Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Battle of Hastings

Don’t worry there wasn’t really a battle. Well not at the time of writing anyway.

Well hello there dear readers! I thought I’d give you a little update before we start work tomorrow. I can hear you sniggering into your teacups. Stop it.

We arrived in Hastings just over a week ago, and in that time we’ve made some friends, got a job, stumbled across a lovely abode, opened a New Zealand bank account and drank too much wine and beer.

Our first stop was a hostel called The Rotten Apple. We’d read about them online and despite the name, decided they’d be a good place to start as they offered help with finding fruit picking work in Hastings, the middle of the orchard district. They put us up in their sister hostel – The Orange House, which has a no alcohol policy. We were like WHAT but it actually turned out to be a silver lining… Our German friends Philine and Kerry stayed at the Rotten Apple for one night, and said they only got two hours sleep due to the other guest’s partying. Fine, but not ideal if you’re going to be working whilst you stay there!

The Orange House was okayish – we were in our own room but in a bunk again. (Why?! I will never understand why they do this. Why don’t they just put two twin beds in? So bizarre.) There were plenty of nice people about, but the kitchen was tiny for the thirty guests, and there was two showers and three bogs (well, three showers, but the door didn’t lock on the third one and I didn’t really fancy taking the risk.) I can only imagine what it’s like when the season picks up and everyone tries to get in the shower at the same time before work. Makes me feel stressed just thinking about it.

We spent a few days there, walking into town each day for something to do and spending the majority of the day sat in the library reading the books. Christ, it’s starting to sound like Matilda! Anyway, one morning  we were sat in the library when the NZ phone rang. We got a call from RJ Flowers – the company we had been told to get in touch with by a Czech couple we met whilst in Fiji. They invited us over for an interview that afternoon. We looked up the location on the map and decided it was walkable…

So off we plodded (well, power-walked really) an hour before we needed to be there. The sun was beating down (thanks hole in the ozone layer) and the road became more and more rural until we were just walking on the grass at the side of the road passing massive tractors and farm machinery. Then a wasp flew into my Birkenstock. Bloody hell. Managed to pull my shoe off whist it was stinging my big toe, smacked it off with said shoe, and then had to make Tom pull the stinger off. I was in agony but had to just slap my sandal back on and keep limping along because we were already running late on a walk that seemed to be getting longer and longer by the minute.

Anyway, an hour and 15 mins after setting off, we arrived at th RJ flowers office. The staff we met were so lovely! They explained the work (8am-4.30pm Monday to Friday and optional Saturday mornings) and took us over to see the staff house…

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It was beautiful! Here’s a few pics from inside:

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Above is our bedroom and ENSUITE bathroom. (note, the rucksacks have since been shoved in the wardrobe, and I’m very happy not to have to look at them again for a few weeks.)

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Here is the lounge and kitchen area. Massive telly. All the better for watching the rugby on, says Tom.

imageThe back garden leads directly onto the apple orchards. Not a bad commute to work but I’m unsure how I’ll feel about them after a day working in them! I’m sure I’ll be dreaming about apples in no time.

Anyway, we decided we’d definitely like to move in. Convenient, cheap (60 quid each per week, so a lot cheaper than a hostel) and so so clean, lovely, and with loads of room. The company told us they were looking for another couple to move in and work too, so on our return we told the good news to Philene and Kerry, and also told our friends Ernest and Lewis to ring up for an interview.

A few days later, we managed to get all our stuff into Tracy’s (who works in HR) car, and she kindly drove us over to the house. So no wasp stings this time.

We’ve spent the last 5 days chilling out, wandering around (nearest shop is a 30 minute walk haha), drinking, eating incredible German food, and being merry. We start work tomorrow apple and kiwi thinning. (Apparently, this isn’t some kind of fruit diet, as suggested by my mum, but it’s where you remove some of the smaller fruit from the tree allowing the remaining fruit more space and room to grow huge.) I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, just picture me falling off ladders, boiling in the sun, being stung by wasps and wearing a ridiculous hat, such as the one modelled by Tom below.

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Below is our front gate, and work beyond. Not a bad commute eh?

