With no men involved. As usual.
Our Fiji tale begins, as it must, with the Moana theme tune.
The realisation that I only have the crappy pop version comes at the worst possible moment – as we’re about to set sail and there’s no WiFi to download it. Oh god no.
Ailidh saves us from a team meltdown by revealing she has the original version. She initially tries to claim that she downloaded it especially for Fiji, and almost immediately confesses to the lie. She had it all along.
I’m not judging, I watched the film on the plane over from LA – for research and preparation purposes obviously. I’m probably also the ocean’s chosen one. Just saying.
We are travelling by ‘seabus’ – a local boat which is cheaper and emptier than the better known Yasawa Flyer, so a double win for us.
We take our pick of all of the seats on the top deck, choosing the Leo and Kate seats right at the front of course, though hoping for a better fate.
It’s going to take 4 hours to get to our first island and the journey is incredible. The kind of scenery that you can’t tear your eyes away from.
We pass island after island, watching the sea colours change the closer we get to each shoreline, the lush green island humps poking out from the sea coming in and out of focus as we travel.
The blend of the strong sea breeze and the sticky 30 degree heat creates a pleasant temperature and gives you a warm, fuzzy, content feeling that reminds me of that precise moment when you get used to the temperature in a hot bath.
The gentle bobbing of the waves, the seaside smell, and the sun on my back makes me feel more relaxed than I think I’ve ever felt in my life. Except perhaps when sleeping, though historically to be honest, I’ve not been great at that.
This meditative state brings with it a cartoon reel of peculiar thoughts. Please see below for a window into my troubled mind:
- Oh god, do I need to shave my toe?
- Fiji ladies all look like my mum
- How can Ailidh get cold in this temperature?
- Maybe she’s not really Scottish
- No one that white could be anything but Scottish
- I’ve been perky in the mornings lately, I wonder why. Maybe I’m ill.
- That island looks like a laying down T-Rex covered in a fluffy green carpet.
- Maybe in Fiji I’ll learn to love sand.
Some people say that when they meditate, they make peace with their worries, see a path through big decisions, clear out unwanted thoughts.
My mind is clearly less sophisticated, less worried or very strange indeed. Let’s be honest, it’s probably all of the above. And no, I have not yet shaved my toe.
I designate myself Chief Wildlife Spotter, excitedly pointing things out (like tiny, luminous flying fish that look like sprinkles of glitter) to Ailidh while she is trying to read her book.
Ok they are the only things I point out, despite how hard I wish for dolphins. She indulges me like a patient mother.
After about 3 hours, we arrive at an island that looks like a lying down man with a pot belly and really small penis. I’m glad we’re not staying on that one. Though, I think to myself, a hike to the penis would be quite funny.
After another hour on the water, we arrive at our home for the next 3 nights and it is FANCY.
The lady that looked like my mum at the travel desk in our Nadi hostel tried to sell us island hostels, warning us that:
“They are basic, and you’ll probably see lots of cockroaches and rats”
With hindsight, we probably should have been a little more alarmed at that news, but we were genuinely about to go ahead with that plan, such seasoned travellers are we.
Shockingly, it was not the vermin that put us off the hostels, but the very meagre difference in price between the hostels and the resorts.
So here we are, at the Blue Lagoon resort on Nacula island – part of the Yasawa Islands and far too fancy for us.
We’re greeted with a colourful mocktail and cries of “Bula”.
I know now that this means hello. I did not always know this.
I learnt this fact in a very embarrassing way at the airport. So embarrassing, that I considered throwing myself in front of the airport transfer minibus, to avoid a more painful death from cringe and humiliation.
Ailidh had booked a transfer from
Nadi airport through our hostel, and they’d sent instructions of what to do when we arrived, along the lines of:
“When you get to the airport, go to the information desk and say Bula, and they will tell you where to find us”
So I did.
I went up and said “bula?” to the lady with a slightly question-like tone and waited there for her to tell us where to go.
She repeated “bula” back to me, and after a long pause, she looked at me like I had been dropped on my head as a child and said:
“Yes……..? Bula means hello, so where are you going?”
That right there, is an epic fail. I am the shame of my nation.
What made it more awful was that the airport was only about 8m x 15m, so if I had just walked a few steps further, I would have seen the lady holding the the sign and avoided all of the unnecessary trauma.
Anyway, I digress.
