Tube light, Moon light.

Fiji is — HOT. I knew it would be hot, I knew it would be tropical heat, but nothing could have prepared me for how hot it actually was! It WAS like living 4 days in a Bikram studio so thank goodness I’ve prepared.

We woke up at 9 am on Sunday to get ready to catch the boat to Mana. They said be ready by 10, the boat leaves at 10:30 and they’ll come to pick you up. So what I assumed is the shuttle would come pick us up and take us to Denarau and there’d be a dock with a ferry and a bunch of people ready to island hop.

Kat, my German friend, and I packed our bags and my instinct was to ask the front desk of the hostel in Nadi if they’d hold our luggage for us since we would be returning on Tuesday. Of course they agreed and so Kat and I packed our tote bags of all the essentials for two days – sunscreen and bathing suits.

It was 10 am, then 10:15 and then almost 10:30 and no one had come to pick us up. I asked the table of people who did all the bookings if we were ok for time and the lady turned around to look at the ocean and said “Oh, there’s your boat now.” Coming up was a small speed boat that could hold about 12. It waded out in the water about 15 feet from shore, as close as it could get and we were suppose to hike up our dresses and walk through the water and hop onto the boat.

Hmm. different. Not what I was expecting at all. In fact I had had my yoga pants on over my suit, so I saw that and quickly took the pants off and threw on a dress. The warm water, shallow and clear was easy to walk through but so glad I didn’t have my pack on. The extra 40 lbs would have made it a little bit more difficult.

This was the day we left Mana actually, it was high tide, so only a few feet in the water.
This was the day we left Mana actually, it was high tide, so only a few feet in the water.

The boat gets packed full and off we go. It’s about an hour out to Mana with one drop off/pick up and Beachcomber Island. We finally start to pull up to Mana Lagoon Backpackers island and that’s pretty much all that is there. A backpackers, next to a small resort hotel and then nothing but beach and trees for as long as you can see.

We get off the boat in shallow, warm, clear water and walk to shore where we are met by the staff and a plentiful amount of “Bulas.” They gave us the speech which outlined things we were not used to like : no electricity from 6 am to 6 pm. The hostel was really nice, but upon arrival, for a city girl, I was nervous. It was quite bare bones.

Mana Lagoon Backpackers
Mana Lagoon Backpackers

No air conditioning in the hostel. 5 beds – 2 bunks and a single, and a beach view window. This was something completely new for me. Nothing but beach and hammocks to keep a person busy. Truly the experience of island time.

We hung out the rest of the day and made jewelry from coconuts. Lounged around chatting with the staff and other travelers.

The next day I woke up – I was sick! My tonsils had swollen to the size of golf balls. Which is not something that is uncommon for me, however it is something that is severely scary when you’re in the middle of nowhere and used to taking a cab to the nearest walk in clinic for some antibiotics. I was afraid that if my tonsils continued to swell I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I had a very, very hot fever on top of being hot in general and with no relief from the heat I just had to lie in bed and let it pass.

After a few hours of sweating profusely Kat came back to check on me and offered me the rest of her antibiotic supply and our Spanish roommate gave me some ibuprofen he had, since I’d left all my stuff on the main island. Luckily by the end of the day I was able to take the 20 minute hike to meet my friends at Sunset beach. Another secluded beach where the path drops you off and all you see is water, since it’s on a curve. I chose to go right in hopes of locating my friends and as soon as I cleared the corner I saw them sitting in a row soaking up the last bits of afternoon sun. They all cheered and made a space for me in the sand.

I sat for about 7 minutes to give them the health report and then said “excuse me, I need the last dose of medicine” and marched straight into the water and submerged myself in the cleansing Fijian ocean. I felt a lot better after that of course, and swam a little and sunned a little and took the rest of the night pretty easy. The next day felt a lot better and everyone at the hostel asked how I was doing.

Including the guy who ran the snack shop of the hostel. He said “my friend are you better today? please take one of these pills, I know you will feel better. They are excellent for making someone feel better.” Since this was the 2nd day of him asking me to take one of these magic pills I agreed so he walked me into his store and opened his personal tupperware container which had a bottles worth of American Tylenol. Haha! So I took one. And I felt better.

The last morning on Mana we bathed in the sun and waited for our return boat. It was a quick 2 nights there with a day being sick, but it was lovely and amazing that to start feeling sick and everyone pitching in to help take care of me just because they felt like it. So wonderful! I made some really good friends on that island and had some great conversations.

So then back to Nadi where when we arrived were greeted by the staff welcoming us back. They all still had remembered our names. Really impressive. Kat and I took a cab into the city to look for cheap food and necessities. We found a nice local spot for some great chicken chop suey and picked up some cheap snacks to take back to the secluded hostel that was overpriced.

Kat wanted to get a present for the family she was staying with when she got to LA so we asked a lady in town where the best handmade Fijian things were being sold. She led us through the busy main street to a smaller street and then down an alley – at which point Kat and I just looked at each other like ‘are we sure about this?’ to which I relpied outloud “Yep, we’re either gonna find something amazing or get robbed.” The lady took us upstairs to the back of a building and into a store where there were tons of hand crafted Fijian treasures. Most of which were out of both of our budgets and luggage restraints. However she found hand carved turtles and they engraved her friend’s names on them to make it even better.

The guy who owned the shop was so nice he asked me if we’d like to join in a welcome ceremony. (I thought that meant singing the Bula song – which is the welcome song, because they all do that!) I said sure, he led us to sit down and we did. Then they brought in the kava bowl and another guy was there so the 5 of us sat in a circle in the middle of the afternoon to drink Kava. As the young guy started mixing the Kava the lady asked who was older between Kat and Me. I had the honor so I was the Chief of the ceremony! It’s a simple ceremony where they pass you a bowl of Kava water so you clap once and say “Bula!” drink the bowl like you would a shot of alcohol and then clap three times to say “Vinaka” (thank you). After we finished the big bowl, having gone around a few times in the circle, the older guy says “we don’t sell out culture, so thank you for joining our circle and respecting our culture. But we do sell our crafts, so take a look around and we’ll make you a good deal.”

After that we hailed a taxi and went back to the hostel. Kat left that evening for the US and I was left for one more night before Australia. I walked her to her cab and gave her a big hug and turned to return to my room to re-pack and lay down in the Air con when the guy from the front desk started chatting with me. One thing led to another and Tim and I stayed up until 1 am chatting on the beach, with the night nightly Kava circle happening behind us and the guitar playing flowing through our conversation so that we’d occasionally have to interrupt ourselves to sing along.

The perfect way to end my time in Fiji. From the people I met, Fijian people are extraordinarily welcoming and friendly. There wasn’t an instance I felt uncomfortable, they did everything they could to make sure everyone had a great time purely because they want you to leave thinking how much you love Fiji, not them as a person, or their place of employment for business.

Pure hearted and genuine. That is Fiji.

fiji time 032



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