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