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While sitting dejectedly around the fire in the lounge trying to get warm for the 5th day in a row of the depressingly cold, greyness and rain of winter, Erle and I asked each other just why we were here freezing when we could quite easily be somewhere else in the world, much warmer and comfortable! We decided to see where there was a reasonably inexpensive trip going anywhere that was warm and tropical. First place that caught our eye was Vanuatu in the Pacific, near Noumea but much hotter, as we started checking it out we knew we would be going as it sounded like a good place to relax in the sun.
We very quickly decided to stay firstly at Sebal, a brand new smaller place on the harbour side, near to the town centre that had a swimming pool and coffee making facilities and air conditioning, our only extra requirements. We tried to check this Hotel/motel out on the internet but as it was so new there was almost nothing to find, except it shared facilities with Iririki Island Resort; a much bigger establishment built on its own private island with a free ferry to get there. We would have 7 nights here, then to go on to another much bigger place with its own private beach with free water sports and a Casino for me to play at! This place, Le Meridian, while still in the same town of Port Vila looked like it was quite some distance away on the opposite side.
As per usual, for us, there was a slight hiccup with the bookings; Erle had all his tickets issued under the spelling Earl and had to pay $85 extra to change the spelling for the airline. We didn’t want him refused entry to Vanuatu on the ground that the name didn’t match the passport, or in fact refused permission to leave New Zealand on false papers.
Vanuatu was a very popular destination so we couldn’t just jump on a plane instantly; we had to wait 3 weeks before there where spare seats on the plane, by that time temperatures were warming up here in Blenheim, but we still looked forward to our holiday as usual, and time flew.
I mentioned to my Mother our plans to visit Vanuatu; she told us that her Church had a Mission in the country on the Island of Ambrym. They run a school at Utas had recently had a group of local church people over there repairing buildings and working generally. I suggested to her that we would be happy to take any mission goods they wanted, with us, if it would assist them. She contacted the Minister of her Church and a large bag of goods were duly delivered to us, plus a bag of goods my Mother had donated, so we also filled the rest of a large suitcase with pens and pencils, books, toys and footballs and tennis balls and lots of pretty hair clips for little girls.
One of the coincidences that seem to happen to us; was that the little old lady sitting beside me in the plane turned out to be a missionary going to Ambrym on mission work, she was a Catholic Sister going to the other side of the same Island we were sending Presbyterian goods to!
I have long been drawn to the idea of sponsoring an overseas child, we who have so much as compared to those who have nothing at all, but always reject the idea because I wonder just how they select one child from so many millions of all so needy children, I imagine it must be the Chief’s favourite child or some one like that who is the lucky one. (The person least needy in the whole village) But it does seem that my wish to help in some way has found a way that appeals to me, in assisting small village schools where every child has a chance to benefit a little. Remember we did the same kind of thing in Fiji. We are limited by weight on what we can take, but one extra suitcase is not a lot of a problem. We don’t send money, only goods at this time though that could change very easily.
After a relatively short flight we arrived in the hot sticky but fragrant heat of Vanuatu, where customs gave no more than a cursory glance at Erle’s passport as they stamped it. We asked if he would have been sent back home if he had travelled with the wrong spelling on his tickets and they laughed and said ofcause not. We still felt it better not to run the risk of deportation or something like that.
Time was only 1pm when our transfer dropped us off at Sebal Hotel, the biggest newest in fact only, 6 story high-rise Hotel in Port Vila! What a surprise, we were expecting a small cosy place and we got the height of luxury with the best view on the whole island. We quickly changed into tropical gear and were off to the local market for fresh tropical fruit to feast on while we set out to explore the town of Port Vila. We also bought a packet of the local delicacy Laplap to try; laplap is a little like a meat pie, it has a ‘pastry’ outer layer of snow white tapioca completely enclosing a delicious meaty centre all wrapped up in a piece of banana leaf to form a small parcel. The local ladies cook hundreds of these every day in an in-ground oven at their local village; it is transported on the back of a truck every morning to the market to sell. There is also 3 other different types of laplap, these other three are cooked flat in huge sheets and are cut into squares at the market, these are made of either sweet potato, banana or taro and have a piece of chicken or a whole fish cooked on the top of each small square. We didn’t try them all, only 2 of the different kinds, we found they tasted delicious and smelled even more so when you unwrapped them, but they really were rather too stodgy and heavy for our taste, very filling. As the Islanders do not have potatoes I guess they have to make do with what they do have.
As most of you will never go to Vanuatu, I shall tell you a little about Port Vila and the country generally. Vanuatu is made up of 80 islands some very small but other quite large, spread out quite widely in a ‘Y’ shape, nearly all are very volcanic, several still erupting and shooting our red hot lava regularly, there are tours that take you right into the crater of active volcanos, but we were not that adventurous, this is to be our lazy relaxing holiday.
There is a population of about 200,000 dark skinned people, clustered in small areas and tiny villages, they make their living from the sale of Copra and exporting beef and fish plus some logging, marketing fruit and vegies and ofcause tourists! Most of who come from Australia. Port Villa is the largest town, in fact there is only one other town of any size in the nation, the town is built of a mixture of French and Colonial English and Island kind of design, some of the buildings are quite attractive, the town looked pretty from our 5th floor view at the Sebal Hotel, built as it is along the waterfront and harbour. The whole town revolves around the huge Market, which is the size of two football fields, all built undercover in Island style with high pointy roofs full of the most interesting array of fruit, vegetables, fish, crabs, flowers, firewood and the laplap and there is a part of this market where ladies have set up small restaurant stalls selling hearty meals mainly to other stall holders and shoppers, and also to us as well once we found the place, we had some lovely meals here at a cost of $2.50 each, plus we had the company of some very nice friendly local ladies. You can buy a fish or a crab and these ladies will most likely cook it for you if they are not too busy at the time. When we tried to do that we chose a lady who was too scared of the crab we wanted to buy as it had the most wicked claw pincers I have ever seen, designed to break its way into coconuts to eat the flesh, it could snap a finger without even trying, so we never got to try the famous Coconut Crab unfortunately ….. next time.
The next day we were up early for a walk before breakfast, not like us at all, early morning temperatures are just perfect. We visited the elderly men who were fishing along the waterfront and they showed us how they catch their fish, already they had two lovely fish so they had the secret. All they used was a long piece of nylon line with the smallest hook on the end you have ever seen, considerably smaller than my little finger nail, not much more than a bent pin we used as little kids to catch cockabullies. The men bait this tiny hook with a big chunk bread and hurl it as far as they can; not far because there is no weights attached to the line only the weight of the bread carries it through the air, when it lands it floats on top for ages then slowly sinks, giving the fish plenty of time to nibble. The sea was very shallow with lots of knobbly bits of coral so the tiny hook with no sinker might be the only way to fish here.
