One more drive to Port Denarau for a final, Indian meal, before leaving Fiji. It was a beautiful sunset and it was with some reluctance that, back home, we began to pack our bags.
Will we come back to Fiji? Yes, it’s been a fantastic experience, but some of the poverty was quite striking and stark. The beautiful, well-maintained bright and shiny resorts are just a stone’s throw away from families selling fruit by the side of the road. Lots of people don’t have running water and while it may be their choice, many people were walking round with bare feet. I like taking photos but sometimes here, there was no pleasure in seeing folks in such straits. I don’t think I could be a photo-journalist, I’d be wanting to help and intervene too much, I suspect.
Onwards and upwards. It was time to move on to the land of the long white cloud. The hire car was returned, what was left of it. All week, we’d noticed more and more bits missing: the volume control knob, the blades in the air con vent, all carefully photographed so we don’t get the blame. It always sounded like it wasn’t going to start and indeed, when we filled up with petrol, it really didn’t want to go, straightaway. Still, it was useful for a few days. The good thing about it having so many dents is that, if we’d acquired a new ding, it wouldn’t have been so obvious. But we didn’t, despite the best efforts of some of the bad road surfaces, loose chippings, gravel etc.
I like a good logo and I thought this one at Nadi Airport was particularly clever.
If you can’t see it, the swirl of steam is the G and the hand holding the cup is the J. Gloria Jean. No? Just me, then!
The flight to Auckland was uneventful and we were greeted by this oxymoron from Middle Earth: a five-metre tall dwarf.
We couldn’t get a portable wifi device so we both ended up with local NZ sim cards. We should have internet access while we’re here, especially if our various lodgings have wifi that we can use.
It was a scorching 31°C yesterday in Nadi and the forecast suggested it would be much colder in Auckland when we arrived. But no, it was a fabulous 22° and not a sign of the thunderstorms they’d experienced here yesterday. Perfect!
We enjoyed a ride courtesy of Super Shuttle. It was a roller-coaster of a ride but the driver did slow down for a couple of the road humps. He didn’t like having to take one couple to their home as it was out of his way. Maybe he wasn’t meant to be a public service vehicle driver. He didn’t seem too enamoured of the local Chinese population either. One third of the people living in Auckland are Chinese, apparently, and the young ones all drive expensive cars. There are more Ferraris per capita in New Zealand than in any other country.
We were safely delivered to our Airbnb in Ponsonby and by luck, the trailer with our luggage was still attached.
Our hosts are poms, Ian and Joanna. We came all this way to get away from English people… haha, only kidding!
We had a chat and an introduction to the house. Liesel and I went for a walk to find something to eat: we won’t be cooking here, they live in the house too. But Joanna has promised us breakfast tomorrow morning.
We came across Bic Runga’s sister’s shop, just round the corner.
Yes, we were looking for somewhere to eat, but the sports on offer at this pub didn’t really do much for us.
Probably the most famous landmark is the Sky Tower. We’d been driven by it earlier but it’s hard to see much when you’re bouncing around while gripping the seat in front so tightly.
We won’t be bungee-jumping off it, or the Harbour Bridge, or any other edifice. I did one once, in 1994 and there’s no need to repeat the experience.
That was a little bit scary and definitely a first for both of us. We were escorted to the cashpoint machine. And all because we needed tomatoes.
We never anticipated becoming involved with the Fijian criminal underworld yesterday while visiting some gorgeous islands.
We got up unusually early to join the bus at the nearby Mercure Hotel at 8am. We waited and waited, got worried because nobody else was waiting and no buses appeared. We decided that if we were still waiting at 8.30, we’d go in our own car. But finally the bus turned up, more of a people-carrier really. Fiji time. Fiji bus.
The ride to the Port of Denarau was short but sweet, and as soon as we arrived, we knew we’d have to come back to spend more time in the port itself. All those shops.
