We spent our first 5 days in Fiji trying to master the concept of “Fiji time”. We chose the Bayside Resort on the island Waya in the Yasawa Group because the “resort” has only two bure (traditional thatched huts) with a shared bathroom/cold shower, and no phone/electricity. The resort is separated from civilization (other resorts/village) by a 25-minute walk. The second bure was vacant much of the time and we had the place to ourselves. The “daily activities” were the ocean and the two over-sized hammocks thoughtfully placed a few steps from the water in the shade of coconut trees. The weather was postcard-perfect and the cool breeze reminded us of our island life on Kauai.
Bayside is another great example of the good luck/timing that has blessed us the entire trip. When I made the reservations on-line from New Zealand I was in a hurry and accidently specified 28th of July, not June, as our check-in. So we were unexpected. We were lucky that the two bures were not booked. In addition I took the lack of a reply to my email the next day as a confirmation, but they were unable to accept Amex and so our payment never went through. The Fijians are so friendly and accommodating it was very easy to sort everything out.
Watches were of little use here although it took a couple of days for us to let go of our dependence on them. [Terry: Mark stopped looking at his watch and tried to guess what time it was by the position of the sun and the tides. His guesses were always within half an hour.] We slept with the two bure doors open all night -- we liked to be lulled to sleep by the sound of an occasional wave gently crashing on the reef outside our door -- and so each morning we were awoken by the sunlight peering into our bure. The tides dictated our snorkeling and octopus hunting (see below) activities. The “yellow boat”, the “Yasawa Flier” catamaran ferry that dropped us off on our first day, passed the island at 11 am and passed again on its return trip at 4 pm. This would give us a couple-hour warning of lunch and dinner respectively so we could finished a few more chapters in our books or napping in the hammocks before our next meal. Oni or Timmothy, our Fijian hosts whose sense of Fijian time was so flawless that neither had a watch, would come and tell us when our meals were ready.
Back to octopus hunting. Occasionally while reading or watching the crabs on the beach go about their daily duties -- this was another popular resort activity -- we noticed Oni looking around the reef at low-tide. She was hunting for octopus to use as bait for fishing. Later during our trip, after Terry and I had done plenty of reading, crab watching, and napping, we were ready for additional activities; this proved that truly mastering Fiji time would take us longer than 5 days. One day Terry helped Oni make roti (Fijian answer to Indian “nan”) for our Fijian curry dinner. Another day I asked Oni if I could use her metal stick to hunt octopus. Oni stopped what she was doing (making lunch) and came out to show me. Within a few minutes she called me over to a section of the reef. She pointed out a small collection of broken coral and shells that had been purposely piled in front of a small hole (that I would never had found on my own). She slowly removed the octopuses’ font door and jabbed at it with her stick. The octopus with no back door just hid deeper into its hole. Oni instructed me to get the pole she was using the previous day (a huge, heavy metal fence post). She smashed the (dead) coral hiding place to bits, reached in, and seized the octopus by the head. In a cloud of ink and flailing tentacles I could see that she forced a finger into its head and turned its entire head inside-out in one graceful motion. Then she tore a fist-full of innards out of its head and tossed them past me into the ocean. That was it; the battle was over. I too later tried my hand in octopus hunting but after two-hours the only octopus I had found escaped safely to deeper waters unscathed. The next morning we had a bowl of coconut/octopus soup with our breakfast. We had some really great meals at Bayside; grilled squid (caught that day), curry, and kassaka (candied sweet potato) to mention a few. Our five nights went by quick and we were soon saying good bye to Oni and Timmothy. Bayside felt less like a resort to us and more like a home stay.
[Terry: One of the best things to do in Fiji was lazing in a hammock. I read a lot. When I got too lazy to read, I looked at the “rugby” crabs cleaning out their hole (their house) by throwing the sand as if it were a rugby ball. See video, of course wonderfully taken by Mark who has not mastered his laziness yet. If I got too lazy to even look down at the crabs on the sand, then I watched the pretty clouds through the silhouetted coconut tree palm fronds. Then I drifted off to the ultimate state of laziness and took a nap until it was time to eat.
