Category Archives: Fiji

11 lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling

We’re coming towards the end of our trip (NOOOOOO) with only seven weeks left until we fly from Bangkok to Gatwick. I’ve recently become reflective and I was thinking about the things I’ve learnt and decided to write a post about it before I’m sat at home on the sofa and I’ve forgotten everything. So here it is… Eleven lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling.

1) Trust people

99% of people are kind and helpful. As I’m writing this, nothing bad has happened to us, so TOUCH WOOD… But we’ve had so many situations where people have been like “You’re going to Hiroshima? You’re on the wrong train! Get off quick!”
There was that time where we hitch-hiked in New Zealand and we’ve stayed in people’s houses we’ve never met before. When somebody says “I need to take your passport down to road to get your boat ticket,” just give them the passport!

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2) At the same time, be sensible and look after yourself

It’s important to look after your valuables, keep your wits about you and if you end up wandering around somewhere dodgy-looking at 3am, just get a taxi!

3) If someone invites you to do something, say yes

When someone I’ve just met asks me “do you want to play a drinking game?” Or “would you like to have dinner with me and my family?” My inner introvert panics at the thought of an impeding awkward situation and my instinct is always to make some kind of excuse. But I’ve learnt that you should always say yes, and good experiences always come out of it.

You’ll meet some amazing people who are equally as poor as you, and you’ll end up having a Box/chicken party It’s cheap!

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4) You’ll have crazy highs and a couple of crazy lows
Sometimes travelling feels like you’re in a happy musical. (No really, I literally twirled around and cried with happiness in New York and screamed when we saw the Hollywood sign.) And to balance life out, you’ll spend a few hours crying on the toilet because you’re so ill, and you’ll scream “what am I doing with my life??!!” in torrential downpour wondering why you’ve found yourself at the top of a slippy ladder in a pear tree.

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5) A smile goes a long way
There are places in the world where you’ll get hassled a lot. When it’s hot and you’ve got your backpack on it’s easy to get your feathers ruffled and want to yell “bugger off, I’ve been walking for half an hour and I can’t find my hostel!!!!!!” But I’ve learnt that to smile and say “no thank you” is the best way around it, and you won’t feel as stressed.

5) Living out of a bag gives you perspective about things
I’ve never been particularly materialistic and I’ve always preferred a good book over shoes, but living out of a 65litre rucksack for ten months gives you a good perspective on the stuff you don’t need. It took me a month or so to relearn what my face looks like without make up, but think I’m actually happier with less stuff. I feel calmer and less cluttered. Okay, so I totally didn’t have a meltdown when my favourite dress got a stain on it…. But yeah. Less is more when it comes to backpacking. Oh, and Kindles are one of the BEST things in the entire world. (That’s a sentence I never thought I’d say)

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6) You’ll also get perspective on stress an it’s effect on the body
Of all the places I’ve been, the ones with the fastest pace of life and visibly stressed people are America, Japan, and the good old United Kingdom. I honestly think we all work far too hard to save money for holidays and stuff we don’t need so we can forget about the rubbish climate. (Massive generalisation…I know. Maybe I’m just a summer person.)
When we’d been travelling for around a month, I felt the muscles in my jaw loosening. My eczema that I’ve had nearly all my life has completely disappeared and those paralysing migraines I get about once every six weeks? Well guess how many I’ve had in eight months?… One.
I’m not writing this to make anyone jealous, but as a reminder to my future self that stress is terrible for me, and I need to work on staying chilled. When I’ve figured out how to do that one I’ll let you know!

7) Travelling will change you in ways you don’t expect

Those of you who know me will know that I’m fairly easy-going but I am also a big worrier. I’m a little bit more relaxed now, mainly about travel situations. For example, I no longer check my passport a million times before boarding a plane. And if someone doesn’t give me my change straight away, I can just wait, knowing they’ll get it to me. I’m a more patient now, and less easily flustered.

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8) But mostly, you’ll stay the same.
I have chronic insomnia. I thought travelling would cure me, and dorm rooms would be a kind of therapy and I’d come home with the ability to sleep anywhere. Well, the truth is I still can’t sleep anywhere! I thoroughly believe there is a special place in hell reserved for people who snore and have sex in dorm rooms. Dorm rooms are my own kind of personal hell actually. One of the main things I miss about home is that I can get up and roam the house and play with my cats and make a cup of tea at anytime any hour of the night. Plus there’s always a comfy spot for me to go with my book. Whilst we’ve been away I’ve done a lot of reading on the toilet in the early hours so that I don’t wake Tom up!

9) Always go with your gut
If a person, or a situation gives you a bad feeling in your tummy, or if you find your trying to talk yourself into doing something… DON’T DO IT.

10) You will adapt to anything
When we arrived in Asia there weren’t any knives and forks. I’d used chopsticks before but found them fiddly and they made me eat incredibly slowly. Fast forward a week and I finished a plate of food and say “Oh! I didn’t even think about the chopsticks!” When we first went to Japan, the whole nude bathing thing terrified me. A week later I was strolling around naked happy as Larry.

