Casa de Bender> travel> Fiji, June 2001

Honeymoon in Paradise

Fiji, June 2001

3:19 AM 6/19/01 - 21:19 6/19/01 FST (Fiji Standard Time)

We survived the adventure of traveling from Boise to the South Pacific, but it was touch and go for a while. Here's the chronicle of misery that it seems every good vacation story starts with:

Shelley's carry-on bag decided that having handles was a bad idea in the Boise airport. Much packing tape later the bag wasn't too pretty but it could be carried again.

Flight to LAX was uneventful, but finding the gate for Air Pacific was another story. LA was muggy, dark and full of people. No one knew Air Pacific existed, but they steered us towards the International Terminal. I lugged this damn 15 pound laptop along for 3 terminals or so and nearly sweat myself to death.

When we finally found the International Terminal the fun was just starting. It took two and a half laps of the check counters to locate the small Air Pacific sign on one of the seven or so Quantas counters. A long wait in cattle gates then commenced.

Eventually we got our tickets. The travel agency had tried to screw us with seats on opposite ends of the plane, but a very helpful clerk pulled a coup and got us two seats in a choice section right near the boarding door.

After a nice dinner (especially for an airport restaurant), we made our way to the gate and found seats among the other 350 unfortunate people waiting to boar FJ811. I was surprised to see that we would be flying on a 747; who knew that Fiji was so popular. The boarding started on time, but they never got around to announcing for any row lower than 50. Soon we realized that a free for all boarding was in progress. After making fun of all of the pushy Americans who had decided to just get in line we joined them.

Eventually we did get on the plane. At this point the flight was about 10 to 20 minutes behind schedule. We taxied out to a runway and sat, and sat and sat. Some guy kept running up from the cockpit to the middle of the plane and pushing lots of buttons next to the door.About half an hour into this play, the pilot finally announced that there was something wrong with the plane's water pressure. This was dire as a ten hour flight of 350 people really needs all of it's bathrooms to work. We taxied to the middle on nowhere and a dude with a tool bag boarded the plane. About 20 minutes or so later we were on our way again... sort of. It took about 20 minutes more to get to a runway and start take off. So around 1 AM PDT we were in the air.

A nice surprise at this point was that the flight we thought was supposed to be 16 hours long was really only 10. Shelley and I were exhausted and tried to get some sleep. Shelley succeeded with a little help from her friend Unisom (and Mr Pillow). Eventually I followed even though the damn captain kept talking about crap.

We woke up with about 3 hours left in the flight when they served breakfast. I ate like a pig and Shelley picked at her eggs. It was pretty good for airplane food. Actually the whole Air Pacific experience was pretty good. We got little bags with socks, toothbrushes and sleep masks a little while after take off and then giant handy wipes before breakfast. The dinner looked and smelled good too, but we had already eaten. A little reading and random looking around followed breakfast and then we were descending into Nadi.

The islands looked pretty cool with the sun just coming up. We flew by the airport offshore and circled back over the island to land. The passport check was uneventful. Baggage claim was an ordeal however. Apparently they can only afford one bag handler in Nadi. We waited for 45-55 minutes to get our two bags. It was hot and stanky in the terminal and lots of people were crowding around.

Finally we got the bags and sailed through customs. Along the way we got some pretty Fijiian money in exchange for our rather plain looking traveler's checks. Then we were off to figure out how to get to the marina for the boat ride to Matamanoa. Due in great part to the lack of detail on the travel vouchers, we were directed to the wrong travel agency. Eventually we were guided to the right agent, but the bus we were supposed to take had already left.

The agent was surprised to see us as no one had told her we were coming. Shelley got a little concerned at this point, but I was too zonked from the flight and standing around to really care. We arranged to get a ride to the marina at 11 and catch the 12 o'clock ferry.

There's more to tell, but Shelley is too sleepy. We'll continue the day one recap tomorrow.

2:29 PM 6/19/01 - 08:29 6/20/01 FST

Day 1 continued...

We piddled around the airport for a couple of hours. We located the two shops full of tourist stuff and thoroughly examined their wears. Then we sat under a tree in the parking lot for an hour or so. About half the people who walked by said "Bula!" I thin they go a little overboard with the Bula personally, but hey it's a friendly tourist trap.

