We arrived in Nadi Fiji on Feb 13th to a very hot day. When we arrived at our timeshare resort located on Denerau Island, called the Wyndam Resort (which our home resort The Elkhorn Resort helped us book. Thank you!) we all got very exited because the resort’s exterior looked like paradise, compared to some of the places we had recently stayed. Fortunately, the inside matched the outside and it was truly spectacular! The kids didn’t even unpack their bags and ran to the resorts magnificent slightly heated pool and we were not too far behind them as temperatures were in the high 30’s. The resort pool was enormous and it boasts being the longest of it’s kind in the southern hemisphere. I am not sure about that claim, but regardless, it was a massive resort style pool with three large swirling sections and a cool swim up bar. It was great to stay there and just recharge in one place for a couple of weeks, especially after just driving the entire country of New Zealand and staying in campsites. So, the first few days, we just hung around the pool and swam, drank and ate. On about day four, we started getting antsy and we booked a full day tour to one of the Fijian Islands called Mala Mala Island where we snorkeled, fished, and road self-propelled single passenger glass bottom seadoos and paddled kayaks around the island as well. The island was an unhabited island used excluseively by that tour company. The water was amazingly clear and small colorful fish were all around us. Jessica and I were the fishing champions on the short fishing expedition we took, out catching everyone on the boat including the local Fijian fishing guides. I think the two guides were a little annoyed with us as we kept score of the fish caught and we pretended it was an Olympic event Canada versus Fiji. Each time we would catch a fish we would announce the score… “Canada 13- Fiji 9!!!”, and the guides would force a painful smile and jig their fishing lines with more attention. Not that it matters, but we won! The snorkeling was pretty good and Drew and I followed a guide out deeper into the ocean waters and we saw two Bat Rays and a small Reef Shark. Meanwhile, Lyane, Jessica and Grandma went a different direction with their guide and they spotted a very large Reef Shark. We all saw brilliant colorful fish and vibrant coral along the reef, including the famous little fish called Nemo.
Then it was back to the resort for some more RR for a couple more days, occasionally going to the closest town of Nadi to do some light shopping. Jessica and Drew really liked this one department store called Jacks and they both opened up their dusty wallets to buy stuff there. Drew really liked this big bongo drum and he got grandma to buy it for him for his birthday. Jessica bought a Roxy bathing suit for $30 bucks, which I assume by her excitement, was a really good deal. Then the day came when Grandma left us and started her own adventure and she departed for another Fijian resort called The Uprising located 3 hours down the coast in an area called The Pacific Coast. After she left, we went back to our lazy resort routine of swimming, drinking and eating. A couple of days went by, and we decided to rent a car and check out Grandma’s new resort. We got up early and started our long touristy drive. We really took our time stopping in several local towns and villages along the way. It is always cool to drive and take your time in places like Fiji and meet the real people of the country. Rural Fijians are predominately not very well off, but in spite of that, still very nice people. When we arrived at the Uprising Resort where we found Grandma reading a book at her dorm. She said she really liked it their and we thought the resort was nice as well. The resort was quite small, but very nice and well run. The staff was extremely personable and so we decided to rent a room (or buree as they call it) and stayed overnight. The buree was a quaint newly constructed oceanfront cottage style building that had an external very cool outdoor private shower facility with rounded high walls and no roof. Lyane thought that was so cool and she insisted that we all have a shower in the moonlight. There were several activities to do in the resort and surrounding area, but when we woke up in the morning, the weather was rainy and most of them were cancelled. The only available activity was a zip lining place that zipped lined people through the Fijian Rain Forest. The staff was fantastic and the four of us zipped through the lush mountainous forest in the tropical pouring rain. The kids really enjoyed it and ended up going a second time with the zip crew for free. That’s one great thing about traveling with kids is most businesses and staff really cater to them and often times go beyond the call of duty to make them happy. It’s great to know that there are still people like that all over the world. After the zip line, we drove Grandma to Fiji’s capital city, Suva to pick up some supplies. It was pretty cool to see, but once again it was just another big city with big city problems. It was a bit dirty and run down with a lot of shady characters walking around the downtown area. One thing I will remember about Suva, is that it was one of the most confusing places I have ever driven in. Later, we dropped off Grandma at her nice little resort and headed back to our relaxing, cushy resort to…. you guest it….eat…drink and swim.