After breakfast we caught a small bus and went to see the local Parliament buildings built high up on the hill above the town, as it was Sunday everything was shut, no worries we didn’t want to go into the establishment anyway, we walked on from here exploring in all directions till drawn by sound of singing and Church Bells pealing all around us, as there are many Churches, we went to the closest one that turned out to be the Presbyterian Church we were looking for to deliver our mission goods, later in the week. We thought about going to the service but as the lovely singing was all in the local Bislama language, so we just stood in the grounds listening and watching all the ladies in their Sunday best colourful dresses all decorated with lace and ribbons, arriving.
We decided to head back to our Hotel and just relax around the pool for the day in the sun with our books and suntan lotion.
In the morning we joined a round the Island tour, with 7 others from all around the world, (Danish, German, English, Australian, Philippine, Vanuatu driver and us Kiwis) this trip takes a full day on roads only slightly better than Fijian tracks. The roads were all made by the USA troops during the war and have never been touched since then, we were taken to the old US airfield and base, not that there is much to see the tropics quickly over-grows neglected buildings, we also saw several old tanks and other vehicles that had just been driven into the sea and left to rust away, at the end of the war.
We were taken into the small village of Watu on the far side of the island and met by 3 lovely ladies who placed flowers in our hair and welcomed us shyly into their village. The tour lady whispered ‘don’t be scared’ just before with loud whoops and bloodcurdling screams a dozen half naked warriors leap out from behind every blade of grass and small coconut tree, brandishing clubs and spears in the most menacing way possible! Terrifying! I can imagine just how the poor explorers and missionaries of old felt when confronted by hostile natives; unarmed settlers wouldn’t have lasted very long at all with these fierce warriors. Once we had been challenged the men all started dancing around us and put on a great cultural show for us, a small band of musicians also appeared from nowhere to assist them. I imagine that also would of happened of old, just before we had been put into the cooking pot!
We were able to enjoy swimming at the villages’ nice beach and buy a few handicrafts from the ladies, before we journeyed on to another lovely beach and a tiny open air Sara Restaurant, this place has no floor, only beach sand and only side wall and poles to support the roof, it was most pleasant enjoying a delicious meal in the sunshine, it was in buffet style with several ethnic dishes to choose from as well as more, to us - ordinary food.
After a long drive we pulled into another village where we all went snorkelling and swimming among the little fish and the pretty coral and chatting with the natives over a hot coffee made with local coffee beans, nice too. It was here that we saw and patted the only cat we saw on the island, though there were a few scared cats on Efira island, this one was a real pet.
We all had an enjoyable day; more so because of the great mix of foreign people, there were some diverse opinions on some things. Later that evening we met up again with some of them over our evening meal.
We spent the next few mornings trying to contact the Paster of the Ambrym Presbyterian Church to deliver the mission goods, it proved quite difficult, but we were assisted by Mildred and Christopher at the front desk of Sebal, and became quite good friends with Christopher who invited us to visit his own home on Efira Island a place where no tourists go as it is just a village settlement with no accommodations or shops, though there are two Churches. We were most happy to accept this offer as we had been watching the small boats heading for this island full of natives day and night – all the workers arriving and departing after their shifts. Christopher could not go with us as he was working, but he arranged for his lady friend Neevan and baby Tricia to meet us and show us around the small island. Everyone on the small boat going over to Efira wanted to know just why we would be wanting to go to Efira, there was nothing there for us they said, who were we meeting and why? All were very curious about us.
Neevan a French speaking Vanuatun, met us and the delightful young lady enjoyed showing us all around the island, the 2 churches, her home, the women’s house, chiefs house and the special tamtam drum used for calling everyone to a meeting, and all the pigs fattening in small cages at every small house of which there were many all close together with no fences much. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, no roads either only narrow walking tracks. We intended to have a swim at this island on the nice golden sand beach but the wind came up and the sea got rough, so we gave it a miss. Neevan couldn’t understand why anyone might want to swim really as it is wintertime in Vanuatu, though it is very hot to us. A hot sweaty kind of heat that leaves your skin moist at all times, so you don’t really get a good suntan, just very hot.
After the guided tour we returned to Neevan’s home and all ate a picnic of food we had brought with us, on the lawn, with Tricia the dear wee baby playing happily beside us. There could be no cuddles of the baby; Tricia had not seen a white person before and was frightened of us. Christopher is from Ambrym and rather black skinned, Neevan was born on Efira and is less black, so baby was a pretty brown colour.
Erle and I both got wet with waves breaking over the small boat on the way back but we agreed it had been worthwhile to meet a real local native and see how they really live, and more importantly to us, to do something almost no one else ever did.
We also took the free ferry to Iririki Island to have a days swimming in the enormous swimming pool complex on the island. There were four huge irregular pools in the part we swam in and at least two other pools we saw in another part of the island, goodness know why they ever built so many pools in such a small area. There are several very expensive resorts on this island; maybe everyone expects a pool of their own!
Took several days of trying but finally we got hold of the Paster from Ambrym and made an appointment to visit him at the local Church where he is staying at the moment. We had really built this up in our minds til it was a huge event of great importance and significance; we were to be humbled!
When ushered into his office, we shuffled past all the big high piles of paperwork and boxes and met the big very black man with a huge smile, he welcomed us and said thankyou for the big bags of goods we had brought, and we settled down to have a nice talk with him, but the phone rang and he sort of waved us out and attended to the phone, it was all over in a few short seconds, we left feeling very up in the air, wondering why we had bothered. Still our name and address are in the parcel so maybe we shall hear from the children of the school in time; maybe. It would have been so nice to hear all about this school and the children in Utas, Ambrym and the area generally, and also just how these goods were going to get to Utas and when.
We did later in fact run into a taxi driver who was from this very small place and he had attended the Utas School and he was very pleased to think the School was getting some extra support.
Every where we went we seemed to meet people from Ambrym Island, I bought a nice carving from one man and a great unusual pendent from another, it is made from the spike of a sea urchin he told me, it is all carved with totem faces, quite unlike anything else I have. We also bought a storybook for children about an Ambrym legend written in English French and the Bislama they speak in the islands; this we will give to Mums Church so all the people who donate to Ambrym will get something back they can have a read of.
Heard of a Melanesian night being held at another resort just down the road, so we went to along for the evening. The meal was possibly the worst we had in Vanuatu, a BBQ meal where we were the unfortunate last people in the queue who got the odd left-overs of steak and a sausage and the dregs of two tired looking salads, followed by scraps of dessert, not worth paying for at all but in fact it was very expensive because it was followed by a cultural show.
Now this show of mainly dancing was very good, the men wore the native costume which is only a few flaps of leaves that covers very little and ladies wearing grass skirts and coconut shell bras, the men drummed on their tamtams and the music was very stirring, just a pity the meal let the evening down.
Our time of staying at the Sebal came to an end all too soon and we had to leave for the Le Meridian Resort and Casino, we had been looking forward to this but we really missed the fabulous view from the 5th floor balcony of the Sebal, plus Christopher and Mildred at the front desk, and an especially smiley young waitress who were so friendly and cheerful.
