Our week long tour of the some of the smaller islands in Fiji took us to picture perfect tropical islands, where we ejoyed 'Fiji time'.
I'm writing this sat on a beach on a small mountainous island connected to a neighbouring island by a sandbar only exposed at low tide. It was across this sandbar that the resort staff walked at midnight last night to the next village, where they have a TV that was showing the all important rugby world cup. We didn't see the match since we were already asleep in our woven walled, thatched roof 'Bure' (traditional house) under a mosquito net after a hard day of sitting in hammocks doing nothing.
We're on the island of Waya, our 6th day and 5th beautiful island on our tour of the Yasawa group. The Yasawas are a group of islands towards the Western edge of Fiji, they're only a small part of the 333 islands that make up Fiji, but it's here that most tourists seem to spend their time. Transport between the islands and Viti Levu (the main island with Suva, the capital, and Nadi, the airport) is aboard the Yasawa Flyer, a large yellow catamaran with a purple starfish and 'Awesome Adventures' painted on the side. Awesome Adventures run package trips and sell multi-use passes allowing you to create your own itinerary and hop at will among the islands, which is what we're doing. As the Flyer passes each island a host of smaller boats come out to meet it, pick up supplies and ferry passengers to and from the resorts. Most of the resorts are owned and run by the villages on the islands which is a great boost for the economy of villages that would probably struggle otherwise, but it does mean that the standards vary considerably between resorts. The one common theme between all the resorts we stayed at, even more than the 'Fiji time' concept and the friendly staff, has been the hammocks.
Placed in the shade of coconut palms and often suspended above a white sand beach, the large double hammocks are great – I've finished four books in the last few days as a result of sitting in one. It's been idyllic – lying there listening to the lapping waves and singing birds, rocking gently in the breeze. 'Fiji time' is a concept where you take your time about everything, where you relax rather than rush – I'm sure in a less laid-back country this would be labelled 'faff', but here it's embraced. Everything seems relaxed here, quite a contrast to the 'mainland' as Viti Levu is called, with the exception of the rugby it seems completely cut off from the rest of the world. The current political turmoil resulting form the latest in a string of military coups in Fiji is largely irrelevant outside of the capital and has apparently not affected life on the the islands very much.
Our first stop in the Yasawas was Coral View resort, where we went for a walk up the mountain, following a sunset trail. We decided not to wait and watch the sunset, since the path was steep, not very well defined and we didn't want to get lost in the jungle. The views from the top were still stunning. That evening we had a great buffet meal and were treated to a local dance by the staff, which was followed by the Haka (the Kiwi war dance) and the very similar Fijian counterpart.
I slept very lightly that night, due to the heat, but it did mean that I got to see an awesome sun rise through the dorm window that over-lookied the beach. Once the sun has fully woken itself, and us, up we had a continental breakfast and went snorkeling. The reef wasn't great and we had to share a mask, but we still saw lots of fish. After snorkeling we showered to try and wash the salt off, but since these small islands generally use well water from sources below sea level, the shower was slightly salty too. Slightly cleaner, we jumped back on the boat and then caught another small boat to Gold Coast, our next resort. We were initially booked in there for two nights, but after the staff ignored us and we didn't sleep well, we quickly changed that and headed off to Long Beach as soon as we'd visited the Blue Lagoon.
Long Beach was great and we stayed here two nights. Afternoon tea was run by a lady in the village who baked fresh cakes daily, she had some crazy kids and a equally crazy dog. The dog followed everyone, it walked with us when we walked the length of the long beach and also followed us to church. We were planning on a village visit, but the whole of Fiji has taken to Christianity very well, so everything stops on Sunday and we weren't allowed to go to the village. We were allowed to sit in on their church service (complete with four christenings). It was very similar to a normal church service at home, except it was in Fijian and we couldn't understand it. The singing was great and we were taken around the school after. Despite the fact that the Fijians used their native tongue in church and their daily life, the schooling is in English. It was also interesting to note that the school, along with lots of others, is helped by EU funding.
As we were waiting to leave Long Beach, the weather turned. When we arrived on the islands we tried to hide form the sun but now the tables had turned and the sun was hiding from us.
(Written in the morning of the 24th Sept.)
While I was writing the first part of this update, a local woman was massaging Sharon's back and we were sitting in the shade of coconut palm trees, but soon after that it started raining and continued raining on and off until nightfall, when it started raining on and on.
(Written in the evening of the 24th Sept.)
The next morning, with clear skies, we headed out on a boat ride for some reef snorkeling, this was the highlight of the Yasawas trip. One of the first things we saw after jumping in was a white tipped reef shark – these small sharks are safe to swim with an were fed by the guides. The best fish find came on a deep coral wall we swam along side, there were huge shoals of fish: zebra patterned, bright blue and yellow, large and small, all swimming along happily amongst the sharks and large coral.
We've now arrived back on the mainland and are planning the next few days travel, trying to fend of 'help' from the guys running the hostel who are all independently trying to sell us the tours that make them personally the most commission. We're spending tonight (our 4 year, 5 month anniversary) in some posh accommodation and then we're off to see the rest of the island.
(Written in the evening of the 25th Sept.)