Saturday, January 25, 2014

BULA Fiji Part II

Friday 24 Jan

We were going to go surfing today, but there was no 'captain' to take us, so we spent another day lounging around the island. I really think this has been a great way to start what is, undoubtedly, to be an exhausting journey. It was really hot today. Stifling hot. We spent a lot of the day in the water talking to Carol and Sue.

The water here is beautiful further offshore, but against the island-- it’s a bit swampy. The water is still clear and refreshing, but there is a lot of plant debris floating about.

We did our best to stay in the shade as much as possible, but we were not able to evade the intense Fijian sun. Preston and I both have pretty bad sunburn.

Since it was just our small group again, Ace and Luke (some of the workers here on the island) took us for a sunset cruise. We went out towards the reef and watched the sunset, while sipping beers and kava (again!!). It was beautiful. We sang songs and played guitar. Ace taught us all a funny little dance that we did around the boat. It was a great time :)

We had dinner again in the garden, followed by a bonfire on the beach. It was the quintessential South Pacific experience…bonfire, guitars, beautiful island singing, and endless stars above.


Saturday 25 January

We were up early today to go surfing!! Our ‘captain’ was, of course, on Fiji time and arrived about an hour late :P We headed out to the breaks in our tiny little boat.  After about 30 minutes heading north in the ocean, we reached “Cloudbreak”, which is a famous reef break. This break is used in world surf competitions. There are structures built in the water that rise off the reef as viewing platforms for the judges.

Judge's platform
Preston was very excited.  Captain Ben and I stayed behind on the boat while Preston paddled off. Luckily, another boat offered us to come aboard into the shade, since our small boat offered no reprieve from the harsh sun. Thank goodness, because I am already toasted!!

I couldn’t see Preston all that well, but I did meet a friendly sea snake that swam over for me to take his picture. I also saw a turtle, but he dipped under again before I could get his picture. I tried some sort of traditional Indian wrap that the captains had brought for lunch and shared with me. I gave them the donut I had snagged from breakfast.

Oh, hellooo

So blue

Preston's out there somewhere in red 

Preston came back with the biggest smile on his face!! He said the waves were really big…some of the biggest he’s surfed. The reef was close under his feet, which was a bit scary in the event of a fall. Pres said it was a very humbling experience, but he had a great time.

We returned to the island in time for lunch and a great afternoon thunderstorm. We spent the afternoon in our bure watching movies on the laptop and napping. We took a walk before dinner and took in the amazing fire show that the staff put on here.

We’ve had a great time at Robinson Crusoe Island. The experience was really best in the moments when the island was hardly occupied. Fiji has been everything we imagined and more :)

Today we are back to the mainland until early tomorrow morning. We are going to hang in the shade and take it easy till our flight :D Monday—Auckland!!

Goodbye song

BULA Fiji Part I

Monday 20 Jan/Tuesday 21 Jan(didn’t exist!!)/ Wednesday 22 Jan

We are off on our journey :) :) Erica drove us to the airport. We ended up checking our bags, since there was no fee and we weren’t in any rush. We got to see the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX for the first time. It reminded me a bit of Heathrow in London.  Oddly, there was no bookstore, which is my favorite way to pass time while waiting for a flight. We passed the time instead by calling everyone to say goodbye.

Us and all our gear!!

After a few hours, it was time to board our Fijian Airways flight. The airline was really nice!! Other than the seats being a bit small, it was beautiful and modern. We each had a television (life saver) and were served a dinner with drinks, tea, and later a breakfast sandwich. It helps to break up the trip a bit. Our 11.5 hour flight was more like 10 hours due to a strong tail wind, so we arrived in Fiji early (at 4am!!).  Truthfully, I think the looonnng flights are less worse than the shorter 6 hour ones across the country, because they are more broken up by the meals, sleeping, movies, etc.

Tired, but ready

Fiji was still dark when we arrived, but we were met by humid hot air, tropical bird noises and BUGS :D The bugs, thankfully, stayed only near the lights and didn’t bother us (we’ve opted out of the malaria pills—eek!!).

We had 4 hours to wait for our shuttle to arrive. The airport was small, but we parked ourselves in front of a fan and waited it out. We met a very nice girl from Australia and chatted with her about her work teaching Aborigines.

Finally our shuttle came.  Our hosts didn’t say much, but we were off!!  We drove all around picking up different people. It wasn’t really explained to us what the plan was, but we just went along…no choice really ;) After about an hour, we parked along the side of the road and were told we had to wait for a bigger bus.

Once the bigger bus came, we boarded with a whole slew of other people. Our Fijians hosts on the bigger bus were LOUD and very enthusiastic. So far my impression of Fijian natives is that they are fun loving and take nothing too seriously. It’s a good attitude.

The island where we are staying hosts tourists on day trips and provides non-stop activities---snorkeling, fire walking, kava ceremonies, dancing, guitar playing, bush walks, etc., so many of the people on the bus were going to Robinson Crusoe (the island) for just the day. We took a short boat trip out to what would be our little island home for the next 4 days.

Headed to the island :D

Attacking natives :P

We were given a little tour and shown our room, which is absolutely adorable!! It’s called an “Island Bure” and basically is just a little thatch roofed hut, which opens to a queen sized bed. There’s a tiny table and a mirror and that’s it…not room for much more, but it’s cozy.

