Thurs 19 June ’08
We landed at 5am local time on Saturday morning. It was 11pm on Thursday in Los Angeles when we took off 10 hrs earlier. We had no idea that Boeing had gone into the time machine business.
Our plan was to check into the hotel we had booked for two nights and in that time hire a moped to get out and about hunting for a nice cheap apartment to rent.
As soon as we checked into our room, the morning turned from one of glorious Pacific Island sunshine, into one of thunderous tropical downpour. Drat.
We twiddled our thumbs into the afternoon. Sleeping, playing cards, reading the Lonely Planet guide to this beauteous paradise.
Still it rained. Torrentially, with lightning and everything else.
Having squinted at the road through the gloom, wind and driving rain, I judged it was far too dangerous (suicidal on 2 wheels) to venture anywhere under engine power.
The only option was to find a bar and at least try to ask some locals for advice then start again tomorrow.
Luckily, the Lonely Planet guidebook informed us of Ed’s Bar on our doorstep – “popular with both travellers and locals, serving cheap beer and good quality food”.
We legged it during a brief pause in the deluge.
Busy inside with locals, mainly very large, muscular athletic men. They were watching Fiji’s rugby team play in pissing rain on the telly.
We took our very cheap and very nice bottles of Fiji Bitter outside (there was a covered area) and got chatting to a nice young couple. Hugo and Cassie. They were from Somerset and know my Uncle John. I think everyone knows him round there mind.
They were going round the world similarly to us only in the opposite direction. We got pissed with them before they had to go to the airport to fly to LA. We recommended they get themselves some Big Bertha action, I wonder if they have?
Anyway, the only locals we had any conversation with were 3 blokes who imposed themselves on us with a view to us purchasing some sort of undisclosed contraband.
One of them, (the only one who I reckon would lose a fight with Chewbacca) told us he was employed as a pilot by a local airline. His henchmen verified this claim.
His other proud boast was that he was the King of his tribe and the other gents were two of his loyal subjects. Which they also confirmed to be the truth.
Thing is though, even though English is the first language in Fiji, it was a bit difficult to understand them.
The slurring of words, unfinished sentences, repetition of unfinished sentences, rolling of eyeballs, and even falling asleep mid-sentence (the King at one point). Made it difficult to decipher anything they were on about.
‘Ah, rugger lads.’ I thought. They must the same the whole world over.
To be fair to them, they did insist on buying us beer.
Luckily they didn’t go in for the hilarious post-rugger jape of being sick/defecating into one’s beverage then being expected to joyously consume the gift.
I have heard this can happen in some sections of the savagely proud rugger fraternity.
Good lord, no. These Fijians stopped eating humans at the end of the 18th Century you know.
After unsuccessfully trying to persuade us to accompany them, the chaps jumped in a taxi to Christ alone knows where. The rest of the bar deserted soon as the match finished.
We got nowt done on the accommodation front.
We strolled cheerily back to the hotel, (it had stopped raining by then), with a small bottle of ‘Bounty’ dark rum and thought ‘tomorrow’s another day’ .
So, Sunday morning it turns out nothing is open. Can’t hire a vehicle, can’t buy a simcard, nothing. No web access, nowt.
We should have known. In fact, Hugo and Cassie told us this would be so.
Back to thumb twiddling.
Ed’s Bar weren’t even open and it was scorching hot.
Book another night here. (nowheresville by busy pot-holed road).
Monday morning. Up bright n early, lets get sorted out.
Get bus the 2 miles or so into Nadi (pron. Nan-dee if you’re interested) – nearest town.
We know the layout having been here yesterday. None of the 3 Vodaphone shops we saw are open and buggar all else is.
We find out it’s the sodding queen’s birthday (our queen) and it’s a bank holiday. Just goes to show how unpatriotic we are and how tight the UK is with the national holidays.
Meet a pleasant enough young chap (Sam) on the street and arrange to hire a simcard off him.
10 Fiji dollars ($fj3/£1) for as long as we want it.
He has a shop on the highstreet so we go into it to conduct our business.
I’m particularly impressed with his extensive collection of tribal style tattoos and wondered if he accumulated them before or after that style of body art became de riguer amongst young British men.
The shop’s filled with touristy trinkets, intricate carvings of wood and bone n all that.
He explains that everything in the shop is made in the village that, he and his other shopkeepers are from and we are invited to join a kava session to welcome us to Fiji and bless our holiday…
They obviously find it hysterically amusing that we don’t know the date of our own queen’s birthday.
