Sunday, 8 July 2012

Fiji Holiday.

 G'Day all,
                Or should I say Bula! Warning. This is a long long post.
Yes we went on our Fiji holiday and have been home a week today. I loved it, but then again I knew I would, I have always had an interest in tropical islands. That might be a hangover from my very early life in the tropics or the influence of old movies and records which I loved growing up, I knew by heart the soundtrack to "South Pacific" which was in my parents music collection and of course played as a tele movie every school holidays.
Anyway, we got to experience some of those special islands ourselves.
Some Fiji info;  Fiji is a short 4 hr flight from Sydney. There is a 2 hour time difference. The population of Fiji is 900.000. Made up of 50% indigenous Fijians, 40% people of Indian descent, the other 10% is made up of Japanese, Asian and European people. Cannibalism was rife in the early days of Fiji but has not been practiced for the last few centuries. Wages here are very low, I was talking to a taxi driver and he told me that the people who work at the resorts earn $3 fiji an hour or $5  if they are supervisors. I was also talking to a lady called Lemba, she was one of the activities officers, who made me a woven hat from palm leaves, she said she was from Lautoka, which is the 2nd biggest city in Fiji and she was saying she had 3 children who lived with her parents from the ages of 3 to 11. She works at the Mana island resort (owned by the Japanese)  for 11 days straight, then goes home for 3 days off. I don't know if her accommodation, travel and keep is included as part of her wages or she has to pay extra for that but she lives in the staff village while working on the island.
 The majority of people are employed in agriculture., Fiji's main export industry in Sugar, they are also known for vanilla production. People live in villages governed by a village chief to whom they refer their problems rather than the police.I think it kind of nice to live in those villages where people know each other and their families for generations despite the state of some of the housing.
The Fijian people are a handsome race, or, I thought they were. They all seem to move with languid grace, appropriate to the climate I guess.They seem strong and well built and always singing and laughing whether it be as entertainment or just as they go about their daily activities. We were sung to in welcome, to share their culture and in leaving the lovely places we visited.  They particularly love children and are very good with them.
The video above is called a spear dance and was held as a welcome to us who took part in a tour that included a ride up the river to a traditional village, a visit to see the village school, have lunch, a swim in a waterfall, a ride on a bamboo raft and a very hairy  ride along the very interesting  Fijian roads, quite an experience is the traffic and road conditions over there! Hahahaha!
On our way to and from the resort on the main island were roadside stalls made from unfinished wood cut straight from the bush and tied and nailed together. On these stalls were stacked oranges and papaya. I looked at the oranges and thought they looked green, speckled and not very nice. The same oranges were included in our buffet meals. They were very sweet and had lots of seeds in them. I wondered what sort they were as they were quite different than the type we see in shops here. The papaya was beautiful too, tasting different to the ones we get here, but I guess the ones we get here had to be picked under ripe to travel as they are a very soft fruit.I also saw stalls with live mud crabs trussed up and bright luscious flowers for sale. Oranges, watermelon, melons and pineapple were a constant on the menus, and used to decorate the pretty cocktail drinks we tried, yummy. I should have taken more pics of those.
 Our first stop off was at the Warwick Resort on the coral coast of Viti Levu. Viti Levu is the biggest island of the Fijian group. The capital city is Suva and we landed at the airport which is in Nadi, which is pronounced with an extra n. So Nandi. Other languages confuse me, and I can't understand the differences between their spelling and the English spelling and pronunciation that I have in my head.  Oh well, hehehe.
the pic above is of the beach at the Warwick resort. It was interesting walking along here as many local villages front on to the beach as well and we watched local people walk straight out into the water and go fishing with nets and hand lines.Also along the roadsides we saw people carrying BIG bush knives and machetes, going to work the fields, I wouldn't want to mess with one of them.
On the way to the first place we stayed in we smiled to see the local bushfire brigade doing a burn off on the side of the hill. The fire was sizzling away and the firemen were laying down on the grass watching it, (supervising)  hahaha.
 Next few pics are of close up stuff along the beach near the Warwick. I like putting bits and bods together and taking close ups.
 Coral, sea urchin and starfish.
 I loved this twisty big old tree between the beach sand and the forest on the banks of a creek that ran into the sea.
 Another compilation pic.
 The creek that runs onto the beach up from the Warwick resort. Loved the lush tropical growth.  Some of the rocks you can see in the water are actually big lumps of long dead coral.
 Two big pots in the extensive landscaped grounds of the Warwick.
 The first 2 days we were there the weather wasn't too brilliant. But it didn't dampen our spirits, or the afternoon cocktail tasting. I think this was pineapple,coconut and raspberry? The building and atmosphere here was beautiful but I had the feeling that the greetings that were given by some staff here were not as genuine as they might have been and I had a bit of a bad experience here. I left my prescription glasses in the room and when I came back to the room after the cleaning lady had been through I couldn't find them. Next day we went on a tour up the river that I mentioned earlier and still couldn't find them so went without them. When we packed our things to go to Mana island they were nowhere and ditto when I did a thorough check when we unpacked again. We made several phone calls back to the Warwick and after some passing around we were told that the cleaner had accidently picked them up and put them in her pocket and taken them home with her. Which was unusual as she was wearing a sulu, the local version of a sarong skirt, so I am thinking there were no pockets in that. I was assured they would be returned and sent to Mana island and I could pick them up from there. After several more phone calls I was informed that I could pick them up from the airport on the way home to Australia. Anyway I did get them back. But it was very suspicious.
 Some of the flowers around the grounds of the Warwick Resort.
The red flower above was quite large, probably 10 to 12 cm long.Don't ask me their names.
 The people around the resort had these white lily thingies tucked in their hair.
 This looks like an iris of some kind.
 These orchids were grown on posts in coconut fibre out in the open.

