Farewell Fiji, Time to Work

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Hey gang. How is everyone? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying my little posts that I’ve put up so far from Fiji. As my title implies, I sort of treated the Fiji portion of my trip as the true ‘vacation’. From here on out, there will definitely be some hard work to take care of. Namely, hauling myself, my gear and my bike over thousands of kilometers of hilly roads all throughout New Zealand. While I’m certainly extremely excited about starting this adventure finally, I must admit I’m also a little apprehensive after speaking to loads of people coming from NZ. What have I gotten myself into by doing this by bike? Either way, now isn’t the time to dwell. Do or do not. There is no try, right? Anywho, this post will serve as my final thoughts on Fiji, along with the flight to NZ and customs stuff. Read on dear patrons…

My final day in the Yasawa Islands was spent on South Sea Island, which as I mentioned was an extremely small island, just off the coast of Nadi, Fiji, about 30 minutes by boat. The morning started right away with an extremely bright and hot sun. Looks like during summer in Fiji, you’re either battening down the hatches for cyclones, or you’re cooking in the sunshine. All my arm hair has already gone light blond in a mere week of sun exposure. I imagine when I get back to Canuck land, I’ll look like some kind of weather-beaten beach bum! Cool. Anyway, due to the size of the island, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fill my day with much excitement. I was also getting a little antsy to get back on the road to start the bike oddyssey.

As soon as I finished breakfast at 7am, I headed to the dive shack and grabbed a paddle, PFD, and kayak. I hit the surf, and did several laps of the island and then ventured a little further out into the waters. I stopped paddling for a bit, and pointed myself out to the open waters and imagined what it would be like to be stranded in a little boat in a big ocean. It was very unnerving. I pray I’m never out in the middle of the ocean in a rescue raft. It would not be fun. After my castaway experience, I headed once again to the dive shack, this time for mask, fin, and snorkel. Early day is the best time for snorkelling as it isn’t ultra hot yet, and the boats haven’t stirred everything up too badly. I spent probably an hour and a half exploring all the coral reefs, swimming among the thousands of fish again. As always, this was a cool experience. My only problem was that I had no hat or shirt on, and although my back was lathered up with lotion, I hadn’t put anything on my noggin, so today I’m sporting the latest in bright red head designs! Oh well, it was worth it.

Once this was all done, it was still only about 9:30am, and the boat out wasn’t leaving until 5:30, so I still had an essentially full day ahead of me. I hung out at the pool for a while chatting with some Americans who were on their way home after spending about 8 months in Australia. I also took some time to pack up my stuff, and just generally chill out and have a couple drinks. Although time passed slowly, it was eventually lunchtime. Once my belly was full, I finally cracked open a couple of my NZ books and a map, and plotted out my next couple weeks in NZ. I think I’ll do the far north of NZ first, as it isn’t quite full summer, so it won’t be too hot up there yet, and then I can head south as things get warmer. That was when the Asian invasion happened. The divemaster had warned me it was Korea day, but I didn’t really know what that meant. Well, I found out around 1pm, when about 80 Koreans invaded the island totally. Did I mention it was a tiny island you can walk around in 4 minutes? Yup, peace and quiet were no longer an option. I packed up my books and map, and joined the Americans who had started a game of Monopoly. Turned out it was a good way to kill time, so I watched them for a while.

After games, we hit the pool, again, and then the volleyball court. I managed, to the horror of everyone, to dive for the ball directly into a pile of coral bits. Ouchy. First blood was all mine. One of the Island staff sort of laughed, but said it really isn’t worth diving into the coral to get the ball, it was only a game after all 🙂 What’s a little action without the excitement though, right? All these things passed the time, and we were finally boarding the shuttles to get back onto the main island hopper boat bound for the mainland. Once aboard, I was reunited once again with other travellers I’d met over the course of the week, and we caught up on our latest resort experiences. Back at the marina, I made my way to the travel office to get my bike, which I was now responsible for carting around. That was pretty annoying, but I was awful glad to finally have it back in my possession. They thought I’d have to hire a van, which would have cost quite a bit, but I mangaged to sweet talk a courtesy bus driver into loading it on his bus and hitched a free ride back to the airport. I figured it’d be easier just to leave it at the airport overnight. For a mere 6 FJD, it was in guarded storage. That was the best idea, as I had to catch a 6:55am flight next morning anyway, and didn’t want to fight trying to find a truck to take me back early from the hostel.