Counter clerks in Fiji do like using their staplers. They’ll never give you one piece of paper when three or four will do, all stapled together. And the boarding passes for the day’s boats appeared fastened in this manner, to a pamphlet.
We’d opted for the all-day Seaspray Day Adventure as it took us via a few islands to our main destinations.
Most of the young people chose to spend the day on South Sea Island doing young peoples’ things. Energetic activities.
Treasure Island and Beachcomber Islands also look exactly as you’d expect south Pacific islands to look. Not as wild as in Robinson Crusoe’s day, there are now buildings and jetties and facilities. Transfer to these islands was on a small tender. After 90 minutes on the high speed catamaran, we transferred to another boat at Mana Island.
The Seaspray Day Adventure would be our home and base for the following six hours.
There were nine of us passengers, guests, and seven crew. Not a bad ratio. While sailing, they played music for us, gave us champagne and offered drinks throughout the day. There was shelter from the Sun but mainly, we just gazed upon the sea and the islands. And just a few, fluffy clouds to break up the monotony of the blue sky. Liesel saw a turtle in the middle of the ocean, it came up for air and said hello.
Modriki Island was the first port of call for us. We went snorkelling. Liesel had a much better time than I did. I don’t know whether I’ve just forgotten how to breathe using the equipment or mine had a leak, but I took on board far too much sea-water. Liesel saw shoals of little blue fish, scissor-tail sergeants, an eel, a parrot fish but she didn’t find Nemo nor Dory.
I spluttered my way to the beach, had a quick walk and waited for the little dinghy to pick us all up.
Then, it was lunchtime. Plenty of barbecued meat was on offer but the salads I chose were far superior IMHO. We realised we hadn’t eaten potatoes in this form, boiled, for a long, long time. Couldn’t get enough potato salad!
The neighbouring island is Yanuya. Here, we visited a Fijian Village and were welcomed with a traditional kava ceremony that was genuinely not just something for tourists. Kava is a drink made from the root of the kava kava plant, and it is quite bitter. But, in the end, not as bitter as I’d anticipated. And no side-effects.
There was a market area, where many of the local women had their arts and crafts for sale. Well, probably not their own work, the clue being that most of them were selling the same set of items.
The village itself was fairly deserted and the school was closed for the six week holiday.
Like a lot of Fiji, the sunshine, the heat and the torrential rain has taken its toll on many of the buildings. The village is, apparently self-sufficient, but the drinking water is brought in on tankers.
There were a few signs of life, a couple of little children running around, the sound of faint music from a couple of house, but I think most of the adults were either working over in the fields or enjoying a siesta.
Some of the more adventurous and confident guests jumped in for a quick swim before our boat returned us to Mana. We disembarked onto a very hot jetty to wait for the fast catamaran back to Denarau.
We wanted to visit a nearby Hindu Temple but on arrival, we realised, we couldn’t go in because I wasn’t wearing trousers. I haven’t worn trousers for ages, and it never occurred to us to consider the Hindu dress code.
We’re in Fiji for just a couple more days so we’re trying to eat as much of our food as we can before moving on. Liesel wanted to make salsa again and the only ingredient missing was tomatoes. The local supermarket didn’t have any and the guys outside were charging far too much for their produce. So, off to the big city, well, Nadi, we went.
Parked up, fed the meter, looked around getting our bearings, trying to remember where the market was located. A dark voice behind us asked if we were looking for something. “Ah, the market, it’s over there, follow me,” he said. So we did.
We crossed the road, turned right, turned left, went down a narrow street, turned into a narrower alley, turned right, walked up some stairs, passed a room where some lads were playing pool. I wondered why the market was upstairs, it wasn’t last time. We were shown into a room filled with Fijian works of art. All genuine Fijian craft, we were assured, no Chinese or Korean knock-offs. Compare this heavy wooden turtle with that cheap one from China, made from balsa wood. There were big masks, bangles, jewellery, ornaments, turned wooden bowls, all great stuff of course, but nothing that we could buy and carry with us.
