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Fiji

Good Bye Fiji

November 12 Monday (Day 17)

After our shark dive we changed hotels and we moved to the backpackers’ hotel in the Art’s Village at Pacific Harbor.

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(They really take the word Arts Village serious - all rooms are painted in psychedelic colors)

Other than some small shops, which were pretty empty, a few restaurants and an outdoor theatre there’s not much to do and it rained pretty steadily. You really get the feeling that Pacific Harbor hasn’t “taken off” yet and there are just too many other beautiful beaches, resorts and islands around. In most places of the world the nice golf course, proximity to a pristine and empty beach and fun activities offered around Pacific Harbor would draw huge crowds but you got to offer something more here in Fiji especially during low season. So we decided to take a bus to Nadi the next day and stay one night in town before we head off to Sydney on the following day. As soon as we crossed the mountains between the south coast and east coast the weather changed and it was hot and sunny again – Viti Levu has indedd two distinctly different climates, very hot and dry in the East and North and wet and cooler in the South and West; given that the island is not very big and you can surround it by bus in a couple of days it’s pretty amazing.

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(A Fijian girl on a local bus being fascinated by the only white face on the bus sitting right behind her)

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(As the T-shirt says: obviously a member of the local Mini Girl Gang)

On our last night in Nadi we had the opportunity to watch the Indian community in Nadi celebrating Diwali in the middle of town with a fair, singing contests (worst karaoke ever☺) and fireworks. This would go on for another few days and it’s always a very colorful affair. But finally we had to say good-bye to Fiji and although it is far away from home (pretty much wherever you live except Australia) we might come back some day – it’s definitely worth it.

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(Escorted out of the country by these two gentlemen)

Posted by Elmar123 19:33 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Pacific Harbour: Diving with Bull Sharks

November 9-11 Friday-Sunday (Day 14-16)

After listening to some of the recommendations of the many divers we met on Kadavu, including David Fleetham and some of the dive masters, we decided to spend a couple of days at Beqa Bay to do some shark diving. The place that is closest to the Beqa shark dive tour operators is called Pacific Harbour and it is indeed a slightly strange destination. It seems to be modeled after US golf course communities with its manicured lawns, real estate development going bezerk and a few buildings consisting of shops and restaurants called Arts Village.

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For a couple of nights we stayed in a little resort called “Uprising” but in order to get our budget back on track after Kadavu we stayed in a dorm for a couple of nights. It was actually not so bad since we stayed in what was called a mini-dorm, which is basically a small bure/villa that has been transformed into a dorm by putting 4 bunk beds inside instead of a king size bed. So it was quite cozy, really a nice dorm compared to some of the hellholes you occasionally see when looking at the real budget dorms. For one night we actually had the company of 4 fellow travellers, three girls from England, Poland and Canada and a chap from the US who was a bit weird I have to say. I even had to bunk with him, or more correctly, in the bed above him. The girls were actually doing the “Feejee Experience”, which is a bus tour through the country with various “fun” activities – “fun” for the twentysomethings anyway. According to our Lonely Planet guide this generation prefers to do these guided fun tours through the country vs. travelling individually on public transportation, which is quite a bit cheaper. The Gen Y seems to avoid public buses, which we actually found quite comfortable and exciting since you get in close contact with the locals. Anyway, all of them turned out to be nice enough folks and they all left early in the morning and we had the dorm to ourselves for the next night. Besides the very basic accommodation – although we had an outside ‘rainforest shower’, which lost its appeal once it started to rain heavily – the resort was quite nice, located directly at a clean and empty beach. We were also able to book our shark dives for the next morning right there and this included a pick up from the resort.

