Friday

When Fletch and I first came to Fiji, we traveled around for a month as tourists. One of the islands we visited with our friends, Aaron and Mikaila, was Taveuni. From the resort where Aaron and Mikaila were working on the Coral Coast, which is on the big island, Viti Levu, we arranged a rental car and drove the two hours to Suva where the ferry left from. Since the ferry could accommodate vehicles, we decided to pack up the trunk full of dive gear rather than trying to fly and worrying about weight restrictions, giving the gear time to dry out before flying, and giving our bodies time to decompress before flying. (It is necessary to wait 18 hours after scuba diving before getting on an airplane due to the pressure changes). A rental car would be much more convenient.

I had spent the previous night trying to find us a shop to dive with and a place to stay. Taveuni Ocean Sports was the top dive shop on TripAdvisor, and when I called to inquire as to whether they might have any discounts for four instructors, the lady on the phone informed me that they had a resort associated with them as well, Nakia Resort and Dive. As soon as she said the words “organic farm on site,” I was sold. I told her we would be arriving on the ferry the following day and she suddenly got very concerned, and relayed her experience of coming away from the ferry with numerous bed bug bites. I thanked her for the information and hung up the phone to tell Fletch, Aaron, and Mikaila what I had learned. We were already set on having a car to haul all the gear with. We would risk the bed bugs.

When we arrived in Suva, we headed to the Goundar Shipping office to buy one ticket for the car and four tickets for rooms with bunks. Then we headed into the city with a few hours to spare to look for sheets. Maybe having a clean set of sheets would hold off anything wanting to bite us. We found two cheap sets of sheets and then excitedly went across the street to the cinema and checked the movie times. Fletch and I couldn’t believe our luck. Deadpool was starting in ten minutes and we had just enough time to watch it before we had to drive the car onto the ferry. Aaron and Mikaila went to do some shopping, not nearly as entertained by the prospect of seeing a movie on the big screen as Fletch and myself.

The movie theater reminded me of the good old days of seeing the movies at the mall as a kid, where the theater was dirty and your feet stuck to the ground every other step, but you really didn’t care, it was all part of the atmosphere of going to the cinema. Deadpool was one of Fletch’s favorite comics, so seeing the movie with him was like watching a little kid in a candy store.

After two hours of laughing ourselves silly at some very dark and inappropriate humor, we met back up with Aaron and Mikaila and made our way to the ferry, stopping at a gas station for snacks along the way. Who knew what food would be available for the next 20 hours.

The ferry was not nearly as horrendous as the lady on the phone had made it out to be. We drove the car on, then walked up to the passenger area where there was a reception desk to check in. A man wearing the traditional Fijian sulu (sarong wrapped around the waist as a skirt) and bula shirt led us to two cabins, each with a set of bunks. We seemed to be the only people staying in cabins because when the first couple didn’t have lights working properly, we just kept moving down the hallway until we found two that were suitable. It felt like a slightly grungier cruise ship.

Who needs tickets when you can just stamp passengers' arms?

Watching the ship depart was an entertaining spectacle as the sun set in the background. The ship did have a cafeteria on board, and when dinner was announced, we went to check it out. Most of the offerings were meat curries, but I did manage to piece together a filling meal of cassava, rice, some curry sauce sans meat, and salad with some sort of mayo dressing.

Departing Suva Port, Fiji

Time to cast off! 

We spent the evening eating sandwiches and roaming the ship, getting lost and finding different areas where people were camped out on the floors sleeping. The public bathrooms were a scary place, and made me very glad that we had paid the extra fee to get private bunks. Signs were plastered over every toilet and on every wall and on every stall door to please flush the toilets, yet not a single toilet was flushed and it looked as though someone had tried to TP the place. Even more signs were plastered across all the sinks to please wash hands, yet not a drop of soap was to be found.

We spent the rest of the evening watching movies on the laptops until we gradually dozed off.

Saturday

The ferry stopped at Savusavu in the early hours of the morning, and the announcement came on for all car drivers to please report to their vehicles. Fletch got up to move the car should they need to rearrange vehicles, and then returned to sleep a couple more hours.

We spent most of the morning out in the fresh air, and when we started nearing our port at noon, we looked around to see dolphins playing with the ship. They were putting on a good show, and really jumping as high as they could out of the water and doing marvelous flips and turns. They were showing off, welcoming us to the Garden Island of Fiji. 

Taveuni Port

Debarking the Lomaiviti Princess

The port was very humble considering the size of the boat that was pulling it. It was merely a concrete jetty sticking off the end of a dirt road. Watching the large boat trying to line up with the little landing was like watching a large truck trying to make a 37-point turn into a little parking space. Eventually we made it, and we drove the car off the boat, took a left at the main road, and 20 minutes later saw the sign for Taveuni Ocean Sports on our left. The lady I had spoken to on the phone came down to meet us and show us the hidden dirt road that led to the resort. We drove through a beautiful farm, and a lovely entryway that led to what looked like a few large houses on a green hillside.

We were led to the main bure, where the reception office and kitchen and dining area on the patio were located. The resort was run by the lady from California and her parents. They were pleasant enough people and served us welcome drinks, then explained that meals off the menu needed to be ordered in advance, so we would be receiving a set meal for dinner. They showed us the menus, which immediately set my mouth watering. Everything was fresh and green and organic. Oh how I love fresh fruits and vegetables. All the meals averaged around F$20, and we were offered a meal plan, with all the food we wanted for $50 a day. That sounded like a good option, we would either eat three meals a day and save a few dollars, or even if we only ate two, it would still come out about even in the end. 