Our Bure

Our shared bathroom is something out of a campground. Upon booking, I didn’t realize just how VERY rustic it would be!! Ha!! There is not much running water. All the water comes from jugs that you pump. The ‘shower’ is a bucket with a shower head attached. The bucket is filled with water from an outside pump.  You then use a rope to pull the water up to about chest height. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to get my head under the swinging bucket :P I don’t think I’ll be washing my LONG hair too much while we’re here!! It took so much water to get the shampoo out of all my hair~Preston had to bring me a second bucket!!


Was actually quite refreshing 

We spent most of the day lounging around in various hammocks. The island stays busy with the visiting tourists. We took a walk at low tide and were almost able to go around the entire island. There’s very much a camp vibe with buffet style community meals served 3x a day.

Island walk

It’s a little discouraging that every. single. thing. seems to cost additional money. The island is very commercialized, but I guess this is budget travel. To pay for a ‘cheaper’ room…all additional costs are optional. Unfortunately, those additional costs are for things like water. Haha.

Preston and I met and had some good conversations with some interesting people. A man from Poland told us all about his communist upbringing and his complete lack of understanding as to how the American government is so indebted to China (hey bud—you and us both!!) and an Australian gentlemen who told us his life story.   Apparently Preston even speaks a little Polish ;) It’s his Chicago upbringing!!

There was an AMAZING sunset. I know my mom would love it <3 A thunderstorm rumbled and flashed brilliant lightning just across the water, but never quite reached us.


Storm in the distance

More tourists arrived for dinner and a fire show. Preston and I hit our little bure early. The entire island runs on a generator, so around midnight the power goes out until 7am. We can see the water from our screened window and had a nice breeze all night.

Thursday 23 Jan (Meredith’s Birthday!! Happy Birthday!!)

We were up early with the sun and had a simple breakfast. I tried to organize our bags a bit…difficult to live out of such tiny spaces :D We spent most of the morning again in hammocks. I splurged on the internet to touch base with friends and family and upload some pics.

Preston working on his great novel ;)

About a hundred people arrived on the island around 11. Truthfully, I kind of missed the quiet of the morning. There’s only about 7 people actually staying here.

Preston and I took the kayaks out in the afternoon. We decided to row around the island. I was pretty far ahead of Preston rounding the tip of the island and the wind picked up. I thought he had just been being chivalrous and would catch me now that the current changed, but he was still really far behind!! When I saw him pull to shore and get out of his kayak…I knew something was wrong. I turned back to see what the problem was and we realized that his kayak was FULL of water!! Haha!! We drained it for a full five minutes. Preston had been pulling (likely) twice his body weight. Too funny!! The tide was quite low on the opposite side of the island, so we had to get off the kayaks and walk about 50 yards before completing our journey.

We spent some more time in the hammocks and took a short walk. I got in some yoga on the beach—doing a few sun salutations by myself.


After showering (bucket!!), we were ready for dinner. Tragically I broke the lid on my face wash. My favorite and ONLY face wash.  It’s funny how a tiny island can change your perspective on things like an old plastic bottle—something that seems like trash back home would be JUST what I need right now. I actually scoured the island for ANYTHING that could hold my face wash. Luckily, one of the women staying here gave me a tiny shampoo bottle she doesn’t need.

Since all the day visitors had gone home, we had an intimate dinner with just the overnight guests. 

Dinner in the garden 

Staying on the island:

Carol—an English woman traveling by herself. She used to be a flight attendant for British Air and has traveled quite extensively.

Sue and Tessa---mother and daughter from Australia extending their holiday after their husband/father has gone. Sue has the most positive energy!!

Matt and Jackie—a young Australian couple on their honeymoon

Everyone is very friendly and we had a great time sitting and talking about all the differences and similarities between our cultures. Matt and Jackie did a 6 week trip across the US and it was interesting to hear their perspective.

Sue bought kava for the group and we sat with some of the employees of the island drinking kava. Kava is a root powder mixed in a special way with water. It has a calming effect…a bit like alcohol, but it numbs your tongue and throat for a bit after you drink it. It makes you somewhat drowsy. There is a ceremony associated with drinking it. You must first cup your hands and clap. Then you say Bula, which is a frequently used Fijian word, here meaning “cheers”. You drink your kava and then you say Maca  (pronounced like mother), meaning that your bowl is empty. You then cup and clap your hands again 3 times. You must not reach for the kava, as it is supposed to be a relaxing experience. If you are not close enough to receive your bowl…the kava must be passed to you.


Preston and Matt had A LOT more than the rest of us and Preston’s pupils became very big and he was slurring his words a bit!! Matt seems somehow immune to kava :P
Mmm hmm.

With a twenty minute warning that the power would go out, we headed to bed.  I had another “omg…I’m helpless on an island” experience (see face wash above). I was flossing my teeth with this new floss I got before the trip. Lesson learned. Bring nothing on a 6 month trip that you’ve not tried before!! The floss was like yarn and got stuck in my back molar!! I could NOT get it out. It was hurting a lot as it was pushing my teeth apart. It reminded me of the terrible spacers that you are given before you get braces. I could imagine the pain I’d be in once I woke up in the morning.  I tried and tried for 30 minutes to get that floss out of my teeth. I broke multiple tooth picks. I broke a sewing needle. Preston held me down on the bed (little scary after the kava ;)) and tried with other floss to get it to come out. No such luck!! I started panicking!! We are on AN ISLAND!! I thought I’d eventually need to get to a dentist :-/ I felt like Tom Hanks on Castaway. I’d have to resort to an ice skate to get this string out of my tooth :P Finally, I was able to thread some floss through another sewing needle and go beneath to pull the floss out. It was no easy task.  To my relief, the giant piece of floss emerged from my tooth!!

This is island living ;) Hey, at least there are no mosquitoes!!