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It’s very trendy at the moment to write a “Gratitude List” on your blog isn’t it?! Well here’s my version:

A list of things I’m grateful for after living out of a bag for five weeks:

– Coffee made in a cafetière

– A little cup to put your toothbrush in

– A sink near the toilet

– Toilet paper

– A real towel

– A face flannel

– A free to use washing machine

– Eating a meal without having to wash up your pans before you eat

– An oven

– Drinking from a glass, not a plastic bottle

– A cupboard. With your clothes in.

– A sofa

– A telly

 

Haha! This is meant to be tongue in cheek – I’m not moaning, I’m appreciating. Lots of love!

 

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Laughing in the face of death.

Well hello there. Today’s the day where I shall tell the tale of the time when we decided to jump out of an aeroplane.

This aeroplane in fact!

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When I went to see the woman on the hostel reception to book the jump, it was about 10am and she said “do you wanna go now?!” And I was like “but we haven’t had breakfast!!”

So we ate our breakfast and waited two hours for a later jump. In this time frame, Tom and I were sat on opposite sides of the room from one another and not speaking. Too nervous.

We were picked up in an outrageously yellow stretch hummer. Luckily the windows were blacked out, as we could see the people in the cafes we passed staring at the ridiculous car.

We arrived to the jump centre, and had a quick briefing, then decided on our jump package. There were two height options – 12,000 or 15,000ft. We decided we would do it properly as we were only gonna do it once, so 15,000ft it was. In doing so, we sacrificed the expensive camera packages, and opted for just an exit photo as we left the plane.

After donning some rather attractive red jumpsuits, we were told to watch a video whilst being dressed at what felt like 100mph by our instructors. I was having my arms and legs shoved in straps and things whacked onto my head all whilst trying to watch what felt like a very important video which I could barely see or hear. I’ve never been so stressed.

Luckily my jump buddy calmed me down on the way into the plane.

The plane ascended to 15,000ft. We had to wear oxygen masks whilst our instructors strapped us onto their fronts. It made me feel like a big baby. When we reached the right height, the door rolled open and it was so windy! Our fellow passengers began to jump out of the plane in quick succession. Tom and I were the last ones to jump. I yelled “I love you!” at him, unsure if I’d see him again!

Now, are you sitting comfortably?

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Here’s the only photographic evidence that we jumped out of a plane at 15,000ft! (those of you who know me, know I have a tendency to laugh when I’m scared!)

Here’s another!

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As you leave the aircraft your instructor grabs your head and points it to the camera haha!

We tucked our feet under the plane and spun out into the open air. We free fell for about 60 seconds. At this point you felt like you were falling so so quickly!  Initially you spin in the air, and after a few backflips the instructer rights you so you’re falling like a pair of flying squirrels. All I remember about this bit was thinkng “god it’s so nice to be up here but not in a plane,” and “Christ my nose is so cold.” The air flies up your nose and your ears pop a lot.

When the parachute opened we slowed down, it got a lot calmer and a lot quieter, and lot more enjoyable to be honest.

As we flew over the lake, the instructer started doing some kind of awful thing that meant we were spinning and spinning around. He did stop however, when I punched him in the arm and shouted “I think I’m gonna throw up!!” Ha!

The views were absolutely stunning.

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(These two pics are from Philene and Kerry, our German buddies who did the same jump but paid extra for the photos haha! We’re too tight!)

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As we were falling, my instructor pointed to show me where Tom was. At this point, Tom was about to land…. before the three other jumpers . As Tom jumped just before me, and I was the last one out of the plane, I started to panic. I was like “oh my god, why is he landing so quickly?? Is he okay? Do you think he’s sick? Do you think he’s hurt himself??!!” And my instructor replied “nah don’t worry, he’s just jumped with the guy who likes going fast!”

I then asked the instructor “is our parachute the same colour as Tom’s?” He replied “have a look!” … My head has never moved so slowly. I was so scared to look above at that bloody parachute but I did it!

As we came in to land, I was told to “lift your legs up!” And so I did as I was told landed nice and gently on my arse. Tom landed on his feet of course, he always has to out do me! I lay on top of the instructor for a while, enjoying the sensation of being on the solid ground. I lay there comfortably giggling until I heard “erm.. You can stand up now.” Whoopsie!

I went to hug Tom, and spent the rest of the day smiling like an idiot! I can honestly say that’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, and I’ve never been happier to be alive!

We’re alive!