The Bayside was beautiful during daytime, but when the night fell, we had nightly visits from the island mice. Mark heard nibbling noises at night and I sometimes heard something else breathing among us in our bure. But Mark and I, content with our newly mastered skill of laziness, didn’t bother to chase them away like the couple in the next bure. That couple ended up sleeping on the hammocks one of the nights. The next day we realized the mice chewed through all the instant food we had sealed in a ziplock in Mark’s luggage. It even chewed his flip flops for dessert. I was too lazy to unlock my luggage, so my bag was spared from the gifts the mice so thoughtfully left in his (their crap). The couple in the next bure said they could actually hear monstrous spiders walking around inside their bure. Once the couple left the resort, all the mice and the spiders were so very lonely and had no choice but to all join us in our bure. I refused to look at them but Mark kept on exclaiming how big these spiders were. Mark tried to scare one away from the shower area, but it jumped at him. He killed it. When he tried to get rid of the second one in the toilet area, it also attacked him! This freaked him out (please see photos before calling us wussies). He said normally, the spiders run, not attack back. Then he started pointing the flashlight to the bure ceiling and exclaimed the monstrous spiders were everywhere! I could not use the toilet at night fearing these big monsters and preferred showering in the ocean instead (for 5 days). Our next destination was to be in a tent since all the bure were full in that resort. On our last night at the Bayside, Mark and I could no longer hold our bladder until the morning so we both walked to the beach and peed under the stars. Anything under the stars should be romantic, but I wondered if we were killing the poor unsuspecting rugby crabs with ammonia poisoning. This island is very beautiful and secluded but not secluded enough at night time. Even the beautiful stars above seemed to be telling me that I needed a proper shower. The stars twinkled five times and whispered “Tokoriki...”]
Tokoriki Island Resort
Tokoriki Island, our next destination, is in the Mamanuca Island Group. This was an impromptu choice as Terry’s story above explains, and highly recommended by our friend Wendy in Kauai. To get there from Waya taking the large safe catamaran, we would have had to return to Nadi, spend the night, and continue to Tokoriki the following day. Instead, against the advice of our Lonely Planet guide, we hired a local boat at the village and took the direct route across the sea saving hundreds of dollars and hours of travel. But again, luck was on our side; if the weather had gotten bad the one-hour trip in the open-hull, 24-foot boat with no life vests might have been dodgy. But the sea was relatively flat and a short, refreshing drizzle of rain was the worst weather we ran into. We had protected our essentials (hard disk full of images from our trip, credit cards, and passports) in a zip-Lock bag just in case “the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed” as the song goes.
[Terry: The villagers we hired the boat from told us the trip would take about 2 hours. I considered wearing our scuba BCDs on along with our snorkeling gear just incase, but Mark thought that was an overkill. But on our boat ride, he kept on pointing out the nearest island we could swim to if the boat sank. We passed many islands and many resorts on these islands. Then about half way through our boat ride, we saw a beautiful resort with people in their yellow kayaks and on their rainbow colored wind surfs. I was making a mental note to look up this amazing resort when our boat started pulling in towards this very resort! I was pleasantly surprised that the villagers overestimated the travel time only just slightly and no complaints from us for arriving in paradise one hour early!!! Did I mention the 40% discount for booking at the last minute? Good things come to those who suffer through mice and spiders.]
