Men In Skirts

Around The World Trip: Fiji

Initially I found the 20 degree increase in temperature from NZ as a bit of a shock as I arrived in Nadi (pronounced Nandi for some reason). I was met at the airport by locals shouting what sounded like “EBOLA!” Worried that they were warning me about a plague of the deadly disease, I was about to turn back before realising that they were, in fact, welcoming me with the Fijian greeting of “BULA!” Oh… Bula back. After a brief wander around it soon became apparent that this was a country with the most number of blokes in skirts outside of a Scottish Highland Games. No wonder many of them seem to be big fans of the sarong-wearing mincer, David Beckham. But hey, I wasn’t going to say anything negative. They must rest their babies on beds of compost for them to grow into such big men. There was just enough time for a few beers on the first evening, so I caught a taxi to Ed’s Bar with some fellow travellers. And it was certainly an unusual taxi – stereo volume on 11 and more flashing lights than the actual bar itself! Other than that, an uneventful night.

With no time to waste, I booked a trip to Robinson Crusoe (a.k.a. Likuri) Island followed by a sailing trip around the Yasawa Islands (or as my friend Gemma calls them: “The islands beginning with ‘A’). I was intrigued by one of the activities listed on the brochure: ‘Deep sea trolling’. Strange I thought, as everyone knows troll live under bridges…

Robinson Crusoe Island is basically a small island resort (I kayakked around it in 35 min.). It’s next to the gay resort of Man Friday Island. Well not really, I made that up. Facilities are basic – large bures (houses) sleeping 28 and bucket showers (shower head attached). Yes, I had to fill up the bucket and wash before it emptied. After experiencing a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony (during which I had a bowl of the local drink, Kava), the rest of the time was spent lazing around, snorkelling and going on the shortest bush walk ever! The entertainment was provided by authentic Fijian dancing, in full tribal gear, that consisted of lots of stamping of feet with faces contorted as if suffering from constipation. Despite this, I nearly tripped over the tongues of the girls in the audience as I went for another beer. Yeah, alright, I’m maybe a little jealous – it was impressive.

After a stupid o’clock transfer to our boat and much waiting around (“It’s Fiji time” – yeah right, get your arse in gear you lazy sod), myself and my new ship mates began the 4 hour cruise to the first Yasawa Island. However, it actually took more than 8 hours due to a rough sea, meaning we arrived in the dark at Manta Ray Island. The rest of the trip was in calm waters thankfully. Much more relaxing. The second stop was Waya Island where we would be given another traditional welcome (yes more Kava), this time by the Yalobi village. Our skipper, Captain Tui stressed the need to “Take it seriously”. No problem with that. Some of the locals were a bit scary looking, especially the women! How can I put this? Small, isolated island + limited gene pool over hundreds of years = unique characteristics.

Captain Tui really was a man of few words. I asked him where we would be snorkelling: “At the snorkelling point”. Thanks for the information skip! There was no electricity on the island, not that anyone felt the need to tell us. So after throwing a frisbee around until dusk, we showered in the dark before interrupting Tui’s own kava session with his mates to attempt to go back to the boat. The captain led the way with his own torch, leaving me to walk into a rock. Cheers Tui! This gave me a nice purple toe to go with the coral cut on my other foot that I’d tried to claim was a shark bite, but no-one was having any of it. We actually drove straight into some larger rocks as well! Cue much kissing of the deck when we made it back to the boat from the dinghy.

You can imagine my pleasure when we arrived ashore the next day and Tui points to a rock: “That’s the one you kicked”. If you knew it was there, why didn’t you tell me?! We had just enough time to walk to an uninspiring ‘waterfall’ with a man-made alteration that gave it the look of a urinal. This was followed by a more worthwhile visit to the Yalobi school, during which we split into pairs and went to classrooms. We had little 8 year olds singing to us and excitedly looking at the photos that we took. Ah bless! On the sail back we stopped at the tiny Beachcomber Island (one of the Mamanuca Islands), a resort so small I walked around it in 10 min. When I was entering the sea to go snorkelling I heard a strange rustling noise. Next thing I know, there’s a shoal of hundreds of flying fish, out of the water heading my way, whilst trying to put the brakes on in mid-air when they saw me! They were literally about a foot away. Slightly surprising for me!

Upon return, I decided to spend my last two days on the coral coast at the Beachouse resort (yes only one ‘h’). After going 3/4 of the way, our mini-bus transfer stopped in Sigatoka. The driver casually said we had to change to a local taxi as he had to fix his brakes! Nice to know. The local 11 seat taxi had an interior straight from a 1970s’ kitchen. The music blaring out of the speakers was Fijian reggae, American rap, reggae mixes of American rap and, bizarrely, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from Rocky! Finally we arrived at the Beachouse, after a few detours to local villages, just in time for afternoon tea, complete with scones! How civilised…

Apart from more snorkelling (in a rain/hail storm!), the next couple of days were very lazy. I was enjoying sunbathing when I felt something touching me. When I looked up, the last thing I expected to see was two beady eyes on stalks looking back at me! I don’t know who was more surprised – me or the crab. If crabs could scream, this one would have been shrieking in terror as it threw its claws in the air and side-stepped away from me in a panic, then towards me again (Woargh!!) then away towards a log. With eyes like that, how can it not see me? Stupid ass good for nothing fish bait. It was at this point that I noticed everyone nearby looking at me, wondering why I was shouting. Embarrassing…

Unbelievably, the next day I was eating breakfast when something stung me. “BASTARD!” I shouted before again realising that everyone was looking at me. “Got stung by something” I said sheepishly. At this point I thought it was just as well that I was leaving, before I got a reputation for having Tourette’s Syndrome.

But that’s not it! When I arrived at the airport I found my once weekly flight had been brought forward 2 hours! Luckily though, due to a tropical storm, it was actually delayed 4 hours anyway! Result! So I only had to wait 2 hours. If it was on time, I would have had to miss the Cook Islands altogether. But here I am…

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