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The Tongariro crossing

After another bus extravaganza, we arrived in Taupo. As we checked in, the chap on the hostel reception asked if we wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing, and if we did, we should sign up for the following day, as the weather was good and it’s often closed due to poor weather.

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The Tongariro is a one day alpine crossing involving a 19km hike. I was really eager to do it so we signed up. It turns out that the crossing was closed for the few days after we did it, so we are really fortunate to have made it!

Up we got the following day at 5am to get the 5.45 bus to the start of the trail. We had to set of early to allow us enough time to make the crossing before it got dark. On the bus was the most passive aggressive tour guide I have ever come across. Hilariously agro for 6am in the morning. I couldn’t decide if he was a cool climb dude sick of tourists or just not a morning person, but he made me laugh so much:

-“well all you guys wearing trainers are gonna have lovely warm and dry toes when you are walking though the snow aren’t you?!”

-“oh I can see those of you who don’t have sunglasses clearly are immune to snow blindness.”

– “the bus will collect you at 4pm. The bus will collect you at 4pm. What time? 4pm. 4pm. 4!!! PM!!!!! Am I being clear enough for you?! 4PM!!!!!!!!”

And so on and so forth.

Tom and I had wrapped up in loads of layers and waterproofs, were wearing trousers, hats, sun cream, had our first aid kits and sunglasses and our big walking boots etc. and had also packed enough food and water for about ten people. So we were absolutely fascinated by a pair of Chinese lads sat on the seats next to us.
Both were wearing trainers, one had on his swimming trunks, the other had huge fashion glasses on with no glass in them. And they had a bottle of Gatorade each and a subway sub each in a plastic carrier bag. We were equally amused and concerned that they had no idea what was going on. We were thinking that they’d be like “holy shit why are we walking across mountains in swimming shorts?!” Needless to say, we saw them at the end and they’d survived it so good for them!

The walk started out flat, and there were quite a lot of people. Everyone was fucking power walking for some reason and I was out of breath trying to keep up, thinking “why the hell do we need to be going so fast on the flat bit?!” But I think it was because the man on the bus had terrified us that we wouldn’t make it back by 4pm!

We walked across the base of the volcano used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings film.

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Then the path started to creep up hill until we reached a section of the walk called “the Devils staircase” – not a very reassuring title!

It was very steep and there were so many steps to climb. It wouldn’t have been too bad had there not been people behind me. If I wasn’t so out of breath I would have loved to turn round and roar “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!” In their faces, but alas, I had to make do with stopping on the edge of a cliff and breathlessly gesturing them past!

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It was amazing to reach the top. We had a banana break. Tom dropped his banana and then jumped up and down on it in anger which made me laugh a lot. I’m a meany. We then entered the snowy part of the walk.

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It was so beautiful!! And warm! Definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The rest of the walk is hard to put in a timeline because it all blurred a bit into one. The best bits were the views, seeing the volcanic activity, walking across the frozen lakes, and the bright emerald blue lake where we sat for lunch.

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All in all, it took us about 7 hours. We were warned not to stop for long periods because our legs would stiffen and make it hard to keep going. It was one of the hardest walks that I’ve done but definitely the most rewarding. Taking my boots off and lying down on the wooden bench felt amazing once we’d made it!

Try clicking the little link below, it should take you to a 30 second video that summarises our time on the crossing.

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Rotorua

Rotorua. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Rotorua was so cool!! The hostel was lovely and it even had a climbing wall inside it. Ideal for my chronic insomnia. Only joking, no night climbs for me!

We couldn’t check in as we’d arrived really early so we dumped our bags and caught the bus to the “skyline,” an adventure park on top of a mountain that Jacob and Charlie had recommended to us. We got the gondola up the hill and then rode a kind of go kart called a “luge” down the hill. There were three tracks of varying steepness. It was just so much fun and we had such a good time. So good to be told about it as we probably wouldn’t have known it was there otherwise!

The next day, we headed to Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village. (By the way, the Maori language uses only 14 letters!) The village was built upon geothermal land, so there’s bubbling mud pools, explosive geysers and sulphur steam coming out from gaps in the earth. The people who live in the village use the underground pools to cook their food, and the hot natural baths to bathe in. Pretty cool huh?

