After suffering through the Scotland v Ireland RWC game we headed to the airport in an Uber; however the sleepy driver dropped us at terminal 1 instead of terminal 2, as we had asked, and so, in the early hours of Sunday morning, we walked for about a kilometre to terminal 2 and joined the queue for our Fiji Airways flight to Nadi. The flight was at 02:55 on Sunday the 22nd of September and, as we were the only flight leaving Honolulu, the airport was a rather quiet and eerie place to be. As we waited for our flight, Craig noted there was some 'big Fijian boys' on the flight however the flight was quiet and we had a row to ourselves and shortly after take off, we both drifted off to sleep.
We were picked up by the very, very chatty Pradesh, our taxi driver who took us to Robinson Crusoe Island jetty, where we were dropped off at 09:15 for the 09:30 ferry. While we waited, we were introduced to both the friendliness of Fijians and Fiji time. To explain, the men at the jetty, started talking about rugby to Craig and they instantly became friends, with full introductions and hand shakes. There was then conversations about the efforts of Fiji and Scotland in the World Cup, with a gentleman named Luke, taking a particular liking to us. Fiji time however, was when we didn't actually get on the ferry until nearly 10:30 as we had to wait on more day trippers coming to the jetty via a bus to go to the island. We dropped the the day trippers off at Vusama village and then carried on to the island. When we arrived we couldn't quite believe the welcome, members of the staff were playing and singing a traditional welcome song as we docked on the beach.
We checked into Frangipani lodge, our home for the next 5 nights, and headed to the beach and settled quickly into island life.
Our first day was spent mostly at a sun lounger, fighting the time travel tiredness, although we were introduced to the first come, first served, buffet line at meal times, something that we had to adapt to quickly. Other than a leisurely walk along the beach, we did nothing until we arrived at the auditorium for Monday nights show.
It began with a traditional Kava ceremony. Kava is a traditional Fijian drink made from the powder of the yaqona plant, that is mixed with water, and served at both special occasions and welcoming guests to a community. We were talked through the ceremony and then a chief and spokesperson were chosen from the evening visitors, who undertook the ceremony and drank the Kava on our behalf, as our representatives as guests to the island. Once the ceremony was over we were all invited to come and taste the Kava (a liquid that resembles muddy water and leaves a bitter aftertaste) which we did. For full disclosure; Kava is mildly-narcotic and sedative which results in numbing of the mouth (Katy experienced this, she said it was a bit like a trip to the dentist), a general feeling of relaxation and typically, a good nights sleep. We then returned to our seats waiting for the next part of the evening but during a visit to the bathroom for Katy, Craig was invited back by Luke to finish the Tanoa (bowl) of Kava with him and the other staff. Katy joined us, hesitantly, on her return and after introductions we enjoyed the chatter of the staff and finished the Kava. The next activity was the lovo digging, where our dinner for the evening was retrieved from the underground hot stones it had been cooking on all day and then, some of the staff, walked across the hot stones. A bonfire was then lit on the beach and then a call to dinner from the drum which featured root vegetables, fish and chicken, great homely food. The potatoes that had been cooked on the lovo had a delicious smoky flavour but were beautifully soft and fluffy on the inside. As our dishes were whisked away, the evening show began. A fantastic display of local dancing, knife and fire dancing with a stunning fire dancing finale performed by the male and female staff that had been working on the island throughout the day! The event finished in crescendo at 9pm but we quickly took our leave and headed off to bed as the tiredness that we had been fighting all day, finally caught up with us.
The next morning we had a peaceful breakfast as there were only 10 guests on the island and then we made our way down to the sun loungers. We had a leisurely morning with only a shared canoe ride and Craig taking a walk around the island to break up the book reading. We did however, have 30 Danish kids (18-20 years old) join us on the island for 3 nights as they were about to begin teaching in Fijian schools as part of their university course. With the Danish, came some day trippers as well and another day (although no nighttime visitors today) of activities. Shortly before lunch we decided to join an activity, a coconut preparation course. We saw the nut extracted from its casing, how to successfully halve a coconut and then we tasted the water and meat. The coconut was then husked which the group as a whole participated in, although Katy would definitely state a certain 'knack' is required! The coconut meat was then added to some vegetables and fish and served in a coconut shell.
We survived the mad rush to lunch (not that we needed much) and then settled in to watch the afternoon show which consisted of a highlight reel of the evening show, condensed into half an hour. We returned to our loungers and Craig went for a solo kayak in the bay.
This evening we retired to the bar early to allow us to watch the sunset over a cocktail. We were also joined by the GM, Margarita and the island dog, Tyse who came and sat between us and enjoyed lots of scratches and belly rubs. We also talked to Margarita, speaking about the island and how we had found them online, we think she was trying some SEO keywords on us!