It was unfortunate that when we arrived at Le Meridian our room was not ready for us and we had to wait in the lounge for 3 long hours just wasting time, surrounded by our entire luggage. When we finally did get into our room the whole room smelt musty and everything was damp including all the bedding, because the air-conditioning system was not working well, on hindsight we should have asked for another room, but I think it might have taken another 3 hours so we just accepted it, and by the end of the next day we had both come down with colds, in my case it quickly became the flu with a raging temperature. I was very sickly for the rest of our stay in Vanuatu, fortunately I was able to buy a packet of sustained relief cold and flu tablets that are no longer available in New Zealand because there are so useful when making ’P’, I was very grateful to get them and be able to continue to enjoy our holiday without ruining Erle’s good time.
One reason we were at the Le Meridian – beside the fact they have a casino – was that they have free water sports including catamarans and kayaks both of which we really enjoyed playing with on the resorts own private beach. Skimming across the bay with the sail full of wind was fun, the small boat just flew, and then, sitting around waiting for the wind to blow again was also rather nice way out on the water in the sunshine.
Erle also was able to play a few rounds of golf, while I set about loosing heaps of money in the casino, $100 just vanished as quickly as snow would if it ever fell in Vanuatu. The odds must have been terrible no body seemed to making much, specially not me, so surprisingly I soon gave it up as a bad job, while I still had some money left!
Decided to have a massage on the beach where two lady masseuses wore putting their strong hands to good use, while I was relaxing getting my lovely massage I listened to the ladies discussing how old they thought I was in their own language, I was very amused to hear them decide I was 45 years old. Then when they asked me how old I was, they were amazed to hear I was in my sixties, they were both 54 years old but both looked much older than me. I was told ‘the years had been merciful to me’ and I guess that’s true.
A big surprise for us was turning around and spotting an old friend of ours staying in the same Resort, he was pleased to see us as well since he had been travelling on his own, it was most pleasant to have dinner together and spend an evening catching up with all the things we had both been doing during our holiday. He left the next day and we left the following day. Although there had been many disruptions of the airline flights previously both our flights went smoothly and on time.
Because we staying in two different places we were in the unique position of being able to judge how each resort did things, both were good in their own way, but the training given to staff at the Sebal was vastly superior, everyone had a smile on their face at all times and gave the impression of being over joyed to assist you in any way at all, they all spoke to you as you left the lift or the swimming pool or the dining room, even the ladies cleaning in our room were friendly. Nobody did that at Le Meridian and we really missed those smiling faces, in fact I asked a couple of waitresses to smile for me and after that they did when they saw me, but it was not the general thing, no one of the staff spoke to us unless we spoke first, we missed that too. But service was still very good it just wasn’t with a smile or joyful. Food was excellent in both places.
We do intend to go back to Vanuatu, its such a pretty sweet old fashioned kind of a place, where life is lived as it used to be and most people are happy and content and very law-abiding. Most likely won’t stay in either place, both are too big and expensive for us, we would rather have a smaller cosy little place close to town and the market.
Our Adventurous Fijian Holiday.
Our good friend Jonathan, invited us to Fiji to stay with his family and in his village, which is in a very remote part of the interior of Fiji, where white tourists just do not go. We knew this was going to be an adventure, but didn’t know just how much of an adventure! Just getting there was an adventure!
Before we left New Zealand, Erle had an accident and tore the calf muscle very badly, so three weeks before we were to leave, Erle was on crutches going to physio each day and generally in a lot of pain, by time to depart he was able to walk for short strolls and it was improving every day.
When we paid for our airfares it was discovered that my Passport, while not being out of date, would in fact not have the require 6 months validity left by the time we came home, so I had to get a new Passport under urgency at double the usual price; thankfully it arrived a week ahead of our departure.
Porsche our lovely Silver Blue Burmese cat developed a strange rash on her tummy that the Vet couldn’t identify, he thought maybe she was allergic to something she was sleeping on outdoors, and gave us ointment to be rubbed on twice a day. Fortunately this rash vanished just in time for her to be allowed to go to the Cattery, just where she would have gone otherwise I couldn’t imagine, but some kind of quarantine somewhere I guess.
Packing our suitcases was a bit of a problem too, as we were taking so very much in the way of books, musical instruments, pens, gifts and a whole suitcase of clothes for the village people. There was more than 30kg of goods just for Jonathan and his family, so we were not able to take a great deal for our own use, in fact we have never travelled so lightly ever before; just the bare basic necessities of clothes and toiletries. First time ever we have used our full 40kgs aeroplane allowance.
We had booked our air travel; air fares only, no transfers or accommodations, first time we have ever done that either! But Jonathan had told us many times he would be there to meet us at the airport, and take us to his home, where we planned to stay about 3 – 4 days, after which we would just go any place that took our fancy, within the tourist circuit.
Our flight to Fiji was uneventful and enjoyable, not too long, just about 3 hours.
When we got through Customs we walked happily, out to meet Jonathan, But we couldn’t find him anywhere, so we waited patiently an hour for him, thinking maybe he had broken down on the long 3 hour journey from his home to the airport, but still no sign of our friend! Time was now 11pm.
We went over to the Help Desk to check if any message might have been sent for us, but sadly no messages! Next we visited the tour desk and booked into anywhere they could find close by. The Capricorn International Resort had room for us for $130 a night, but we took it as we could hardly camp in the terminal for the night.
After settling in, we became aware of the predicament we were in; we didn’t even know Jonathans real name, sure we knew he was really Iosepha but there are two more long Fijian names after, that we can’t say at all and didn’t even have written down with us. Nor did we have his full address just that it was inland from Vatukoula, what we did have was a mobile phone number for his family, but we couldn’t phone him at such a late hour, so resolved to wait for morning to try and contact him. We were actually sure we had no chance at all of finding him and giving him all the heavy goods we had dragged around with us, we fore saw our holiday weighing heavily all the way. Sleep disserted us for the night, we tossed and turned and worried til the morning.