George the crazy cab driver drove us through Nadi Town and down to the Denauru Marina. We caught the Tiger IV catamaran to Mana. It was a very pretty boat ride. The sunburn available on the observation deck was exquisite.

At Mana we climbed off the side of the boat into a shuttle about the size of a Hells Canyon jet boat. From the window we got our first really good look at the incredibly clear water. Shelley saw a sea snake and longed for a thigh knife. A very, very slow ride around Mana eventually brought us to Matamanoa.

There's no dock at Matamanoa, so we jumped into the shallows and walked ashore. It reminded me a lot of beaching in Cascade before skiing. We got a couple more shell leis and a really tasty drink with all of the cliche trimmings and a serenade from the resort staff. We were really stinky and kind of tired, but happy to finally be in the right place.

We went off to our bure and secured a shower that was fabulous. We unpacked and changed into island gear. Then we walked to the "west" end of the beach until there was no where else to walk. I saw some little lizards and Shelley saw some huge bats and a sand crab. Then we walked the other direction back past the resort buildings and found a little cove with crazy stacked rock and coral sculptures.

Exhaustion set in so we didn't continue walking, but I thing we were nearly back around to the end of the island. We walked back to the bure in desperate need of food, but for some reason we ended up reading instead of eating. The activity board said dinner was around 8 or so, but happy hour started at 5:30. We had a couple of Fiji Bitters and fried coconut fries. They were the embodiment of "salty greasies."

Finally it was dinner time and the menu was tasty. We got everything on the dinner menu by alternating. Shelley had a tasty spinach soup that tasted a lot like oyster guts and reef fish of some variety. I ate a plate full of fried mussels and then a huge pile of really richly sauced prawns. The crazy British couple next to us had lobster (which was not on the menu) and Shelley vowed to have the same soon.

Speaking of crazy, have you ever heard Fijiian's sing Guns 'n Roses? Well we did. The serenaders from the landing went from table to table taking requests and singing with their crazy little band. It was entertaining, but Shelley was worried that I was going to get caught making fun of them.

After waiting for our dessert for a half hour we ate up and went back to the bure. Shelley was very tired. We started the journal and hit the hay about an hour later.


At 7 AM this morning the sun was up and the temperature was around 75 or so I'd guess. The wind is blowing and everything smells good like the ocean. The humidity is an interesting experience. I don't think you could have dry skin here. Even our books seem a little damp. It's kind of like a steamy bathroom, not uncomfortable, but definitely moist. We're off to eat some breakfast and start day two.

11:45 PM 6/19/01 - 17:45 6/20/01 FST

Breakfast was nice.Bryan ate pretty much all of the pineapple they would put out on the tray.I had a little and it was very good. After breakfast we went and picked out our snorkeling gear. Saw a little gecko on the wall of the office.I tried to play with him, but he wasn't too interested. We returned to the room and Bryan read for a while longer.I however decided to take part in the snorkeling trip planned by the resort.

I got to the beach at about 10:25 for the trip planned for 10:30.I waited for the boat driver and the rest of the participants.An interesting couple from Italy joined me and the three of us were on our way.Elizabeth is an exporter of brooms and brushes to K-Mart and Walmart and Andre is a leather tanner. They got married on June 6 and are on their honeymoon too.

We made our way out to the snorkeling reef in the glass bottom boat.I am constantly amazed by how incredibly clear the water is.You can see all of the way to the bottom of the ocean pretty much everywhere because it isn't very deep.When we reached the reef Andre and I jumped out, but Elizabeth stayed behind.The weather has been overcast and windy so the water was very choppy and she didn't feel comfortable.

I was very comfortable on the other hand.I dove in and was immediately in love with this place.There must have been 150 different species of colorful fish swimming with me.I swam out away from the reef where the are some deeper caverns created by outcroppings of coral further out.In the caverns the fish were bigger and a lot less interested in me so I had to dive pretty deep to be able to check them out.It was amazing.

When I got back I was on a complete snorkeling high.Hopefully we can get Bryan some better gear so that he can join me out there.The trip goes everyday and I will be going again tomorrow.