We share the kava with the fellow shopkeepers and a couple of blokes from New Zealand who’ve also been lured in.
They were working in the area renovating a big hotel but were also caught unaware by the unexpected holiday.
It had been the queen’s birthday in New Zealand a fortnight earlier.
How many does she have for crying out loud?
We’d read about kava – a narcotic drink offered by means of good faith. But I think we were both surprised to find it being thrust upon us so freely.
We had been led to believe you had to travel to the rural areas and bear gifts in order to receive it. Not so.
The consumption of it was all fake ceremonial. Clapping of hands, saying of words, don’t look at the stick etc.
The Kiwi guys and ourselves smirked at each other and did our best to humour our hosts. At least they had rugby to talk about. Something about England losing.
If that kava stuff is narcotic then Tetley Bitter is ketamine.
It’s the ground up root of some plant or tree soaked in tepid water. You couldn’t even call it a tea.
It’s legal to have up to 2Kgs of it and is believed to help stress, anxiety and cancer. Even in the developed world.
We left with furry tongues (the only noticeable effect of the kava) and went back to the hotel armed with a local phone number to rifle the ‘properties to let’ section of Yellow Pages.
Of course, no one answered the phone. It was the queen’s birthday.
Got on the dog n phone, made some arrangements, hired a car, saw a lush apartment, pontificated about it then took it for a fortnight.
Seemed silly not to, works out at £15 a night, fully furnished, nicely done out, own pool, beach nearby etc.
Friday 20 June
We are in an area called Pacific Harbour. Most of it is a big development built in the 80’s but the anticipated punters for the properties and facilities never showed up as much as expected.
We’ve got a villa backing on to a nice looking golf course. I had a stroll up there yesterday evening for a nosey.
One of the lads who works there happened to be passing in a buggy as I stepped out. He stopped, introduced himself with a huge Dwight Yorke type smile and offered me a lift. I shook his hand, introduced myself but declined his kind offer.
I was quite enjoying the evening stroll and wanted to cast a more considered eye over the course.
I didn’t go into the clubhouse to ask how much a round would cost. I had a mildly embarrassing but disinteresting incident outside and decided to check again later.
The climate here is different to Nadi, we’re 190 km east. It’s much wetter here, as we are close to the rain forests so it’s been mainly cloudy with occasional downpours.
I think we prefer it though, it’s warm and when the clouds do clear, you know about it.
We haven’t done much since we acquired our dwelling. Settling in, getting used to having a dwelling that we (sorry – I) don’t drive everyday, that kind of behaviour.
We went to Suva yesterday. It’s the capital city about an hours drive east. Home to 300,000, a seemingly eternally drizzly harbour town.
Absolutely nothing of remark unless you’re a big fan of large indoor markets where every vendor sells the same disappointingly small selection of vegetation.
Don’t get me wrong, we invested heavily in the goods. And all good, too. What cost us no more than 3 or 4 quid could easily have been a score in Blighty. £30 in Waitrose, at least.
The only semblance of a fish market was a handful of old ladies selling clam type shells from the pavement.
Keeping them cool by flicking water from a bucket on them when a white person went past.
Maybe it was a magic bucket that held it’s contents at dozens of degrees less than the outside temperature. If it was, they should put a sign up, they might make a sale to a white person.
We did find a little row of stalls with bunches of fresh fish available.
They were beautiful colours, yellows, blues, reds and others.
Fresh too, but only available by the bunch.
The bunches were far too much for a couple with no fish butchery experience. We didn’t buy anything there, we couldn’t have carried anymore anyway.
Another factor being that the power goes off for the odd few hours now and again.
We didn’t fancy having armfuls of semi rotting fish in the place. (Plaice –ha ha!) Not in this heat with this many nasty looking insects around.
Have you any idea how awkward our daybags, 4 coconuts, a weeks fruit n veg shopping, and a sack of slippery fish would be to transport on foot? In flip-flops, on a wet surface strewn with market detritus.
Probably hilarious to by-standers, but we didn’t want to make a spectacle of ourselves.
We have spent today lounging around our pad. Swimming, snoozing, reading, writing (this drivel).
We have also enquired about boat trips to outlying islands (what we should be doing, we’re told). Hired a DVD, we have a TV and DVD player but can’t pick up any telly. And prepared some grub.
Sunday 22 June
The curry we made from the market ingredients was ace.
Seriously one of the best we’ve ever had.
I’m sitting on our patio writing this and I think a golfball just hit our roof. I’m going to investigate…
…hmm. Can’t see a golfball anywhere, none of the golfers are doing anything to indicate they’re responsible.
