Touring Vitu Levu

After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas, we headed back to the mainland to enjoy a luxury resort and the Feejee Experience, or the Big Green Bus.
Before our Yasawa trip, we'd booked a night to Sonisali Resort which is a rather lovely and rather posh resort – somewhat of a contrast to the places we'd been staying in. The deal was that we got a ocean side bure at less than half the usual price by booking it through the backpackers hostel we were staying at. However we'd decided to go on the Feejee Experience bus tour which only left certain days of the week – Wednesday being one of them and that of course was when we booked at Sonisali. After some faff sorting our the tickets for the Feejee Experience and a transfer the next day to meet up with the bus, we headed out to Sonisali in the rain. We were greeted with a gift of a shell necklace and a fruit juice while checking in and a golf buggy ride – well you couldn't walk in the rain could you! Our bure was beautiful with a bath and seating area, a great place to luxuriate while the weather was so damp. We decided against jumping in the pool and worked out that it was almost cheaper to have room service than to head to the restaurant, so we did. It was fabulous, definitely somewhere we'd both like to head back to one day. Unfortunately because of our transfer the next day, we couldn't have a lie in. Instead we were up at 5:45 to grab breakfast – there was a great selection of continental style breakfast but the real treat would've been the cooked breakfast that started after we left.

The driver for our transfer was actually the bus driver for the rest of our trip so at least we didn't have to worry about missing the bus, even though he turned up a little later than expected. We met the bus and the rest of the group at a resort called Mango Bay and headed up to the Namosi Highlands. Here we went on a trek which is usually 8km long, but the rain had meant the truck couldn't get us up to the start of the trail and so we had an extra 3km to walk. The trek was muddy and slippery, though the rain was refreshing to walk through. There were some steep parts and when the sun shone, it felt quite hard work. Miriam (our guide) wasn't sure if we would be able to get past one obstacle – the trail led up a shallow river which we had to walk through for about 20 minutes, and she was concerned it may have risen too much. However when we got there, it was fine – the river was of varying depths so it made it more interesting but a definite change from the mud we had been squelching through before. The trail led down to the Navua river where a longboat met us with our lunch and those who didn't want to do the walk. After lunch, we headed downstream on rubber tubes and stopped at a waterfall where we jumped into the pool. I guess this is all much more appreciated in warmer weather, I was definitely ready for a hot cup of tea after being in the water! A long boat took us back to the river and down some more interesting rapids, well they were certainly more interesting in a heavily loaded, what felt not that stable a boat! After heading towards Suva and the hostel we were staying in that night, we warmed up with showers and got ready to head out to the capital city for a meal and drinks. It was good, but after a long tiring day, David and I were certainly ready to head back earlier with the bus – we heard the girls get back at half 4…

Friday found us heading to a village where we visited the local school. It was funny to hear all the kids ask the same questions – they'd obviously been prepped well by the teachers! The digital camera was very popular with nearly every child wanting their photo taken and loving being able to see it afterwards. When we first arrived, each of us were chosen by a child to be guided around, and the little girl who chose me stuck with me the whole time, to my surprise. It made me smile when she took me to see the “really little kids” who were 4 and 5 (she was only about 7 herself) and when she asked me if I had a wife. At the end, we watched a Fijian dance performed by the boys and signed the guest book. Our next stop was at another village where we took part in the traditional Kava ceremony. There were two lads on our bus, so Tristan was our chief and David was our spokesman. This meant that while the girls only had to take part in two drinks, the boys had to keep drinking until the bowl was finished. In the meantime the girls got to take part in weaving with the local ladies, though a few of us decided to help the guys out in finishing the kava – luckily we timed it so there was only one more drink left each. Sadly we weren't able to do the Bilibili (bamboo) rafting since the river had risen too much and a little surprisingly there was no alternative activity available. This was a particular shame as we'd missed the tour around Suva because we'd been late getting back from our hike, but I guess we'd had to been at the school according to schedule, We stayed at Voli voli and took some kayaks out – the first time we've been in kayaks in Fiji! We had hoped to paddle some whitewater since there is a little over here, however the logistics weren't going to be too easy and it had been very handy to leave our kayaks at the hostel in Nadi rather than lug them around.

Voli voli has a dive centre where you can do a Introduction to Scuba dive for 75 Fijian dollars. Now Scuba diving is something I didn't think I'd ever get to do because of my diabetes – the current recommendation (I believe) is that you should have 12months of no hypos before you go diving and as anyone who has contact with the condition probably knows, this is pretty much nigh on impossible. The problem with Scuba diving for diabetics is that a hypo underwater is a problem, since you may not be able to rise back to the surface straight away to eat, and symptoms may be very different underwater. When I've researched this before, common sense is recommended, as in making sure blood sugars aren't low before dives, and eating snacks before to ensure a hypo won't happen. Scuba diving is something David has done before and wanted to do again, and is something that I really wanted to try, so we asked at the dive centre whether they would be happy to take me diving. They said they wouldn't take anyone who has been newly diagnosed, which isn't a problem for me since I was diagnosed 15 years ago! The introductory dive goes down to 12m and lasts about half an hour, and so they said they would take me. Tristan and Bianca, who were also on the Feejee experience, decided they wanted to try and so the next day we headed down to the beach. In the shallows, we practised clearing our mask if it filled up with water and replacing our regulator if it got knocked out. For some reason the clearing of the mask ability alluded me for a while but I eventually sussed it! The time came for us to head out to the reef, but because there was only one instructor, the four of us couldn't all go down together, so the other two went first. I think with hindsight, this wasn't such a good thing for me since the sea was somewhat choppy and I was feeling pretty rough as our boat rolled with the waves. However our time came to dive, my sugars had been checked and glucose eaten, and it was reassuringly non-choppy as we headed down! Scuba diving is a very strange experience at first, especially as you become very aware of your breathing and the bubbles created as you breath out. The underwater world is particularly stunning and I was struck by how the only time I'd experienced anything close to this before was at an Imax cinema! We saw lots and lots of fish, there was a school of silver fish who were swimming nearly on their sides close to the coral, plus bright colourful fish, I love seeing the big bright fish surrounded by miniature clones. We headed down to swim through coral archways, at which point I kept very close to our instructor! It was amazing, but very tiring with so much to take in. I'd love to do another dive to take in whats around me more and be more relaxed about the equipment I'm using. I don't know if I'll get the chance but it was incredible to experience something I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to.

The Feejee Experience took us to an Indo-Fijian town where we had lunch, and then to some mud and hot pools before returning to Nadi. We're staying at a place that was recommended to us but had a visitor this morning. As I was dozing, I could hear something coming from one of David's bags. He went outside to empty it and found a mouse nibbling at our bread for lunch! That, I guess, will teach us for not sealing up the bag…

We have two days here before flying to New Zealand which we're both so very excited about. Fiji's a lovely place that has grown on me, but New Zealand is somewhere I've been looking forward to heading back to since I was there five years ago. David hasn't been before so I'm looking forward to showing him some of the places that I visited and loved before. It seems so far that the people we've met who are doing their world tour that way round, all have many wonderful memories and things to say about Kiwi Land.After our few days relaxing in the Yasawas and headed back to the mainland.

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