 The photo above is taken on the tour we did up the river. The man is poling on a small bamboo raft. There were quite a few of these (large and small) tied up along the river banks.
 Photo above and below here are of the waterfall we went to on the tour. Some people jumped in and had a swim in the waterfall, I didn't, I am not very brave, I went in up to my waist on the stairs though.
 One of the two longboats we traveled in. It was really fun. The two guides sang and mucked around the whole time. In the bottom of each of the boats was a plastic bottle with the top half cut out, meant to be used for a bailing scoop. On the way back the faster boat kept dropping back and then running up along side ours and threatening to throw water at us. I think we all got pretty wet, it was fun going through the rapids too. Our guides were real entertainers.
 The village (Namuamua) we visited was a christian one. Although it seems that they hold dear their culture and live according to custom and tradition. We had lunch there and visited the school. This is one of the classrooms at lunchtime. Everyone in together. I was quite shocked at their lack of resources compared to what our Aussie kids have. As you know I work as a school cleaner, and see how much we do have. They lost all of their computers and many materials during the recent floods. We took some books and made money donations to the school as did some of the other tourists.
This village school had about 90 kids and the village has about 300 people. Schools in Fiji go from kindergarten to year 8 level. The village school is a boarding school as well. The people were very friendly and open, sharing what they had. I did find it a bit difficult (ouch) to sit on the mats during lunch and the welcome ceremony with my stiff legs and back.Afterwards they set up craft stalls, I bought a little wooden bowl, a sulu and a shell necklace.
I felt bad because they seemed to have so little compared to what we in western culture have but then thought no... they mightn't have much but what they do have that many of us have largely lost is strong family and tradition and community and if they had the things that we have they may lose much of that culture. So it is really a double edged sword I am judging by. Culture is a terrible thing to lose track of. Money driven.
 The lady in the red sulu (A Sulu is the fijian version of a sarong) was from America. She had a bag of lollies that she was sharing with the kids. Beautiful kids!
 Below is a picture of an old Bure in the village we visited. The new one is much the same but I liked the look of the old one. Bure =  fijian hut or house. Bula is hello. Vinaka is thank you, Moce is good bye. Moce is a bit strange, it is pronounced mo-they. See what I mean about spelling rules haha. They are the few words I can remember anyway.
 Photo below is of a Bure on the river bank that we passed.
 Pic below is of one of our guides and my hubby Peter when we had a ride on the bamboo raft.

 Riotous jungle growth along the river. You can't really see it in this pic but there is a waterfall behind there, one of many along the way.
 The next part of Fijian holiday was at  beautiful Mana island which is part of the Mamanuca group of islands. The photo above is taken from the catamaran we traveled on to the island.
 Mana island is the one in the distance. We spent 6 lovely nights here. I liked it much more than our stay at the Warwick resort. The food was nicer, the people nicer, atmosphere etc. If I return to Fiji I would chose here again as a destination. Not as posh as the Warwick but I liked it better. One of the staff told me about an old lady in her 80's that had been back twice a year for the full 40 years that the resort had been operating. The temperature was around 30 C but in the the summer it gets to 39c. Summer is wet season and cyclone season.
 The first thing that struck me here was the color. Perfect blues and the oh so unreal blue greens and turquoise of the water,emerald green vegetation and silky white sand surrounding us was just breath taking.
At Mana island we stayed in a free standing bure in the middle of the island. There was no T.V or radio and I didn't miss it one little bit. Though I must confess I took my tablet to read books and my MP3 player to listen to.
The island was serviced by a water desalination plant, We were warned that we should boil the water and that we might be best to take bottled water with us but, honestly, I have tasted worse water traveling around Australia to different towns. I couldn't see a problem with their water taste wise. Bottled water is available from the shop but is costly.
The bure we had has a thatched roof and exposed rafters inside, which is how many other fijian buildings that we saw seem to be built. Our bure had a stone half circle built onto the outside in which was enclosed an outdoor, open air shower. I thought I might be a bit uncomfortable with showering in the open air, but it was no problem, quite a novelty, except for the leaves from the tree above sticking to my feet and walking inside. We took our own tea and coffee.
Pic above is of South beach, pic below is North beach. Just look at that colour.