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We saw a cultural performance involving the famous Haka – a war dance used by the warriors to scare their enemies and to also psych themselves up for battle. This is still used by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team today. They group also sang and the women performed with poi – balls on strings that are swung to make patterns imitating birds in flight and also create percussion for the performance.

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After that we had a tour of the village and learnt about the history of the place and how the geothermals are utilised. Then we tried some hangi pie (meat cooked in the hot water) and also sweet corn cooked the same way. Yum! It was a great day and much better than we’d expected.

The following day we got onto a bus at the ungodly hour of 7.15m. We had a tour guide was pointing out hilariously mundane sights such as “okay the road is bending to the left a bit now guys.” and “as you can see, it’s starting to rain a little now.” – I must add that we only found this hilarious in hindsight and it was incredibly annoying when you’re trying to sleep haha!!

A few hours later we arrived at the Waitomo Black Water Rafting Company (another recommendation from Jacob and Charlie, thanks guys!) we got into some rather fetching damp wetsuits and we taken in a mini bus to the entrance of the caves. We were each handed a large rubber ring and then practised jumping arse first into a freezing cold river. It was one of those moments where I was thinking “what the hell have I signed up for?!”

As we climbed into the caves all I was thinking was about “The Descent” (for those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a horror film where a bunch of women get trapped in a cave with horrid human sized gollum monsters!)
As there were only four of us in our group we got to do some extra caving involving crawling through tiny spaces which was terrifying as it was pitch black and lit only by our head torches. The rest of the trip went from the extremely terrifying – jumping backwards off waterfalls into pitch blackness to the extremely relaxing – floating along an underground river looking at the glow worms in the ceiling whilst our guide sang to us. I loved seeing the glow worms in the dark, it was like looking at the night sky with turquoise stars. I absolutely loved the trip and I’m so glad we paid a bit extra to go in the rubber rings rather than the boat.
We were frozen when we got out, but felt much better after a hot shower, some soup and a bagel or three.

Back on the bus we went and off to Hobbiton! We were ridiculously excited to see the set of the Lord of the Rings films having re watched the over films the previous few days. We jumped on a big coach and were taken through the farm land to the film set. As I rounded the corner into the shire I was so excited!! It made me so giddy because it felt so magical.

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There were loads of hobbit holes – for some reason I’d assumed there would only be three or four. It was interesting to learn about how they made some big hobbit holes so that the actors playing hobbits looked small and vice versa so the wizards look big. Great place, I won’t bore you with more details. We also got a free drink in the pub which was ace. The cider was lovely and 5% so I was nice and happy to be back on the coach. Awesome day!

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A hitch hike to paradise

Following our Auckland extravaganza, off we jolly well went to Whitianga on the bus.

We arrived to a tiny seaside town and checked into the YHA. The hostel was lovely, and we managed to maintain a 4 man dorm to ourselves for two nights. Result! The town had little to hold except a fish and chip shop offering a $10 special… 2x fish 2x chips 2x squid rings and 2x sausages for the equivalent of 5 quid! It’d be rude not to really wouldn’t it! Sat and devoured it by the sea. Freezing. Went back and watched the last instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The following morning we decided we wanted to visit the local tourist attractions – Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, the latter coming recommended by Maggie’s crew. Unfortunately it turned out that they weren’t as local as we’d at first thought, and the ways to get there were a coach tour for $50 a head or to hire a car for $65… We considered hiring a car and risking the insurance business but decided it wouldn’t be worth it. I wasn’t impressed by the thought of paying the equivalent of 50 squids for a bus to a beach. A beach should be free should it not?! So we went to ask the hostel owner for advice, and she said “I strongly recommend you hitch hike.” We were like “huh?” – when does anyone ever suggest hitch hiking?? But she reassured us that it’s perfectly safe and we’d have no trouble getting picked up. We decided in the words of mummy Deane that we were “big enough and ugly enough” to cope. Yikes!

After a comedy ferry crossing of about 50m we started walking in the right direction. Not a car to be seen. We wanted to go to the Hot Water Beach for low tide so we were in somewhat of a hurry. The traffic began to pick up to about one car every 5 minutes (did I mention that New Zealand is quiet?) we began nudging each other every time a car went past saying “you do it!” “No, you do it!” And so on and so forth.
We finally plucked up the courage to stick our thumbs in the air and the first car that passed us stopped and picked us up. How crazy is that?! The two blokes who picked us up were pulling their boat and were perfectly lovely, and even altered their route to get us closer to the beach.