Our guide was by the door, another man was ‘selling’ the wares, an elder turned up and lit a cigarette then asked if it was ok to smoke here.
In the end, we bought a small painting. It will go with our new curtains at home, we think! We didn’t have enough cash on us, and they didn’t use credit cards because their money isn’t put through the banking system.
Liesel and I looked at each other, wondering what kinda mess we’d gotten ourselves into.
Our guide took us to the nearest ATM, I withdrew the cash, paid him and he then showed us to the market that we wanted to go to in the first place.
Quite possibly the most expensive three tomatoes we’ve ever bought, ever, anywhere.
He then took us back to our car.
I think we may have had a close shave with the Fiji Mafia, but so far, we seem to have got away with it. If we wake up with a horse’s head in the bed, we’ll think again.
As anticipated, we returned to Denarau where we ate lunch, keeping a look-out for gangsters on our case. There was one suspicious character. I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.
It was a lot more overcast today, so we were lucky with our trip to the islands, yesterday.
We drove home the ‘long way’, in order to take some photos.
I went for a quick walk but the main road isn’t that interesting or photogenic, so I came back, changed into my swimmers, and spent a while in the pool. Yes, this Airbnb has a pool and it has an awning that isn’t entirely waterproof: it let the rain in!
There is also a small fish pond with a lot of large koi. They often come up to the surface and say hello too, when we walk by.
The rain was pretty half-hearted, but at least it did encourage the frogs to come out.
So, salsa, rice and bhaji (a local spinach-like vegetable), crackers, crisps, rose apples, pineapple, mango, chocolate biscuits, ice cream and an apple all made for a very nice, balanced but wide-ranging supper.
Was my sleepless night due to lack of exercise? Too much coffee? Too much food? Concern about the local triads or other criminal organisations? I lay awake for ages worrying about this and in the end, I picked up my book for a while. Yes, of course I read it.
Our final full day in Fiji was filled with fun on the internet. This. And Liesel was booking flights and cars and things for the next couple of months. We listened to the radio: Cerys Matthews, Amy Lamé, Tom Robinson, Bob Harris Country and very little Christmas music, just the way we like it.
I think we’re sleeping better here than we did in Pacific Harbour. The air is cooled at night and it feels much less humid. On the other hand, I wonder whether too much aircon has caused problems for Liesel? She wasn’t feeling all that well, something like a cold, a sore throat, a bit tired, so we started Sunday very slowly. In the end, she didn’t leave the house but I thought I’d have a quick walk to the nearby beach. Well, it wasn’t as close as I thought, and I couldn’t walk round in a loop as planned, I had to come back the same way. But even so, I managed to take a wrong turning and waste over twenty minutes walking in unshaded sunshine, with no umbrella.
Many taxi drivers passed by and asked if I needed a ride. “No thank you,” I replied, “I’m British, don’t you know, I’ll manage.”
I wish I had taken one up on his offer though. Cynical me thought they were just opportunistically taking advantage of a hot and bothered white guy. The more reasonable me accepts that they were offering an acceptable, valuable service to a guest in their ‘hood.
On the way home, being hungry and thirsty, I bought a huge bottle of water, a huuuge bottle of 7-Up and a tub of chocolate ice cream. A perfectly balanced diet. I was refreshed by a cold shower and enjoyed my lie down.
Despite everything, we decided to hire a car, so we took a taxi to the airport to collect a 40-year old red thing with more dents in it than a sheet of corrugated iron. It’s so old, the indicators/lights and windscreen wiper stalks are on the wrong side of the steering column! It goes, sort of, and it stops. It’ll do us a week and we hope not too many bits fall off on the bumpy roads. Bits have fallen off and I have documented these photographically.
Our first trip in our new wheels was to Momi, south of Nadi. The main street in Nadi itself has recently become one-way and not all the road markings and signs have been put in place yet. So, if the locals are confused, what about us? And what about Google Maps?