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(Beach at 'Uprising' resort - not too shabby for a backpacker's joint)

The weather next morning was unfortunately not great, it rained steadily and with the wind it was actually getting a bit chilly – if you can call temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius chilly. Anyway, after breakfast someone from Aqua Trek, one of the few companies which organizes shark feeding dives here, picked us up from the resort and drove us to the dive center right at the little lagoon on Pacific Harbor with access to Beqa bay. We got dressed in long 7mm dive suits and hopped on the boat. The only other guests were a couple from Sweden who are living in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. With us on the boat were Brendan, one of the owners of Aqua Trek who is South African and two local dive masters. It was fairly windy and we had some high waves driving out of the lagoon. But after only about 10 minutes we anchored at the dive site and there was just one other boat with divers.
The underwater current was quite strong that morning and we almost didn’t dive due to it but our crew finally decided that it was safe enough. We all had to go down the anchor rope though in order not to drift too far from the dive spot. From there we had to switch to a steel chain at the bottom of the ocean at about 18 meters (60 feet) to reach a small coral reef ledge that we could hold on to while laying on the ground. On the way down our dive partners from Sweden had a bit of a scare since one of their regulators got tangled up in the ropes and he was rapidly losing air. So the dive masters had to take him up on the boat again and change his bottle before descending again. Not something you want to do every time you are diving but definitely good early morning excitement for adrenaline junkies.

What happened then was just incredible and you really have to see it to believe it. The dive crew hauled down a whole big garbage bin full of fish heads and chump. Once they were situated just in front of us, not more than 2-3 meters away, they opened the bin and pulled out the fish heads and other remains of fish that they get from a fish processing plant. And then the big frenzy started – thousands of fish, from smaller trevallies to Spanish mackerels to huge groupers – were swirling around us and the dive master to catch a bit of the chump. Once the whole commotion was in full swing, the bigger fish including sharks arrived to get their piece of the action. And when they say shark feeding, they mean it. We could identify at least six to seven different types of sharks, from white and black tip reef sharks to nurse sharks, lemon sharks, and grey ocean wailers. And finally a couple of large size female bull sharks arrived and it’s easy to identify them – they are the largest of the lot, ranging between 3-5 meters (10-16 feet) in length, big round chest and when they arrive the other fish keep a safe distance. That day we didn’t see tiger sharks, which come to this spot regularly as well. The whole experience was very exciting and at no point there was the feeling that anybody was in danger other then being whisked away by the strong current. The sharks are exclusively focused on the fish and disappear as soon as it’s gone. Some hang around a bit to see whether someone brings some more free fast food but most of the fish seem to be fairly well “conditioned” to know when the big old garbage can is really empty. We did a couple of these dives, the second being a bit less eventful in terms of mishaps and with less current but otherwise this was definitely one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It’s safe to say that it is almost impossible to find any other spot in the world where you can dive with that many sharks, including ones with a reputation as bad as bulls and tigers, just minutes off the coast.

Now, let me just say a few words about the whole “shark feeding business”. Some of you might have a strong opinion about this, often not a very positive one, and you are not alone. Many folks argue that sharks should be left alone; nature should run its course and I would actually fully agree with this statement. However, reality is that our oceans have been hugely overfished and especially sharks have been at the receiving end of fishing practices that have vastly decimated the world’s shark population, including many Chinese vessels that hunt sharks for their fins in Fijian waters. So, not only are sharks being hunted directly but their typical prey is being overfished as well so that many sharks go hungry for long periods of time.
We had a long discussion with Brendan, the owner of Aqua Trek, about the story behind it and changed out minds about the risks and benefits of controlled shark feeding over the course of our conversation although we were skeptical in the beginning as well. Brendan convincingly told us the story of how he started developing shark feeding sites in Fiji over the years and how it benefits the reefs itself and the local communities. Brendan is also a member of the local council dealing with marine preservation and has been fighting for fishing controls and preservation of endangered species for many years. The reef that we were diving used to be a “dead” reef without the variety of fish that keep a reef alive. After introducing shark feeding to several of these reefs, the fish came back to the reefs and populated them; finally developing a healthy eco system again with a variety of small and large fish. And we were definitely able to witness the health of the reef as a marine ecosystem – in fact, I have never see the amount of different types of fish in one spot before. Also, the local communities benefit from diving at the shark feeding sites since a part of the proceeds from the fees go straight to the local village that owns this part of the beach and reef. Finally, the sharks who frequent this site regularly don’t seem to change their natural behavior and still hunt in the ocean or shallow waters when the supply of fish is abundant. But during times when sharks go hungry for too long due to overfishing they seem to come to shark feeding sites for a “snack in between”. It also doesn’t seem to make them more aggressive and the shark feeding tour operators have never had any shark accidents in the many years they have been practicing in Fiji. But in the end, you should make up your mind about this issue yourself but we definitely found it educational to talk with experts and other fellow divers about the controversial topic of shark feeding.

