Home > Travel > Fiji fresh – 2

Fiji fresh – 2

20 Oct. After that mud-on-my-face post on Fiji, I must be really brave to continue my travel scribbles. The first day ended with a long night at the South Sea island beach and a card game with the resort folks. I get ready by 6.30am, after a fresh salt water bath. Breakfast is bread and scrambled eggs, quite filling. I check with the sweet lady if I can go kayaking. She teaches me – oh, it is so easy! I put on my life jacket and by 7.30am, I am out on the mighty Pacific Ocean, doing the majestic ocean kayaking. I am pleased as hell. The very idea of me on a kayak in the ocean gives great pleasure. Maybe, it is because I am still scared of the sea. Within a few minutes, I am tired. It takes me a while to steer the kayak, but soon I get quite away from the shore. When I find myself so far, I panic and kayak fast to come close. But again I get tired and leave myself to the mercies of the great water body. This goes on for a few times before I stop my 40-minute kayak for dummies. Snorkelling first, kayaking next, … boy, I’m pleased.

The next activity for the day is a sailing adventure on the famous Sea Spray. Don’t wory if you haven’t heard of it. It is an old TV serial. I still don’t know what is famous about it. A water taxi puts my bags and me on a cruise boat. We pass Bounty Island, Treasure Island and Beachcomber island (all having resorts), very good sights in the ocean. As we approach Mana Island (the last and biggest of the Mamanuca islands – these are the closest to Nadi and I am told, the Yasawas including the Blue Lagoon further away are more beautiful ), a water taxi takes me to the sail boat whereas my bags still travel with the cruise. The coral reefs close to Mana Island are so eye-catching. The waters are choppy, the captain advises us. Very soon after we get in, we get cakes and tea as mid-morning refreshments. There is unlimited drink (wine, soft, …) on the sail. I talk to the captain, who says he had been to Kerala recently. At this stage, I must tell you Fiji is a mix of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with Hindi surprisingly thrown in. Every boat has its share of music-friendly Fijians who will display their knowledge. Fijian songs are a part of every cruise or sail, I begin to think.

The captain comments on the Mamanucas. We approach our first stop, a Fijian village called Yanuya. Later I discover it is famous for its pottery work. The boat anchors a little away. It is a little awkward act to get on the water taxi when you want to get down at an island. The tides catch you unawares and you have to balance properly. I am quite agile, I tend to think and do not have a problem. But the big folks really make it look so troublesome. We walk past the village school where the kids have lunch. School reminds you of all those pleasant memories. It is almost like a typical Indian village except for the fact that here only Fijians live. Fijian mango trees and some big breadfruit trees form the shades of the trees. We have alighted here for the kava (the Fijian drink) ceremony. We go to the village chief hall and exchange gifts so he gives the kava for us. Goan feni, Fijian kava, they all are the same (toddy back home?) – just an excuse to drink! The village market place is all lined up for our visit. I steer clear of the shops, just glimpsing at the shell work (like Kovalam/Kanyakumari/Mahabalipuram). No souvenirs for me!

It is a typical tropical day, warm and sunny. All the kids say “Bula” (Fijian Hello/Welcome) to us. Bula is the universal tourist word. In fact, their official tourist site is Bula Fiji(the truly relaxing tropical getaway). The second tourist word is Vinaka (thanks). Now you know 2 Fijian words. We walk again back through the school and take the water taxi to the boat. Lunch barbecue – lamb sausages, chicken sticks and fish fry with salads. You pay quite high for the food and so it’s worth every FJD. Even before we finish our lunch, we are close to the second and final stop (Modriki – an uninhabited island used for the Castaway movie). An uninhabited island stop is the dream of every alternative traveller. Most of the guys snorkel or swim here. It is obvious the coral reefs here would be less spoilt and be more beautiful. The colourful play of the ocean blue and green make any sane man go green and blue. But I do not want to wet myself. I am tempted to walk past a small water flow to another rock (when the tide is low), but the ocean scares me out of this adventure. I end up walking close to the palm trees and peeping at the bikini babes on treat.

An hour past, we return to the boat and get back to Mana Island for my connection to Nadi. At the boat, more cakes await us. I am so tired out of all the travel – it is my penultimate day and try to grab some rest before my last day on the deck. But the boat captain (also a pastor) thinks that I am a Hindu pagan and I deserve to be convinced of the single God Christian greatness. I am poor at shrugging off people and try to argue with him about truths. My religious beliefs are so weak that I cannot convince him that all religion is the same. Next time a pastor comes to convert me, I am going to point him to “Am I a Hindu?” and ask him to mind his business. I don’t get any rest. I rejoin the cruise boat and my bags.