Next we joined the rest a group of fellow resorters being instructed in the fine art of basket weaving.I started our basket, but it was clear that Bryan's skill in engineering and mathematics were required so he took over.Bryan was definitely the star pupil and turned out a very fine, but rather smallish basket.The materials were not of the finest quality and it is not meant to be a long-term souvenir.It probably won't make the trip home with us.Right now it is on the bar holding the coconut that tried to kill me.You gotta keep your eyes open for the falling coconuts.

We had some lunch that wasn't terribly memorable.I asked about the lobster for dinner, but I don't think that they understood me quite, and I also got tired of waiting for an answer from the chef."Fiji time" is sometimes a little hard to take for an American like me.Things, and the staff, move very slowly around here.In addition to that there is no tipping in Fiji so nobody is in too big a hurry to go out of their way to accommodate you.Not saying that they aren't very friendly and good at helping out, just very very slow.

A little rest was in order after lunch so we can back to the room and read for a couple of hours.I am enjoying getting back to my pleasure reading, although the book that I chose to read first is about law school and so it is only kind of pleasure reading.I should be done with it tomorrow though and I promise not to think about law anymore until we get home.

The weather was cloudy and windy all day, but we went back to the beach anyway. The temperature here never changes.Sun, clouds, wind, whatever, its always 80 and nice.We picked up some little boards that are kind of a cross between a surfboard and a kayak and tried to go for a little spin, but the water was too choppy and Bryan couldn't quite get balanced.We'll try again on a day when the water is a little calmer.

We ditched the boards and Bryan decided to give the snorkeling a shot. We wandered out to the beach just in front of our bure and started practicing. He isn't exactly comfortable with his head in the water even when he isn't supposed to be breathing through a tube.The fact that the mask he got didn't fit and a little puddle of water kept forming under his nose didn't improve matters.Like I said earlier, we will get him some better equipment and hopefully give it another shot tomorrow.

While we were down at the beach a couple got married.It was a very pretty setting, and we all clapped after they had finished. Their ceremony was definitely longer than ours.I think that is very funny.Soon after the wedding concluded we returned to our room to wash off the salt and sand.I had learned an important lesson while snorkeling on the reef about not putting my hair in a ponytail while in the ocean.It took us about 1/2 hour to get my hair out of that knot.Anyway after our second ocean excursion we were coated in sand.It is so fun though.WE ARE IN THE TROPICS.

I am thinking that about right now I need a fruity umbrella drink, even though a devil of a storm is on the way.I hope that there is lightning.Lightning on the ocean is so cool looking.We'll update more after the evening progresses.

4:47 AM 6/20/01 - 22:47 6/20/01 FST

No lightning, or rain.In fact there really wasn't even a storm.Just a lot of wind and then it stopped and went back to mostly humid.Right now it is very pleasant outside.

I got my lobster.It was heavenly.The chef prepared it grilled with lemon butter.The Fijians don't always seem like they are paying attention, but as Bryan pointed out, there is one staff member to about every three guests, so they really are.

After dinner we participated in the Kava ceremony.During dinner I asked what it was and they said that it was a local drink.I think not so much.Mostly its a mild narcotic dissolved in water.But Bryan and I each had three tries at it and although it tasted like dirt and aspirin, it seems to be fairly mellowing.The locals who performed the ceremony drank a lot more than the guests and they appeared to be a little bit high.At least they giggled a lot. The primary Fiji native who was in charge of the ceremony invited us all back to his place for more.We declined.However, the ceremony will be performed again next Wednesday.Maybe we'll give it another shot.When in Fiji...

Tomorrow, day three.

11:16 PM 6/20/01 - 17:16 6/21/01 FST

I got up at 6:45. That would be a feat at home, but it seemed very normal here. The sun was up and a bunch of little black birds with yellow throats were hopping around in the "back yard." I laid around outside and read until Shelley got up. We went down and had a tasty breakfast. Both waitresses know what room we were in today, so I guess they've got lots better memories than I do. I'm still having a hard time telling most of the women apart. I didn't eat quite as much pineapple today, but I still had a lot. :)

The "big board" said that there was a trip to "Pottery / Shell Island" today. We decided to go. I wanted to see and buy some of the pots like the one in our room. We bought our ticket and changed some large Fijian bills for smaller ones before going out to wait for the boat to leave. While we were waiting I watched some of the staff guys rigging up the hand line reels for reef fishing. I think I'll go out and try that tomorrow.

