Today was a quiet day. We had a late breakfast and I worked on the computer doing email and writing until early afternoon. We then had lunch around the pool and a swim, had showers, dressed and went to the main street for our “souvenir” shopping at Jack’s. I bought my grandsons the instruments that the Nadi cannibals used to subdue their “victims”—a brain scrambler, a skull crusher, and wooden swords. Being boys, they will love the stories! I also bought gifts for girl friends and my other family members, so we had lots of fun. (My luggage was overweight to begin with, so now I am REALLY going to have to pay, but it’s worth it!
After that we stopped at the little market in town for water and bug spray. The bugs are especially bad when you are eating outside. One fun thing we learned was that there are 4 different levels of taxis – the junky ones, nicer ones, ones that have AC for which you have to pay extra, and private cars. This day we were blessed to have a nice one! He even suggested we leave all our souvenir purchases with him in the car and he would meet us outside the market. We were a bit skeptical at first, but everyone here seems VERY honest, so we decided to be trusting.
He then drove us to the only Japanese restaurant in town, similar to Beni Hana, and we shared the table with a lovely family from Australia. There are many Aussies here, of course, since it is relatively close. When we came out, there was our taxi driver waiting for us, and when we asked him how much it would be to take us back to our hotel, he said, “Whatever you think.” WOW! Have you EVER had a taxi driver tell you that???
We had a glass of wine, packed to leave in the AM, and watched another episode of “Downton Abbey.”
We had to get up at 6:00 am (which I hate!) to get ready to be picked up to go to the island. We met my brother, Bruce, Ashley, the groom, and several of their friends at the airport and then got dropped off at the boat dock. The little open boat that took us only held 14 people and all our luggage. (We had been told to bring anything we wanted to drink from Nadi as it was all very expensive at the resort, so there were cases of wine, gin, vodka, soda, and mixers – this is a PARTYING group of young people! It was an 1¼ hour ride, a bit like a bucking bronco, but the scenery was beautiful as we approached the island.
Typical of the Fijian hospitality, there was an island group to serenade us as we arrived. We have LOVED the people here! They all seem to have an innate sense of service. Everyone you meet, even people on the street or throughout the resort, look you directly in the eyes, greet you with “Bula,” the traditional “hello”, tell you their name, ask you yours, and shake your hand. A friend just sent me an article that they have been voted the second friendliest people in the world, and we would certainly agree with that.
The resort is exactly what you would picture on a South Sea island—darling thatched huts (bures) right on the water, everything open, palm trees, lovely bushes, and gorgeous flowers everywhere, and water that is the deepest, brightest shade of turquoise. We have one of the few bures with AC which is a real blessing as it is VERY hot and humid here, even moreso than Florida in the summer. But the good news is you just give up on looking good and doing anything with hair and makeup – VERY freeing!
The food is extraordinary as well. Breakfast is a buffet with gobs of fresh fruit –pineapple, mango, coconut, watermelon, papaya—and all kinds of eggs, omelets, cereals, etc. At lunch you can choose from specials of the day, a different curry (lots of Indian influence in Fiji), a special native Fijian dish each day, interesting salads and pizzas, or a fresh fish entrée. Dinner is served at 8:00 and is a sitdown lovely occasion with a set menu. They are extremely accommodating to people who are vegetarian or need gluten free as well. We love that they have filtered water, so we don’t have to be worried about where to buy bottled water as we did in Nadi. (I have learned in all travel to never drink the local water or eat salads or any kind of fruit that has not been peeled since that is the easiest way to get sick.)
After arriving, we met the rest of the group, had lunch (I had a pumpkin salad with garbanzo beans and fresh fruit – LOVE trying different local things), unpacked, and then Bruce took us on a snorkeling adventure. He is a college professor in Biology and Zoology and teaches survival at Mesa State University in Colorado, so he is a great instructor! He and Beth, my sister and the mother of the bride, gave me a traveling snorkel set for Christmas, so I was all prepared!
