Hello: Bula! This greeting means “Hello” but it was explained to me as a declaration of “Life”. I like that and it carries more weight than “hello”.
Thank You: Vinaka
Currency: Fiji Dollar
An arrival in Fiji solves for many problems related to overall travel - luggage issues, connections, bad food and cramped seating on a long flight. Suddenly, I was in paradise. My driver to the hotel was talkative and eager to tell me anything that I might possibly want to know about Fiji. Considering I had an hour and a half drive, I was eager to listen. He informed me on the religious percentages in Fiji - Christians are the largest group, followed by Hindu and Muslims and a little bit of everything else. This led to a discussion about Pope Francis of which he seemed to know very little. But he was Methodist.
He described the old tradition of cannibalism, explaining that the missionaries had saved them from themselves, in many ways, by converting the indigenous population. You see, there was no meat to speak of on the island, so what else could the people do in earlier times?
Introducing animals to the island was also an interesting venture. According to my driver, the first cattle caused some confusion in naming. Since the first animal was brought for plowing and was a bull, they called all cattle “bulls”. Then someone brought a cow. That led to confusion as they thought it was a bull. Then they started calling cattle “bullacow”. Bases covered. The first dog was a collie - you know where this is going. All dogs are known as collies. Goats were called by the sound they made and all cats were called “pussies”.
What to do: I stopped off in Fiji to relax. After two months of preparation for a long trip and building a web-site, I had not had a break in some time. I specifically choose a smaller hotel with a beach away from the main town. I stayed at the Bedarra Beach Inn, away from Nadi and right on the beach. And it proved to be a perfect location for relaxation. The food was excellent at the hotel and the staff was amazing and friendly. Everyone knew my name within 24 hours. The closest town was Sigatoka where there were the usual shops with souvenirs and offerings of day tours/trips around the island. I only visited the town once and since I was not interested in buying anything that I had to carry for several months, I left with only a bottle of water.
Getting around: If you do want to travel around the island, there are buses with set fares and taxi drivers always willing to negotiate a fare. It’s not often you can say, “A man pulled up and offered me a ride to town, so I jumped in.” It was only a dollar and there were already a couple of other people in the car. That’s Fiji. The man dropped me and the others in Sigatoka. You get the feeling that this is something that is expected here. When I later took the bus back to the hotel, a woman working at the hotel got off with me. She seemed surprised to see me get off the bus and asked if I had taken the bus to town. I told her a man had stopped and offered me a ride while I was waiting for the bus. Again, she seemed a little surprised, saying, “You hitched into town?” I explained, “Well, there were other people already in the car. And it said Valentine tours.” Then she laughed. “Oh yeah, people do that all the time here and just charge you a dollar.” Exactly. And I didn’t have to wait for the bus. I just think that there are so many “tourists” who wouldn’t do that, that the locals are surprised to meet someone who will.
Water Activities: The snorkeling off the beach at the Bedarra Beach Inn was great when the tide was high. I spent so much time in the water that I started to recognize the fish. And I think they recognized me too. The big shimmery green fish with the blue strip down their back and along the side, the little leopard fish, the black and white striped angel fish, and the fish who just looked like fish. But I decided I wanted some more powerful snorkeling. Diving seemed to be a bit of a bother and I wasn’t sure I would see a lot more than snorkeling for the extra cost. Of course, it is hard to beat being able to submerge and then swim down to be eye to eye with the fish of your choice. After some investigation, I took a day tour with PJ’s. They did a nice job and were very concerned with everyone having a really good experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been snorkeling before with such a committed guide. I don’t think I’ve ever really had a guide for snorkeling. For the people who couldn’t swim well, they even worked with them so that they didn’t miss anything but were still safe. The variety of fish was good - bright yellow and black striped angel fish, black and white striped fish, luminous green blue fish, tiny cobalt blue fish, sea slugs and worms, sea urchins, clams, bright cobalt blue starfish, tiny crimson starfish, blue and white striped angel fish, and plenty of little Nemos with their orange, black and white, hiding among the fingers of a sea anemone. It was nice to be out on a boat for the day with a small group, enjoying the waters of paradise.