Bula Fiji!

Fiji. Just the word conjures up images of heaven. It’s a place that always seemed so exotic, a mystery on the other side of the planet. Somewhere I thought I’d never go, except maybe on a honeymoon. But I’m here, and for three weeks. Plenty of time to explore and get to know the real country behind the perfect postcard.

The heat and humidity on arrival is a total shock after NZ’s end of summer weather. We are taken to Skylodge and explore the surrounding town. It reminds me in a lot of ways of the Caribbean, and also of Africa. Skylodge is nicely appointed but the $10 meal is ridiculously small. Alas, the first realization that budget tracvel might not be possible in Fiji.

We spend hours with the poor girl at the travel desk, trying to sort out our next move. The basics of what we want are simple: double accom, beach, cheap. The idea was maybe up the Yasawas – typical backpacker itinerary. But instead we settle on Mana Island and Malolo Island in the Mamanucas. They seem to fulfill most of our criteria.

Don’t Forget Mana Lagoon

We are warned about basic. The Mana Flyer unloads us on the beach and after a warm welcome singalong, we are shown to our room. Much bigger than I anticipate and not at all as bad. Definitely liveable after where I’ve slept in Africa. Lunch is served: an interesting mixture of daal, tuna sandwiches and baked bean pizza (exactly what it sounds like). Then we invade the Japanese super resort next door and sit on their loungers on the beach. Hey, when you’re a backpacker you have to compromise a little. Dinner is something or other curry served in the dark so I’m not quite sure.

The next day we take a walk over to Sunset Beach. Now this is a bit more like it… white sand beach and absolutely crystal clear waters. We are boiling after the half hour walk in the hot sun and there’s no respite like a dip in the ocean. We bake and get back in time for lunch. You guessed it, baked bean pizza.

After dark, we are treated to a grassroots South Pacific dance display, complete with some pretty impressive fire twirling.

One unwelcome Fijian reality are the mosquitos. I am thankfully spared most of the time. Others aren’t so lucky.

Unfortunately, I have to report that I met some people who did not enjoy Mana Lagoon so much. It turns out they don’t have a licence to run… and that they stole $400 out of the safe they use for guests. It is a police matter, rather than speculation. Just shows how careful you have to be.

I’ll give you Fish and Chips if you Shake your Hips
(typical Fijian song refrain)

The next morning, the Mana Flyer takes us to The Resort Walu Beach on Malolo. Walu Beach is a steal – beachfront bure with our own livingroom, bathroom and fridge. The view is stunning. We are right next to the ocean and only palm trees block the line of sight. That and our personal hammocks, of course. All this for the price of a regular double in the backpacker accom.

Food is included too and its a darn sight better than at Mana.

I think it’s best for me to write about our 5 nights in Walu as a whole. They are spent totally on Fiji time (shockingly similar to Africa time). Table tennis and swimming in the morning. Reading, lounging by the pool, kayaking to shipwrecks and private deserted islands or waterskiing (I suck!) fills the afternoon. At night, after live music, there’s scrabble and kava ceremonies and crab racing (my crab won). The resort is never crowded – although once or twice we lose out on loungers – so we have to move to hammocks, the hardship! The staff are lovely. All in all, the perfect holiday from a holiday.

Walu Beach also sees the last night I travel with Lofty – the amazing person whose brief appearances in my blogs aren’t nearly proportional to the 46 days we spent together. He’s off on the next stage of his travels: LA. The States might not hold a candle to NZ but I’m sure he’ll have a rockin’ trip.

After a couple of nights in Nadi, I’ve now moved to Mango Bay Resort on mainland Viti Levu. It’s fairly quiet here and it has rained all day. But after a few days here, I’ll be joined once again by the lovely Sarah and Isabel. It’s all moving rapidly toward the end now… just 2 months and a bit to go.

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