Tokoriki Island Resort is one of the top five resorts in all of Fiji (according to Lonely Planet). We were greeted with tropical drinks, cool refreshing mint towels for our face, and wooden necklaces. Our bure is a beautiful fan and A/C studio complete with breakfast nook, patio with hammocks, and bathroom with an indoor and outdoor showers. A far-far cry from previous accommodations in our 5 months travels to say the very least. The resort was also gorgeous, and the staff, all in their “bula” (Aloha) shirts, ever so polite. Our arrival was announced at dinner and departure 4 days later announced at breakfast and the staff gathered around to sing a farewell song. Everyday as the sun set, a staff member in traditional dress and body paint ignited the numerous resort tiki torches to the rhythm of a wooden drum. All I could think was, my Mom would love this place; she would eat this up! We loved it too.
All non-diving activities are included. So after eating lunch we went snorkeling. The snorkeling boat was full so we took a kayak out to the same spot, tied off and snorkeled on our own. The reef here is pristine with a wide variety of hard corals and reef fish, many of which we have not seen elsewhere. We returned in time for 4 pm tea hour. We enjoyed our complimentary tea and coffee along with scones in the game bure playing chess and later backgammon. Then, maybe experiencing sensory-overload from so many non-crab watching activities, we played a few sets of tennis on the banana tree-surrounded tennis court with huge bats circling over-head. Finally, we squeezed in a swim before dinner, and a nap before the Kava ceremony at night.
This was our first Kava cerimony. Kava is a drink made from dried and powdered pepper plant root and water. The powder is wrapped in cloth, soaked in a bowl of water, and constantly squeezed until is produces what looks like muddy water and which doesn’t taste much better. Terry, like others, said it made her tongue numb. It is also said to be slightly narcotic in effect. The ceremony itself is like a camp-fire drinking game (“Cardinal Puff” possibly?) with its procedures for accepting the kava. The point of the ceremony, as we were told, is for the “fellowship” for making friends and strengthening friendships. One person is deemed the chief, another his spokesman (that was me). Each person in turn claps his hands, takes the small bowl made from a coconut shell, says bula (Fijian for “hello”), drinks the entire bowl of kava, and claps his hands 3 times. Once everyone has had the kava, a short break of telling stories, sharing customs, singing songs, or self-introductions follows before the spokesman calls “taki” and the whole process starts again. This goes on from 9 pm until 11 pm in our case and into the wee hours for others.
The following days entertainment was, believe it or not, crab watching! Ten locally captured (and later released) hermit crabs were assigned names, numbers, and countries to represent all the countries of the guests. Crab “ownership” was auctioned off for each crab starting at F$5. Japan, a tiny hermit, went for F$9; USA, a well-feed hermit, for F$48; and the Fiji crab, the “local boy”, went for a whopping F$78. The crabs were place in a small inner circle and had to be the first to reach the much larger outer circle. All the collected money was divided into 3 prizes for 3 separate races. The cash stayed with the resort; the prices were in gift certificates to the resorts boutique. Gotta love those crafty Fijians! The first place winner was the USA crab and its owner took home $180! The second place owners had purchased 4 crabs totalling about F$200 and only took home F$80. Japan came in third and earned its owner the best “bang for the buck” with a prize of F$60.
On our last day I, ironically enough, got food poisoning from the previous dinner. After all the local food vendor Russian-roulette I played in Cambodia, Viet Nam -- drinking cobra wine and eating the dirty spring roll skins left over from the previous locals at the filthy “Banh” vendor at 22 Hang Bo in Hanoi -- Thailand, China, and at the Bayside -- where I had to fight the for ownership of my own plate with ants at every meal -- I couldn’t believe I got food poisoning at a five-star resort. I took turns throwing up and sleeping for most of the day. [Terry: Poor Mark! Another guest told me three other guests who ate the ginger pork also got sick. I had to laugh when Mark exclaimed his body is rejecting the five-star hotel food. Mark had a buttered toast for breakfast which made him more nauseous so we both skipped lunch and then he skipped the Lovo buffet dinner (cooked underground, like Hawaiian “Luau”) as well. But by the next morning, he was back to his old self.]
- Oh no, it’s over ;(
- There be whales here!
- Bad, bad Leroy
- Killing time near Suva
- Handicap Diver Below!