Below.... this is my spot.  Nothing better than laying in one of these hammocks reading and looking at the coconut trees swaying above you. Heavenly.  This hammock was a bit low to the ground but I found another that was higher to laze in.

Yes this is a red were right, hahaha. It is Fiji's winter at the moment so the flowers are not as numerous as they would be at different times of course. I didn't bother taking pics of the bougainvillea of the franjipani, everyone knows what they look like.
We did a circuit of the island on foot. This is the view from the lookout that overlooks south beach. The island has an airstrip up this end, we walked around it on the way to the lookout. The mozzies live up there in the bush too, they had a lovely feed of me, they were very friendly hahaha. Up near the lookout there were trees with dozens of tiny skinks running over them. Some of the larger skinks had bright blue iridescent tails.
Other tiny lizards, Geckos were making their funny little barking calls at night in the rafters of out Bure. They are so tiny and beautifully delicate, how can they make such a loud noise? Other wildlife on the island that I saw included doves, fruit bats, parrot finches, a beautiful bright emerald green with a red beak,red patch on their heads and above their tails where their wings cross over. I was also fascinated by the Bulbuls, they are Fiji's national bird, we watched a couple of them waiting for crumbs at the restaurant on south beach one afternoon. There were also some sea birds and herons, I saw black ones, grey ones and white ones, not all of them on Mana island though. As well as, in both places we stayed, were the introduced pesky nasty little Indian myna birds.

The pic above is also taken from the top of the lookout.South beach in the distance.
This old boat was sitting just at the top of north beach near the staff village.I liked the way rain water was pooled in the bottom and plants were growing  inside it.
Mana island has quite a few water activities available to play with. There is para-sailing. Semi submersible trips to view the coal reef that surrounds the island. Sailing ship trips, jet skis, kayaks, scuba diving and snorkeling, 2 swimming pools, a day spa. The yellow boat you can just see in the above photo was cool,the semi submersible, we went for a ride in it. The reef is full of tiny bright fish that you would otherwise only see in an aquarium. All colours shapes and sizes. The reef here is protected and part of a marine sanctuary. Coral planting has been carried out in recent years to regrow damage done by pollution, global warming tourism etc. They also have a program running to protect and record rare sea turtle egg laying and hatching on the island. Leather back turtles and green turtles live in the area.
This is a weird rock formation on one end of north beach. The islands are volcanic, I think this was basalt. Also laying on the beaches here was the volcanic rock, I think it is called tuff, it is like aerated stone  and sold in hardware shops here as barbeque rock. When we walked around the island a sweet little girl from the village,(about 9 yrs old I am guessing) guided us back along the path through here to the resort, she was so cute. Years ago I have scrambled around areas like this no problems, now I find it quite challenging to my old legs and tender feet, I must be getting old.
On one end of south beach there is another village and a pack packers area. (above pic) We walked around there too.On this walk we followed a path that went up over the hills and to the other side of the island. Along the way there was vegetable gardens amongst the greenery, banana trees, papaya, cassava and taro planted around. It seemed to me that there was a lot of subsistence type agriculture on the islands and also along the river that we toured up on the main island. The locals are quite poor and supplement their diet with home gardening. They told us that their cassava is the same as our potatoes, a food staple. Cassava is made into tapioca.
The resorts we stayed at had buffet type meals with theme nights.I paid for our meals before we got there so that made meal times much easier.It worked out as $50 australian each, for 3 meals a day. At the fijian theme nights I enjoyed trying different foods, I especially liked the smoky tasting taro. They cook in earth oven called lovo. The fire is lit inside a hole in the ground, let burn down to charcoal and ashes then lined with leaves, food placed inside, then covered with mats and more ashes and left to cook.
Entertainment was held in the main building each night at the resort. The resort band was nice and the highlight of the nights were the children (tourists) dancing and little boys trying to catch and jump on the disco lights, hahaha. One of the girls singing had a great voice. One night we went and looked at the board to see what was on and it said surprise . So we rocked up to see what it was. It was a surprise. Nobody came to entertain us, hahaha. All in good fun though. The night we left there was a bonfire on the beach. That was cool. The activities bloke had us divided into groups, there were New Zealanders, Aussies and a group of Americans and they had races on the beach, the Aussies won of course, mostly because we outnumbered the other groups by about 3 to 1, hahaha..