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When we got to the beach there were about 100+ people rammed into a small spot digging holes. The geothermal activity under the sand means that you get hot water when you start digging. Should you have brought a spade with you that is! We didn’t have a sodding spade did we?! Also, we kept trying to try out other people’s holes who weren’t very impressed. Too many people everywhere so we gave up having only managed to scald our feet haha!

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After sharing a coffee in the cafe (desperate times and all that) we got back on the road to Cathedral Cove. We didn’t even need to put our thumbs up before someone pulled over and offered us a lift. So far in New Zealand we’ve been treated with nothing but kindness. It’s been lovely! The chap who gave us a ride even showed us where the beach was and then took us to the start of the trail. A 45 minute walk took us up and down steps all the way to along the coast to Cathedral Cove. When we got there it felt like hidden treasure. We’d hitchhiked to paradise!

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We headed back to the main road via stingray beach (no stingrays just a strong poo smell) and then got our hands on an ice cream. 🙂 we then thumbed a final lift back to the ferry. What a day!

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The next day saw us back on the bus, this time going to Tauranga. We decided to stop here as it was on the way to Rotorua, and we’d heard good things about the nearby Mount Monganui. Again it was another town with not much going on. We got the bus to the mountain (a lot less than $100 this time) and walked up the mountain. Monganui is another inactive volcano. It was a nice walk, with good views from the top.

To be honest the best thing about that day was the ice cream parlour we found! Copenhagen Ices make their own waffle cones and I tried a new flavour – orange chip which is actually like a scoop of heaven. Pot noodle tea and then a sleepless night in a dorm. I. Hate. Dorm. Rooms.

Woke up knackered but excited to be heading back on the bus to Rotorua!

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Bay of Islands and Pine Harbour

After our five days in Auckland, we got the bus up to Paihia (pronounced pie here!) in the Bay of Islands.

We checked into the loveliest hostel. Everywhere was clean, great communal area and the owner was so helpful getting us set up with a bus pass. He also provided loose leaf tea and was delighted that we know how to use a teapot and tea strainer (thanks mum) apparently most of his guests don’t and require a lesson!

Paihia is a coastal town that reminded us a bit of Bowness, but with better weather and less tourists. It was nice to feel at home! Our first day was spent wandering around and commandeering the Lord of the Rings DVDs in the hostel (when in New Zealand and all that!)

After a really good and much needed sleep, we decided to do the Dolphin Cruise around the Bay of Islands. We managed to book the trip using our bus pass so it didn’t cost us anything which was great. The Dolphin Cruise only did half of what it said on the tin in that yes, it was a boat trip, but no, there were no dolphins. Well, tom saw a dolphin but I did not. This was disappointing as we really wanted to swim with them having heard all about it from a fellow traveller in Fiji. We later discovered that it’s too early in the season to see a lot of dolphins but hopefully we will be able to swim with them from the South Island. The tour was okay, pretty good to see the hole in the rock and a few of the islands that captain cook “discovered.”

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After the tour we were dropped in a town across the bay from Paihia called Russell. It was a lovely town, but deserted. We heard some crazy birds whilst we were waiting for the boat back, they sounded like they had about four voice boxes – a combination of creaky doors and R2D2!
When we got back to Paihia we had some much anticipated fish and chips only to discover they were pants compared to home. Oh well!
Sorry, that sounded like a bit of a moan, but it was just a bit of a weird day haha!

We headed back to Auckland the following day and caught a small ferry to Pine Harbour, across the bay, to meet Maggie, a lovely friend of James, Tom’s godfather. Maggie was so kind and funny and accommodating and amazingly put us up for two nights in her beautiful home in Maraetai.

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We enjoyed home comforts, good food and even did some laundry. We really enjoyed meeting her kids, her cats and her dog, and had a really good walk along the coast line noseying at people’s houses. The cool thing about the area is all the houses are individually designed and super cool, it felt a bit like walking around Beverley Hills.

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(Here’s a snap of Flash. He looks like scooby do!)

We were sad to leave and return to Auckland (for the 3rd time!) in order to catch our bus to Whitianga.

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Auckland (Orcland) ho ho ho!

