|After leaving Suva, we headed up the King's Road towards the village of RakiRaki. Despite being the second most important road in Fiji, over 60km of it is still unsealed which made for some interest driving through given the previous days continuous rain.
Our destination was the VoliVoli Beach resort a very comfortable hotel on the end of a picturesque peninsula. Despite paying just E 10 a night for a dorm room, we had access to all the hotels facilities and its 25m swimming pool. The first night we also ended up getting involved playing party games with the Fiji Experience tour group that was passing through which proved to be good fun. The following day started out raining so Martina headed off diving while I chilled out and read a book. Fortunately, the weather picked up in the afternoon so we were able to hang out at the pool, walk some of the local area and enjoy the beautiful sunsets.
The following day, we took a 15 minute boot trip across the bay to our next destination, Nananu-I-Ra, a small island without roads. People can only travel around the island by boat or on foot but as it was off-season the 4 hostel/hotels on the island only had 2 or 3 guest each. Again the accomodation, proved good value as we ended up with our own small house which meant that we were able to make our own meals since the available restaurants were closed. After enjoying the beaches on the first day, Martina went windsurfing on day 2 and after working as a cameraman for a while I then tried to walk around the island but had to turn back after running into large patches of mangroves.
Having seen lots of beaches, we decided to head inland for our next stop. And despite claims that everything goes slow in Fiji, our boats, taxis and buses all left promptly and on time. In the town of Ba, we took the bus to the village of Navala. Although jsut 25km away this last trip took the best part of 1.5 hours becuase the mountain roads were so steep 15% gradient. The trip was also made interesting by the fact that we could not confirm if the only accomodation was actually open. Fortunately, the local advise proved correct and we were able to spend an enjoyable night at Bulou's Eco Lodge on the river just outside of town.
Navala is the last remaining village in Fiji where the houses are still built in the traditional thatched roof style as the local village chief wants to maintain the tradition. Navala is located in a deep valley in the mountains so the scenery was really spectacular. We were taken around the village by Bulou's son Tui who proved to be an excellent and informative guide who introduced us to his friends and family as well as some of the local school techers. Being a friday were we also able to watch the school sports day and we ended up playing football with some of the kids, watching mixed rugby games and having children show us they could count to 100 for us. That evening, Tui also performed a Kava ceremony for us, something that was traditionally reserved for guests to their village. Kava is made from the roots of a local plant and reported to be mildly narcotic but I can't say I noticed. Bulou also cooked some excellent food for us and as suggested in the guidebook we were continually advised to "eat more" which we did as the food was really good. Breakfast the next day, was feasts of tasty homemade pancakes so we left with full stomach as well as full hearts as both Bulou and Tui really went out of their way to make us feel at home.
Next up was a trip to some of the outer islands. As I only had two nights left to Martina's three, we ended up compromising and heading to Mana island in the Manamuca group, despite not being eithers preference. After passing some beautiful islands on the boat trip out, we were disappointed to see that our island was less picturesque than the others. Our hostel Mana Lagoon also turned out to be a "party" hostel with very cramped dorms, and everybody getting wildly drunk and sleeping in the wrong beds because they were too drunk to find their own. Not exactly what either Martina or I were looking for. After getting up early the following day, we took the chance to walk completely around the island (just two hours) but unfortunately the weather worstened in the afternoon which meant we had to spend most of our time indoors chatting with some of the quieter guests in the hostel and enjoying a bottle of wine.
Our last evening proved particularly interesting as the "party" ended up shifting into the dorm room, eventually waking me and the other sleepers despite my use of ear plugs. The follow morning, we discovered that much of the fuss was caused by a massive storm that had hit during the night causing leaks in the bar area and in some peoples rooms. It had also destroyed all of the beach umbrellas and sunk most of the small open top boats in the harbour. Fortunately, the storm passing through meant that the weather had improved and I could spend a couple of hours in the sun before saying a final warm goodbye to Martina who had become a good friend during our time travelling together.
From there it was back to Nadi Airport and after some check in confusion caused by the computers crashing just when I was checking in, I finally boarded my flight back to Brisbane for the second part of my Australian adventure. Most news from Oz next week !