The bus drops me at my new place in Nadi – Horizon Backpackers. Nadi Bay resort was expensive at 24FJD. If you book ahead, you can get dorm beds at FJD10. I could only get one here at 17.5FJD. Any money saved on sleeping is a bonus as I can spend it on travel. A small walk to the nearest black water beach does not excite me much. My tiredness catches with me and I don’t even open the novel. I just would like to sleep. Thus the second Fiji night started. Come morning, I am fresh again and get ready early to see the closest beach and have free breakfast at the place. The Name of the Rose starts to get thrilling today. Today is Deepavali day. I am scheduled for a half-day tour of the highlands as I have my flight at 7pm.

Deepavali is a national holiday for the Fijians and so there are few buses on the roads. Unlike Aus and NZ, fireworks are allowed more liberally. My driver Mike of Viti Eco Tours (no URL) picks me up and introduces me to Ratu, the village chief of Nale Sutale village and his partner in the tour company. Mike tells me it is a discounted price for a backpacker and I should not reveal it to the others who will come from Sheraton. We pass the Garden of the Sleeping Giants. The spectacular Sleeping Giants mountain appears soon. We go to the hot water mud pools first. I see a lot of sugarcanes on the way. At the mud pool, I am surprised to see an Andhra Sangam notebook. We cross a stream and reach Sabeto village. A Ganesh temple is on our way to the village. Indian schools are the desired schools there. It is strange that most Fijians speak Hindi. I don’t know if Fijian Indians can speak Fijian to that extent.

We reach the village, a collection of 11 families and 70 people. Ratu takes me on the guided tour of the highlands up his village. He points me to curryleaf, wild pineapples, turmeric, ginger, lemons – oh, all these are abundant in India too – and elaborates on their healing properties. It takes me an effort not to feel ordinary about it. The best thing about travel is it changes your perspective drastically. We stop by a small waterfall and I have a good dip in it. My water phobia haunts me. But any waterfall is so refreshing and my appetite is whetted. We walk back to the village where we join the other 2 Aussie guests under the mango tree for the kava ceremony (not again). I politely decline to drink kava though Ratu asks me a few times. I don’t know what I shall blabber if I drink! I had paid FJD10 for the Fijian lunch and it is quite nice and healthy – brinjals, fish, lamb, spinach and lemon juice to wash it. We walk back to the mango tree for our afternoon nap.

One of the village boys uses his bamboo guns for the Fijian version of Deepavali fireworks. We observe him close. We wait for our shuttle back to Nadi. It takes an indefinitely long time to arrive. Thank God, I had nothing to do. I just grab my luggage at the backpackers place and pay the same guy to drop me at Nadi airport. I have a 2FJD note (which I will keep for myself) and 54 cents in 8 coins, which I will give as souvenirs to all those who want it. I have balanced my budget close to perfection. At the airport, I meet with my Auckland hosts and friends. We grab a pizza meal and they shop around at the airport. We all share the same flight to Hamilton. At 11.30pm in Hamilton, we are the chosen ones for the search bench. An American student, a French visitor, a Spanish tourist and a Fijian girl share our plight. My friend with an Indian passport and a NZ PR is thoroughly searched. It takes 15-20 min for a full search of the bags. I curse my fate. Very luckily, the customs lady decides to let me without a search, after just hearing my student story. I am harmless as I will return to India in a month and 20 days.

I regret my Fiji trip because it is so short. A week is needed to see it properly. To repeat, Fiji is a must-see tourist place. A lot of tourists were on their 2nd or 3rd trips. Will I too? The beauty of the islands just blows my mind and I have only tasted 2 islands. The mainland feels just like India, except that there is no cricket. Tourists are warned about the sly salesmen, who cheat you and demand money. I am saved because I can pass as a local, thanks to my Indian looks. I felt Fiji is full of the stop-over tourists (quite a few flights from LA). So some of the other Pacific islands like Tonga or Samoa would be less unspoilt (a classic case of the green grass). But Fiji remains the only one which lets Indian passport-holders visit for 4 months with a free permit on arrival.

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Categories: Travel
  1. sk
    1 November 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Hey
    They celebrated Diwali in Fiji too? Thats news to me!!

    Wow, you are back in India soon? Time does fly! :–))

    Nice travelogue and I admire your will power to have finished till the end :–D

  2. 1 November 2006 at 9:05 pm

    hey sk,

    yup. deepavali is a national holiday there. and sorry if the post is confusing. i have 6 more weeks to spend in nz.

  3. 3 June 2007 at 12:40 am

    You wrote ” Next time a pastor comes to convert me, I am going to point him to “Am I a Hindu?” and ask him to mind his business. ”

    Thanks for your kind words about my book AM I A HINDU? [www.amiahindu.com]….Initially, when I started preparing my manuscript in 1984, I never ever thought anyone will be interested in a book like this. Today several editions later, I thank God for using me to write this humble book.

    This book is translated to HINDI [“Kya Mai Hindu Hai?”] HINDI and Indonesian languages [ Apakah Saya Orang Hindu?]

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