A nice breakfast helped us feel a little better, a visit to the Resorts tour desk also helped, the lady would phone the family for us and speak in Fijian, if we just bought a Fiji phone card. Amazingly, it was Jonathan that answered, so I was able to talk to him myself. Apparently he had mixed up what day we were to arrive and was expecting us that night, he said he would try to get to the hotel by 3pm if we would just wait there. The hotel agreed to allow us a slightly later checkout so we could have a swim in their pool while we waited, then we could sit in the foyer and quietly read, very good of them. But at 3pm a phone call from Jonathan told us he had run into problems and was just going to leave home then so it would be at least 6pm before he arrived! The hotel staff looked rather long suffering on hearing that but said ok we were no trouble. Buying a couple of drinks and snacks helped sooth them even more. At 6.30pm I had to phone again to ask just where he was! Finally he arrived at about 7pm in the pitch dark, by Taxi! So at that time of night we had to go about hiring a rental vehicle – not a car, Jonathan said, the roads are ‘not very good’ (an understatement if I ever heard one) so we hired a van with big wheels at enormous expense we thought, but that was ok, what was not,’ ok’, was that the hire company demanded that my VISA card (which did come with us on our trip this time, unlike our trip to Langkawi last year!) be run through the zip zap machine again and the slip signed so that if we damaged the van at all or didn’t return on time, they would simply bank the VISA slip for the whole cost of the vehicle!!!! As I have a very high credit rating, because I always pay off the whole amount every month and never ever use the credit facilities, I knew the bank would simply pay out no questions asked! This fact preyed on our minds for the whole 3-day hire, just because we are excellent taxi drivers does not mean we can’t have an accident, specially on roads we don’t know and the locals are very poor drivers plus the state of the roads was appalling! Also after a sleepless night and his bad leg still painful, Erle was not at his best to head off into the very dark night for a three-hour drive. Nightmare material really; two days of it, and more to come!
It wasn’t a fun drive for any of us, at first the main highway was not too bad but there was a lot of traffic, few street lights, driving rain, people walking along the road, and dogs everywhere, but soon the road deteriorated to a mass of deep pot holes, and eventually worsened till the road was totally unsealed, then to just a cart track and finally to a narrow goat track with rivers of water flowing down the mountain roads. Finally when we climbed to the top of a mountain covered with forest trees, Jonathan said, “right we are here; home” and over in the trees we could see a glimmer of light. The last 100yards was the most slippery and muddy, Erle struggled to make any headway with the van, the wheels just spun, so he backed back down to get a run on and managed to slither up and over the top to Jonathans home driveway. The next day we checked where he had backed back to, and found he was inches away from backing into a deep drain beside the track! We were so lucky as it was very dark with no visibility at all.
All the trouble getting to Jonathan’s home was worth it when we were made so very welcome. His whole family had come to meet us, his dear old Mama a huge lady first threw her arms around me and drew us to her feather-bed softness, his older brother and wife, his older sister and husband, younger sister and baby, and his younger brother, Josephine; Jonathan’s young wife and two little children, plus several other young people that we are not sure exactly who they were, they were a lot to take in the near darkness. Hugs and kisses, handshakes and shy smiles all around, the warmest of welcomes and we were taken inside the home.
I shall try to describe Jonathan’s home, without meaning to be judgemental, or culturally insensitive, just so you will have some idea just how a real Fijian family lives.
Shoes must be taken off when entering a Fijian home; we left our wet shoes on the covered veranda with all the others and stepped on to several layers of warm dry coconut woven matting in the lounge. The lounge, would be about 15 feet x 20 feet quite spacious very clean neat and tidy and fairly empty, there was much to our surprise a colour TV and a DVD player at one end and a huge comfortable easy chair and a two seater settee at the other end, a bookcase with many books and even more precious things like huge sea shells and fancy gourds a pretty bowls, photographs and ornaments along one wall. The construction of the whole house, built on a concrete pad, is corrugated iron and wooden uprights, both roof and walls, mainly unlined as warmth is never needed, just waterproofing is required, but the family have put lots of beautiful pictures, tapa cloth and material to beautify the inside. At each end of the lounge there are small bedrooms, we were shown to one of the two, with a comfortable double bed at ground level, (Jonathan and Josephine’s and their two little children’s own bed it turned out), on the otherside of the lounge another long narrow room ran the whole width of the house, this was the dining room/kitchen, with very long (15 feet) low table about 8 inches high off the ground that you sit on the floor mats around. Along one wall was a cabinet with lots of pretty china mugs and plates, also utilitarian plastic ones and also huge containers of flour and sugar etc, on the floor at the end was a small kerosene burner and several saucepans with steamers, off from this room there is a small lean-to that is open on the sides to let out smoke, there is a waist high iron table where a fire was kept burning at all times, this was the kitchen stove and from here huge meals were beautifully cooked, including bread! I was amazed at this kitchen! There was no electricity in the house; but there was a small generator that supplied enough power to run the TV and one light in the dining room, no more, also there was no running water (all the water used was carried up from a pure mountain spring in 3litre plastic jars) so ofcause no hot water either or washing machine! Not even a kitchen sink, I didn’t inquire how all the dishes were washed or where.
The toilet was outside as was the washroom. Jonathan quickly showed us to outside flush toilet saying it was new. Just how new I didn’t realize till I said thanks just what I needed, and found a brand new roll of loo paper and a pristine toilet bowl sitting proudly on a small slab of concrete, the outside walls were plaited bamboo in the Fijian style with an iron roof. Apparently this construction had only just been finished before Jonathan left to meet us, so I was the first participant!
Close besides this building was the washroom also made of bamboo plaiting but roofless, with two huge barrels of fresh rainwater with dippers to scoop out and pour over your body. The floor was made of smooth river stones for drainage.
The brothers told us, that this was a middle class home; not the best quality but far and away from the worst, it was 4 years old and built by a carpenter not by themselves. We felt it was very comfortable in its own way – for a short time.
Immediately we had been shown to the comfortable chairs the Kava ceremony to welcome us started. Mama and Josephine (her real name is Nakawai, but she asked if she could have a nice new name too just like Jonathan) started mixing the Kava, normally Jonathan would have done so but he needed to stay with us to assist with conversation as they all could speak English but didn’t very much usually, by the end of our stay they were all chatting away easily, but not that first night.
The Kava bowl came out and speeches were said that sounded very like prayers, all in Fijian so maybe they might have been prayers of some kind, then Erle was handed the first small coconut shell dipper full of the greyish liquid, to be drunk down in one swallow if possible, then you clap three times and say venarca, (thankyou) he managed it then it was my turn, sadly it took me several swallows to get it down, then my tongue and lips started going numb and felt quite funny, Jonathan got the next dipper full then every other person over 20 enjoyed their drink, then it was round two, back to Erle and me again! I was allowed to say that was enough, but Erle had a couple more rounds to enjoy. The room noticeablely became very happy and with much loud laughter and lots of clapping, this Kava is definitely alcoholic and tasted better the second time around!
It was getting quite late in the evening by now, so Mama hurried us along a little to the dining room where the table was groaning with many huge platters of food. Erle and I and Jonathan only sat down to this repast of taro cooked in two different ways, small chicken pieces, steamed fish heads, fried fish, rice and cassava; a type of sweet potato, also bread and some fruit, fruit juice tea and coffee. We were encouraged to eat as much as we wished, so we did, I occasionally wondered why there was so much for only us, assuming that everyone else had eaten long before we got there, but no, after we had eaten our fill everybody else then came in hungrily for their share, made us feel a wee bit guilty that we had been hungry and eaten quite a lot! I also felt very humbled by the warmth of the welcome. Still Mama found plenty for all; she said God would supply enough for all her guests as he always had in the past. These people are very religious. They didn’t say grace before the meal, but maybe that was part of the Kava ceremony.