We were going to the Marriott Resort where we met up with friends of Helen’s and Adam’s. Silvano and Katrin manage the hotel and live there with their children Matteo and Federica. We had a nice chat and of course, photos had to be taken!
It is a lovely resort. We spent the afternoon by the pool, looking out over the ocean, enjoying a cocktail, and if we were staying, we would have watched the Sun set over the Pacific. Adam spent some time here a couple of years ago when the building was being completed.
Sitar is the name of the Indian Thai restaurant just round the corner from us. I had Indian, Liesel had Thai, the waitress had a three-month old baby and this was her first day back at work, poor thing.
The internet died. Yes, mid tweet and mid-TV programme, suddenly the portable wifi said there was no signal. What it really meant was that we’d used up our bytes allocation and we needed to top-up. So, back to the airport again, back to Vodafone, topped up, lovely. Can they unlock the device so we can use it in other countries? No, but there’s a dodgy shop in the High Street that can do that sort of thing.
We drove (Liesel was driving despite still being a bit out of sorts) to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. The main road was a good surface, but the final few miles along a gravelly, rocky road was a little scary, especially when buses drove fast right up to our bumper. “How’s my driving?” asked the back of one van. Well, slow down a bit so I can make a note of your telephone number!
The Garden is nestled in its own shady, mountain valley with acres of orchids and flowering plants. It was a lovely way to appreciate Fiji’s unique tropical beauty. The colours were stunning, almost as vivid as the colours I saw following my eye surgery.
The Garden was founded by Raymond Burr, aka Ironside, aka Perry Mason, to house his own orchids. His plans to retire here were thwarted by ill health.
Lack of horicultural knowledge hence lack of captions – just enjoy the colours!
After the walk, we welcomed the ice-cold tropical fruit drinks, which we enjoyed in the breeze, in the shade and yes, it would have been so easy to drift off…
Animal corner. Dogs. There are loads of dogs running wild here. Literally running along the roads at very high speeds. They take no notice of us which is just how we like it. Cattle. They stand around in fields or walk slowly across the road in front of you. Goats. We’ve heard more than we’ve seen but there are plenty around. Cats. Not so many but there’s one in the shade of the house opposite us. Water buffalo. Always good to see something unusual and exotic, but they don’t do much, do they! Donkeys. Haven’t seen a single one, which is surprising. Horses. we’ve seen a few, even a foal, and a couple being ridden. Chickens. We haven’t seen any cross the road, but they’re by the side. Ducks. We’ve seen a few but then again, too few to mention, and I think I know why.
In the afternoon, I went round the corner to the shops again. My name is Mick. I am a coffeeholic. I found a coffee shop and I couldn’t resist going in for a coffee. Pleased to see the roadworks are making progress between our house and the shops, though.
Meanwhile, what were you doing, Liesel?
What a treat I had today, my Airbnb host, Sharon, offered to teach me to cook a couple of dishes using seasonal Indo-Fijian veggies. How often does an invitation like this occur? I jumped at the chance.
She took me to the local farmers’ market to buy the veggies.
Bhaji is similar to spinach. We made two dishes. The 1st was blanched, then chilled and a sesame-soy dressing added. 2nd was stir fried with garlic and chili.
Ladyfingers a/k/a okra. I’ve never cooked okra as I have some recollection that if cooked wrong it is a slimy mess.
We blanched and chilled these too then dipped them into the sesame soy dressing.
A second batch we battered in a simple tempura coating a fried.
I’m pleased to report nothing was slimy. I quite like ladyfingers.
All four dishes were delicious. We ate well tonight.
Seconded! Delicious! Very nice, very tasty! Thank you, Mick
We’ve had a relaxing few days. We’ve done nothing. Zilch. Nada. Well, the bare minimum, anyway.
Wednesday was a day at the beach. The overnight rainstorm was loud on the old tin roof of the bure, but it was nice and warm and dry inside.