Posted by Elmar123 19:27 Archived in Fiji Tagged diving Comments (0)

Lovo & Kava – two Fijian traditions

30 °C

When it comes to authentic Fijian food there’s probably nothing better than a traditional Lovo meal. The ingredients vary and it’s more the particular way of preparing the meal that gives it its name. The fish or meat and vegetables like cassava are wrapped in palm leafs and then placed for about an hour under hot stones that were being heated up by a fire over several hours. We experienced one of these traditional meals while being at Matava on Kadavu and it was a several hours’ affair. Everybody who wasn’t up in the trees by three had to help with the preparation and was being recruited by Maggie, the quasi “operations manager” and maître ‘d; the perfect job for him (btw – Maggie is a male but he could have a real shot at being a dancer in one of Bangkok’s ladyboy shows:-).

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(Anna and Massi decorating the main bure for the Lovo meal)

Some would peel cassavas, some would decorate the main bure with coconut leaves wrapped around the poles and prettied up with flowers and some would cut and grate the coconuts; and without bragging I have to say that I have a natural talent for it and actually applied for a job as chief coconut-grater at Matava. We are currently negotiating my salary.

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('Maggie' showing us how to grate coconuts the traditional way)

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(Sala, one of the cooks)

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(Maggie with the catch of the day - doesn't get much fresher)

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(Elmar grating the coconut - Gangnam style)

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(Our friend Lee cleaning Kava roots)

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(Preparing fish and chicken for the Lovo 'oven')

Another, most important activity that was going on during this time was the preparation of the Kava bowl. Kava is the national drink of Fiji and it is made out of roots of a tree that looks like the trees that grow in mangroves. The roots are dried, crushed in a pipe with a stick before the powder is mixed with water. The resulting concoction looks like mud water and tastes only slightly better – in fact some have compared it to the taste of old hiking socks being soaked in dishwashing water. I wouldn’t go that far and have to say that I quite enjoyed drinking it. However, in order to feel the full effect of Kava you seem to have to drink copious amounts of it over several hours. But for beginners like us, the immediate effect is that your mouth, including lips and tongue go numb as if you were drinking Novocain. Anyway, everywhere in the villages in Fiji and especially on Kadavu, which specializes in the growing and exporting of Kava, you are offered Kava. But keep in mind, if you should accept one of these invitations it’s going to be an hour-long affair. This is not a quick shot that you gulp down; it’s a drink that’s much more a social event than a quick fix. Actually, alcohol is prohibited in all villages on Kadavu and many villages across Fiji; it seems to have caused social issues like domestic violence and Kava is much more soothing and relaxing – it definitely doesn’t make you aggressive but rather very sedate to the point that some villages face the problem of low birth rates due to too many “sedated” males who are either unwilling or unable to perform their duties as husbands sufficiently.

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(Billboard at the airport - it is indeed the national drink)

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(George and Maggie with the Kava bowl)

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(Anna posing with Te, our dive master after having a few cups of Kava)

Anyway, the Lovo meal at Matava was a wonderful social and culinary event and although I would rate the food itself good but not great the event was very memorable and a wonderful farewell dinner before we left Matava.

