When I first arrived in Nadi, Fiji, I was a bit shocked. Nothing felt right, it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be and I couldn’t get along with the people around me. After 10 weeks in New Zealand I had to adjust myself anew.
I planned my days as following:
- 1 day and 2 nights in Nadi at the Backpacker Beach
- 5 days and nights at Dwarqa / Barefoot Manta Island in the Yasawas
- 5 days and nights at Beachcomber Island in the Mamanucas
- 1 day and night in Nadi for my flight to Samoa
I didn’t really know how to pick “the right islands” as there are so many and all of them a bit different concerning facilities, quality and price. So it was more a spontaneous night decision back in Christchurch when I was finally annoyed enough about myself for not having a decision made yet.
Like written in my intro it was really hard adjusting to Nadi, the hostel and the people here. And somehow Fiji didn’t look like the postcard Fiji. Of course not, you might say rightly. But after 10 weeks in New Zealand my spirits were quite high for finally getting to the next Pacific island.
Barefoot Manta Island
Even it being 7 am I was more than happy and ready to be picked up and start my trip to the Yasawa Islands on the Yasawa Flyer. The burning sun made it nearly impossible to sit outside on the small sun deck on the bow of the ship but I tried at least at every stop to get a small peak of the ocean and the different islands we were passing by.
And when we finally arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes and was literally on the edge of letting tear drop down my cheek. All that I ever just knew from pictures and movies was suddenly in front of me. The colours of the sea and sky, the beach, the palm trees.
And although I booked a 5 person shared room I had my bure for myself for the whole 5 days. The welcome hibiscus made me more than happy. I really made it to the Pacific.
I can’t tell you how scared I have always been of swimming in open water. My brother and I watched Jaws 20 years ago just before a trip to Italy and since then I’ve been illogically afraid of being in deep water. When I stayed with Tom in Auckland area we talked about challenging yourself with one of your fears every day or week. So this was my challenge. Going snorkelling.
And what can I say? I’m still not the happiest person underwater. But the beauty of the coral reefs, the clear water and all these stunning colourful fish made me float in gratefulness along the shore. It’s fascinating how fish react when you pass them by. They won’t take their eyes of you and follow your path. Especially the excited and protective anemone fish. Yes, more than once I had to think of Finding Nemo. I reached the drop of the reef and looked into the incredible blue and endless ocean I was lost for a moment.
When I finally got out of the water I met up with Rob – a marine biologist from England who started working here 2 weeks ago – who just returned from a dive to clean the giant clams with a toothbrush. Later on I could listen to him and Bruce talking about the different techniques of sitting or lying underwater while doing this and it sounded like a very unique way for meditating about life – or the next lunch.
I was very excited that I got a little black tip shark and a ray on my last day to round up my underwater experience.
The snorkelling pic is by the way not from Barefoot but Beachcomber (Photo credits to Florian. Cheers!) as I don’t own a GoPro. So the fish and corals you see don’t reflect in any way what wonderful nature I actually had on Barefoot Manta Island.
Everyday I had someone new to chat with and not all people made it into pictures. From fun talks over wine to thoughts about life everything was included. And the important thing for me was that this included the lovely staff. Or rather we were part of their days from playing volleyball (they played amazing, I rather fairly bad), weaving coconut leaves (I got so confused), trying Bananas (a fun version of scrabble) or jamming with guitar and guitalele.
There was one moment that I still have to think about. One morning I talked with Shannon, Savannah and Florian as suddenly a guy stepped over from a neighbour table and told us that he overheard our conversation for 1 1/2 hours and heard a lot of mansplaining from me. He said that quite loud and then stepped away very self-confident. I was really startled and didn’t know what to think about that. I told the girls I was very sorry if I was actually doing this and that it had nothing to do with them being girls more with me being a smart ass sometimes. They looked up the term and said that they didn’t feel at all that way.
I still have to think about it. I wouldn’t at all want to be like that. And I always treated my friends and colleagues with dear respect. But I couldn’t come up with a good response back then.
Lucky that Shannon is a power woman and confronted him as he got back with being very rude. Thanks Shannon, you really kicked his ass!