We sat on the beach, went for a dip in a warm Pacific Ocean, greeted the few passers-by and generally soaked up the Sun.
The wind blew an old plastic Coke bottle along the beach, and we thought about chasing it and binning it… nah… But it’s the thought that counts. Taking it easy.
The toilets and showers were locked up: it’s not the busy touristy season which is why we had the beach to ourselves. The newly purchased beach blanket and towels were tested to the limit. As was the SPF 30 sunblock.
I went for a nice Fijian massage. I wasn’t expecting two ladies, one at each end, but it was a very nice, relaxing experience. One picked up the tightness in my feet from all the walking. The other found the knots and tightness in my neck and shoulders. (Hey Dawn, you’re still my number one choice for a massage but if there were two of you…)
Thursday again began with a thunderstorm. The rain continued all morning, on and off, the poor little birdie outside looked a bit sorry for himself. He could have taken shelter, yes, but I think he enjoyed me imitating him mimicking the other birds.
We did walk down to the shops for a coffee, I did some things online that required a better signal than we can get at home. Liesel read her book, I wandered round, sent postcards to a couple of people who aren’t online and who don’t have to put up with this drivel. Laid back, yes, but not totally idle. We bought a bag of tortilla chips that turned out to be stale, even though well within the best before date. Such a to-do.
Nudity is frowned upon in Fiji, apparently, and on most south Pacific islands, but don’t worry, I was let off with a caution.
We have to admire people who are working in these conditions. I’m just typing but my fingers are soaking up the humidity like a sponge: anyone would thing I’ve been in the bath too long with wrinkled old fingers like this. It’s certainly confused the phone’s biometric fingerprint scanner.
The young lady that cooked our samosas in a hot kitchen is a hero. Heroine. She’s a star.
Liesel and I both have good books on the go at the moment, we still haven’t felt the need to turn the TV on, and I have a huge backlog of radio programmes to listen to. We’re still waiting for the UK Government to collapse and/or Brexit to be cancelled but that reality is so far away from here. We look at each other across the room, sigh, wipe the back of a hand across a damp, furrowed brow, get up and walk about a bit, have a drink, have a snack, sit back down again.
I went out to talk to the birds and my reward was several mosquito bites. Other wildlife we’ve seen include a Fijian ground frog in our bathroom. Liesel asked Doug to remove it. He said it wasn’t poisonous, but we weren’t planning to eat it, anyway, to be fair. I did tell Liesel that if she’d kissed the frog, it might have turned into a handsome prince. She said the last time she kissed a frog, she got me and she’s not making that mistake again.
We have a pet gecko in our room too. We’re keeping him because he can hoover up the ants and other bugs.
Something makes a horrible noise during the night, it might be frogs, it might be werewolves screeching at each other, it could be guests in other villas on Hibiscus Drive shouting at the rain. Pretty sure it’s not the gecko.
We were idly wondering what to do next. This was tempting: Fire walking.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t work out exactly where to go. Bummer. Next time, maybe.
Drinking coffee at the Skinny Bean Café left us wondering: is the design on my latté hibiscus or, as Liesel first though, plumeria?
I think this was as profound a discussion as we had all day. A pair of brains taking a day off. Two pairs of feet putting their feet up too.
Friday began with another storm. There was also a very loud cricket outside, chirruping away, maybe a couple. As the rain became louder, so did the cricket (or grasshopper, or whatever). Somehow, Liesel slept through the whole thing!
Other loud noises included fireworks and a really loud thunderclap right overhead. The lights dimmed for a moment: but we have candles to hand, just in case.
We have another gecko in our room. The first one was a surprise, so a little bit scary. This new one is a baby. We’re now looking out for a ginger one, a sporty one and a posh one so we have the whole set.