After dinner I sort of expected singing and dancing, but instead everyone sat or lay on the floor a watched raptly the colour TV, much the same way we did when TV was new, but there was still plenty of time for talking and laughing and Kava! While seated in the comfy chairs we could request anyone to come and sit beside us for a short chat, but they didn’t stay long, to allow everyone the chance of a special chat with us the extra special guests. What a great evening we felt so important, also so exhausted from lack of sleep the previous night and the long hard drive to get there, so soon had to make our way to bed with a kerosene lamp to guide us. We slept very soundly.
We were awakened quite early by several roosters, we were tempted to strangle them, but managed to get back to sleep before we attempted this.
When we got up we found Jonathan had been up for hours and had walked a long way to get us fresh water and pawpaws and bananas for breakfast and also special medicinal leaves to wrap around Erle’s bad leg, Josephine and Mama had also been up for hours baking the Lolo buns for our breakfast. Lolo buns are bread dough made with yeast shaped into buns and placed in a large saucepan to rise then coconut milk is poured over to cover the dough then the pan placed over the little fire place, these turn out snow white and sticky, but Josephine showed me how she makes browned Lolo buns. She does all the things I have described but she also builds a small fire on a metal tray, when it is going nicely she places this tray on the saucepan as a lid; thereby turning the pan into an oven with heat top and bottom! Didn’t take long before the buns were beautifully browned and raised just like bought buns except these tasted of coconut and were light and delicious. Half of a large pawpaw, bananas and the buns made a substantial breakfast.
Whenever we travel overseas we take a jar of Jarrah coffee Vienna blend, it is coffee and cinnamon with some sugar and powdered cream, just requiring boiling water to make, expensive to drink all the time so we keep this special treat for when we travel, and call it our special coffee.
After breakfast I told Mama that I had something to add to breakfast, special coffee! I brought out the jar and gave everyone a mug of it, it was funny watching the faces as they tried something new, but all loved the flavour, it was a big hit, so I brought it out for every meal after that. I will have to buy a jar and send it over to the family, as it is unobtainable in Fiji; I tried many places.
Next Jonathan wrapped Erle’s sore leg in the ordinary looking leaves and bandaged the leg tightly, it felt warm immediately as healing started.
Jonathan asked us to get ready to visit his village, which meant putting on a Sulu wraparound skirt for both Erle and I, ours were borrowed from Josephine and the younger sister Theresa. It was explained that the village was at the base of the mountain we were on, and we could take a shortcut road, straight down and ‘not a very good track’! Or the long way ‘a much better road’ which was 75 km long, it didn’t take Erle more than a second to say we would go the long way! We had to go back half the way we had driven the night before over the same dreadful tracks but in day light it was easier, then we came back in a big circle from around the other side of the mountain and down into the deep valley.
Now we had thought the roads before were bad… haha …. These were in a class of there own, the poor van struggled in first gear all the way as Erle fought to keep it on the rocky rutted kind of road, thank goodness he was driving not me! Parts of the road were also under water just to make it even less pleasant, these pools could be any depth! There were wild goats everywhere dashing off the road as we were right in the wild interior of the island where hardly any one ever goes, though we did pass one four wheel drive vehicle on the way. Scenery was spectacular in parts we could see over almost the whole island.
Finally we came to the village, the last part of the road was by far the steepest, as we slithered down, Erle really wondered whether it would be possible to climb back out, especially if it rained again, Jonathan said there were enough strong men in the village to push us out if need be!
In the distance I could see a beautiful waterfall tumbling down the mountainside but we had no time to visit it, the Headman of the village came and shook our hands in welcome, then almost the entire population lined up to shake our hands and kiss them! They also bowed to us – like we were Royalty!
Name of the village is Nakoroboya; it contains about 30 corrugated iron, and wooden houses and several bura’s of different sizes made of reeds in the traditional way. The whole layout of the village is neat and orderly everything is very tidy, there is a Catholic Church in the centre of the village and the school is just over a rushing mountain stream to one side, the gardens well tended and the people appeared to be healthy and well besides happy and content.
There are no roads in the village, as no one owns a vehicle, however every man owns a horse to travel on, that’s why, the roads are so bad. We had to take off our shoes and paddle across a small stream past the village Catholic Church, then a quite fast flowing river to get to the village school we had come to visit. Village men had to assist us over these rivers or we would have been swimming!
Jonathan carried all our gifts for us plus a lot more that he was also giving the children; he was weighed down like a packhorse!
The male teacher greeted us and ordered the children to assembly for us to inspect. All the boisterous eager kids were in front keen to show-off, just like kids worldwide, but I looked beyond them to the big eyed shy ones, and went all around picking them out to chat to, later the teacher said how did I managed to speak to all the shyest children in the school, but as a wee kid I was one of the shy ones so I easily recognized the shyness and longing to be noticed in their eyes. Teacher also said we were the first white people to visit the school beside of a missionary man. He was over whelmed with all the books pens pencils and musical instruments we had brought from New Zealand especially for his school children. There are actually 3 teachers for the 72 children of all ages, but two of the teachers had to attend a funeral that day, one of them was the music teacher who would get a great surprise when she returned and found she now had several flutes and other things to make a little band.
It was Fiji National Children’s Day apparently, we had no idea of this, and the teacher said God must have brought us especially on that day with so many gifts for the children. Jonathan brought along soft drinks and little buns for each child. Venarca was said many, many times; it hadn’t cost us much but brought such joy to them all. We signed the visitor’s book looked at one of the three classrooms with its little wooden desks like there were when I first started school as a wee girl so long ago. The whole school was made of plaited bamboo with an iron roof; it was all designed and partly built by Jonathan nearly 2 years ago. A more solid concrete block building has been started to make a permanent school in time. I could have spent much more time here but we were worried about the threat of rain and the need to be out of the mountain roads by darkness.
We were then hurried back across the river, to the Headman’s large home to be initiated into the village!
Normally women would not be allowed at the special ceremony, but Jonathan said I was special and would also be initiated into the village. When we entered the big house, without our shoes, it was to find that all the men of the village assembled sitting cross legged on the coconut matting, there were two soft pillows at the head of them for us to relax on – Jonathan also had to sit cross legged on the floor beside us. I was a trifle nervous about the ceremony not knowing what to expect – blood letting, a challenge like the Maoris do, singing or dancing, or what?