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(The Lovo meal - ready to dig in)

The morning after our Lovo meal we actually had to leave Matava and it was very emotional. Every staff present, all remaining guests, and Richard, the owner, were standing at the little boat jetty when we left on the small diving boat to the Kadavu airport and everybody was waiving until we couldn’t see them anymore – it felt like we left our temporary family that we lived with for the past 7 days.

Posted by Elmar123 18:46 Archived in Fiji Tagged parties Comments (0)

Kadavu and diving the Great Astrolabe Reef

Diving with Manta Rays and waiting for Naiqoro Passage

26 °C

November 1-8
Thursday-Thursday (Day 6-13)

Besides meeting interesting people and enjoying good food our third passion that we wanted to indulge in during this trip is scuba diving. We are by no means experienced divers and we haven’t dived in more than three years, but we always enjoy it tremendously whenever we do it. We are planning to dive in most countries that we are travelling to this time and Fiji is certainly one of them and you can’t be in Fiji without at least snorkeling – the water is pristine and the corals reefs and fish variety is quite stunning.

For passionate divers, just the name Great Astrolabe Reef elicits visions of endless coral walls, coral chimneys or racing through the Naiqoro passage in heavy currents. The Great Astrolabe Reef is the fourth largest barrier reef in the world and more then 100 kilometers long. Our destination island of Kadavu is on the Eastern edge of the reef. You can either take a ferry or a small plane to Kadavu and in order to save some time we decided to take a small 12-seater turbo prop plane where we were the only passengers together with a Polish couple. It was a beautiful, short 45-minute flight over to Kadavu with stunning views over the Viti Levu mountain range, beaches and corals reefs along the way. The landing was relatively smooth despite some cross winds but we have heard stories of scary landings during storms where the pilots had to use all their skills and maverick personalities. So if you are afraid of flying, taking the plane to Kadavu in less than perfect weather might not be the best choice for you – you might be better off taking the ferry which seems to present you with a very different set of challenges if the sea is not calm. But if you crave a vertical nosedive down the mountain range and screaming passengers just before the two pilots pull the nose up for a very bumpy landing put this flight high on your bucket list.

The airport building would not quality for a toll booth in many countries but these are the charms of remote locations – no TSA or grim looking immigration officers; you pick up your bags directly from the plane and look for anybody with a pick up truck who takes you to the boat for the transfer to the resort. Due to a communication problem the resort didn’t even know when we were arriving but that’s no problem on an island that welcomes zero to 5 guests per day during low season. The guys from our resort packed us and our luggage into the truck and without using many words took us to the small dive boat on the other side of the island.

The boat ride to the resort is just beautiful, racing along the lush green wall of the island on one side and the reef break with high waves on the other. You can’t but keep staring into the incredibly clear and pristine waters, corals just feet beneath the boat.

DSC00295.jpgDSC00304.jpg When you approach the resort you feel like you are in a different world, set back in time to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. We were greeted by the other guests who were having lunch on the terrace of the main bure (term for house in Fijian) and we also met Lee again, the guy we met on the plane and who told us about this resort. The name of the resort is Matava and I’d urge you to check it out if you plan a visit to Fiji anytime soon. Their website is http://matava.com. The owners are three partners, two chaps from the UK and a woman from California. They started it ten years ago and have build up quite a good reputation as an eco friendly resort. There’s no electricity on the island, everything is solar powered, they have their own organic garden and even a few beehives to produce their own honey. DSC00397.jpgDSC00335.jpg
Besides Lee and his girlfriend Jess there were a few other guests, a family of eight from the US who are all divers and who turned out to be some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. Also, there was a fellow called David Fleetham (www.davidfleetham.com) who is a professional underwater photographer and who was shooting photos for Diver’s Magazine in Canada. He’s been making underwater photos and videos for over 20 years and he told some incredible stories about all the countries and dive sites he’s visited over the years. He also showed us some of the incredible photos he shot. Anna and I actually went out with him on a dive on the first day after we arrived here. It was just fun to watching him under water getting within inches from the fish and corals with his 50 pound camera equipment without breaking a sweat.