Dinner was a bit more a competition for us this evening as the Danish tripled the number of guests. We managed to fight them off to get enough food and afterwards we all participated in some island games. We had to retire early from the games due to an ankle twist and a language barrier with the Danish (we don't speak Danish, and they didn't want to speak English).
On Wednesday morning we set off to the nearby village, on the main land, of Vusama, a traditional Fijian community. We joined some more day (and night) trippers on the boat and when we docked we were walked to the village by warriors (one played scrum half for the local team - Craig really could talk rugby all day with the men) and led to the community hall. We appointed a chief and spokesperson, and, you guessed it, had a Kava ceremony with the village elders. This was undertaken in Fijian and so it gave us a greater insight into the ceremony than the island version. After we had all drank some Kava, we visited the chief's Bure and then the Methodist church; to our minds this seemed to be at odds with each other as our guide had explained that the community must do as the chief instructs. The local guide also took the opportunity to preach to us as we visited their church, telling us to go to church everyday. After a browse of the local wares and a farewell song we got back on the boat and headed for the island.
We spent this afternoon back at the beach and Craig went for, what was now known as, his afternoon kayak and then got ready for the evening show. The show followed much the same format as Monday night with the Kava ceremony to begin and some different dances and acts thrown in to the show. The highlight however, was meeting Courtney and Dan, a newlywed couple on their honeymoon from Sydney, who we shared both lunch and dinner with and then watched the show.
Afterwards, we were approached by one of the members of staff and asked to join them in a post-show Kava ceremony. We mulled it over but decided to join in as we agreed this was probably one of those occasions that only happens to you once. I guess, in many ways we made an error of judgement in joining but also, perhaps, we gained an insight into the 'real' Fiji or certainly, rural Fiji. We joined 5 members of staff sitting around a Tonoa and then another guest joined us. We were informed we were here for a fundraiser for the staff's costumes. The funds were raised by buying other people drinks of Kava at a monetary value of $0.50, $1.00, $2.00 equating to an equivalent volume level, but if they didn't want to drink it, they had to double the monetary value to give it to someone else. With a language barrier this wasn't immediately obvious (or explained) as we initially assumed we paid for what we drank. Once we had clocked on, an hour had passed, we were more than uncomfortable, so we bought the 5 members of staff a $2.00 drink each, made our excuses and left.
We probably wouldn't have taken part in this had we known where it led and hindsight is always 20/20 but for us, we felt as though it highlighted an issue that was probably due, in part, to the poverty we had witnessed on Monday. Both of us understood almost instantly that the money we contributed that evening was to further fund Kava (not costumes) and so, helping the staff 'enjoy' the escapism offered by Kava that is legal and easily accessible in Fiji.
The next day, was another day where we had day visitors and as part of the activities we headed out snorkelling on the nearby reef. We didn't manage to see any sea turtle's but we did see a Dory among other fish, before having to head back to the boat. After another afternoon show we indulged ourselves in a massage and then watched the sunset from the bar.
The guests staying on the island had entirely changed from our first night and, in solidarity, all the guests that weren't the Danish group (who were now treating the island as their personal playground), grouped tables together and all sat together having a Fijian 'family style' dinner which was fantastic and a great laugh. We sat up talking and consuming 1 or 2 alcoholic beverages together before heading to bed.
Our last full day on the island, and we were quite pleased with ourselves as we waved off the Danish kids (I know, I know, they weren't really kids, but they acted like it!) and picked out the best sun loungers. There was only 10 of us left on the island during the day and the peace and quiet was unbelievable with no rush at lunchtime being a real treat. We also enjoyed a walk around the island that took us half an hour. Our afternoon continued at a leisurely pace with Craig's afternoon kayak the only break in the lounging. Reluctantly, we went back to the Bure and packed our bags before returning to the bar for one last sunset and we both agreed, it was the best one of the trip!
On Friday morning, we checked out and got the 09:00 boat back to the jetty where we picked up our personal, 48 seater bus! It dropped us off at the Gateway hotel in Nadi. Annoyingly, there were no rooms ready so we had to kill a couple of hours waiting for check-in. Once we were organised in the room we got a taxi to Port Denarau and spent some time wandering the marina and shops. Once we had exhausted our options we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed the 2 for 1 happy hour! We also shared a couple of starters before getting a taxi back to our hotel and getting ready for our flight on Saturday.
With a 05:00 alarm we got a transfer over to the airport and we are on our way to Auckland and the New Zealand adventure begins.