We left Malolo island on a small speedboat and headed off around the island to connect with a bigger ferry. The transfer from the small boat to the bigger one was very slightly hairy as the bigger ferry did not actually stop, only slowed down a bit, and the speedboat was tiny beside the bigger boat. Anyway once on board it was a quick half hour journey to our next destination, Mana Island.
The boat docked at a large jetty and our bags were taken from us and we were put into a golf buggy and driven to the reception area of the resort. The driver started pointing out the swimming pools and facilities and we started to wonder if there had been some mistake as everything looked quite upmarket. Then we were taken to a large, ornate bar area and given a free smoothie while they looked at our booking. Within two minutes they came running back over and ushered us out as apparently we had been taken to the upmarket resort instead of the backpackers, which was next door.
The backpackers was segregated from the main resort by a large fence, presumably so that you knew your place! It was also in the middle of a local Fijian village. After checking in a couple of local maids took our bags through the middle of the village to our accommodation, which was considerably less posh then the places we had just passed in the main resort or the place we had stayed in on Malolo island. At first glance the village looked a little dodgy as we were taken past some derelict buildings and run down shacks but after staying there for a while it became obvious that it was perfectly safe and that everyone was really friendly.
Almost immediately after checking into our room we met the neighbours, a half English half German couple called Chris and Jen, who were really friendly and nice. We headed down to the bar/restaurant area for the "free" meal that was included in the price of the room, which turned to not be that great. The food at the last place had been much better. Mind you though the beach was much better on Mana Island and you had an excellent beachfront bar which made up for it. There was also entertainment in the evening, generally in the form of traditional Fijian dances and singing.
The four of us spent most of the rest of the evening sitting around drinking and chatting until about 10, when everyone except for me went to bed. I wandered over and started chatting to some other people on a neighbouring table and soon was drinking with them. At some point a few Swedish people decided to strip down a bit and jump into the sea and I joined them! The sea water was lovely and warm and the humidity in the air meant that I was never cold either in the water or out. If only it was the same in the UK!
After the swimming and some more drinking some local Fijian guys started challenging the tourists to different games, including picking stuff off the floor with your teeth and turning your body around a picnic table in a short period of time while keeping yourself off the floor. I watched with amusement until someone pushed me forward for the table racing and then I pretty much got coerced into doing it (the alcohol helped). Needless to say I did not do very well!
I slept in the following morning and then lay on the beach with Sian, Chris & Jen. The most exercise I did was some swimming in the sea, although unfortunately I had to keep a t-shirt on due to the sun burn I suffered on Malolo Island. After a while of this me and Sian decided to walk around the island as it was not too large and apparently was walkable in two hours.
Im not sure if it was lethargy, heat, lazyness, soft sand or a combination of all three but the walk took us three hours instead of two. There was loads of coral washed up onto some of the beaches and it rapidly became obvious that the resort was focused on the best beaches on the island. There were also some rocky outcrops that we had to climb around and at one point I became a little worried that I would slip off the wet rocks into the sea; it would have been a really stupid way to injure yourself!
We made it back to the bar exhausted and ordered a large beer each to quench our thirst. After that I actually went to bed for a short while, but was soon up again as there was some hermit crab racing going on in the bar. We placed bets on which hermit crab would win and despite betting on two crabs I didn't win a prize unfortunately. One girl though commented to me as I was choosing a name for my second crab that "you officially have crabs!" She then went on to buy two herself so it was obviously catching...
Following on from the racing we were drinking with Chris, Jen and an Irish couple that we had met. It was a relaxed evening and we were all in bed at normal times.
The following morning we were actually up in time for beakfast which turned out to consist of some amazing tropical fruit, including pineapple that almost melted in your mouth. We were doing a day trip today to the island where "Castaway" was filmed with Tom Hanks. You know, the one where he befriends a basketball and draws a face on it and stuff.
The boat out to the island was the smallest of speedboats and there was only six of us on board; me, Sian, the Irish couple from the previous evening and the local guides. The waves became reasonably big in places but the boat still sped through them, smashing back down into the troughs after the crests and before too long we were getting wet from the spray and becoming mildly worried that the boat might capsize. We were quite relieved once we reached the island.
"Castaway" island (not its real name) turned out to be well worth the effort. It was the stereotypical beautiful tropical island with golden sands, coconut palms, a small mountain and a large coral reef just offshore. After a quick movie tour of the island we all went snorkeling and I dont know why but the water here was even warmer then off Mana or Malolo islands. It literally was like bath water, it was so crystal clear. There were hundreds of tropical fish swimming around colourful coral, it truely was an island paradise. Naturally I somehow managed to hit my head on the speedboat as I was snorkeling and the anchor line tried to strangle me once, but I was fundamentally ok.
The ride back was even more intense then the ride out and we were soaked with spray by the time we returned. We met up with Chris and Jen and, together with the Irish couple, ate a traditional "Lovo" meal the the Fijians had prepared. The food was actually really nice, miles better then the food of previous days. The food was cooked in the ground with hot rocks from a fire which is then covered and left for several hours.
It was a quiet evening initially and then towards the end someone in the bar announced that there was a second bar that was open later further into the village and that everyone should go to that. The group I was with went home when the main bar closed at midnight but I staggered down to the secondary bar with the dodgy directions of "walk down until you see the blue light." Somehow I managed to find it and the secondary bar turned out to be a shell of a building with a fridge and some tables and some drunken backpackers. I got chatting to people there and dont remember too much of it now, except that an Aussie girl ended up drawing random Fijian stuff on my arm with some body paint that happened to have. (She was doing it to loads of people)
I woke up the next morning rather hung over and with an arm full of smudged drawing and an ink stained sheet. Just as well I was leaving that day! I managed to clean my arm in the terrible shower (only a dribble of cold water) and after breakfast me and Sian headed down to the beach while we waited for out boat transfer onto the next island.