Archive for January, 2009
This blog post has been brewing for a couple of weeks now! We just returned from two and a half weeks in Fiji, and there is much to say about our time on the main island of Viti Levu! Wow, what an amazing country.. Fiji is a short plane ride from Tonga (about an hour and a half), but truly seems a world away. Culturally, it is much more diverse. The nation is comprised of Polynesians, Melanesians, Indian-Fijians (both Hindu and Muslim) and a steady flow of Aussies, Kiwi’s, and travelers. We spent the first couple of days in and around Nadi, just orienting ourselves to the new environment. The airport alone made us gleeful! The backpacker hostels are all on the beach, a few miles outside of town. They were hopping with travelers, and we took the opportunity to lounge and party by the pool! Fiji is quite stunning geographically; Nadi is framed with amazing lush green mountains. Scot and I took at day trip into the hills to the “Garden of the Sleeping Giant,” which also hosts an orchid farm amongst the old growth trees and bamboo forests. We also toured the Hindu Temple in Nadi town. It was quite breathtaking. Be sure to check out the photos!
After Nadi, we traveled South to Korotogo. We traveled via public bus, which was of course hot and crowded. I ended up sitting next to a young Muslim Indian woman. We had a nice little chat along the way. She was 23 years old and married to a taxi driver in Suva. We really had a great time talking over a couple hours. She was very curious about my life, but I must admit, I felt positively naked in shorts and a t-shirt sitting next to her. Lets just say that she was dressed much more conservatively. Her marriage was arranged, and she asked me what it was like to be in a “love marriage.” She was also very curious as to our methods of family planning, so I answered all her questions, to which she blushed and turned bright red.
Once we arrived we stayed at a lovely little hotel, (Vakaviti) which we basically had to ourselves. More lounging by the pool ensued, and we visited the Kula Eco Park. This enviromnental project was quite impressive; the Park houses injured animals and breeds native animals (some of which are endangered.) We held iguanas (okay, Scot held iguanas,) fed endangered sea turtles, finally saw fruit bats up close, and oohed and awed at the native parrots and beautiful tropical birds. It was encouraging to see the environmental awareness and protection initiatives out of the Center.. Tonga really has a long way to go in those areas.
Next we traveled further along the Coral Coast. We decided to take a taxi instead of the public bus (it was Christmas Day.) Our taxi driver’s name was Babu. He picked us up with his grand-daughter. The scenary was gorgeous… Babu offered to stop along the way so that we could take advantage of the photo opportunities. Yet he insisted that he or his grand-daughter pose in every picture with us!
We spent two nights at a really fantastic little spot called “Mango Bay Resort.” We highly recommend it… It was a little gem! Housed between two mountains, the resort lies on a small, very private beach. It was stylish and comfortable, without being pretentious or overpriced.. We actually stayed in a safari tent! Although it was a large tent, the inside had hardwood floors and a plush bed. A private patio on the back had an outdoor shower with hot water. ABSOLUTELY HEAVENLY! We feasted on Christmas Day buffet, did some more pool/beach lounging, gawked at the Italians laying out topless, and kayaked around the bay. Freaking small world, the resort’s dive master was from Georgia and Tenn., and had just returned from visiting Folly Beach, SC!! Turns out we had some mutual friends, so that of course blew our minds…
We hated to leave Mango Bay, and probably should have stayed there a few extra nights. We were eager to explore, so we then headed on to the Pacific Harbor. We made reservations at a backpackers, which looked quite nice on their website. Talk about false advertising!! It was really a bizarre place.. the furnishings were from the 1960s, which made us sneeze uncontrollably. Even though we were in a private room, the room had bunkbeds, both of which were designed for small children. The pool turned into a public pool during the off-season, and was absolutely inundated with hundreds of screaming, yelling children. We spent a night there, and decided to upgrade for our remaining nights. We checked into a hotel on the river, which was about 2 km from the beach. It was another bizarre place, but much more comfortable!!! It looked like a Charleston plantation home (but was actually built in the 1980s), which felt a little surreal for Fiji. The pride and joy of the hotel was that the entire cast and crew of “Anaconda II” (yep, the low budget movie you probably never saw unless you were watching the Science Fiction channel at 2 am on a Sunday) had rented out the hotel for a month or two while filming on the river.
The whole reason we went to the Pacific Harbor was to spend a day white-water rafting on the Upper Navua River. Our Peace Corps friends Trenton and Laura joined us for the trip. It was my first time rafting, and I loved it!!! We drove way into the mountains (gorgeous!) and hiked into the rafting spot. Our river guides all came from the extremely remote mountain village and had grown up on the river. The rafting company was also active with environmental protection inititatives, to try and stop mahongany logging from the area by compensating the village through other means. The canyons, waterfalls, lush green trees, wild orchids… it was all just incredible!
After a few days in Pacific Harbor, we arrived to the capital city of Suva. If we were visiting Fiji from any other place then Tonga, I don’t think we would have spent nearly as much time in Suva. But we craved some city life, so we opted to spend four full days in Suva! We feasted on Indian food.. and I’m not going to lie.. We did go to Pizza Hut, KFC, and McDonalds. The funny thing is, we never ate that food in the States, but damn– we enjoyed it in Suva! Suva has a large movie theater, and we saw FOUR movies! I got my hair cut and colored, (color– good, cut– BAD) and we read the newspaper while drinking delicous coffees at all the coffee shops. We visited the Peace Corps office in Suva, and made friends with the Regional Safety and Security Coordinator. David has worked in 27 Peace Corps posts and met his wife Michelle in Somalia. They offered to take us to the rainforest North of Suva, and we spent the day hiking and swimming under waterfalls with them and their daughter Abby. It was incredibly kind of them to show us around and pack us a picnic lunch, and we loved getting to know them!
Vinaka means thank you in Fijian. We are so thankful for an incredible vacation and wish everyone a happy new year!!! I’m going to write another post about Fiji as well, describing some of the political/economic situations there. It is a gorgeous and fascinating place, but is really grappling with some major challenges.