During the night, I felt a couple of rainspots on my arm. I couldn’t believe there was a hole in the roof, but in the morning, I did notice a very slight gap between two of the tiles. Taking into consideration factors such as ferocity of the rainstorm, its duration, the size of the gap in the roof, wind conditions, angle of slope of the roof, the area of my exposed skin, height of room, height of my bed off the floor, I calculated that the chances were that 2.14 drops of rain would land on me. Isn’t mathematics brilliant?
We took the bus into Suva. Our third bus ride, and the third method of payment. The man I sat next to said ‘Bula’, and shook my hand, and we had a chat. We’re not in London any more, I realised.
We decided to take a taxi rather than another bus to Colo-i-Suva Forest Park. The driver told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.
Summertime and the living is easy. We had a nice walk in the forest, but it too was loud. The odd bird but mainly, cicadas. They have an eight-year cycle in Fiji and although we didn’t see any, we certainly heard them. It was like walking through a tunnel of tinnitus, albeit a slightly lower frequency than what I usually experience.
There is supposed to be a lot of wildlife here, but all we saw was a mongoose run across the road. One dragonfly and a couple of butterflies.
We stopped by the car park for a natural break, wishing that we, like others, had had our taxi drop us off here in the first place! Oh well.
The park ranger told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.
The trail now was narrower and definitely made for walking on. Newly improved too, for some reason, at grest expense. There were bures on the way, picnic tables, even rubbish bins. We heard the waterfall before we saw it, and we climbed down to the Upper Pool. There were a few locals enjoying the water, and I thought it would be nice to cool off too. The thing I was most worried about in the water was leeches and I’m so glad I never encountered any. No frogs either.
I heard: “There are frogs in there.”
What Liesel actually said: “My glasses are fogging up.” (We’ve both agreed to have hearing tests later on.)
The water was cool, but very refreshing, and the water falling on my head was quite forceful: so glad I wasn’t wearing the toupée.
On the way back to the entrance, a charming man offered us a lift in his car We had a nice chat. He told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.
We waited just a few minutes at the entrance to the park for our taxi to arrive.
Suva City Library was helped in its early days by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose name it now bears. We spent a few minutes here looking at the children’s books. Was it air conditioned? Nope. But the windows were open! We were here to video us reading a couple of books to Martha and William. We send them a new one every few weeks.
Then, over the road to Hare Krishna Vegetarian Restaurant. Here, I ate my breakfast: a plate of six curries, a thali, most of which was delicious but number 6 was far too salty.
It started raining when we were on the bus back to Pacific Harbour, and it was still precipitating slightly when we walked home.
Doug and Loata passed by and we later realised, judging by Doug’s beery breath, they’d been to the pub.
Our hosts, Doug and Loata, left us a bowl of fruit. Unfortunately, the mangoes hadn’t ripened by the time we left.
In other news, our Alaskan friends and family are still experiencing strong aftershocks in Anchorage. Young William has taken his first few steps. Santa has written to him and Martha, following our request at North Pole, Alaska.
We’ve now moved on to Nadi, another three-hour bus ride, and another method of payment! All the buses have a sign “No eating, no drinking, no smoking”. Well, we’ve seen nobody sparking up so I suppose one out of three ain’t bad! A lot of people carry a lot of stuff on buses: big boxes, sacks, bin bags all full, presumably, of food. I asked Liesel if that was a chicken I could hear at the back of the bus and she said no, it was the soundtrack from the TV show.
Some of the cattle (outside, not on the bus) looked really healthy but there were some that looked like a blanket had been thrown over a clothes horse. All in the same field, so you’d think, with the same access to good feed.
In Japan we had MaxValu. In Fiji, it’s MaxVal-u Supermart. Here in Fiji, as in Tonga, some men wear skirts. It’s rude to stare but you can’t help but do a double-take sometimes.
Our new Airbnb here in Nadi has air conditioning which is welcome. I went to the local shops, missing out on the rain, while Liesel did the first of two loads of laundry.
The 4G signal here is much stronger too, so I have been able to listen to a couple of my radio programmes with . . . out the . . . . . . . . contin . . ual b . . . . . . . uffering.