Very simple really it was just a much longer Kava ceremony; lots of prayers all in Fijian with our names mentioned frequently, many of the men spoke including Jonathan. As I sat there my mind drifted, several thoughts came to me; firstly, I became aware that ‘all things do work together for good’ we were definitely meant to have arrived in the village today and not yesterday as would have happened had Jonathan met us at the airport, I was becoming impressed by Jonathan’s Mana – the prestige and esteem he was held in by all these men, I worried about the fact that while I was enjoying myself, poor Erle was not, he was driving to the very edge of his ability for hours each day with more to come, would I end up being the proud owner of the van if Erle had a momentary lapse of concentration, as I heard the first rain drops on the roof, would we even be able to drive out of the village, also the fact that I had not taken a single photo of the village School we had come so far to visit!
Finally it was Kava drinking time, Erle first, me second, Jonathan third, followed by every one of the men, had a half coconut shell full before it was time to have another round. I took the time to whisper to Jonathan my lack of photos and he said he would go all the way back across the river for me to get me a good photo, and he did. When the next round of Kava drinking was over and the headman had made another batch of Kava for further rounds, the speeches told us that we could now say Nakoroboya was our village, we were full members, anything we wished to do, we could, we could return and be welcome any time in the future. Now it was Erle’s turn to make a speech, he had been warned a speech would be called for so fortunately some thought had gone into what he was going to say, so Erle made a great speech that brought forth a noisy round of venarca’s, hand claps and cheers.
To test the ‘we could do anything words’ I said I would like to go inside the biggest bure in the village! A young girl was called in to take me, she took me in through the special door for ladies and we sat on the floor with a bunch of toddlers who joined us, and told me how this biggest bure (reed covered roof house, rather like a small hall, with vast tree trunks as beams to hold it all up, some of which were carved a little) had been built and what some of the parts meant, sorry I forget all these things as I was playing with the sweet wee kids.
I also mentioned the pigs the village owned and almost got taken to visit them too! Erle stayed and enjoyed the company of all the men.
The men of the village intended to present us with a bucket full of prawns to take back for our evening meal but the river was too flooded and dirty for them to catch any so we were presented with a big bag of large easy peel mandarins oranges, much better for us really as they lasted us for the whole time of our trip and we were very grateful for them often.
After a nice cup of tea without milk, because none of their cows or goats was in-milk, and thick slices of delicious native bread, we knew we just must leave as the rain was now really falling hard. After much hand shaking and hugs and kind words we made our goodbyes.
It took two of the strong men pushing and all the power of the van to inch our way up the steepest part of the road out, but after that Erle managed the drive back to Jonathan’s home without incident, where Mama was waiting to cook the prawns for dinner!
She rose to the challenge of what to have for dinner without prawns, we had cooked breadfruit, cassava, taro and taro leaves the she had rolled up with tiny pieces of fish inside and then cooked in coconut milk, these were so nice I could have eaten the whole pot full! Also there was an interesting noodle dish with small chunks of chicken in, masses of great ethnic food, which we had special coffee after and some strawberry cream biscuits that I had brought from home in case we couldn’t eat the food, the children especially enjoyed these sweet treats (don’t think biscuits figure much in their diet).
When Jonathan and his brothers suggested we could all go back to the village tomorrow to watch a football match, Erle took all of half a second to decide that regretfully we must return tomorrow, the very thought of driving back again was too much. Not the drive so much but the possibility of damaging the van and having to buy the thing, Erle recons our use of this van must of taken ten years of its life!
Mama was inconsolable when she heard we would leave the next morning, she sat beside me holding my hand, and told me she loved me, I was family now, please don’t go, I was welcome to stay for as long as I liked – forever and ever even, with tears in her eyes. I was truly touched, I liked her too, and could have stayed a few days, just in the house talking and learning more of their culture, but it was not to be. Josephine also whispered similar things to me, what lovely people. I do hope we have not caused offence by leaving so soon.
Jonathan said if we had to go he understood but we must go see the medicine lady to have Erles leg massaged and more of the special leaves applied to it, an appointment had been made. Ok, we certainly wouldn’t miss this.
After another good nights sleep and an absolutely delicious breakfast again, we packed up our suitcases, two less than we had arrived with! Josephine put Fijian music and dancing on the DVD and had us all dancing and singing in the lounge as a delightful farewell. After lots of hugs and kisses we had to leave, Jonathan said he would come with us as far as Latoka as we were concerned about getting lost on the little tracks, but first it was time to visit the medicine woman, completely unschooled with no English but with a vast knowledge of the human body and so much instinctual knowledge, she set about checking out Erle’s leg then settled in to massage for a long time, very deeply. Erle’s face was interesting to watch! I think it was very painful, but she knew what she was doing and pretty soon Erle was indeed feeling an improvement. She placed the leaves on his leg same as Jonathan had and bound it tightly up for two days. Erle dropped a few dollars on the mat for her, which pleased her greatly; she had worked very hard on that massage.
It was sad to say goodbye to our good friend Jonathan after quick lunch in Latoka, he had a meeting to attend there, we all said see you in one months time back in New Zealand, thanked him profusely for his kindness and drove off towards Nadi, one day earlier than we intended before the van had to be returned. As we drove we past the big sign advertising the exclusive expensive First Landing Resort, where the very first Fijians are supposed to have landed on the island, we looked at each other and said ‘YES’ just what we needed, a night of comfort and luxury, to hang with the expense.
It was indeed a pleasure to sit and watch the sun setting with a cool glass in hand, soaking up the history beneath the coconut palms, before a stroll along white sandy beaches, and a nice garden bure.
We did have to drive on to Nadi and book into a smaller hotel at Traveller’s Beach have a quiet drive into Nadi City where we were accosted by hordes of hawkers and others trying to get us into their stores for kava and buying stuff we didn’t want or need, and generally rob us blind, also taxi drivers touting for our business! Not a lot of fun really, so we ran into a Tourist Information Centre and in minutes found we had booked ourselves into Namuka Bay Lagoon Hotel for two nights in a private bure on the beach! The lady was very pushy but it still sounded just what we wanted, we would have to take a bus to get to Cuvu village, followed by a taxi to the beach. Sounded easy even with two big suitcases.
We returned the hired van, in good order apart from thick mud all over it, to the agent and wonder of wonders he gave me back the pre-signed Visa docket that I had written ‘Bond only, to be returned’.
Went back to the hotel for a lovely swim, in the pool. Erle took off his bandages with the medicinal leaves at this time and found to his amazement that the swelling had gone down and the pain was nearly gone, the leg moved much more freely. Good on Jonathan and the medicine lady!
Next morning we were up early packed our bags, ate a wonderful fruit breakfast from the pawpaw and bananas Jonathan had given us the mandarins the village had given us, plus a pineapple we had picked up along the way, then we found out there was a free breakfast in the hotels tariff, so we had toast and jam as well! Caught a taxi to the bus terminal then we were soon on a Sunbeam bus heading for Cuvu sharing seats with others as the bus was packed with two to most seats, but who cares it was a $3.00 bus trip! For an hour we travelled. The bus stopped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and said this is where you get out; Cuvu is that village in the distance, way down a long lane. It was fortunate that another person also got out of the bus, a well dressed man who wore clothes similar to Jonathan, so we knew he was high born Fijian, turned to us and asked ‘why were we going to his village?’ When we told him we had booked and paid for accommodation and food, at the Resort.
