I got my first vacation/trip off the island and it was fantastic! I went to Fiji for a week with my four fellow Group 80 girls Karin, Jenny, Liz, & Briony. We had a blast. We flew into Nadi early morning on Sunday, June 28 then rented a car to drive down to the Coral Coast to stay in a resort there. We all commended Briony on her skill of navigating roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road and right side of the car; she received only a few unpleasant honks.
Our first looks at Fiji told us it was nothing like Samoa. The mountains are bigger, there are rolling foothills, and even pine trees. Nadi seemed very dry, even for the dry season. Fields of sugar cane lined the roadway. There is even a little train to take the sugar cane stalks from place to place; I’m assuming to a sugar cane plant which makes sugar out of the sugar cane. We stopped at Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami Temple right in Nadi town. This might seem out of place in a South Pacific country, but Fiji is nearly 40% Indian due to British colonization. The temple was very colorful and ornately carved. Indians were having meals blessed and praying with the help of a monk. We admired the paintings on the ceiling of Shiva and all the stories they told. As we ventured further into Fiji the coastline became less arid and more mountainous and beachy. The roads were roughly the same as in Samoa, winding and littered with potholes. The beach at the resort was pretty, especially at sunset with the rocks and palm trees. One of the funny things was the coconut catchers on some of the palm trees. Large metal baskets were raised just under the coconuts and would catch any coconuts before they fell on guests’ heads. The baskets could be lowered to collect the coconuts as well. Bats flew around catching insects and attacking fruits. It was nice to relax and be on vacation. That is until about an hour after dinner and I got food poisoning. That wasn’t so much fun.
The next day we went to the art village in Pacific Harbour. I wasn’t 100% yet, but even with nausea and a light head I wasn’t going to miss vacation. The crafts were interesting to see. There were kava bowls, masks, pearls, and even cannibal forks. Yes, you read correctly, cannibal forks. The forks with four prongs in a square shape were used to cannibalize enemy tribes after they were defeated and poor missionaries who failed in their task of converting the natives. There were Indian bangles and carved tables as well. We drove back to the resort for some beach time. At least for the others; I slept the whole rest of the day, hoping I would feel better in the morning.
We drove to Suva Tuesday to the Raintree Lodge up in the mountains. It is a cute little hotel with a restaurant on a little lake converted from an old quarry. We finally were in a real city; first time in over a year. There are coffee shops which serve real coffee, amazing! There is a six screen movie theater, malls, department stores, and a KFC/Pizza Hut. There are dvd stores which sell pirated movies for just a few Fijian dollars. The advantage to pirating all the movies is you can create collections of dvds and have them all on one disc. For example, they had Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Band of Brothers, action collections, horror collections, Disney/Pixar collections, and even a Josh Hartnett collection. There are big buildings, a flea market selling sulus (Fijian word for an ie), a regular market selling food (much like our market, but bigger and with better quality foods being sold), and best of all a whole floor of the market devoted to nothing but kava and spices, but mostly just kava. The Fijian word for kava is yaqona and is supposedly stronger than Samoan kava. Suva is a large, bustling city, but as a typical South Pacific country, all is closed at 4 or 5 pm.
Jenny and I hiked in the Colo-I-Suva National Park just a five minute walk from Raintree Lodge. This was a really fun hike. Some of the trails were a bit rough and a little Indiana Jonesish, but that was what made it fun. There were little waterfalls and pools to swim in, which are never complete without a rope swing. It was overcast and a little chilly to go swimming in the pools, but on a hot day a swim in the mountain pools would be refreshing. I recommend going to the park if you are in Fiji.
I got my ziplines and diving in as well. Jenny and I went back to Pacific Harbour Thursday so I could dive on Friday morning. We stayed in an awesome hotel called the Pearl South Pacific and got a great deal (otherwise $384 Fijian dollars, or about $140 US, a night wasn’t going to happen). This hotel was fabulous! It was stylish and modern; if it wasn’t for the gorgeous view of Beqa Island I would have forgotten I was in Fiji. There was a spa, pool, pool table, amazing restaurant (the pork loin was amazing), and best of all a tv (with more than 3 channels even). Jenny and I don’t have tv here in Samoa and even if we did there are only 3 channels. The hotel had satellite so they got lots of fun tv. We watched Blue Planet all night and it was amazing! As we were checking in, I overheard someone talking about ziplines. I inquired at the hotel tour desk how I could sign up to go and she said another group is leaving in 5 minutes if I wanted to go. I got my shoes on with no more questions asked. I didn’t even know what room I was in, but I knew I could figure that out later. I had a lot of fun ziplinning. I could tell the Fijian staff really enjoyed their job. There were 8 lines and we went around twice. I’m a big sucker for this adventure type stuff and zip lines in the jungle and over rivers can’t get much better.
Briony and I were going to do diving together, but since I got food poisoning the first few days were out and she left our group to go to a friend’s wedding on one of the outer islands, we had to dive separately. I went with Beqa Adventure Divers in Pacific Harbour. We dove in the Beqa Passage between Vitu Levu and Beqa Island. These were the two most amazing dives I have ever been on. We saw two White-tip Reef Sharks, lionfish, ribbon eels, clams, nudibranchs of several colors, huge anemeones, shrimp, lobsters, and all kinds of colorful fish. Our first dive was Carpet Cove. This was a deep dive down to 104 feet, 4 feet past the limits I’m supposed to go but no worries. There was a wreck we dove first, admiring all the shrimp, coral, and fish which had decided that was home. We then moved up to about 50 feet and dove some pinnacles. The coral was amazing...wire coral, soft coral, hard coral, sea fans of all different colors. I now know why Fiji is the soft coral capital of the world. The second dive was E.T. and the coral was even more amazing here. There were huge swim throughs lined with sea fans waving hello. The sea fans on these pinnacles were huge, at least 4-5 feet. I’m a big fan of diving in Fiji now and am already planning the next trip.
Fiji is very different from Samoa. Houses are not the open houses you see here, but closed houses due to the cooler weather and many had chimneys. Most of the houses are scantily built shacks of wood or corrugated metal, which shows the level of poverty. The traditional bure is seen occasionally as a family’s everyday housing, but seems like it might be more for meeting houses as I didn’t really see too many of them outside of resorts. Fijians look much different than Samoans, a little surprising since the islands are very close. Samoans are Polynesian while Fijians are Melanesian. Fijians are darker skinned and have a different facial structure. Landscape wise is very different too. Nadi is drier than the mountainous Suva. In Samoa, there is just one line of mountains, but in Fiji there are a few rows of mountains, followed by rolling foothills. There are 322 islands of Fiji, with Viti Levu being the biggest. Samoa has two main islands, two smaller islands, and a handful of uninhabited islands. Temperature in Fiji this time of year is great, mid-60s at night to 80 or so on a sunny day. It was overcast a lot while we were there so we were chilly and had to wear long sleeves, but we enjoyed the change. We didn’t feel any repercussions from the coup and the non-democratic government at all. Life seemed to be going on as normal in Fiji.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back to Fiji sometime in my lifetime. I loved it and had a great time. I would love to be able to get out to some of the other islands and explore them; I’ve heard they are even more spectacular than the main island of Viti Levu. Only a week in Fiji was not enough.