I grabbed a cheap cab back to the hostel, had a nice warm meal and got to re-packing my bags for the 3 hour flight to Auckland. I was getting up at 4:30am, so I wanted to get to sleep nice and early. Two things worked against me. It was friggin hot as hades in our room, and the 4 others in the room were up much later getting things ready. At least 2 of them were on my same flight though, so I didn’t have to worry about waking them up in the morning. My alarm went off far too early, and I stumbled around in the dark getting things ready to go. I shared a cab back to the airport and retrieved my bike, then worked on getting checked in. Wouldn’t you know it, my duffle was over-weight now, and they were frowning at the bike box, as they weighed that as well, and said it might have to go as cargo. A little kindness and patience from me though went a long way, and everything got checked and not a single penny was paid. Sweet! I stayed with my bike until it was officially handed to the baggage loaders, so I felt satisfied I’d see it later today. I bought a stamp for a postcard I picked up, and headed through security. There was only an hour till the flight, so I just sat around after changing my remaining 35 FJD into 26 NZD.

And so that finds me here, high over the South Pacific on my way to Auckland, where a friend is picking me up. I’m a little concerned that customs in NZ will take a bit of time, as they are extremely protective of the biosecurity measures. I had to tick a few ‘Yes’ boxes due to my bicycle, hiking shoes, etc, which they need to make sure aren’t carrying in contaminated soil. Lucky for me, I bought pretty much new everything before leaving anyway, so it’ll probably just be a matter or waiting in a line. New tires, new shoes, new tent, etc. etc. No crusty poison dirt on my boots!

So, Fiji, what to close with on my thoughts on Fiji. Well, I think that a 1 week stay in the Yasawa Islands was plenty for me. I had a wealth of experiences up in the Islands, seeing both large and small islands, some with amenities, some without. I got to do Scuba diving, lots of snorkelling and kayaking, met lots of new people, suffered with food poisoning, weathered a cyclone while a few feet from the raging ocean. Yup, it was definitely a month’s worth of experiences crammed into 1 week. Could I have spent longer? Maybe, but like most travellers with wanderlust, I was ready to bid adieu when the time came. The people were very hospitable, and unlike many other poor countries I have visited, they didn’t seem as agressive in their panhandling and tourist-money grabbing as I’ve experienced elsewhere. We were always greeted with warm smiles and music, but without the expectation that you open your wallet. They seemed to just generally want to expose us to their country and way of life. That was nice and refreshing. I didn’t get to experience a whole lot of the mainland apart from my trip into Nadi Village and the Hindu temple, but that wasn’t a big part of my trip. Were I to return, I may tour more of Viti Levu by visiting the Coral Coast and Suva, but I got what I wanted out of this first week.

Yesterday, sitting in a chair on the beach staring at the ocean and feeling the warm breeze and hearing the water lap up on the shore, I was struck by something. I’d only been on the road for 7 days! I’m merely scratching the surface of this trip. I’ll be gone for the next additional 3.5 months, with many more things ahead. It was a rather odd feeling. Will I truly start to miss home and the comforts it brings? It’s hard to imagine, since everything will be so new and exciting, but I think the possibilty exists. Will I discover I can’t bear to return to the structured life of work, home, and responsibilities? I guess that’s a possibility too. The only certainty I feel is that this trip is indeed what I needed at this point in my life. When this one is over, I’m sure I’ll already be thinking ahead to the next chance I might have to do an extended departure. Maybe a year next time? Who knows? Mongolia to Tibet, into the Himalayas and through Asia perhaps? The world is a big place for a wanderer with adventure on his mind all the time. Don’t get me wrong people, I miss you all dearly, but I still feel connected to everyone through the words I write for you and pictures I take for you to enjoy as well. But remember, you’ve gotta dream big, and go after that.

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