Somosomo Bure, Nakia Resort & Dive

The Californian lady led us to our bure, a large house a short walk across the lawn. It was an open, beautiful space, with two beds in the main room, a lounge area in the corner, a bathroom off the one side, and an additional bedroom with two beds and a bathroom off to the other side. It was all very light and open and cheery. Once we were settled in, we headed back into town for food, not having eaten all day and not wanting to wait until dinner.

Taveuni had a cute little town area, that was all of a main road with little shops speckled on either side. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of restaurants, so we stopped at the first ‘Wine & Dine’ sign that we happened upon. The vegetable chow mien really hit the spot, and included some little nuggets of soy that were quite tasty and new to me.

Once our bellies were full, we set off in search of Taveuni’s famous natural rock slide. There were no street signs in Taveuni, so finding directions proved to be a challenge. We asked several different locals, who couldn’t give us much more help then 'drive another five minutes and turn after the bridge.’ The Lonely Planet Fiji book and TripAdvisor were about equally as helpful. We found what we though was the correct road, after which Lonely Planet told us to drive past the shack on the right side of the road. There was no shack, but there was a corrections facility with what you could hardly call a fence surrounding it. I guess it might scare people off if Lonely Planet wrote to drive past the corrections facility with no security.

As we drove past the corrections facility, a large group of school children were all walking towards us, dripping wet. We were headed in the right direction.

We found a place to park the car and found the river, but no indication as to which way along the river the rock slide might be. We tried walking downriver first until we came to some private farm land. Then made a u-turn and started walking back upriver. Before too long we found the right spot. Dozens of local kids were hooting and hollering and having a good time sliding down natural chutes carved into the rock and smoothed by the water over the years. I had envisioned sliding down on my butt like on a slide at the playground, but the local kids were skating down at reckless speeds on their feet, before splashing into a pool at the bottom. There were multiple different levels, slide, pool, slide, pool, and the kids were all pros and knew exactly which spots were the best to show off. It was worth the trip just to watch the locals play, but we hadn’t come just to watch, we wanted to join in the fun.

Local boy skating down the waterslide.

The four of us hiked up to the highest pool, where a few more locals were just hanging out. We chatted with them while we eased our way into the chilly spring water. There was a slide leading down from this top pool, that no one seemed to be going down. Fletch asked if it was possible, and it was quite some while before we could convince one of the local boys to show us how it was done. After sliding gracefully down the steepest of the slopes, Fletch was the next to try the most dangerous of the slides. Go big or go home I guess. During the demonstration, the water had masked a sharp rock jutting up beneath the surface that the boy had used against his foot to brake, so when Fletch reached the bottom of the slide he landed painfully on his tailbone. There was an audible ‘Ooooh’ from everyone watching. That had to hurt.

Checking out the waterslide.

The boy shimmied back up the waterfall like a monkey, and when Fletch followed, it was to lose his grip and fall on his tailbone a second time. He was fairly certain it was broken, but he still had a smile on his face and no desire to stop.

We hiked down to some of the lower pools where the easier slides were, and all took our turns sliding down like kids on a playground. No one was courageous enough to try skating on their feet. At the bottom pool the kids were climbing up onto a massive rock on the side, and doing back flips into the shallow pool. None of us were courageous enough to attempt jumping into the shallow water either, especially while doing flips in the air and potentially landing the wrong way. These kids were pros though, and watching them proved to be endlessly entertaining. 

Waitavala Natural Rock Waterslide, Taveuni, Fiji. (Photo credit: Fletch).

As the sun slowly descended lower in the sky, the chili water soon got to us, and we headed back to the car in search of our next adventure, the dateline. Fiji is one of the few countries in the world that the international dateline actually passes through, and there is a post on Taveuni to mark it, where those who are easily amused (such as myself) can jump back and forth between yesterday and today.

Once again, trying to find the spot proved to be a bit of a challenge. Lonely Planet gave us directions to the hospital and said it was nearby, but the man wandering around the hospital grounds didn’t have any idea what we were talking about. We finally got a hunch that it might be somewhere around a large field that was nearby, and started walking across what seemed to be a rugby field. At the opposite end, at the base of the woods, we found someone’s backyard, and sure enough, there was the sign for the international dateline.

I was hoping my phone would freak out trying to figure out if it was today or yesterday as I jumped across, but Fiji adheres to a single time zone these days. Even though the dateline cuts straight through Taveuni, all of Fiji observes Fiji time. 

Sitting on the border of yesterday and today at the International Dateline. (Photo credit: Fletch).

As the sun finally dipped beneath the horizon, we headed back to the resort for dinner, which was a nice plate of some fish and fried zucchini and salad. The salad was glorious. At that point I was still feeling incredibly deprived of fresh foods after my year in Palau, and every salad I ate felt like I was slowly revitalizing my body. It’s all about the fresh food. I don’t know how people live on processed junk food.

Nakia Resort was home to two very lovable orange tabby cats, which I sat and played with after dinner, until one of the Fijian ladies came out of the kitchen yelling “Lexi! Dessert is served!” I haven’t had anyone call me to the dinner table for dessert since I was a little kid. What a treat! 

Junior

To be continued…