The next pic was taken at the Fijian Bure on Mana island where they have activities and crafts. An old lady with the hat and the goofy smile, I wonder who she is? While I was there the craft activities included, weaving fans and hats, making a broom and hunting, husking, drinking and making ice cream from coconuts.
These goats were on the beach in the village near the back packers area on south beach, I am guessing for their milk.
When we walked around the island up this end, we came across another small very exclusive, expensive looking resort, over 18s only....oh I bet it cost a pretty penny to stay there.
The pic above was taken from the windows of the semi submersible craft we had a ride on. The pic doesn't do the reef and tiny fish justice of course. Ssshhhh, don't tell anyone... but that old lady with the goofy smile fell off the semi submersible craft onto the platform when she came back after the ride,she got her toe caught on the edge of the boat and was most embarrassed. hehehe, shhhh. And the silly old chook also fell out of her kayak, despite having one of her own at home. Hahah, watch her ride this kayak!
The kayak was very hard to steer but worth the trouble because we could row out to and sit above the reef, because the water was quite clear, we could watch the tiny brightly coloured fish flitting in and out of the coral.
The next 2 photos are taken from the lookout above north beach on Mama island at sunset. The beach below is called sunset beach. Amongst those islands you can see in the distance is the island where the film "Castaway" with Tom Hanks was filmed. Because my sunglasses were missing, I bought a cheap pair of glasses, all they did was filter out all the yellow so they were not much use, anyway...... I took the second photo of these 2 sunset pics through the lens of the sunglasses and you can see how it filtered out almost all the yellow.
The guys below were singing to us as we were waiting for the boat to come to leave the island.
The boat below is the Seaspray. It takes people out on day trips and to a nearby uninhabited island on day trips. I should have done that, maybe I could have fallen off a third boat. Hehehe. Oh isn't that colour wonderful!
Pic below is of the same sunset, taken a bit earlier in the evening.
Th day we left, we had a few hours to kill before our flight so we caught a taxi into the center of Nadi to buy presents to take home for our family. Nadi a town of 40.000 people, so comparable in size to my home town of Wagga. The CBD was very busy, the road rules in Fiji are the same as Australian road rules but oh boy, I don't think they worry too much about obeying them, hahaha. In Nadi I didn't like the way many of the shop keepers tried to hassle us into their shops and sell us stuff. It made me uncomfortable, stubborn, not wanting to be bossed around by them and less eager to enter the shop instead of what they had intended.
 So my travel to a tropical island idea was satisfied. Then I came home again to mid winter. It was actually quite nice to feel the cold air on my face again when we returned to Canberra.
 Would I do it all again?
You Bet Ya!
That's all .
Love Linda.


Josie Two Shoes said...

What a wonderful trip, and great photos! I think that lady in the hat looks adorable, and I bet she had an awesome time! :-)

Winterwood said...

wow thanks for the travel tour.. I feel as if Ive been there now through your blog! it looks different to what I imagined though!

Merle said...

G'day Linda ~~ Great photos and I am so glad that old lady with the goofy smile enjoyed it all with your husband. Great post my friend. Sorry about the cat game not working and it wasn't just your skills or lack thereof. Thank you for all the jokes and things you send. I copy and paste a lot now, I used to type it all. I hope you and family are all well as I am.
Take care, Love, Merle.

Joel said...

Hi, just saw ur blog entry on fiji as i was thinking abt travelling there! Great post!
Can i know did u went on a tour package? How did u organise ur tour!

linda may said...

Joel, I went to the travel agent, told them what I wanted after looking through all the travel books and they made up a package for me. The tours we went on were not pre booked as I decided what we would do when we got there.

Anonymous said...

Hi, can I use some of your photos for a school project of mine?

Gerard saliot said...

All the above photos are mind blowing.

Anonymous said...
Really like your blog and thought it would be nice to also share the itinerary I made for Fiji with the readers. Fiji is definitely a gift of Mother Nature.

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