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Our first two dives on our second day on Kadavu were on Manta Reef and the name says it all; it’s a reef that regularly attracts pods of manta rays for feeding and as a cleaning station. But before we went on the dive boat to drive to our dive site which is about 45 away, I had to make an important phone call. Now, most of us rarely get to places where there’s no land phone or cell phone connection. Actually, you can use your cell phone here but you’d have to climb up the mountain and find this one spot on the island that gets a weak cell phone signal. If you are lucky you might be able to make a phone call that gets interrupted regularly. Luckily Matava has a satellite phone and the procedure to make a phone call looks like this: you tell one of the hotel staff, in my case Taa, to call the operator and get a free line for a phone call. So Taa and I walk to the edge of the little terrace right on the water and sit on one of the recliners because that’s the spot with the best satellite phone connection. Once Taa had phoned the operator, she called back and I could make the phone call which was to my mum because it was her birthday. I talked really, really fast in order to contain costs but mum was super happy to hear from us and talk for a couple of minutes while being on the other side of the world. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear what she was telling her birthday guests; must have been something like, “well, my son just wished me happy birthday from a remote island in Fiji and says hi to everybody”. Anyway, I believe with that call I have put some money into the emotional bank account with my mother. And it didn’t even cost me that much I have to admit; the rates even for satellite calls in Fiji are really low due to the increasing competition of phone companies in Fiji, from Telstra, to Vadafone to Digicel; all competing for the same relatively small market.

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Well, after the call to my mum we left for our dive site and our dives were just terrific. Once we suited up and got into the water, just the three of us, Anna, myself and David Fleetham plus our dive master Vice, descending for the first time after 3 years felt a bit strange but we all made it down to about 20 meters (65 feet) relatively quickly. Colorful corals and hardly any current made it very easy for us and we just hung out for a while waiting for manta rays to show up. Sure enough, after about 7 minutes the first manta showed up and came so close it almost touches us, just gracefully ‘flying’ above our heads. This happened another three times and we ascended all exited and took a small tea break on the boat. This is the first time for Anna to ever see a manta and she just loved it. Our second dive was equally nice and just before we ascended back to the surface this really dark black manta cam over the coral ridge, lingering for a few minutes and seemingly just enjoying our company. It was the biggest manta I’ve ever seen and it must have been 5 meters (15 feet) from wingtip to wingtip according to our dive instructor. So, our first day of diving on the Great Astrolabe Reef couldn’t have been more exciting and “successful”.

The video below was taken by a lovely couple from Southern California who are both dive masters. They graciously let me steal one of their videos of the mantas that they shot during one of the dives - thanks so much again, Diana and David! It's a great display of a pod of Mantas being unusually playful. So, if you are a sucker for encounters with big fish and mantas in particular this is definitely the place to go since Manta Reef at Kadavu is giving you a very, very high chance of seeing not just one but whole pods of mantas every time you dive here.

The next several days were a mix of relaxing, kayaking, reading and having long discussions with our newfound friends Lee and his girlfriend Jess and some new visitors to the island. We went diving a couple more times and stayed within the reef since the weather was changing and strong winds and high waves prevented us from attempting to cross the surf break and dive on the outer reef with unpredictable weather and strong currents. Unfortunately this made it also impossible to dive the Naiqoro passage but that'll give us a reason to come back to Matava and Fiji.

Posted by Elmar123 22:44 Archived in Fiji Tagged diving Comments (1)

The adventure begins – Pittsburgh meets Fiji

sunny 29 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

Well folks, after almost a week of silence since we left Pittsburgh for our Round the World Trip here’s a first report on what Anna and I have been up to. Unfortunately we haven’t had reliable internet connection for the last few days except for the occasional visit to internet cafes but we’ll catch you up.