Well hello there, it’s been a little while hasn’t it?! I’m back by popular demand but can’t guarantee any funnies I’m afraid. I’m currently writing this from our hostel in Rotorua, but I thought I’d write about Auckland as I have some major catching up to do!

We were greeted in Auckland by crisp air and the sun high in the sky. I was surprised by how the season felt so different almost straight away, but it is currently spring here after all! The days have generally started out cold and then really hot towards midday and then cool again when the sun goes in. There seems to be a much bigger range in temperature throughout the day than at home.

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(Look! Cherry blossom! In October!)

Our first three nights in Auckland were at the YHA, which was great because we were given a free upgrade to a self-contained flat shared kitchen/bathroom with one other room which felt like such luxury! Unfortunately when we went to book an extra night it was fully booked due to Maroon 5 playing in the city. We managed to find one other hostel with two beds free in the same room and it was grotty as hell. 8 man dorm with me being the only girl, stinking sheets, and bizarre weirdos everywhere. Not good, but anyway you win some you loose some!

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In terms of the city itself, Auckland is built on a load of inactive volcanoes so it is SO FUCKING HILLY. It’s a really chilled, feels really safe and there is hardly anyone anywhere. We spent the first few days going “where the hell is everyone?” But we’ve come to realise that this country has a tiny population compared to home. How lovely!

We read in our lonely planet that Mount Eden was a good place to visit. Yes, you guessed it, it’s a volcano! A nice steep walk up to the top granted us views of the city which was really cool. The crater at the top is considered sacred by the Maoris so we didn’t walk inside it, but it was nice to see. Mount Eden is also a cool trendy area so we enjoyed a wander around the neighbourhood afterwards and Tom finally got his hands on one of the NZ pies that he’d heard so much about.

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(Here’s me being poncy on top of a volcanoe)

The second day was spent lurking around the art gallery, and having a mild heart attack over the below exhibition.

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Both feeling still ill from Fiji weirdly, so it was a bit of a chilled day that we both needed. Travelling is really tiring sometimes. How silly!
We also got sorted with a NZ mobile. Tom said it meant we are now like drug dealers who have two mobiles. Gangsta.

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First lesson of NZ: just because blue fanta is $1 (50p) you don’t need to have it for breakfast. 🐧  penguin crisps though mum!

The next day we met up with Rand, Tom’s godfather’s brother (mouthful or what) and his family for lunch. It was so lovely to meet them, try out some Thai food (there’s a massive Asian population in Auckland) and get a bit of local knowledge. We then walked about a million miles to the Auckland museum only to discover the entry fee was out of our budget, but we did enjoy the free botanical gardens. (Bloody cheapskates.)

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The night following was the one spent in the aforementioned dire hostel. We wandered the city until around 10pm because we didn’t want to go in. Had a pot noodle for tea and I had the revelation that I’d much rather eat noodles and spend the extra cash on double rooms. Getting snobby now I’ve hit my first quarter century me thinks! Anyway, it was good in a way because it made us eager to leave and head onwards to the bay of islands.

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(Auckland’s sky tower is the tallest man made structure in the southern hemisphere. It towers above the city, yet it’s still 60m shorter than the Empire State Building, how insane is that?! NYC is so huge it’s ridiculous.)

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More soon, I promise!

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Fiji: The Final Chapter

Day 8 

On the next day it was heaving it down once again. We played cards for hours with some friends we made. (Friends! Travelling friends! (sorry, couldn’t resist an inbetweeners joke there) )
We then decided to do the “barefoot hike” which was neither undertaken barefoot, or much of a hike as it lasted about ten minutes up a hill. Having said that, I still somehow managed to violently stub my toes resulting in a grimly bloody foot. Can’t take me anywhere! After a bbq lunch (much to Tom’s delight) we returned once again to the big boat and headed South, this time stopping at Naqalia Lodge.

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Naqalia was a lovely family run resort. All the staff were somehow related, and were really friendly and hospitable. There were also three puppies at the resort! Such sweeties. My favourite was the runt called Pearl. She was so tiny and kept getting picked on by the other pups.

