Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fiji Day 3 and 4 March 12th and 13th.

We awoke this morning to be told about the Japanese earthquake and how, unbeknown to us, we had been on tsunami alert all night. Our neighbours and I had heard some louder than usual crashing waves early in the morning, but apart from that we have not been affected.
We are here on the Coral Coast of Fiji.  This means that we have sand and sea at our doorstep, but also a coral reef about half a kilometre out to sea, where all the breaking waves happen. Inside that, there is a shallow coral lagoon which is still tidal and can be swum in easily only at about an hour either side of high tide. During the day, women stand in the water, up to their armpits at times, fishing for all sorts of marine life. At low tide some coral is exposed and the women leave, after several hours, carrying a polythene bag of their catch.  This is often sold later from roadside stalls to passers by. The sunset on the 11th was spectacular and I was fortunate in being able to catch one of the women walking out of the lagoon with her catch at the same time as the sun was setting.  Sunset photos here .
The next day we decided to travel east along the coast as far as Pacific Harbour and once there have lunch. It was an interesting drive, with occasional rain, but generally lots of small villages with 20kph speed bumps and the odd radar speed trap. They are good here at flashing their lights to warn of Police cars and we avoided two traps. The overall speed limit is just 80kph and most of the time that is appropriate as the road quality is generally rubbish.
As you will remember we visited the “pottery” village with Ros and Mac a couple of days back and now we found a “broom” village on our way to PH. All along the road, outside nearly every house there were at least a couple of besoms (witches broom sticks) for sale. In all, the village probably had about 100 for sale. PH itself was a disappointment as most of the shops sold imported tat, but lunch was fine and a nice change from our resort. On our way back we spotted this really old house with woven walls and thatched roof. No windows or doors, just curtains and about 3m square, but fully equipped with outboard motor and outside loo of course. When we got back Ann went paddling in the low tide and found all sorts of sea cucumbers, starfish and beautiful little stripy fish. It was difficult to take good photos though as a breeze had arrived and agitated the water.
Today was our last day at Tambua Sands and after breakfast we cleared the room and packed the car ready for the drive to the airport. The flight is at 10pm and it is now 10am…. So we decided to a) write up the blog and b) sunbathe by the pool. We also managed to get a short time with Ann kayaking so that we had photographic evidence. This morning several horses decided to walk along the beach from one village to the other.  Not a sight seen everyday. We left TS at 12.30 and started the drive to the airport, deciding to lunch on the way. We found a very run down dive school at Momi which served a very poor toasted sandwich, but it filled a gap and as the heavens opened we set off for Nadi. Arriving 6 hours ahead of our flight and with it chucking it down we drove around a bit, took some photos of the Indian temple and went in search of the “Sleeping Giant” garden, which we eventually found down a very bad road and it was closed Sunday afternoon. Still raining hard, so it would have been difficult to view anyway, we gave up and made our way to the airport and finished writing up this blog. Photos here.  ………
Fiji Day 1 and 2 -- March 10th and 11th

We arrive in Fiji at 4.30ish  and soon get our car sorted and set off south to the Coral Coast to find Tambua Sands. Ros and Mac are already there and awaiting our arrival before starting supper. Ros has twisted her ankle and needs crutches to get about, but is already on the mend. The resort is right on the beach and nothing between our “Bure” ( to rhyme with Hurray)  and the sea other than a bit of grass and crunched coral sands. You do need shoes to get to the water’s edge as the coral is often sharp. After a few beers we sat down to supper and a good chinwag about the various places we had each visited on our independent tours of NZ. We had all caught up with Matt and Narelle a few days before as we had prepared to fly from Auckland. There were very few of us in the resort but the management organised a Kava ceremony for us to be educated in the Fiji way of life. Kava is nothing like Cava! It is a root based drink made up with water and looks like thin mud. Tastes a bit like thin mud…… but has all sorts of powers that include making you sleep, making you fall down and making you have crossed eyes. We sat round in a circle and had bowls of the stuff delivered to us in varying amounts. “low tide” (half measure) for the ladies and “high tide” (full ) for the gents. Mac was designated “Chief” for the night, and had to take the first drink from the cup.  After each round we were told a story about the magical properties of this liquor and how the authorities had tried to ban it, without success, as it had such an effect on the population. Most of the men were asleep most of the time! Those that were awake could not see where they were going if they had both eyes open and as a “relaxing” drink, was relatively cheap. Another round of offerings and another round of stories…. And so it goes on, in every community all across Fiji all the time, if our teachers were to be believed. Eventually the main bowl was empty…. No problem…. Get the dregs and some more water and we will make more…. And they did. After two more rounds, Ann and another lady drop out of the ceremony and soon the bowl is dry. We each go our separate ways to “sleep so well we would not believe it possible”. We had a good storm and we all slept like babies……. Awake every couple of hours, in fact the worst night’s sleep I have had in ages. Were they having us on? Was it really thin mud?
The next morning the four of us went to the pottery village where they demonstrate how they hand make a variety of articles from bowls to frogs, from necklaces to turtles. The clay is locally dug, kneaded by foot, shaped by hand (no wheels here) and fired in an open fire. When the article comes out of the fire it is wiped over, while still hot, with the sap of the eucalyptus tree to give it a glaze. We all then have a song sung to us, have a little dance, and then have to view the items on display so they can sell us something. Which was nice!
We then went back into Sigatoka village for some retail therapy. Mac bought a loud Fijian shirt and Ros some post cards and earrings. We then went into the market and got seriously hassled by Indian traders, who gave us presents to entice us to buy other items. We all did. Which was not so nice!  At this point the heavens opened and a huge storm sent torrents pouring down the streets and we thought it about time to “get out of town”. On our way back to the resort one road was about a foot deep with water, but every one else drove through it. So with high revs and clutch slipping, to ensure slow progress, we got through with the water over the bonnet at times. Good rain storms here!
That night we said good bye to Ros and Mac as they boarded their transfer bus to the airport. Ros, now minus her crutches and contemplating wheelchair assistance at the airport. Photos here.
Also at the resort were a couple from Scotland who told us they came from The Shetlands. I announced that we had a nephew and his family living there now. I know its only a small place so I said “David Gray…. Something to do with Marine Biology up there”……. “He’s the boss” came the reply, “I know him well, as a councillor we meet up often”.  So Dai, if you wondered where Robert Henderson was recently, he’s down here in the southern hemisphere and about to go on to NZ.

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