Sitting here does have a feeling of bombardment about it.
There’s the mozzies for a start, they’ll take any chance to bite you.
There’s no end of other nasties zipping about.
There’s some strange elongated waspy type fellows who make these curious little clayvase like creations on the window frames. They go back and forth and seem to feed whatever may be lurking inside.
Sitting on the patio next to the windows, as we are, every few seconds there’s a ‘thunk’ noise.
It varies in sound depending on the mass and speed of the airbourne creature as it smacks into the glass.
It ranges from, say, someone idly flicking wet peanuts from 1-2 metres to someone pitching a squash ball with a 9 iron from 10-20 metres.
It’s quite unnerving, sooner or later one of us is going to get one straight in the mouth.
The coconuts are a concern too, there’s trees everywhere randomly slinging them to earth.
And we all know that you’re statistically more likely to kop it from a coconut than a lot of other normal everyday occurances.
Shark attack, terrorism, food poisoning, for example.
The wildlife is interesting though. I think so anyway, Mel seems to find it a downright annoyance.
The insects, although I agree we should be wary of (I had to stop Mel from breaking open one of the pot/nest things), have their features of entertainment.
I immobilized one that was foolish enough to stray inside of our gaff.
It was another, much bigger, and bright yellow wasp type effort. Bloody huge in fact.
Within seconds of it hitting the deck, an army of really small ants had the bastard.
I decided to leave them to it, they’re really tiny and don’t really cause us any grief. Apart from when they got into the Marmite.
Anyway, they ate the whole lot, must have fed thousands of them. Incredible.
I was referring to the grounded insect, the Marmite went in the bin with them all over it.
In addition to all the coconut trees everywhere, we’ve got quite a lump of what appears to be a mango tree in our garden.
I’m keen to examine its fruit but it’s too big to climb unaided. I’m loath to start chucking objects into it’s canopy for fear of breaking a wife, a window or a passing golfer.
Any of you who were present on Dalston Lane that day when I near clobbered that bus with Dave’s throwline will understand my concerns.
Also, there’s another tree with some bizarre lurid green slightly spikey grapefruit sized fruits.
I started trying to bat some of the lower ones down with a mop (there isn’t a broom here). But a spider as big as Donna’s right hand fell towards me. ‘Fuck that.’ I thought.
There’s some beautiful birds as well. Sadly, more of the feathered variety than the bikini clad beach variety.
Big parrot-type goings on, weird little couples who flutter into the garden and dance with each other and we’ve seen a right big fruitbat a couple of times too.
Other than Barry the bat and golfers, it’s fairly sparse on the mammal front. There is this strange otter like being who we have seen scurrying about though. Dunno what he’s all about, he’s never near any water or biting fishermen’s fingers.
The only other thing I can think of note is the small crab we found amongst the bedsheets. It was quite a surprise, we had just slept in them. We’re at least a mile from the sea but close to a stream so maybe it was a lost fresh water crab. He sprinted off when we tried to catch him.
Monday 23 June
We went to upload this to the blogsite this morning. There’s a resort down the road with internet access, they told us that they had wiFi when we asked.
So we turned up with the laptop but they don’t have wiFi at all.
We have realised that the Fijians are so eager to please that they will often say ‘yes’ when in fact the real answer is ‘maybe’ or ‘no’.
We used their machines for a while, checked our email accounts, thanks for the messages Mum, Matthew and err, Jumpy.
I see that Sunderland have neglected to sign any fresh talent.
Our best striker is injured due to that buffoon David James, Paul McShane has had a knee operation, and the goalkeeping coach has been found dead in bushes in Manchester.
We’ve got Liverpool first game of the season so it’s all looking rosy.
At least Keano got on well in New Zealand with the All Blacks. (He has been shadowing them as part of getting his UEFA coaching badge). Sounds like he had a nice trip, the Kiwis reportedly commented on what a chipper chap he is. I’m so pleased.
Anyway, we’ve had a nice little lounge on the beach and swim in the sea.
It is quite gorgeous, the sun shone nearly all day.
Met a couple of girls who are students at U.S.P. (University of South Pacific). One was Japanese and didn’t say much apart from giggling.
The other was from Winsconsin and was frankly amazed that we’d heard of the place.
They seemed quite nice, they were certainly very close friends. If you see what I mean.
I feel I’m rambling now so will sign off. Have decided to put all this guff onto a memory stick to slap it on t’web tomorrow.
I trust it will reach you all in good health and happiness.
Our Love, James and Mel. XX