At the airport, where the bus dropped us off, I was delighted to see this advert for The Bangles’ new single.
The bad news is that Liesel’s voice is a bit croaky right now. Thank goodness you can get Strepsils even in Fiji!
We’re having a very quiet, relaxed Saturday evening and we are surprised by how warm it really is, every time we visit the bathroom.
This entry will over-use the words ‘hot’, ‘sticky’ and ‘sweaty’, so be warned. The first thing we noticed when we got off the plane at Nadi Airport was the heat. It was hot. 29°C, about 375°F, much like an oven.We instantly became sticky and sweaty.
We were greeted at Nadi Airport by a trio playing us a lovely welcome song. The Feejee Bee Gees, possibly.
Chore 1: buy a portable wifi device. Yes, buy. I thought we were renting it but the answer to the question “Do we bring it back to this desk?” was “No, it’s yours to keep.” I don’t know whether it’s 4G or Feejee 3G.
Chore 2: see if we can get Feejee money from the ATM, and we did, on the first attempt. Feejee dollars.
Chore 3: buy some sunblock. It was hot.
It was hotter outside. And because neither of us had slept particularly well on the 8-hour flight from Tokyo, we were both a little cranky too. For the first time ever, I was able to lie down and spread out over four seats, but I still found sleep hard to come by.
We located the bus to take us to our next place of accommodation, and when we saw one without windows, we thought, that’s great, cheap aircon. Our bus had proper aircon though, so less hot, sticky and sweaty. The entertainment for the first two hours of the ride was reggae, including reggae versions of songs that came from other genres, pop, rock and so on.
But just before we reached our final destination, someone put in a movie DVD: Rules of Engagement. Well, that brought me out of my torpor. Loud, violent, lots of swearing, ideal for the young families squashed together on the bus. I dozed a bit, but from the bus, we saw a horse (a Feejee geegee), a buffalo and a goat. Plus mangoes. Hundreds of mangoes being sold by the roadside. Quite a few mangos too.
Our destination was Pacific Harbour Post Office. Of course, we got off a stop early. Outside the Police Station. The officers were very helpful though, suggesting we don’t walk to our b&b in this heat with those bags, it’s too hot. We used their toilet and their phone and in the end, we took a taxi. Doug, our host, was expecting to meet us at the Post Office. When we phoned him, we got his wife, who was at home. A lot of confusion, made more frustrating by being all hot and bothered by the heat, and tired as well.
Doug’s a Kiwi, he showed us our place, and we had a lie down. No aircon here, but there is a fan, we’ll need that, he assured us.
He drove me to the local shop where I was able to buy a converter for the electric supply.
“Two seventy-five”, said the shop assistant.
I started counting out three $100 bills, those being what the ATM gave me.
“No, mate, two dollars, seventy-five.”
Tired. Not thinking straight. And used to the big numbers of yen in Japan, 100 yen is about 66p. $2.75 here is about £1.10. We’ll have to be careful about that.
There is no hairdryer. Liesel hasn’t not used one for eighteen years. I asked for a cheap one in the shop. No, mate. They don’t use hairdryers in Feejee, apparently.
I went for a quick walk to the beach. It was 6.00pm and still light. In Okinawa, at 5.35, boom, out goes the Sun. It’s light here until about 7.45. And hot. I was sweaty and sticky so I had a quick shower before going to bed. It was still light.
The birds outside are loud. Bulbuls or songthrushes, it’s hard (for us) to tell, but this chap would make a terrific alarm clock.
Despite the heat and no aircon, just a fan and being a bit sticky, we slept well. Doug gave us a ten minute warning that he was driving to Suva. He’d offered us a lift, it’s 48 km away, so we left without breakfast.