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Once we were settled in our lovely room, we went for tea and met the other guests. After tea we took part in a kava drinking ceremony. (not cava as I at first thought!) Kava is a Fijian drink made from crushed pepper plant (as in salt and pepper not bell pepper) and mixed with water. Originally part of a sacred ceremony, it’s now more of a social thing. It looks and tastes like muddy water, but it makes your mouth and throat numb and helps you sleep at night – ideal for me! We had to choose how full our bowls were – “low tide” “high tide” or “tsunami.” I tried high tide but chickened out when it came to the tsunami business!

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Day 9

(Rhiannon, Charlotte and any other arachnophobes who happen to be reading this, you may wish to jump ahead a bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
After a good kava-induced sleep, we woke up to some more rain. I padded into our shower room and realised that the window was shut with lots of bugs trapped inside. As I was leaning to open the window and let them out, on the wall I saw the.biggest.fucking.spider.I.have.ever.seen.or.ever.hope.to.see.again.
Hand-sized, the stuff nightmares are made of. I screamed for Tom. Tom hates spiders, I don’t mind them too much, so perhaps it was a bit cruel of me but for some reason I just needed someone else to see it too! We blocked it in the bathroom and went for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went round the back of our hut to look in the shower room window to see where the spider was. Horror film style, the door was open!!!! For gods sake!! Aragog was now on the loose in our hut. As Tom tentatively brushed his teeth, I searched the room for the bastard but couldn’t find it anywhere. I looked for a weapon and my eyes fell upon the floor standing fan. Brilliant, I thought. If I see the bugger I’ll splat it with the fan. I lifted the fan to test out the weight and then THERE IT FUCKING WAS!! I screamed and it was on the loose again. I made Tom watch the spider (never seen someone look so terrified with a toothbrush in their mouth) whilst I went to get one of the Fijians. After chasing it around and under my bag (shudder) the hero of the story put his hand over the spider whilst it was on the floor. The image of legs sticking out from all sides of his hand will stay with me forever. He threw it out onto the beach and looking very unimpressed, told us that it was a “money spider” and “good luck”

Money spider????!!! Seriously?! Anyway. I deducted that if something is seen as “good luck,” it’s usually because it’s rare (being pooed on by a bird etc.) Oh, how I was wrong…

It was absolutely chucking it down all day, so not much to do, although we did drag ourselves up the big hill behind the resort. Tom was grumpy because he watched England loose in the rugby to Wales in a room full of Fijian Wales supporters. Ho hum.

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(Looks happy doesn’t he?!)

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(View of the resort from the top of the hill. We were staying in the pinky coloured spider hut.)

That evening we learnt a “traditional bula dance” – I put this in inverted commas because it was pretty much the macarena and part of me thinks it was dreamt up to make the travellers look like tits! We also did a limbo dance (I was the first one out surprise surprise) And then more kava. Just what I needed to get over Aragog Gate.

Day 10
We got up early. I decided to skip the whole showering business after the previous day’s escapade.

We went out on a boat to a reef to swim with the reef sharks. With us were half of the Kiwi family staying at the resort, and a lovely Czech couple. On the way out to the reef, Nathan (from the resort) jumped out to go spear fishing to get some breakfast for the sharks.

We carried on to the reef, and all jumped in. The sharks were so cool! There was about six or seven of them, each around 1.5m long. It was so cool to see them lurking at the bottom and a bit scary when they came up to you. I touched the back of one of them (we were instructed to stay clear of their mouth) Nathan was going to feed them and I kept my distance as I was a teeny bit scared of them. I had my head underwater looking at the sharks on the bottom when I heard screaming.

I popped my head out of the water trying to figure out what was going on to see Rebecca with her arm out of the water literally dripping in blood. I couldn’t see her dad anywhere and she’d asked me to be her snorkelling buddy so I was holding her out of the water trying to figure out what was going on. We all got back on the boat and headed back to land. It turns out she’d been really close to Nathan as he was feeding the swarming sharks, she’d moved her arms backward whilst treading water and had come between a shark’s mouth and the food. Wow! Never a dull day in Fiji eh? Luckily Rebecca’s mum is a doctor so she patched her up, and she was absolutely fine.

The rest of the day was a little bit surreal. We played cards and chilled out. I went to our hut to go to the loo, and guess what? ANOTHER SPIDER. I’ll call this one Shelob. Tom and I realised that we couldn’t ask for help again without looking like a total pair of pansies, so we threw a bath mat at it, put our walking boots on and somehow shooed it back out of the hole it came through. Joyous. I spent the rest of our stay using the outside loo that was only populated by geckos – much more manageable!

