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.
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.
The red flower above was quite large, probably 10 to 12 cm long.Don't ask me their names.
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.
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.
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 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..
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 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.
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 .