11) push yourself, but also know your limits.
I can jump out of a plane at 15000ft

I can bungee jump off a bridge .
I will never drive a scooter/motorbike in Asia.
I will never go scuba diving.

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Never say never though. The scary things are the best challenges.

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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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Fiji time! (Days 1-4)

Hello from New Zealand! I’m trying to catch up from where I left off as the wifi in Fiji was like a month of Sunday’s.

Day 1
We arrived in Fiji having travelled in time over the date line. We set off from Hawaii at 1am, flew for nine hours and then arrived the following day at 9am. I think I just about understand this concept, but if I ask Tom to explain it one more time, I fear he may kill me. So yeah. Time travel.

We spent one night on the mainland, in a really lovely hostel. There were hardly any other guests, so we had a really peaceful time and even had a bathroom to ourselves!

Day 2
The next morning we got a bus to the ferry port, checked in and boarded the boat that takes you to the islands. Onboard we booked our first stop. The port is at the bottom of the islands, so we decided to stay onboard for four hours, right to the top so that we could work our way back down.

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(this guy was guarding the entrance to his island.)

We arrived at our first stop, Nabua Lodge, looking very lobster like. (Tom neck, me thighs) bloody idiots. If everyone didn’t already know we were British, they certainly did now!
(Lesson one learnt in Fiji – you can get sunburnt through cloud.)

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The rest of the day was spent eating mutton curry, wandering down the beach for tea and cake at a ladies’ hut (banana cake) and nursing sunburn. In the evening we met all the other guests, there was around ten of us, and had tea and I drank too much wine because it was my birthday. 🙂

Day 3
Sunshine! Glorious sunshine. Little did we know that it would be one of the few sunny days we had in Fiji. Typical.
I woke up early with the sun, and waited for the Fijians to bang the big drum that signals breakfast. (I quite like this idea, and I may start banging a big drum at home whenever I’m hungry and see if anyone feeds me.)
We booked onto the “Blue Lagoon” snorkelling trip. Having somehow reached the age of 25 and never been snorkelling before, there was a short drowning episode before I got the hang of the flippers and breathing through the mouth. I’ve always learnt by doing haha. Once I’d grasped it, it was absolutely incredible! In the clear water we saw so many fish swarming for the bread the instructor threw in: Bright fish, dull fish, long fish, stubby fish, nemo fish, Dory fish, sinister sting ray fish, and my favourite: bright indigo blue starfish!
It was truly awesome. I wish I had an underwater camera so I could show you. It amazes me that they’re down there, it’s a whole new magical world.

UPDATE
Liked scuba diving so much that we went again in the afternoon and I had a half hour drownathon (water in nose, mouth, throat, feet not working, flailing around etc.) and then decided to give up because I was exhausted. No steps back onto the boat and zero upper body strength so had to be hoisted in like a six foot flapping white beached whale. Oh well, it’s rare that I go a day in life without completely humiliating myself!!

(Lesson two learnt in Fiji – snorkelling is hard)

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Day 4
The day of the cave trip.
We got a boat over to another island (nice and choppy) and went to visit the Limestone Blue Lagoon Caves. We had a brief brief, and then were left to our own devices for a bit. This was bizarre as it was just Tom and I, and two Chinese girls who didn’t speak English. We found a big yellow door. (Lesson three learnt in Fiji – sometimes caves have doors) and then steps down into a big blue pool in the cave. We were alone, and so a bit like “do we swim? Or what!?” So we decided to jump in and swim around a bit. Unfortunately again, I don’t have a photo to show you, but it was stunning! Really deep blue water, and it was so nice to swim in a cave. We’d never be able to do that in the UK. We ducked through a small gap into the next cavern, which was a bit scary. But otherwise, we loved it!
On the return to Nabua Lodge, our water taxi man, David, decided to stop and do some fishing… All very nice in theory, but in reality this meant slowing right down for half an hour in choppy waters whilst we were all trying our best not to be sick. Luckily, he caught a huge fish, so that was a great sight! Needless to say, we were relieved to be back at the resort for our final night before moving on.

Things that have surprised me so far:
-in Nabua Lodge, the electricity is only on for certain times in the day. I found it surprisingly refreshing, but the head torch certainly came in useful.
– in the evenings it felt so dark – there was only one lightbulb in the dining room. It made me realise how many lights we have on at home to comfort us in the winter months!
-the tap water was unsafe to drink, so we filled our water bottles from a huge rainwater barrel. It tasted nice though.
– wifi is only available when the electricity is on (duh) and you have to pay for it, so we didn’t bother. It made me realise how long I spend looking at my phone, wasting hours. I didn’t miss it all. Well, only on my birthday haha!

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(This photo was carefully selected as the one showing the least double chin action after America!

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