Our first major stop on our trip has been Fiji and boy, what a destination it is. But first of course, you need to get here and if you are living in Pittsburgh like us the travel time to Fiji including one or two layovers puts you at the wrong side of 36 hours. We did have a long 11-hour layover in LA and we thought we’d just drop our big rucksacks off at the airport and make our way downtown. But the times of making life for backpackers easy seem to have long gone. Dropping your backpack or suitcase off at the airport means a transfer to an off site location and paying roughly US$ 40. So we decided to rough it and take the “Big Blue” bus for US$ 1 each to Santa Monica to kill some time before our flight. Certainly a more pleasant wait than at the airport and Santa Monica can easily be described as pretty. Southern California at its finest and after an Italian lunch, a nap under a tree in the park and an ice cream we made our way back, of course on the Big Blue, to LAX.

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Using all her charm, and a small bribe, Anna was able to convince the Pacific Air agent at check in to give us exit row seat for the 11-hour flight to Nadi (pronounced Nandi) on the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji. This made sleeping for more than 60 minutes actually possible and we arrived at the crack of dawn in Fiji almost rested. But before landing we got into chatting with our row neighbor, Lee from Denver, and he told us about an eco resort that he was travelling to. He is an avid diver and had been at this place before several years ago and was speaking in glowing terms about it. This brief encounter and chat with Lee made a huge difference for our visit here in Fiji and I’ll write more about this later. One of the flight attendants on the plane also told us about some of the best places to eat in Nadi, so it seemed we were all set – having a hotel, food choices and some ideas about where to go in Fiji since Nadi is mainly a transit location to get somewhere else in Fiji, either to one of the many luxury resorts or the more modest choices on one of the many smaller islands. One thing to remember is that you actually lose 2 days travelling to Fiji from the US, one day due to the travel time and one day because you cross the dateline, so we actually arrived in Fiji on the 29th.

We had booked a couple of nights in a small backpacker’s hotel in Nadi online before our trip. We wanted to get a feel for the place and decide where we wanted to go after checking out local options and tapping into the knowledge of Fijians and fellow backpackers – a strategy that’s always worked very well for us on all our travels.
Someone from our hotel (Tropic of Capricorn) was supposed to pick us up but we had to wait for a while; several local travel agents and taxi drivers assured us that this is just “Fiji time”. Finally an older chap picked us up who turned out to be a Kiwi and who is married to a Fijian woman, Mama of Capricorn. The hotel itself is a fairly simple place but it is right at the beach lined by palm trees and only about three or four other small hotels next to it. Other than that it’s pretty much an empty beach 2 miles long either way, so great for chilling and taking long walks. We were greeted by Mama with a kiss and a big bear hug and we felt right at home. DSC00044_copy.jpgDSC00075_copy.jpgWe met a few other travellers, an older couple from East London who both quit their jobs to go on a 9-month trip around the world and a couple of lads from New Zealand. They all turned out to be fun loving and full of stories and we exchanged ideas about where to go next, where to stay, how to manage costs etc. Again, talking to as many fellow travellers as possible always proves to be the best travel guide.

‘Fiji’ time was taking a toll on us a bit while we were waiting to finally move into our room to freshen up and rest a little. Although Mama and her staff, Jerry the manager and a few other helpers, were all around, they were having a very long breakfast until pretty much mid-day until anyone even remotely considered getting the room ready for us. It was after 1PM when we finally moved into our room, which was big but also very basic. But, you can’t complain if you have a balcony looking out onto an empty beach for roughly 55 US$ a night.
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The people of Fiji:

Our first impression of Fijians has been very, very positive. Notoriously chilled, friendly, curious and ‘comfortable in their skin’. They are a mix between native Fijians (or natives from other South Pacific islands), Indians and quite a few foreigners who have made Fiji their home. The Indian influence is obviously very strong which is apparent in the many stores that sell Saris and Indian restaurants or the many Curry Houses. There is a local Fijian cuisine, high on starchy carbohydrates (you see many well-fed, strong and tall people around), like cassava and obviously lots of fish; very simple dishes but very tasty and combined with the Indian choices we are having no problem enjoying every single one of our meals. Our first dinner on Fiji was therefore spent at Sitar, which is a popular joint close to Nadi which serves Southern Indian fare. After a couple of good curries and some glasses of the local brew (Fiji Gold), we felt we had finally arrived in Fiji.
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Viti Levu:

October 29-31
Monday-Wednesday (Day 4-5)

Viti Levu is the main island of Fiji with Suva as the capital. Our first couple of days after arriving in Fiji we tried to check out the place and spent a day in Nadi and a day travelling to Suva. Now, we have been to a number of tropical countries and islands but from all we have seen so far, even the main island of Viti Levu is absolutely stunning in terms of landscape and vegetation. Its lush green and dense jungle, pine trees in the mountains and empty coves and beaches make it a wonderfully relaxed and inviting place. Luckily all beaches in Fiji are public and while people, even foreigners, can buy land fairly easily, you have to allow access to any beach even if it is your property. One of the more surprising things for us is the fact that the islands, even close to the bigger city of Suva, is impeccably clean and you hardly see any garbage laying around which is a common sight in many other tropical locations we travelled. The government seems to be doing a good job in encouraging recycling and nature preservation. This is probably even more surprising since the current government is a military regime that came to power after a coup in 2006. But they obviously have realized the economic necessity of preserving the country for future generations and tourism, which still makes up about 1/3 of the total GDP of Fiji.

After a day in Nandi we were planning to take the bus to Suva or Sigatoka, which is about halfway to Suva from Nadi. While we were waiting for the bus in front of our hotel this couple in a pick up truck stopped and offered us a ride into Nadi where we could catch the bus. Of course, we gladly accepted the ride and while we were chatting about our plans for the day we found out that they were on their way to Suva so we could just hitch a ride all the way to our destination with them. It’s still a 3.5 hour ride even in a car but probably more comfortable in a car than cramped up in a bus. We really hit it off well with Ian and Brea. Ian is a Kiwi who has been living in Fiji for more than 15 years and even has a Fijian passport. He used to organize charter tours on yachts and sailboats in Fijian waters and just opened a couple of surf shops. Brea is his Fijian girlfriend of Indian decent and she is still going to college in Nadi and Suva. DSC00128.jpgWe chatted about this and that and Ian told us about this piece of land (70 acres) that he owns on Kadavu island next to the eco resort that we actually had just booked the day before on the internet. In fact, this is the resort that Lee from Denver told us about on our plane trip from LAX. What a coincidence and Ian confirmed our choice since he talked about Matava, the name of the resort, very, very positively. He is also good friends with one of the owners of the resort, Richard.

Other than a short stop at a snack bar in Sigatoka (in the picture you see the two lovely shopkeepers)

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we pretty much drove all the way to Suva without stopping and Ian and Brea dropped us off close to the bus stop and a big outdoor market

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We said our good byes, than them for their generosity and spend the next couple of hours exploring the market, buying a few supplies for the next days of travel and ended up in a curry house for a delicious meal of Indian thali. Food is generally not cheap, even in local restaurants, but you get good quality and it’s always fresh. A main dish in a curry shop typically sets you back between 8 and 20 F$, so roughly 5-12. You might be able to get it a little cheaper in a real hole in the wall but don’t expect prices like in many places in Asia or India.
Since the last bus to Nadi leaves around 5:30PM it was already time to head back to the bus stop and buy our tickets which are sold on a first come first serve basis. If the bus is really crowded they might not let you on the bus which we definitely weren’t keen on risking. The long distance buses are fairly comfortable, interestingly often Chinese copies of European bus brands, and the trip back to Nadi took about 4 hours including a coffee/snack break in Sigatoka. It is a great and relatively inexpensive way of seeing the country and just looking out the windows and taking in the lush green, small villages, or pristine beaches during sunset soothes your soul. [photo option] So, if you like to mingle with the locals and don’t mind being cramped a bit for a while, especially if you are above 6 foot, consider buses for most of your transportation needs in Fiji.

Posted by Elmar123 18:38 Archived in Fiji Comments (3)

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