His wife, Loata, drove along roads that varied between Surrey-style patched quilt and potholes, to quite nice surfaces for the odd couple of metres. The drivers here are mad, we’re now glad we didn’t rent a car. Suva was very busy and after being dropped off in the heat, we were very sticky by the time we’d reached the hotel bar over the road. Yes, the bar. We were one minute late for breakfast in the restaurant so instead, we were shown to the bar where we had a late breakfast or early lunch, looking out over the pool with the ocean beyond. Naturally, I had English breakfast tea: Feejee Tips.
We crossed the road again and walked through the Botanical Gardens. Crossed the road! If only it were so easy. In Japan, everyone waited at crossings for the green man to appear, even if there was no traffic in sight. Jay-walking was strictly forbidden. Here in Feejee, in Suva at least, jay-walking is pretty much compulsory. You, well, we, stayed close to locals and followed them across the road: safety in numbers!
It was hot in the gardens and we built up quite a sweat by the time we reached the Museum.
The cashier told us the fee, $10 each, and I pulled out what I thought was a $20 bill. But no, it was a $7 banknote: an easy mistake to make as they’re more or less the same colour.
The museum has artefacts from as far back as 3500 years ago. I found the boats most interesting. And the language, which seems very similar to Maori, even Hawaiian. Wai is water in all three. Waqa is a canoe here, waka is a canoe in New Zealand.
The gift shop had aircon on, full blast. You hang around in there too long, and all the sweat will freeze on your skin, brrr.
Feejee is populated by people from all over the place. Indians were brought over as indentured workers in the early 19th century, and there is still a large Indian population here. After five years, they could either work for another five years to get the ticket home or, as many did, choose to stay to build a new life.
Indentured? Yes, they were all given false teeth on arrival.
The Queen and Prince Philip visited the islands in 1953 and were presented with this model village that people had slaved over for several months. Her Majesty donated it to the local museum.
In the wildlife room, we saw some dead animals. The butterflies are pretty but this beetle, which can grow up to 6 inches long, just looked wrong and creepy.
Too big for its own good.
We walked slowly back to the bus station: the last bus of the day left at 5pm and as I said, it would have been a long, 48 km, hot and sweaty walk back.
We went into some shops and bought some things to use on the beach: yes, we’d decided tomorrow would be a day on the beach. Also, some of the shops were a bit cooler than the streets.
I was a little dehydrated I think: I kept wanting to sit down before I fell over, so the mango smoothie was very welcome.
We also bought some vegetables in the large market, they call it a Flea Market, but it all looked like good produce to me. Even the mangoes. More mangoes. We could choose between sweet and sour pineapples. We took neither.
The bus ride home, despite the AC was, you guessed, h, s and s. And it was still too h when we got off to think about cooking or even preparing something cold, so we took a pizza home instead! Our first Feejeean pizza.
We couldn’t remember whether Feejee is north or south of the equator. I could have Googled it, but where’s the fun in that? It’s a well-known fact that water runs down a plughole clockwise one side of the equator and anti-clockwise the other. I couldn’t recall which way round, but never mind. In the shower, I watched the water to see whether, when it drained, it looked ‘right’, something I’m used to seeing, or looked odd. Well, the water pooled at the southside of the shower stall because the house is on a slope. Well, I say ‘house’, but ‘re-purposed shack’ would be more accurate. A bure. We didn’t come all this way to push water down a shower plughole with our newly washed feet, but there you go. It’s all an adventure. And if we drop something that rolls, we know we’ll find it in the deep south, by the kitchen sink.
Everything is s-l-o-w in Feejee: the internet, the electricity, the lifestyle. Well, everything apart from the traffic in Suva, that is. I had to come to the beach to acquire a signal strong enough to actually post this nonsense!
By now, you’re thinking, “Poor sod, the Sun’s got to his head. He was feeling woozy and now he can’t even spell the name of the country properly”. But if this spelling is good enough for the Museum Shop and History Gallery, then it’s good enough for me.
And $7 bills? Really? Yes, really.
They were produced to commemorate the Fiji Rugby 7s team winning gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.