On our second last day a really nice couple from New Jersey invited us to visit a nearby city of Lautoka. It was great that we accepted the invitation because we soon learned that our friends had extensive knowledge of Fiji’s past and present. We first visited a cool little fish market where local fishermen sell their spear gunned catch. One guy speared a big fish that must of weighed 80 pounds and we wondered how he ever got it to the surface. We tried to ask him but he only spoke Fijian. We then drove by a massive sawdust plant that exports the product via ship container to Japan by the megatons. We also saw a big mahogany lumberyard and we learned that Fiji is a major exporter of this expensive hardwood as well. Lastly, we drove by an abandoned sugar refinery that used to produce Fiji’s own sugarcane product. There were smaller scaled train tracks leading up to it and hundreds of unused mini rail carts. We asked our friend Keith if he knew why the factory was closed when Fiji still grows massive amounts of sugarcane. The complicated answer is the result of the departed British and de-colonialisation. Apparently, the British had built the factory and the train network 60 years ago and subsequently brought East Indian people in to manage their interests. Then in the early 1970’s, Fiji gained independence from Britain and a Fijian revolt soon followed that saw 50,000 East Indians flee Fiji. This revolt and sudden exile collapsed many industries and the unique sugarcane train system ceased and subsequently closed the sugar refinery. Like most countries the history is complicated and Fiji is still recovering from colonialism and the departure of. Since, Fiji has suffered several corrupt governmental parties that have led to the present day military rule of a popular Fijian military dictator leader named Josaia Vorege (Frank) Bainimarama. It seems that most Fijians believe he is an honest integral leader that is moving the Fijian nation in the right direction. Some interesting facts about present day Fiji is that there is a higher population of East Indian Fijians called Indofijians than native Fijians. The Indofijians are still prominent in Fijian business and often you will see native Fijians working for them. So, I guess like many countries in the world, the balance of equilibrium still has a ways to go. And THAT…. is our history lesson for today. The Fijian’s number one industry is tourism and the industry is strongly built on Fijian pre-contact history. One of the tourist Fijian themes is cannibalism. Apparently, pre-contact about two hundred years ago, native Fijian avidly practiced cannibalism. The sacrificed victims would be killed and cooked in an underground cooking method called gangi and then fed to the tribe members. Most of the victims were captured from other enemy tribes. The chief would eat the human brains, so that he my gain the knowledge from the persons brains he ate and subsequently gained the knowledge of that person and hence be smarter than everyone else. Makes sense to me! Consequently, the souvenir shops are loaded with cannibal related items like cannibals tools such as neck breaker and head smasher as well as special cannibal eating utensils. Cool!
Kava is another Fijian tradition that is a must for all Fijians and tourist alike. It is a root based beverage that is traditionally consumed daily for calming nerves and stress. It is offensive if you do not participate in the ceremonial drinking of it. This is important to know because it tastes like crap! It tastes and looks like dirty sock water and you have to down it in one gulp and pretend you like it. EEEKK!!!
Our last night was a much anticipated event at our resort. The frog races!!!!!! A large symmetrical circle was chalked out in the middle of the facility, and then Fijian frogs (really they were toads) were selected to represent all the countries staying at the resort. Each frog was tagged with a country’s flag on their backs and then auctioned off to the highest bidder. All the proceeds went to a good cause children’s charity. Then it was time for the race! The frogs were released in the middle of the circle and the first frog to cross over any part of the outer circle wins. It was a lot of fun and the frog representing Fiji won! Home field advantage I guess. The stupid Canadian frog came in dead last without hopping a single time. What a surprise! Later, the night ended with a traditional Fijian dance complete with fire breathing and fire juggling Fijian performers. It was really good and a perfect end to our two week Fijian holiday.
Reluctantly, early the next morning, we left our most excellent Fijian resort and wondered if we will ever stay in another place as nice as it again.
In conclusion Fiji was truly awesome. Great weather, warm crystal clear blue water, white sand, good food, cheap booze, nice people, and beautiful scenery. What else could you ask for! Bula!!!