermit) crab race. There was a circle painted on the ground and whatever crab got out of the circle first won. My crab won the first round, we think Fossie's was dead. It didn't even peak out of it's shell not to mind try to move out of the circle. Anyway in the second race mine was making good headway when it decided to start going sideways and he just about qualified for the final. He left the rest for dead in the final though and as a reward I won 4 cans of Fiji Gold. Not bad going!!!

From there we got the boat to Kuata island. Kuata was a bigger island and the resort was only part of it (though the rest is unoccupied). The resort here was much different. It was made of lots of little huts, called bures and 2 bigger dorm huts plus the dining room/bar area. We were lucky that our first night there was a traditional Fijian theme night. It started with a Kava Ceremony. One chief was chosen to represent all the guests. He had to ask the chief of the tribe for permission to visit their island. Then both chiefs drank Kava and all the members of both 'tribes' did too. Kava is a drink made from grinding down the roots of a trees and putting the powder in a little muslin sack and soaking that in a big bowl of water (kind of like making a giant cup of tea). It tasted like muddy water to be honest but it seemed to have some sort of anesthetic effect, making your tongue kind of numb. So that was the official welcome.

After that we ate dinner in a cave, which was really just a kind of overhang, nothing too dramatic. When dinner was finished we were entertained with plenty of traditional music and dance.

It was a really great night!
The following night we had some more dancing and a fire show from the Bula Boys.

At the end of the night they got us all up and tried to teach us one of their dances.Foss ended up as an unwilling 'volunteer'

We did a village visit to the island across the way from us and got to visit their school. It was very basic but the kids all had really good English (nobody is allowed to speak Fijian on the school grounds) and the level of work they were doing seemed a little bit harder than they would be doing at home at the same age!

After only 2 days we were sad to leave Kuata, the people there were so friendly and it was such a nice place.
Our next stop was further north on Matacawalevu island. we stayed at the Long Beach Resort here and true to it's name the beach was fairly long. It was the crystal clear, turquoise waters that really impressed us though. It really was like being in a travel show or some exotic film. It was stunning. I don't think any of the photos we took do it justice and you just can't convey the beauty of it. If you close your eyes and imagine what you think paradise looks like I reckon you won't be far off. We couldn't believe it when we saw it.

After 2 days there we headed South again back down to Manta Ray Resort, on Nanuya Balavu Island. As our boat was pulling in we heard them sounding the drums to say manta rays had been spotted in the channel between 2 nearby islands. So we had a quick change, hopped back into the boat and off we went to swim with the mantas. We ended up seeing one manta ray and two stingrays. The were amazing, way bigger that I expected. Fossie reckons their 'wingspan' was over 6 feet from tip It really looked like they were just flying through the water.

Our next stop was Waya Island and the Octopus Resort. This place was lovely, definitely the most developed resort and closest to what you might expect at home. There was a mix up over our booking though so we almost had nowhere to stay, and that was a bit of a worry because the boat just runs once a day and once it's gone, that's it. Anyway they did manage to rustle up beds for us but it wasn't what we'd booked unfortunately.
They had loads of organised activities there so I learned how to weave a basket from banana leaves. Here's one I made earlier.

We did another village visit there too. You had to climb the hill behind the resort and the village was down in the opposite bay.There were magnificent views from the top of the hill.

This village was much bigger than the last one we visited and the villagers came out to perform some songs and dances for us.

On the morning of the day we were leaving we were woken by rain banging down on the roof, and even though it dried up, the wind never died down. The boat journey back to the mainland was seriously rough. Besides the crahing waves and groaning of the boat the other main sound effects were shrieks and screams and of course plenty of retching. Luckily for us half a packet of seasickness tablets saw us through without having to see our stomach contents. By the time we reached the port there were more green faces coming off the boat than if a spaceship had landed from Mars. Not the nicest way to finish our little island hopping trip, but we can't complain really.

So next stop is New Zealand. The weather there will probably be a shock to the system but we're looking forward to doing some skiing and maybe some of the other extreme sports and activities they offer there. Hopefully it will be fun.

Jan and Paul

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jan & Fossie - just read your latest update. The beaches sound amazing - how will ye ever be happy with blind/broad strand again!!!! Ye both look very well in the pictures. Jan - is the gold stuff your new drink!!!!!
    Dont know if you heard, but I have been transferred again. In town now. Will be able to travel in with Foss when he gets back.
    We are on our hols in a weeks time. Heading to caravan in courtmac. please pray for nice weather - its terrible at the moment. rain rain & more rain.
    Congrats to Foss again on becoming an uncle for a 2nd time!!! Called up recently to Fossie's mum, dad & mary mo - saw pictures of lizzie - she is really beautiful & susan looks amazing.
    Well have no more news.
    Talk soon.
    (enjoy NZ - its a place I would really love to see. Might combine it with a rugby tour sometime in the future. maybe 8 yrs time!!!)