All of the resorts, fancy or otherwise in Fiji offer a compulsory full board package which we were initially a bit peeved by, but quickly came round to. There are no shops, cafes, restaurants or even cars on these islands – literally just one or two resorts / hotels / hostels and everything they need has to arrive by boat. So it’s not like there are other food options.
Nacula island is totally dreamy- white sand, sea that looks like a swimming pool, mini waves rolling in off their ‘house reef’ and an inflatable, total wipeout style playground in the sea! Genius.
The food turns out to be excellent and our days slow right down, to a pace that is entirely alien to me, but which very much resembles the type of holiday my sister thinks I should be having at my age.
20,000 steps a day reduces to 4,000 at a push, and time is punctuated only by meal times and happy hour.
In an attempt to fend off my impending obesity, we sign up for a ‘mountain hike’ on our second day which starts at 08:15 and is finished by 09:30.
Short, but steep at times and in some stifling morning heat and humidity. We trudge up the hill with our barefoot guide and a posh but lovely young English couple, Hadley and Jess. The ‘death march’ to Colca Canyon makes all other exercise seem like a walk in the park. But I’m still not ready to be grateful.
The panoramic views from the top are impressive and Hadley becomes our insta boyfriend for the occasion snapping pictures of our (my) sweaty face(s) with his posh camera.
We spend our days playing in the sea, sliding down the inflatable slide over and over again, bobbing about in rubber rings and splashing about in the pool.
My skin starts to turn a mahogany colour, while my hair gets progressively blonder and more haggard.
Some women nail that sun-kissed, beach babe look. I am not that woman. I am this woman:
Ailidh, adds the sun-kissed, beach babe accolade to her list of existing achievements (which include: youth, grace, balance, maths). She does have a kidney ulcer though. I console myself with this.
While Ailidh dazzles with her flowing curls, my hair is well on its way to full blown gingerhood and sun death. And I can tell you, that when your hair starts to too closely resemble the colour of your face, it is not a good look.
It’s our final night at Blue Lagoon, and over the preceding couple of evenings we had been surreptitiously observing the nightly Fijian ‘Kava Ceremony’ but hadn’t yet had the courage / inclination to join in.
To the outsider, the Kava Ceremony looks like a few Fijian blokes sitting on a rug with a vat of dirty dishwater between them and a rag.
The main man, sits with the vat between his legs, washes the rag and his hands in it, then passes cups full round to his new group of tourist mates and makes them down it, clap and say Bula a lot.
Now that I have culturally offended Fiji, allow me to tell you what is really happening:
Kava (the dirty dishwater) is a sort of tea, made from the root of a plant native to the western Pacific islands, which is strained through a silk cloth (rag). The ceremony marks the gathering of friends (tourist mates), and the tea makes your tongue go numb. Unfortunately though, as we found when we joined in on our final night, it sort of does taste like dishwater….
The next day, it’s time to take ourselves and our numb tongues to our second and final island – Waya Island – and the glorious Octopus resort.
With everyone starting to ask if I’m Fijian, I realise it’s time for me to retreat to the shadows. This is where I stay for the next 3 days. For one so brown, I am not good at sun.
Octopus resort immediately becomes our favourite, on account of the ‘cocktail making class’ which begins almost exactly as we arrive. We make friends with the barmen Tim and Tom and get absolutely shitfaced on creamy, odd-coloured cocktails and dance the night away at an impromptu beach party that Ailidh and I start. There’s only about 6 of us there but it’s a party nonetheless.
The following day, Ailidh remembers very little, and I’m specifically regretting the blue drinks. Nothing good can come from a blue drink.
As Ailidh bounces back into normal human thought and activity after about an hour at breakfast (and she’s normally a horror then anyway), I remain broken all day, more closely resembling Gollum than an actual person:
When the happy hour call comes, i am close to tears (see photo above). It’s too soon.
Over the next few days, I skulk from one dark, shaded place to the next, reading and admiring the view. Ailidh plays in the sea, then the pool, then the sea – in her natural water baby habitat, playing a cat and mouse game with sunburn. Sunburn is the cat in the story.
When the time comes to depart, we say goodbye to all of our new travelling friends, give (probably unwanted) hugs to our favourite members of staff, and head back to the mainland on our empty local boat.
As the Yasawa Islands disappear from view, I mentally rearrange the list of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been – with Fiji now at the very top, and make a note to tell my mum she’s definitely Fijian, so was probably adopted.