The bride and groom are both marine biologists as are most of their guest friends, so it is a really neat group to be with on an island. They all said it was the best snorkeling they had seen anywhere in the world! I have never seen so many different, beautiful varieties of coral in purples, greens, and tans, and all kinds of beautiful fish. Bruce shared the name of many of the corals and fish and even encouraged me to hold a sea cucumber he found so he could take a picture. When it started to “spit,” however, I freaked out and dropped it!
We spent the afternoon reading and talking, met the group for cocktails at 6:00 and a lovely dinner at 8:00. We all slept really well with no stress and no commitments.
Today was the day for adventure! We all met at 9:30 for a trip to the local village with a guide. We were told to cover our knees and shoulders and that we could not wear hats in the village as a gesture of respect for the chief. The half hour climb over the mountain was a challenge for some – many steps up to the top and then a mud path down to the village—but it was an amazing experience. We saw a wild pig on the way and many varieties of forest plants.
The first thing we encountered when we arrived in the village was a lady doing laundry with a tub and a stick and her darling little two year old daughter (with no clothes on) helping her. I was enthralled with the beautiful children in the village – they all shyly said “Bula” and showed us with fingers how old they were. (The native language is Fijian, but most people here also learn English.) They all wanted their picture taken, so I got some darling ones. They lead a very simple rural life with almost no conveniences, and we all came away feeling so very grateful (and almost guilty) for all that we have in America. The electricity, for example, comes on only from 6:00 to 9:00 pm every evening.
We saw them drying the palms they weave for hats and baskets, we visited the local kindergarten, and we saw a man digging for crabs on the beach. We were struck, however, by all the litter around – made you want to help clean it up but decided it would be disrespectful. They eat casaba which is similar to a potato every day, and we saw their rustic cooking sheds and also the area where they have the traditional Kava ceremony.
Kava is a root that they boil and then drink, and they say it “makes your tongue numb.” They also tout its properties for relaxation and stress relief, so they all enjoy drinking it to varying degrees of “saturation!” (We have, however, learned that there is the concept of “Fijian time” that makes one wonder where the stress comes from……;-) There was also a small Methodist church in the village. Interestingly, the Kava ceremony area was right next to the church!
This is such a lush land surrounded by the ocean and dotted by volcanoes, and we learned a great deal about how easily one could survive here just with resources from the land and sea. Each village is composed of just one family, and our guide told us that 320 people lived in Nalauwaki. At the end of our tour they asked if they could bring out their crafts. I bought three brightly colored small round rugs made of many different fabrics for which they are famous and several gifts for the grandchildren. It was lovely to be able to do something to support the village. They were wonderfully welcoming in opening their entire village to us.
After our hike back up the mountain and down again, we had lunch, snorkeled, swam in the pool, read a bit and met again for cocktails and then dinner. Afterwards there was a trivia and talent contest for the whole resort. Ashley, the groom, is famous for his digeridoo playing, so as he performed, our whole group danced “gangnam style” like a flash mob, adding a few at a time until we were all up in front. We actually even won that part of the contest! Then the young people had their own party until (rumor was) 4:00 am. Ah, to be young like that again!!!!!
Today was “play day” for us all. The guys took a hike to the top of another very high mountain where Katie, the bride, and her accomplices had buried treasure for the groom to find. All the girls met for a spa day and fun bachelorette games. I had a massage and reflexology, and we learned lots about Katie and even more about Ashley (some things I think he would rather NOT have had us know…..;-)
Then we all met for lunch, snorkeling, swimming and reading. Nancy and I had a pina colada around the pool and ate deep fried banana chips (like potato chips). The food is all inclusive here, so we are all eating way too much – will have to work hard to lose it all when I get home, but it is worth it!
We all met at 6:30 at Beth’s bure for cocktails and the wedding rehearsal. We nearly died laughing when Katie and Ashley appeared. Only a photo can explain their outfits! Oh, how I wish I had ever had a body like Katie’s – they looked like high class strippers…..and we were all delighted and envious of Youth. We encouraged them to wear the costumes to dinner to the delight of the whole resort. After dinner, everyone called it an early night and headed home for a great night’s sleep.
The continuation of the trip will be posted periodically or you can read the full account later at www.barbaraglanz.com.