August 18, 2009

But Wait, There's More! (lots more)

Oh dear, sounds like an infomercial, doesn't it. But I promise there won't be any coaxing for you to "call now, and receive this free whatsit for only the cost of shipping and handling."

When we went to Fiji, we did visit more than just Toberua Island. And I only posted a few of the lovely photos. Here is a link to the pictures in my Flickr account if you want to see more.

Getting to Toberua went like this; drive to LAX and wait, fly to Auckland and wait, fly to Nadi, get driven to Suva, change to a different car and driver, get driven to Nakalo Landing, board the launch, ride out on the river and into the sea and finally disembark at Toberua, get serenaded on arrival and offered cool fruity drinks to refresh us before dinner. Each leg of the journey got quieter and more remote. The drive between Nadi and Suva was over 4 hours, but I liked watching the countryside slide by. I learned that besides raising sugar cane, Fiji has a timber industry and a dairy industry.

To leave Toberua, we reversed the above, very early in the morning. Except we went past the airport and were dropped off at Vuda Marina. For some reason, the drive back was only 2.5 - 3 hours, maybe due to less traffic and our driver's enthusiastic application of force to the accelerator. At the marina we boarded the Amberly, a small boat that belongs to Octopus Resort on Waya Island, our next stop.

Luckily the seas were calm, though some of the other passengers were a little green-faced, but we felt fine during the 2.5 hour trip to Waya Island. As with many of the small island resorts, there isn't a dock or marina for disembarking; instead we transferred to a smaller boat to get closer to the beach and then gracefully or not, jumped to the sand/water to get ashore. I was glad the staff carries all the bags, I'm sure I would've dropped something in the water.

On approach, Octopus Resort looked just like I'd read; all lovely long beach and coconut palms swaying in the breeze and small buildings tucked just beyond the beach, and staff members singing and waving a welcome. There were happy guests lounging on chaises, families with young children splashing in the pool and sprawling across the very large Turkish daybeds. Fruity drinks were offered here too.

After a quick briefing we were shown to our bures; #4 for the boys and #18 for DH and me. I was a bit confused about the numbering system, as there were only 2 bures between 4 and 18, I never did figure that out. After we were shown our bures, my opinion of the resort started slipping. (lots of grumbling comes next, feel free to skip)

My thoughts went something like this; "Wow, the bures are much smaller than what we'd had at Toberua, but the cost was much less. And hey, the windows actually have screens, and glass louvers. Whoa! It smells really musty in here; why is all the furniture pushed away from the walls; look I can see light through places in the walls and ceiling but I guess its okay because there are mosquito nets over the bed and it really, really smells musty in here, how can something so ventilated smell so musty? Its not bad, I can handle this for 3 days. OK, so this is more like camping except my tent, even my backpacking tent, is nicer. Oh, look, here is the bathroom. Outdoor shower, just like it says on the web site, I love open air showers but oh yuck, the shower floor is badly finished concrete, it reminds me of a bad beach campground shower. Wow, the vanity cabinet could use some refinishing, I don't even want to put my toothbrush down here. Hmm, housekeeping forgot to stock with soap and shampoo. I'll just put my toiletries bag inside the cupboard, ohhh, it smells like mothballs in there. Where in the heck am I supposed to hang things like towels and wet swimsuits? Why does it smell so musty in the bure?"

And so it went. Our bures were rather run down, with dirt falling from the walls and ceilings, ripped screens in the windows, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes on the floor at night, rodents rustling outside the walls after dark. Thatch doesn't insulate against outside noise much either. At least it didn't rain while we were there. The resort was over crowded during the day, due to visiting day trippers. I tried to upgrade our accommodations, but every thing was full and the staff wasn't interested in even asking if they could do anything to improve our stay. Probably they couldn't have, but I would've felt better if they'd asked. During our first night I went from "We can manage, its only a few days" to "Lets go somewhere else." I kept wishing I'd brought my tent along to sleep in instead. I'm not a big complainer, and I can't think of another time where I'd felt like this.

After breakfast the boys and I went snorkeling, its a very pretty reef, and then we had a family discussion about staying or leaving. We all voted to leave, and so I went to the office to let them know. The staff didn't ask why, but they did help us make arrangements to stay elsewhere. They hustled us out of our bures, and had rented them to others before lunch was over. No, we didn't get any refund. We left on the Awesome Adventure Yasawa Flyer, as the Amberly didn't have room for us since we were leaving before our scheduled departure day. It was a longer trip back, because the Flyer is like a local ferry, and it stopped at many small resorts on the way back to Port Denarau. I enjoyed seeing so many different places, and I think some of them are worth further investigation.

We ended up staying at the Sheraton on Denarau Island. Its not what I'd consider a proper island, as you get there by crossing a small bridge from Viti Levu. And I wouldn't consider the Sheraton a proper Fiji resort, its more of an "I don't like surprises when I travel" resort and wouldn't seem much different if it were in Hawaii, or even here in San Diego. The food was fair, but over priced, the Fijian staff friendly, but not as friendly as Toberua, the beaches gross and everything sort of vanilla-ish. We only stayed there because it was close to the airport. It had things like in room telephones, flat panel TVs and internet access, a kitchen and a washer dryer unit. It was like being at home. I did laundry and knit, the boys watched TV and waited for their turn on the laptop. sigh

We did do one cool thing, we went for a half day inland/upland guided hike, with lunch at a village. Getting into the forest was great. Click here for more pictures. We learned about local food plants, local history including how cannibalism began and ended, saw some water vines (wow), swam in a waterfall pool (chilly!) and lunched in the village. Eighteen year old Aaron was our guide, and I tried to imagine my son of the same age leading a group of strangers on a tour. Aaron walked barefoot the entire way and had toes that looked like they could open a bottle of soda. I really wanted to take a picture of his feet, but thought it would be poor mannered to ask. The ladies of the village, including Aaron's grandmother, prepared lunch for us; we had some
Fiji sausage, fried fish, cassava boiled or fried and several versions of a vegetable dish made with mashed and cooked young taro leaves mixed with coconut cream and tinned fish. I really liked that, much more than I expected to. At the end of our visit the village chief (Aaron's father) drove us back to our hotel, and along the way he spoke of his many business ventures (including the tour company our guided tour was booked through), the size of his 2 villages and Fijian politics. I thought the entire experience was very interesting.

I will return to Fiji, to visit Toberua again and to explore new places and dive different reefs. At 330+ islands, I imagine never being able to see it all. But why not try. In fact, on the way home I had a revelation; New Zealand is a lovely country, and a great place for the knitting and wearing of woolen garments and, it's only a 3 hour flight from Fiji. Maybe a relocation is in order?

And to put some knitting into this post, I finished the Summer Waistcoat while on Toberua, and worked on the socks and lace project at other times.

Since we've been home, I've been working on a new camera sock to replace the one forgotten at Octopus Resort, and carding, blending and spinning dog hair, spinning some other wool odds and ends and rewashing some fleece that I didn't get so clean the first time.

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