Being a very active kinda girl I left my beach time in Fiji to the end of my trip, in the hope that I'd appreciate it more following all the tramping in New Zealand. An hours sunbathing on a beach is normally my limit before the suncream starts to melt, I begin to turn a reddish colour, get bored and decide to find the nearest hill to climb or go kayaking. Having come from New Zealand (which I refer to as activity central) I wasn't sure how my body would react to a fortnight of sitting still, but I have to say I was proven wrong in so many ways and found Fiji a very difficult country to leave!!
On arrival, the culture shock, from NZ to Fiji, was similar to what I'd experienced flying from London to Bangkok(though a little quieter!). I wasn't sure who was on commission as I was ushered into a taxi to my hostel and was on my guard 24/7. I needn't have worried though, the Fijians are amongst the friendliest people I have ever met, keen to learn about you and always remembering your name. The only advice that I would give is if you are getting a taxi or bus ride in Fiji be sure to keep your eyes only partially open! Whilst passing huts and schools full of children waving at me, I bumped along the roads and found that most of the time we were in the path of oncoming traffic as we avoided the huge holes (this was partly due to the flooding which had taken place in January), only to swerve last minute back onto the our side of the road as the dust engulfed the cars.
With over 300 islands to choose from it was a very difficult decision as to where to spend my fortnight in Fiji. I arrived on the mainland, flying into the second largest city, Nadi. Even though it was fascinating to see the locals in the surrounding villages and see how they lived, like many I was only spending a night on the mainland and was keen to head to the other smaller islands.
At first there may not seem to be much difference between one paradise island compared with another but they all have their own attractions. Being short of cash and wanting only a short ferry ride, I was advised by a local to head to an island which was an hours drive from Nadi followed by a 30 minute boat trip. Robinson Crusoe island was my destination and I was promised a true Fijian experience on a budget and that's certainly what I got and more!
Locals washing in the river on the way to the Island
Robinson Crusoe Island
On first appearances, the island would have been a disappointment for many and even I was initially glad to have only booked 2 nights stay. The waters which surround the island have accumulated debris from the nearby river during the last few years, which doesn't give the island the turquoise waters expected by many that have seen the brochures. However as you say, "never judge a book by it's cover", the not so perfect water didn't make a difference and was soon forgotten as I quickly became part of the Robinson Crusoe family. It was to be 11 days later that I left the island with a tear in my eye!
As I was on a budget and wanted to experience Fijian traditions this island was perfect. I could relax on the beach and finish my book, kayak around the island at sunset, snorkel with turtles, make coconut jewelry (this, note, turned out to be a bit of a work-out for us. First we wondered around the island to find a suitably sized coconut, we husked it which was more difficult than it looked, sawed it to get the correct size, prised out the coconut from the middle and then sanded like mad for a few hours to get the finished product which we coated in coconut oil to make it last longer).
We played volleyball, went fishing (it was the first time I had been fishing with a net and very successful might I add, I also think that Lex and Bola enjoyed seeing a line of women in Bikinis running towards them trashing sticks!)and then made the coconut milk for the dressing. I have to say I was far from bored!
The first task is to obtain the coconuts! This was mainly done by the Fijians and in this case, Bola!
Making Coconut Milk by grating the inside of the coconut, adding water to this, mixing it together and then draining the milk off.
Kate husking a coconut
Coconut Jewelry Making - harder work than it seems!
After all this, the odd hour on the beach was much appreciated!
Views from my Hammock
Beach time in Fiji
Lovely ant bites on my feet!
We islanders became very attached to our piece of land in the south pacific and welcomed every new islander "shipwrecked" style but with the addition of a guitar and Fijian voices! Each newcomer took part in a Kava ceremony in order for them to be accepted as an islander. Kava (Yaqona) is a traditional Fijian drink which is made for friends and family when they come to visit and during ceremonies, that is unless you're a Kavaholic, in which case you'll be having it every night! It is derived from the root of a pepper tree which is extracted from the ground at a time which dependant on the strength that you want the Kava. It is then crushed to a power form and mixed with water. The result is a murky 'bath-water' looking liquid that makes your lips numb for the first sip and has a licorice after-taste. It may not have any alcohol in it but it certainly has some relaxing effects when drunk in excess!
The Kava Ceremony
We also had to welcome the day-trippers and night-trippers (tourists) who visited the island for a few hours and who we nick-named "The Invaders"! It did mean that we got to see the very atmospheric Fijian dancing a few times a week, which had us all mesmerised at times, especially the girls (the Fijians like to keep themselves in shape and with a great attitude in life they are very attractive!).
Steve Fire Dancing
It was great to get involved with the preparations of the evening ceremonies and Rico kindly taught us some Fijian dancing. I have to say that I haven't laughed that much for a while!
Rico and Bola with the "Fijian dancing team!"
At the end of a very hectic day there was nothing better than a glass of wine (or beer for many) next to a bonfire, listening to strumming of the guitar as the sun into the south pacific. The pictures say it all - stunning!
Relaxing at Sunset
Sunset in Fiji
I loved every minute of island life, even the back to basics lifestyle that we had, with bucket showers and no electricity after midnight. We even had a nightclub which was a little room used for getting ready for performances. The whole experience once again made me appreciate what I have at home and how you can be so happy without the materialistic possessions that nowadays we all rely on! So if you go to Fiji check out Robinson Crusoe!
Staying our farewells!
BULA! (Hello or Cheers, in this case though it was goodbye!).
So the journey for me is over and what a journey it has been! I have some amazing memories and have been very fortunate in meeting some amazing people. It was worth all the saving and would encourage everyone to go on a journey of some kind to explore what is out there!