I’ve been very lucky over the years to have been given numerous opportunities to travel around the world. Though these opportunities have intensified my wanderlust rather than satiating it, I thought I would do well to write down thoughts on the places I’ve been in order to both organize said thoughts and to convey the sense of a location I’ve visited to those who haven’t had the opportunity to go there.
So today, I’m going to focus on Fiji. (In case the title hadn’t made that clear yet).
(L: Allie & me at a waterfall; R: me in my natural habitat)
This time last year, I was studying abroad in the south island of New Zealand. During a study break between the end of term and our final exams, my friend Allie and I took a plane and flew to Nadi, Fiji– a trip we had planned within our first few weeks arriving in the country. We were, needless to say, excited. How many people can say they had spring break in Fiji? (Though, technically, it wasn’t spring break… but that’s not the point).
We flew from Christchurch straight to Nadi and spent the first two nights at Bamboo Backpackers. The night we got in, it was absolutely pouring. Not exactly the brightest introduction to the island. But the wonderful staff at Bamboo promptly carried on by keeping us dry under a tent that also provided us the perfect opportunity to start a kava ceremony.
Now let me tell you something about kava: it’s a root that is incorporated into what I can best describe as a welcoming ritual, and the kava you drink pretty much tastes like dirty water. When ingested to a point, your tongue starts to feel a bit numb. I’ve been told there are other effects it can have, but despite the amount of kava I drank that night, I didn’t feel any of them. Kava ceremonies are definitely something you’re going to run into if you’re in Fiji. But take it with a grain of salt in knowing that the water is not always going to be clean to a standard you might be expecting– and traveler’s diarrhea isn’t unlikely. The Fijians are some of the most welcoming and kind people I’ve ever met, who are very open to helping you understand their culture. If you don’t want to participate in the kava ceremony, I highly doubt you’ll find anyone pressure you.
We started our real adventure in Fiji a couple of days later when we headed off to the capital, Suva, in order to start our island hop. Our guide, James, was awesome and very kind and knew exactly what he was doing and how to help us navigate our journey. We had to cut ours short, but we followed the basic outline of the North Fiji Backpacker Project. We traveled like real Fijians do around the islands (aka: giant ferry) and went to beautiful waterfalls (see the picture of Allie & me above), as well as having way too much fun on a natural slide.
But the true highlight of my time during that trip was going to a Fijian village. In association with the Backpackers Project, we were able to have a village trip and spend a couple of hours on an island with locals. We were welcomed by the leader of the village, a serious-looking old man who was clearly used to such proceedings, but also enjoyed the kava ceremony and music we joined. (I wish I remembered his specific title, but this being almost a year ago, I’m afraid my college brain just can’t handle such a daunting task. Bodes well for comps next semester.) Allie and I took turns dancing with an old man who was rather… energetic, shall we say? The entire time we were there was fantastic. But the best part was playing with the kids. On our way back to the boat to take us to the island at which we were staying the night, a bunch of the village kids came running up to play with us (see the above picture). Playing with them, similar to my experiences while in Rarotonga (I’ll write about that another time), was some of the most fun I think I’ve ever had.
Our trip to Fiji wasn’t particularly long, but it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Feel free to ask any questions about specifics in the comments. I hope I’ll get the chance to go back in the future. I know I’ll be welcome.