30 September 2013
Happy Birthday to my brother, Howard (Howdy) - his assistance is making our travels possible! Love you!!
It amazes me how we quickly settle into a routine at each new location - doesn't matter that the routine varies from country to country or city to village to town. Each place has its own rhythm, and we easily fall into the music of wherever we might be.
In Fiji, we're staying outside Nadi right on Wailoaloa Beach - pronounced why-LO-ah-LO-ah - and Wailoaloa means Black Sand. So yes, this is a volcanic sand beach. The white beaches are mostly on the outlying islands that, while also volcanic, are much closer to the coral reefs. (You do know that white sand is essentially parrot fish poop, right? Parrot fish munch on coral, and excrete the white undigestable part - we humans call it sand.)
So, our routine: we wake up and have a lovely continental breakfast on the patio, enjoying the view of the water and the waves quietly lapping the shore. Often, one of the hotel cats will join us - I don't remember their names, but this is my buddy Mr. Dark Orange Kitty, who is very loving and enjoys having his head scratched until he goes into drooling kitty ecstacy. His brother is Mr. Light Orange Kitty. There's also Pepper, who is white with dark tabby stripe spots, and their mother, who is white with black spots. And the sister, Jessie, is a pale orange but she spends most of her time next door at the larger backpacker hostel. (We're in a smaller backpacker hostel - and while there are dorm rooms, most backpacker places have private rooms for those of us who are rolling luggagers - backpackers at heart but old enough to switch to the rolling luggage.)
After a relaxing breakfast and maybe some reading on the beach, we get down to the business of the day. On Sunday, everything except hotels stays closed, so yesterday I had a massage on the beach. Yes, it was heavenly. Wavy sounds, warm sun, and strong hands easing away the tension in my muscles. Wonderful!!! Other days, the business of the day might be time on the computer - researching and planning what next, or researching travel insurance, or, for me, time writing the blog and posting photos. Or it might be a trip into Nadi, to go to the bank, buy sundries like aspirin or whatever, and maybe some sightseeing.
Today, we finally gathered all our thoughts on "where next" and met with the hotel/hostel manager, and discussed where we wanted to visit. Our first thought had been to go to the Mamanuca Islands, a chain of small islands to the west of the "mainland" of Fiji. (I know, we all think of Fiji as being one main island - but Fiji means the whole group of islands that form the nation. The main island is Viti Levu, and this is where the cities are. But there are all kinds of islands in little chains, all around Viti Levu, including Vanua Levu, which is the biggest of the small islands, kind of north. I hope the map makes this clear.)
Anyway, we wanted to go to the Mamanucas. But many (most) of the hotels and such on the Mamanucas were severely damaged in the cyclone last year, and are not yet up and running. So that was out.
Next choice - the Yasawa Islands, which are to the northwest of Viti Levu. We looked, we priced, we talked about what we wanted. And then we hit on it - Nacula Island. (No, it does not rhyme with Dracula. NAH-coo-lah - the "coo" sounds like "cool," not "cute.")
We spent some time talking to Jerry, the manager; he made a few phone calls; we told him the prices we found online; he bargained and brought the price down a bit; and we now have vouchers for the ferry, which leaves Wednesday morning, and will take us along the entire Yasawa chain, and drop us at Nacula Island by early afternoon. (This is the farthest away Yasawa island!) We'll stay in an oceanfront bure (BOO-ray, I think) - not sure if this is a room, or a free-standing little bungalow, but we'll find out. The price includes three meals a day, because there isn't much else on the island but the village (or two), and the resort. (And this is a backpacker resort, with dorm options. Trust me, this is not the posh resort in your imagination. This is the budget resort. Somewhere between the islands of "Cast Away" or "Blue Lagoon" (both filmed here) and "Fantasy Island" are the budget backpacker resorts. That's where we'll be.)
And we're hoping we'll have internet to share all of the photos of how wonderful this island retreat will be - of course with time on the beach, and lots of snorkeling, and hopefully some turtles, and maybe some diving, and kayaking, and of course plain old swimming in crystal clear water.
Okay, so, that was today's activity, making our decision and booking that adventure.
And then, it was lunch time. When we wander over to the restaurant next door, the big backpacker place, and have something. Burger, fish and chips, curry and rice, maybe Fijian fish cooked in coconut cream - something like that. (I'll do a separate blog about my favorite salad over there.) Of course, if we're in Nadi we eat there, and we already have a few favorite spots.
Afternoons are filled with reading on the beach, taking a walk on the beach, playing on the computer, napping, talking to other guests or some of the staff, maybe some laundry (that's me, usually), and even watching skydivers land in the vacant lot next door. Or more sightseeing if we're in town.
By late afternoon, the air is cooling off and we might go for a walk on the beach, mostly to see the sunset. Or talk with local kids who are playing - this boy being buried by his siblings wanted to know where we came from, and then the kids were all thrilled to pose for a photo. I love the fact that kids all around the world bury each other in the sand - one of those funny universal things that children all dream up, and think they're the only ones who invented this activity.
Eventually, it's time for dinner next door again. (I know, I told you it's a routine.) Might chat with some tourists - one evening we shared a table with an older man and his two sons, ages 16 and 19, who are touring the Pacific on a yacht and trying to get good enough to do the professional surfing competitions. Or we talked to the nice guy who runs the dive operation at the hotel/hostel. Anyway, we take some time to meet other people and just share travel stories and experiences.
Evenings - well, the big hotel/hostel hosts evening entertainment. Last night was the Fijian dancing and fire dancing show. These people perform twice a week, and are very good - and some of the music has become very familiar to us! They don't have the enthusiasm of the kids we saw fire dancing in Samoa, but they definitely do an amazing job. The fire dancing was on the beach, and the guys (and one young woman) did their twirling while standing, kneeling, fire sticks behind their back, and even lying down in the sand! And this crew also touches the fire to their mouth (OW!!!!) and transfers the flame from on end of the stick to the other end using their bare hand! One guy even placed the fire on his thigh! I'm totally in awe of fire dancers!!!!
And this is my favorite photo of the night - might not be clear enough for the literalists among our readers, but from an artistic viewpoint, it really is a pretty amazing shot!