And had been told to hire a taxi to take us from Cuvu, he got very angry and said that it was all wrong the Information Centre should have arranged our transport to this distant bay, they were just hooligans and rogues and had left us in an awkward predicament, with heavy luggage, a long way from the village and its transport, that we would have to drag along the deep mud of the lane. He told us to wait there and he would go arrange a taxi for us and he would come with us to make sure all was ok and there was accommodation awaiting us, also to make sure it was what we were expecting! Ominous!
In due time he did return, not with a taxi, he said they all refused to go to this place as the roads are bad! But he did have transport for us, a Carrier, the vehicles that the locals all use, a small truck with a canvas cover over the deck with lots of seats. It was actually quite comfortable for me as I sat in front with the driver, who’s first question to me was ‘ how come you know our village Priest?’ WOW a Priest came to our aid; God was working in His mysterious ways yet again!
Rescued by God!
The roads were of slightly lesser degree of badness than the roads Erle had to drive over, or maybe we are just getting used to them! We pulling to an open paddock by a nice sandy beach, after a 10 km drive, there was a long horned cow tied to a tree, 3 small thatched bures and a larger one plus a wooden house further along the beach, and a sign stating proudly welcome to Namuka Bay Resort Hotel!
The Priest got out and said this is it; will it be ok for you? A trifle doubtfully we said we thought it would be. The staff ran out to greet us, accepted our voucher and showed us to our private bure. The priest came with us and checked it out, he then said it was not easy to get out from this isolated place, so he personally would arrange for the Carrier to come and pick us up on the day we were booked to checkout, not only that he would come along too in case of ‘problems’ How kind he was, and thank goodness he was!
A delightful young French couple that were staying in the private bure next to us quickly came up from the beach and greeted us. They were as glad to see us, as we were them.
We were out having a good look around very quickly, more and more we liked what we saw. The lovely white sandy beach fringed with coconut palms and bright tropical flowers, the warm shallow waters of the lagoon full of brightly coloured little fish and masses of coral of all kinds. There were hammocks in several places for our use and a kayak, an open dining room table on the beach that we looked forward to eating from. Plenty of lawn to throw a Frisbee upon and to lie around on soaking up the sun.
The private bure was smallish but it had a double bed that was comfortable and a private bathroom with a cold only shower, so yes, there was running water and a toilet indoors, but no there was no electric power! The doorway entrance was very low, you had to duck down to get, I think I managed to bump my head on the thatching every time!
First things first, we asked for boiling water and mugs so we could have some special coffee on that beach table, we shared it with the French couple and while doing so, the Carrier arrived back at the hotel with yet another couple of guests, for the last private bure, this time a very young Welsh couple who also joined us for special coffee in the sun. There is also a dormitory with 10 extra beds in a big bure but no one arrived to stay in there.
We were all quickly into our swimsuits and out paddling around in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon and working on our Fijian suntan.
Lunch arrived fairly soon and what a wonderful meal it was; some sort of fish chowder made with coconut cream and vegies with rice and also bananas and more coffee and juices. We all 6 of us sat down at the table together and after we had eaten our full, we sat there for a good hour happily exchanging wonderful travellers tales from around the world; we sort of instantly made friends, we were like the Mum and Dad of them all.
The area around Namuka Bay is absolutely unspoilt, its just as nature intended it to be, wandering along the beach made me think of Robinson Crusoe, there were no houses in sight and not many ships out at sea. We just felt ourselves unwinding and relaxing, soaking in the peace and tranquillity. Wafting in the soft sea breezes while swaying in a hammock with a good book was really doing it for us!
Afternoon saw a visit from the Indian man Ari who owns the sort of hotel and has illusions of grandeur in large measures! He spoke to all 6 of us telling us that although there had been no generator for some time because the old one had broken down, tonight he would have a new one installed - so there would be lights! He then drew Erle and I away from the others and suggested quite strongly that it would be a great idea for us to extend our stay for a few more days; the French couple had already done so, he told us! And it was true they had extended one extra day, I would have been quite keen to do so to but for the fact that we had a pre-booked Carrier coming for us on the Wednesday morning, so regretfully, I told him, sadly we could not do that.
Then he flew into a hissy fit; ‘What do you think you were doing bringing a Priest on to my property, I’m a good Moslem man I won’t have priests here, anyway you can’t trust them, surely you don’t expect he will return for you haha. He’s not your friend, unlike Ari who was everybody’s friend’ and, a lot more nonsense, in the same vein. We mostly let it all flow past us, as we were so relaxed, just saying mildly, ‘ we were sure he would return for us.’
Fortunately we did have power for the evening, so we all ate our evening meal under the stars but with some lights, once again we all sat around chatting for hours. The subject of how everyone was going to get out of this isolated bay came up, there is no phone box we didn’t have a phone, in fact the only one that did was Ari! Slowly we came to realise getting back to civilization might be difficult. The young ones had packs and decided they could walk if they had to, but we didn’t have that option with our suitcases, if the Priest didn’t come through and arrive on Wednesday we would be forced to extend our stay! We worked out a strategy; providing our Carrier arrived with or without the Priest we would arrange for the same man to return the following day for the other 2 couples! Then all stopped worrying and enjoyed ourselves again.
Following morning we decided to take a nice walk to see the Limestone caves that was a 15 minute walk away, we had to walk in quite long grasses loaded with seed heads of the very prickly type that stuck all over our clothes and our shoes unpleasantly, but the cave was rather interesting with stalagmites and stalactites made by the constant dripping of water loaded with lime over the years, plus it was cool in there. We were able to pick wild banana and pawpaw as we walked along the track, bit of a bonus. Truly this was not much short of Paradise.
Returned to our bure and opened my suitcase to find that there are some problems in this paradise beside the owner, my case was alive with ants, a whole colony had moved in and settled right down among my clothes! Managed to remove them by strongly spraying the insect spray left with us for just that purpose I rather think.
We just laughed off such tiny problems and went out and jumped into the big salty swimming pool just outside our door.
That evening we all hit the booze, well we did have a couple of drinks together, this didn’t please Ari the Moslem much and he came and had another good go at us, in fact he got quite rude, he didn’t like the way we had all teamed up so quickly, told all of us we couldn’t trust each other – but ofcause you know just who we were supposed to be able to trust! If we had thought of staying longer in this wonderful place we weren’t interested any longer. I think that we would have had big trouble getting a carrier in to collect us if we didn’t have a booking.
Morning came and we were up packing everything again and preparing for the arrival of the Priest after breakfast. Ari stopped by again and said what did we think the Priest could do for us that he couldn’t? I said to Erle that I wouldn’t put it past him to go out along the track and send the Carrier back to town without us, in which case we could be at Namuka Bay for some time. The staffs at the hotel were all lovely they waited on us hand and foot, served us big hearty meals, morning and afternoon tea snacks, if we wanted them, and were always cheerful. It was great value really at $100 a night for accommodation and food. Just the owner and the ants were the flies in the ointment.