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Day 11
The next day, we went on a boat trip to the local village to meet the children at the school. The kids all sang to us, which was lovely, and we got to see their classrooms and learn about their lessons and how the school day is run. They don’t have electricity at the moment but are currently fundraising for solar power. Interestingly, all the displays in the classroom are in English. When I asked about it, the teacher explained that the lessons are taught in English with lots of explanation in Fijian. The kids seemed really happy, and I enjoyed seeing them all collect plastic plates and head across the field for their lunch.

When we got back to the resort, I learnt how to do some traditional Fijian weaving and with a lot of help, made this bracelet! It was nice chatting with the women about how I knit jumpers at home, although they’d be pretty useless in Fiji.

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We then got the big boat back to the mainland, checked in at our hostel, went out for a bizarre meal and then had an early bed before our flight to New Zealand the next day.

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Fiji days 5-7 in which we met manta rays and got ill.

Day 5

We went back to the big boat after three nights in Nabua Lodge. We were equally sad to leave, as the staff were so nice, and we liked our burre, but happy have a change of scenery.
We had a bit of an ominous start: Tom wasn’t feeling too well, sleeping in a hammock with his hoodie on, and no appetite (never a good sign)

On the boat we tried to book a night in Long Beach, as we’d heard good things about it, but unfortunately it was “fully booked” so we were sent to the Gold Coast Resort. On the ferry we both started to feel worse and worse. My entire body was aching and I felt really weak and shivery and Tom had poorly tum tum.
As we were pulling up to the beach in Gold Coast, everything looked completely run down and derelict, and there was no one in sight. Tom asked if I was okay and I said “yeah, but I think I should have brought my banjo…”
It turned out we were the only guests at the resort, with the oldish couple who ran the place. There was no communal area where we could sit, and it was pissing it down and so windy, with weird manky dogs everywhere. The next 24 hours were spent being violently ill, and there wasn’t a bathroom door, there was a curtain instead. I’ll leave that image for you to dwell on for a moment. HA

Anyway, that was the low point of our time in Fiji and we moved on the following day!

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(This is the only photo I took at Gold Coast and it didn’t come out looking as sinister as it felt!)

Day 6
Still ill, but back on the big boat and very happy to be on the move again. This time we were even allowed to go to Long Beach! When we arrived, there was three other human being guests, and when we asked them, they said it was equally quiet the previous night. So there was definitely some bull shitting going on on the boat, which is frustrating but there’s nothing we could do about it!
Day spent mostly in bed, listening to Sum 41 and groaning whilst clutching our bellies.

Day 7
We were finally both feeling on the mend, which was a relief. It’s hard being ill away from home, and we’d consumed our entire drug supply, so it was a good job it was over! We got on the big boat again and went off to Barefoot Manta island, along with Beth and Spike, who we’d met at Long Beach.
It was sunny! And there were lots of people milling about. There was even happy hour at the bar!!! It was such a nice atmosphere, but very different from the other islands. We later learning that it’s owned by Australians, and you can really see the wealth there compared to the family run Fijian resorts.
We dropped our bags in our burre, and heard someone banging a big drum and yelling “manta! Manta!” We panicked and shoved our swimmers on, and legged it to the dive shop to get signed up to swim with the manta rays. (In the panic, I even forgot my new found snorkel phobia)

After getting kitted up we jumped in the boat that took us to one end of the chanell that dragged us over the manta rays swimming against the current. They were absolutely amazing. About 3 metres wide, and slowly flapping effortlessly below us, almost like they were flying. At first, I was so stunned I forgot to breathe for a bit!
The boat picked us up at the end (there were steps up to the boat thank god, although I still made a tit of myself trying to get up them with my flippers on. – I later realised you were meant to take them off in the water haha!!)
We repeated the operation two more times, so we saw three giant mantas in total. They’re my new favourite animal 🙂
Back to the resort, showered, and ready for happy hour. I was delighted to have a cocktail and watch the sunset. We had tea, got a bit pissed then went to bed. Great day!!

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image(the above is the burre where we slept)

image.image(i couldn’t resist a snap of Tom going to the loo because I was half expecting Indiana Jones to burst out from the undergrowth at any moment.)

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