Robinson Crusoe Island, Fiji.
Monday 19th June
This morning I woke up Fiji time (I slept in) and after waiting sufficiently long for a bus, finally boarded a coach that took me any another group of very pale tourists to a boat on a nearby river. I was excited at the prospect of staying on an island. I had chosen Robinson Crusoe island because of it's size, amenities and quietness... all I wanted after the invigorating month in New Zealand. Upon arrival we were given a typical Fijian welcome whereby anyone who isn't really, really busy grabs any musical instrument or anything that can be used to make noise and sings traditional Fijian songs until the boat finally makes it to the shore. After chucking my bags into the dorm I made a beeline for lunch and made the most of the buffet.
A very customary 'Bula' from the locals!
After embarrasing myself by eating everything but the tablecloth I wobbled onto the beach, found a hammock that would support by recently inflated weight and negotiated my body into the middle of the hammock. Warning: do not try and do this after a heavy lunch. Also, don't do it whilst trying to balance a drink. Also, don't do this when lots of people are watching. In the evening, we sat around an open fire on the beach, watching the sunset listening to a Fijian playing his guitar. All newcomers gathered around in a circle and I was made chief. A title I tried to enforce throughout my stay, but to no avail... Anyway, with this honour of being chief I had to drink the much-publicised kava
, which is made from an ancient crop with water added.
Enjoying a Pina Colada (I wish) in Fiji.
The concotion is quite potent and creates a lip and tongue-numbing sensation soon after drinking it. We passed it around the group and muggins got another mouthful of the intoxicating drink. I soon switched to Fiji Bitter, which was far more apt on a lovely warm night.
Tuesday 20th June
This morning I woke up to an unfamilar noise - a gonging alarm for breakfast. Usually any wake up call is met with a customary gesture and an extra hour in bed, but the thought of freshly cooked breakfast Fijian style was too tempting and I stumbled to the buffet table once more. After breakfast I thought it would be wise to partake in one of the many activities on offer and opted for the least strenuous; fishing.
This is the life...
A small group of us boarded a boat and went about 800 metres out into the sea in the hope of catching lunch. After sitting for almost an hour, no one caught a thing apart from heatstroke. The captain of the boat managed to catch a number of fish, which was slightly suspicious, but equally admirable! As we came back, there was a tour group arriving for a day trip, which signalled the end to a peaceful day. I wasn't best pleased with the noise and had to move from my hammock when they climbed the tree I was resting on to knock down coconuts. I'm pretty glad I moved in the end, as I would have been decapitated if I stayed there! I accepted a coconut drink and returned to my outdoor couch for a while before I heard that they were going to have a crab race.
Dinner is prepared, Fiji style!
I couldn't resist the once in a lifetime opportunity and picked mine out. Come on number six... I still had the competitive streak in me since I lost to piehead in Auckland and could smell the sweet smell of victory as number six cruised to a well-fought second place out of 50. I made the podium, which will rank amongst the skydiving and black-water rafting as one of my major achievements of this trip. I even won a postcard... who needs $50?! In the afternoon, I celebrated in style, by kayaking with friends. In the heat of the moment, I managed to smack my bad toe with the oar, causing significant discomfort whilst about 400m from the island and with no-one within shouting distance. I waved for assistance as I drifted towards larger waves and this was met with waves in return.
My office on Robsinson Crusoe Island!
The pain was quite extreme, but I persisted in getting back to the island and vowed to put an end to activities. I maintained that in the evening with a number of Fiji Bitters until the pain disappeared.
Wednesday 21st June
Gong, gong, gong. Another early morning, another lovely breakfast, another freezing shower. The showers on Robinson Crusoe island consisted of a steel bucket elevated by a piece of rope with a pulley system and a fixing on the wall. The bucket itself was about 5'0'' off the ground, causing anyone who isn't technically a dwarf to adopt a limbo position to get washed. On the occasion that the bucket became empty, you would have to step outside and fill it from a nearby tap.
Turning my neck right occasionally was worth the effort...
Only to come back up and hoist the bucket back up before banging your head on the bucket whilst doing so. Oh, the joys of mornings in Fiji! After this ritual was over I spent the morning on the beach, reading and chilling out with friends. After lunch I went snorkelling, which was very hard work as the current was particularly strong. The visibility was awful and only a handful of fish could be seen. I came back to shore and had a wonderfully soothing massage on the beach, before floating back to my hammock in a state of tranquility (unlike the severe beating I had in Thailand...). In the evening, I had a wonderful dinner, with wonderful entertainment in wonderful company by a wonderful bonfire... it was em, wonderful.
Paradise, apart from dodging the odd coconut!