The island taught me also some important rules for life – or well, the other travellers did on long white wine and gin tonic nights. “Long night” in this context means we stayed up til 11 pm – a reasonable time when you have to be up for breakfast at 7:30 am again. So here are the (not so serious) rules:
- Life rule: You burn, you learn. (Discovered while talking about Rob’s sunburn.)
- Survival rules: Trust no one. Suspect everyone. Otherwise 1. Recognise 2. Avoid 3.Escalate. (Thanks to Georgia’s Dad we are ready for a Zombie apocalypse and nights out in London.)
- Relationship basics: Food, sleep, sex. (If this works everything else is not so important, right, Miranda?)
My last night happened to be on a Saturday which is the traditional evening on the island with kava and dance. We had the kava ceremony – which is the traditional drink made out of the powder of a root, I think. Kava has some kind of ingredients that make you feel warm/calm/high/whatever you call it. So Rob and I had fun being part followed by watching and participating in traditional dancing. The switch to gin tonic brought us some good and intense talk and a skiing trip in Canada agreement.
I felt quite heavy leaving while listening to the Fijian goodbye song Isa Lei – and not only because they are such good singers there. It was amazing. I would have loved to switch more days from the upcoming Beachcomber to Barefoot Manta but sometimes it’s maybe better to leave when you could still have more – so the chances are higher to keep everything in good memory and come back one day.
Beachcomber is called the party island and I had a few good days, nights and drinks there, but way too many Despacito remixes every day – and if you ask yourself now “What is Despacito?” you might be one of the 10 lucky people on earth to not know it.
Some things I will definitely take with me from these days and not only the crowd singing Disney songs, the Bula dance (can’t stand that sober) or the new (drinking) games I learned – which also includes the “Russian roulette drinking tap water or not game” as every third person felt a bit sick after day one on the island. I’m happy about the Hawaiian travel tips from Alex and Mitch (see you in Vancouver!) who also saved me from wearing my messy cap any longer – thanks for the Billabong cap!
There is also the promise spoken into the night “If you find Zac Efron and ask him to marry me and he says yes you’re gonna be my maid of honor.” So, I need to keep my eyes open in LA as I would love to be the maid of honor to you, Christina. And our Zac E. friendship will always bind us.
What I will never stop to be amazed of is how different people can be, loud or quiet, extrovert or introvert, everyone with a unique story to tell. I’m very happy for the variety of people that I met. And I think I have to make a stopover in the UK next time – so many people that I met from Scotland, Wales and England on this trip so far.
The last evening and day in Nadi I spent quite chilled with Sophie and Georgia whom I had met on Beachcomber (where else). It was time to get back to reality, wear shoes again (how strange is that after 10 days!), say goodbye to my broken Flipflops (I still had them from the Blue Lagoon in Iceland – maybe I actually have to buy a pair this time…) and have a couple of last chats with Fijian guys about work & women – please don’t ask me how I ended up getting there but at least I got a free beer.
In the 12 days in Fiji I stayed never alone and I think I talked more with people and listened to stories than in a whole months in New Zealand. And it felt good. I crushed my traveller budget but I was lucky and more than grateful for the once in a while free beer I got offered.
Although this little guitar has made more friends than I have and I wished I had the name of everyone who played her written on it. And if you wonder yes, she has a name. Lilo. On both islands especially my fellow Fijians wouldn’t give her out of their hands. On some day I wandered around the island and saw her several times being played or hold in totally different hands. Sometimes I was stopped in the streets and being asked if people could play a song on her. “Make cupcakes, no war” was tattooed on the woman’s arm that played her at Port Denarau when I arrived back on the mainland and walked around for a while. I loved it. And I wished I could have given her as a present to the people at Barefoot Manta. But Lilo has a special travel destination and I can’t give her out of my hands before she has reached San Francisco. (If you ask why and want to know the story text me – but beware it’s emotional.)
I will definitely miss the spirit of the people here – travellers and Fijians alike – and I would be more than happy to return to Barefoot Manta in future. But first I’m off to Samoa, another Pacific island to explore. And have my first summer Christmas on.
Merry Christmas to all of you out there! I hope you some happy and refreshing days with your loved ones.