We waited on tender hooks wondering if we could really trust the Priest to come for us, the other guests waited with us.
Oh the joy when we heard the throaty roar of the Carriers engine struggling along the track.
In drove the Carrier with the Priest in the front seat, he leaned out the window and said ‘surely you didn’t think I would forget you, did you!’ We all just laughed with relief then booked the Carrier to return the next morning for our fellow guests, shared big hugs all around and were off in back Cuvu. I will admit I looked back over my shoulder and thought; it was so nice here, we have excellent memories, it’s a pity we didn’t have an extra day, but it wouldn’t have been pleasant continuing to deal with Ari!
We both enjoyed having a chat with the driver and the priest; both said that Ari was well known around Cuvu as trouble! As we drove we talked of the political Coups that had plagued Fiji of late, every road we had travelled on had a Police Road block about every 20 km with road spikes that you had to drive very slowly through, we were never stopped but others were, and the Police had a good chance to get a good look at you as you past by. We never felt in any danger at all, but we did as advised and kept well away from Suva the centre of most of the trouble. The coup was definitely keeping tourist away and making things very hard for local traders and business houses of all kinds; ruining the economy.
We dropped the Priest at his Priestly house – manse, rectory or convent? Not sure what you call it. We were effusive with our thanks, and blessed him with all our thoughts for remembering us and also for helping the other 4 the next day, and we know he blessed us too.
We asked the Carrier driver to take us on to Sigatoka, about 24 km away to find some nice place to stay for the next two nights.
(For all the taxi Drivers reading this; we were charged Fijian villagers prices not tourists prices, $8 for both trips to Namuka Bay even over those terrible roads, but we paid him $10, and he asked another $8 to go to 24 km to Sigatoka town we also paid him $10 because our taxi instinct told us he was charging far too little. None of the taxis use a meter or have an RT they get there jobs via a personal cell phone call or by hails from the street or hotels.)
The local Tourist Information centre once again helped us find a reasonably good hotel at prices we wanted to pay, made easier because of the coup; not many tourists were in the country.
We found ourselves at Casablanca Hotel on the Coral Coast, right on the beach again, such luck we have had in getting such good placements, it is some distances from the town but that didn’t matter as taxis are so cheap!
Once again we were out on the beach in our swimsuits swimming in the warm waters, but the coral and the fish were not nearly as good as at Namuka Bay so we headed back to the big swimming pool at the hotel.
The Carrier driver had told us of an Eco Wild life Park not far up the road at the Outrigger-on-Lagoon Resort, he said as we were white we would have no trouble just wandering in from the beach to visit the Park, so ofcause we were on for that!
The walk was very pleasant - if rather hot and muggy, but it wasn’t too far. An employee of the Outrigger-on-Lagoon quickly met us and offered to accompany us to the Park, a gesture of helpfulness accorded to all the guests rather than a suspicious what are you doing here one. Unfortunately as soon as we arrived it started to rain and the electric power went off (do we have this effect on things?) Didn’t stop us walking right through the park enjoying all the exhibitions of birds and reptiles along with the flora, the whole park was beautifully managed, nice and clean and the animals all looked healthy. As we were leaving the attendants came and offered for us to feed the giant Turtles, hungry old things! Then, because we had missed some stuff because of the power cut they decided to give us a little extra. A 2foot long giant Green Iguana was suddenly put into my hands! I nearly dropped it! Then before I could say that’s enough 2 more,
smaller green iguanas arrived on my shoulder and other hand; Erle quickly took photos of this event. They didn’t actually feel unpleasant or bite me but I would rather not hold Iguanas too often!
We were so wet by time we walked back to our hotel we just had another swim, easy really!
Next morning, we decided to try going into Sigatoka for a traditional Indian breakfast of Roti that we always eat while in Malaysia, jumped into a taxi and although he was kind of doubtful of us finding any roti in Sigatoka he took us to the local Curry House – who didn’t have any idea what we were talking about, all they could offer us was chapattis. So instead we made up a breakfast from the small takeaway stand, potato fritters small sausages and curried veggie balls! A strange and unusual breakfast but ok for once.
We believe; when in Rome do as the Roman’s do. During this holiday we have drunk the local water everywhere and eaten the local food, both Fijian and Indian drunk the Kava in two places, and have not once felt sick in any way. Not that I advise anyone else to do so, we do this with caution and years of travelling knowledge and strong stomachs! We heard there was typhoid raging in the North of the Island, just where we had been, people dropping like flies or at least two or three people, but it didn’t effect us. In Fiji it was said the typhoid was caught from badly prepared Kava, all we drank was very well and safely prepared.
Our next place to visit was the big local market, to buy lots of tropical fruit to last us for the remaining days in Fiji, bananas, pineapple, and pawpaws. Then ladies selling jewellery and trinkets surrounded us, all wishing to sell us heaps of stuff. Actually we thought why not get some wee things for the grandchildren, so we did buy a number of cheapish odds and ends that they will like, I hope.
Then we tried to buy some local loose tobacco, that Erle’s daughter, a smoker would like. This turned into a real mission, what else would it be when we are involved? We asked in 3 different types of shop all said they didn’t sell that stuff and directed us back to the back part of the local market where we had not been to previously. When we got to the tobacco seller, he flourished his machete and whipped off a cloth cover from this 2foot square heap of something black sticky with a tarry substance oozing from it and rather nasty smell. We backed away from this mucky stuff; I think it might have been chewing tobacco; you could never have lit this and smoked it. We have watched the natives roll their cigarettes using a large local leaf as the paper and some other crumbly leaf as the tobacco; sometimes these cigarettes are more than a foot long! As we don’t see Leigh, Erle’s daughter chewing tobacco or smoking foot long leaves, we kept on looking, and finally found some local tobacco at very cheap price of $2.20 a packet, she said should of got more!
We had the last day at the Casablanca to just laze around reading and swimming, nothing strange or unusual happened, in the morning we caught a shuttle bus back to Nadi, the driver agreed to take us right to Traveller’s Beach Hotel at no extra cost. We booked in for the last night mainly because it’s quite close to the airport, quite cheap and comfortable besides being right on the beach. The only thing of note on our last night was the fact that as we sat out on the beach drinking cocktails that I had to point to when I ordered them; just how do you order Sex-on-the-beach cocktail out loud! Yummy though. Mosquitos had a field day nibbling out feet as we drank and ate and watched the sun setting for the last time.
Fare well Fiji, we have enjoyed out time here, adventurous as it was, we will most likely return, but not for a few years, lots of other good places needing to be explored around the world. Now let us get at the Duty-free shops to buy as always our entire years supply of alcohol to take home.