Wow! What an amazing day I’ve already had in Fiji, and with no sleep either. Our flight landed at 5am this morning, when I promptly found out I had no bike, and would have no way to track it over the next week while I was out in the Yasawa Islands. Oh well, what can you do, right? I went to the tourist counter to get my tour vouchers. Everything else was in order, which meant I could at least move on with my life for the next while. From here, the day got really awesome, read on friends…
As I sat waiting for my shuttle bus, I picked out a few people that I recognized from the flight. Then, our particular hostel’s shuttle came, and 7 of us boarded it. Once we got to reception, 2 couples were peeled from the lot, leaving 3 of us, who are now sharing a dorm for 8 people. Andrew from Toronto, and Stephanie from Sweden. Andrew is here for 2 weeks, Steph for 48 hours. Due to her schedule, we decided to get cracking on stuff in Fiji.
Although complete strangers, we hit it off well as a little group, and once back in the dorm, all took quick showers, and vowed to stay awake and make the most of the day we had. To those ends, we decided right away to forgo taxis and busses, and to walk from our hostel to Nadi town centre, a few km away. It was only about 7:30am, but the street was already busy with people going about their daily routines. We welcomed the chance to soak in the local culture, and wandered around for quite a ways before finally hitting the town. We were all pretty taken with the McDonalds early in the walk with the Bula sign on the way in.
Along the way, people were very friendly, yelling greetings or asking if we needed a taxi or such. One kind fellow, not a taxi, passed a few times, and offered us a lift to town, or the beach, telling us how far it was (it wasn’t). Although we were tempted, we opted not to go with him. As he started to pull away, he motioned to me and also asked if we were looking for smokes, or weed. He wouldn’t be the only one to ask, and luckily they weren’t aggressive, just trying to make a buck I guess. In case you’re wondering, we declined. How stupid do you think we are??
Once in Nadi, (pronounced Nandi BTW), we trolled the shops, not planning to buy anything, but admiring the handicrafts. Although people definitely wanted our business, they were nowhere near as aggressive as in Peru or Argentina, so we didn’t mind too much. We made it to the end of town, where there is Fiji’s largest Hindu temple, and proceeded to go for a guided tour of the property, and learn about some of the gods, etc. It was really cool, and we also learned a bit about the struggles of Fijians, especially over land, which they never get to own, and also about some of the struggles of the Hindus, which number between 10 and 20% of the population. Although none of us were very religious, we certainly enjoyed the experience.
After temple, it was time to think about next steps, and what to eat. We ended up at a curry house, and had a great meal there, with all the trimmings. Although not cheap, it also wasn’t that expensive, and the atmosphere was great. Once our bellies were full, Andrew and I turned our attention to the matter of beer, and Fiji Bitter in particular. You see, the Fijians are nice to a fault, and we were told by the hotel staff no less, to just buy water and beer in town, as it would be cheaper.
To maximize the cost savings, we sought out a grocery store, to not only look for beer, but also a towel for Andrew, a pen and notepad for Steph, bug dope for Andrew and I, and some more water. We found everything that we needed except for the note pad. The beer was pretty reasonable, running $3 for a quart, where at the hostel it was $4 for a regular bottle. We bought a dozen to enjoy today as well as in the coming couple days on the tour. Yum.
To get back to the hostel, we opted to take the local hop-on busses, which only cost sixty cents, rather than the $4+ of a taxi. It was great. We conversed with the locals and enjoyed the open-air bus. We were all amazed how fast it was getting back when you didn’t have to walk along the baking road. Once back, we were sure it was late afternoon. Nope, turns out it was only around noon. Even after playing around in the pool for a while, snapping pictures and enjoying a beer, when we returned to the room, the clock said only 1:30!! Damn, this was turning out to be quite a long day. However, we were bound and determined to stay strong.
Our next adventure was to head to the beach down the road, which the hostel told us would only be about a 10 minute walk. A far cry from the hour estimate one of the folks on the street told us! We took the chance, and found success. It really was pretty close. Also, the neat part was that this was a ‘locals’ beach, not a tourist beach, so we saw all the townsfolk enjoying the water. We started taking a nice beach stroll, and I decided to hit the surf to try out the water. Oh my god, I’ve never in my life been in water this warm. It was actually hot. I have colder baths sometimes. And super-salty too. It was nuts. A little Fijian boy saw me, and decided to swim out to me.
We started communicating however we could, and I took his picture and showed him. Soon after, his mom, I assume, and sister, and the father, as well as another woman were on the beach with us. We started talking, and were having a great time chatting with them and learning a bit about their culture. Before I knew it, Stephanie had the idea that we should build a sand castle with the kids. What a great idea it turned out.
We spent the next probably hour and a half on the beach in the blazing Fijian sun playing in the sand, expanding the concept, and laughing and having fun. At one point, they also weaved a basket from a palm frond, as well as made a fan. It was a very surreal experience for us. Here we were, totally jet-lagged, yet enjoying life in a whole new way with these Fijians. If you’ve ever needed to see people that are completely content with what they have, these people epitomized that view. It was very refreshing and humbling. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time building a sand castle.
When we finally decided we had to get out of the sun, it was difficult to say goodbye. The kids wanted to play more, but we were simply zapped by all the hot sun burning our tender white skin. We headed back to the hostel, and that’s where I’m at this moment. I’m contemplating having some supper, then we’ll probably play some pool and have a couple more beer before turning in early.
Thus far, I can definitely say this is shaping up to be the trip of a lifetime, when in the first day on no sleep, I’ve already connected with humanity in a way that I haven’t in a very long time. I close by wishing you all the best, and promise to try and keep up the writing, but the experiences might start overwhelming me at times, preventing me from writing everything out. Then again, maybe it’s just a 2-quart, jet-lagged consciousness leading me to write this out ;-). Either way, hope you’re all well!