Thursday 22nd June
This morning I chilled out, as I was due to leave Robinson Crusoe Island. I took full advantage of the $10 bar tab that we were entitled to and left the island by lunch time. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but the island was very small and any significant time spent there could have resulted in dementia kicking in. I arrived back on the mainland and finally arrived back at the hotel, despite the driver's best efforts to wind me up by stopping for a list of errands and at a little local restaurant called 'McDonalds'. In the afternoon, I went into the town centre before returning for dinner in the very nice hotel, then played pool before having an early night.
Friday 23rd June
This morning I awoke to the smell of breakfast, but at the price they were charging, I wasn't best pleased and done the cunning thing by blagging a free one by insisting that I was staying in a suite! I merrily skipped into breakfast, presented my voucher and dived in to various fruits and toast, watching BBC News and catching up on the World Cup news.
The winners podium... one of my proudest moments ever!
I made my way to the pool and chilled out there for the day. It wasn't as relaxing or pleasant as the beach, but I certainly wasn't complaining. Having said that, the hotel is close to the airport, so the silence was broken every 5 seconds with the latest jumbo taking off. In the evening I had another lovely dinner and an early night again.
Saturday 24th June
This morning I hobbled downstairs and claimed my free breakfast again before the bus picked me up for the next leg of the trip in Fiji. Today I was going to the second island that I had booked, Manta Ray island. The bus to the harbour took ages as usual as the laissez-faire attitude of the Fijians were in no rush for anything. The Yasawa flyer that took us to the island was very efficient though and allowed everyone to see the number of stunning islands off the north-west coast of Fiji.
The crab race - surely a competition for the future?!
Upon arrival at Manta Ray island, we were met with the familar but friendly welcome to the island, where greetings of 'bula!' were shared amongst everyone. Another guest arriving with me was Dan from Newcastle, which was funny as it's about as far away as you can get from my home! We went straight for lunch before making our way to one of the two beaches on the island. After masterfully negotiating my way onto the hammock I was saddened to hear the bell for dinner, followed in quick succession by a stampede of guests who emerged from thin air towards the bar. Dinner was okay, but the Fijian food was tiring me. It mainly consisted of pasta, bread and potatoes, so was quite heavy and stodgy. I had an early night as the evening was very quiet indeed.
Sunday 25th June
This morning I woke early before the call for breakfast and after the latest installment of pancakes, toast and fruit I made my way to the beach.
Relaxing by the camp fire after a stressful day on the island!
The island was considerably larger than Robsinon Crusoe, but only a fraction was inhabited; the remainder was mainly forest, which didn't particularly appeal. The beach didn't have the same friendly atmosphere or the views of Robinson Crusoe either. Nevertheless, I amused myself with Billy Connolly's autobiography, which further worsened by balancing act on the hammock when I was laughing out loud. After lunch I was feeling adventurous and made my way to the other beach, was was more secluded, but a lot nicer. I dozed off to sleep in the sun and awoke to the tide coming in and soakening my feet and towel. When I left I realised that the sea had also claimed my new suncream, which I was not best pleased about. In the evening, I managed to catch a superb photo of sunset before making my way to the bar, where I found that the atmosphere picked up after the influx of day-trippers.
A wonderful sunset from Robinson Crusoe Island.
We had a wonderful BBQ, which was brilliant and I met Liz (from China and New Zealand) again! We couldn't believe it. In the evening, a small party of us continued the drinking session, playing cards, listening to guitar music, taking part in drinking games (including the aptly named 'Paralyser') and having a great laugh before we made our way to the beach for a bonfire. The bonfire was remarkably successful and no-one was injured desptie the size of it and the number of intoxicated persons nearby. We all meandered back through the darkness to our dorms without causing too much disruption.
Monday 26th June
This morning I woke up remarkably early and, having realised that it was well before breakfast time, walked the beaches soon after sunrise.
Typically brilliant Fijian hospitality.
I was amazed to find my suncream washed on the shore further down the beach from where I had been sitting yesterday! It was as good as new, despite it's distinct smell of seaweed... Anyway, after this magnificent start to the day I made my way to breakfast before parking myself of sunset beach, away from last night's ghastly debris, for the foreseeable future. In the afternoon I bid farewell to Dan before embarking on a kayaking expedition to the nearby island of Drawaqa with Emma who also arrived on Saturday. After this trip, we made our way back to Manta ray island and chilled out in the afternoon. After being pursuaded, I took part in another activity in the afternoon and made a coconut bracelet, which was brilliant fun(!) It involved getting a coconut from the tree, sawing it into a thin strip, extracting the coconut lining and sanding the harsh outer coating.
And do the mashed potato...
It certainly beat lying down, doing nothing... In the evening, I had an early night to recover from the exhausting day.
Tuesday 27th June
Thius morning I had planned on going diving to see what the Fijian waters had to offer, but was told that this wasn't possible as the boat had sank during the night. Wonderful. Brilliant. Superb. Rather than this being due to the negligence of the laid-back Fijians, I soon found out it was due to the negligence of the two hapless Brits who ran the dive shop, Martin 'Peanut head' and James. This posed another question, which was possibly more worrying than my inability to dive: how are we going to get off this island? Rather than worry about this minor concern, I headed off for some snorkelling with Emma's friends Olivia, which was amazing.
The large, but very quiet Manta Ray Island.
I had never seen such an abundance of fish by just snorkelling. The waters were crystal clear and the visibility was incredible. After lunch, Olivia, Emma and I went kayaking, which was good fun. Emma managed to drop her sunglasses into the water, which proved to be very amusing and we hovered around the area hunting for their whereabouts. Needless to say, our efforts were fruitless and no doubt some shark is currently patrolling the Yasawa's wearing an exceptionally cool pair of shades. In the afternoon, I rounded my day of action off by snorkelling with Emma this time. The fish were even more plentiful and I couldn't believe the clarity of the water. My last evening of the island was celebrated with a Fijian dance.
My view from Manta Ray, which is remarkably similar to that of Robinson Crusoe!
At this stage of my stay on the island I had become fluent in the langauge and was fully capable of ordering a beer; 'Keri, keri, Fiji Bitter, vinaka'. The barmaid had the delightful name of 'Tequila', so whenever I was ordering something, I sounded like an alcoholic. The Fijian dance was good fun and as the performance ended, I went for my beer before turning round and seeing Tequila making a beeline for me, with an entourage behind her. Before I knew where I was, the conga music had started and I was apparently leading the conga train around the bar much to the amusement of my friends. It was a great laugh and resulted in a most of the island forming on the modest dance floor (which was supported by some wooden joists, suspended at the highest part of the island).
Myself, Emma and Olivia enjoying an apperitif before dinner.
After the evenings festivities, we played cards and laughed for the rest of the night.
Wednesday 28th June
During the night I had been bitten by something probably a bit more malicious than a mosquito and was a little perplexed to see four deep wounds on my left leg. This morning I couldn't be bothered with my planned 9am dive and instead opted to go snorkelling instead as it was equally impressive. We went out a bit further than usual and saw a leopard shark, which was brilliant. They are harmless, but thankfully it was asleep anyway. In the afternoon I relaxed on the hammock and fell asleep for most of the morning before our boat arrived to take me back to the mainland. I bid farewell to Emma and Olivia, who were going on to another island and I stayed on the Yasawa flyer, where I met Liz again! I arrived back at the Nadi Bay Hotel, where I saw a lot of familiar faces and had another great meal before chilling out and watching 'The Island', which I considered very apt!
Thursday 29th June
This morning I went into the town centre, and had been advised that in order to get a taxi there, it is best to start walking and barter with the drivers as they pull up beside you.
Happy days; enjoying a few drinks and a lot of laughs on Manta Ray Island.
True to their word, this happened almost immediately after I left the hotel and the driver explained that he worked for the hotel and that he was going to town anyway. I gratefully acceped the lift and was dropped off in town. Upon leaving, he asked me for $10FJD, when the most I had ever paid was $4FJD. I couldn't believe it and refused to pay the amount. I bartered him down and he suggested 6, but by now was getting worked up. After quickly deciding that he was indeed bigger than me I opted for a final negotiation by offering $4FJD. He claimed that I was causing trouble and threatened to take me to the police, so my patience evaporated and I gave him a lecture on how not to rip off tourists. I flung the $4FJD into the cab and strolled off, offering several hand gestures.
Some Norman Wisdom impressions to start off...
Jobsworth. After my venture into town I decided it would be more amicable to barter with the taxi's before walking back to the hotel and managed to get a driver that didn't want to rip me off. At the hotel, the weather had soured and a storm soon followed. I chilled out, watching DVD's (Runaway Jury, Ice Age 2 and MI:3) before drinks and dinner. I then made my way to the airport for my flight to LA. The plane departed at 23.45, but the time difference meant that I arrived in LAX at 15.00 on the same day! I was welcomed by Carl and Wayne in the arrivals lounge, where they had arrived shortly beforehand. Wayne was whinging about the excessive airport security, so I showed them my 'mosquito' bites, which had now evolved into huge clots of blood. It had proved exceptionally difficult to protect these wounds in recent days and the sight of what can only be described as four gunshot wounds kept Wayne quiet (for a minute anyway).
... followed by Fiji's Morecambe and WIse!
We went to pick up our car and found that there were no small cars that we had booked. Instead, the only car available was a colossas of an SUV, which was double the price, but we didn't pay an extra penny! We drove through LA to Hollywood and eventually find our hostel that we had booked. Hollywood was generally a slum, but the hostel was even worse; dark, dreary and generally unpleasant. Nevertheless, we had a rather nice Mexican meal, which gave us a brilliant insight into the American portions that awaited us! It was a good end to an exceptionally long day!