We loaded up into the glass bottom boat with about 10 other folks for the trip to the other island. It was a lot of weight to put in that little ship. The captain (Ben) had to have everyone move back and forth a couple of times to get the boat to sit in the water right. The glass bottom was cool. You could look down into the water and see all kinds of fish and coral once we were out of the lagoon. In the lagoon it was a little disconcerting however. It looked like there was about 4 inches of water between the hull and the rocks. Ben kept lifting the outboard up and down to miss hitting stuff.

The ocean was a lot choppier than it had seemed in the catamaran. I guess that's probably due to the vast difference in size between a 20 foot launch and a three deck commercial ship. I rocked and rolled with the boat and had a lot of fun looking around at everything. I don't think we can write the phrase "it's beautiful here" enough times to do it justice. It sure isn't the desert.

The island was a little creepy to both Shelley and I. I really didn't notice that anyone else thought so though. We were led around a "village" that obviously wasn't a fake tourist attraction. Ben lives there along with a lot of other staff from Matamanoa and their families. It looked like a third world refugee camp to a "rich westerner" like me. The have concrete houses with no running water and no electricity. The setting is very pretty, but it's not what I'd call a high standard of living. Ben led the tour around though the yards and showed us the plants they raise for food and the well they haul water from. The made a big deal about pointing out three water tanks that had been paid for by some "Kiwi" church group who had pitied their poor souls after visiting.

The chief of the village died last December and the next oldest elder died last month. The oldest male of the village trotted out of his house to greet us. He was well worn from years of hard work with big knobby hands and bright eyes. He reminded me of a silver back gorilla in some way. I don't mean to say that he was simian, just that he had this air about him. Shelley was reminded of Alma Morrison or annoy other "crazy old coot" you'd find in a small town. He shook everyone's hand a gave us each a firm Bula.

We walked into a common house and sat on the floor for a while. The fed us some tasty tea and tortillas made with coconut milk. All the while we are looking a these dirty little kids with snot running out of their noses and boogery eyes. Ben introduces one of them as his youngest son (Cedric) and answers that he has six children when asked. A little later he points out a sign that begs for money so they can afford to send their children to school and steps casually out of the room.

We finally got to see them making pottery. It was very interesting to me, but maybe not so much to everyone else. An older lady made one of the pots while we watched. It took her about 15 minutes or so I'd guess. She started by making a pancake about 8 inches across out of about a pound of clay. She used a wooden paddle to shape it into a rough bowl over her knee. Then after adding another coil of clay, she continued to shape it with the paddle and a fist sized smooth rock. Whack, whack, whack, whack. She had obviously made a zillion of these pots. The first pancake had formed the bottom half of the circular portion of the pot. The thumb thick coils were added one at a time and hammered out until the top half was formed up to the neck. She shaped the pot out all over again at this point and then added a final coil to pull the neck from. It was very fun to watch and the resulting pot looked perfect.

While we had been watching the pot building another woman was firing a pot in an open pit. Ben had showed us the greenware pot before it was fired. The firing must have only take about 20 minutes or so. Then it was ready for glazing. The glaze is tree sap. They had a sack of lumps of pitch that they brought out. The freshly fired pot was brought over to a sheet of metal and they started rubbing it with the pitch. The hot pot melted the pitch slowly and it formed the glaze. Ben said the pitch came from a tree on the main island. He told me the name, but I promptly forgot.

The next feature of the tour was the "market." Ten or fifteen women had gathered around the tree where the old lady had made the pot and laid out blankets. The produced many touristy goods from plastic bags and set them out of sale. There were only four pots that I saw and most of the rest was standard issue island trinkets that they had obviously bought on the main island and brought out here to resell. I got two of the pots. I think Shelley thought that was one too many, but I wanted all four. :) We got a couple of poorly strung necklaces too. I saw some pretty batik cloths with turtle designs on them, but resisted buying them.

Back to the boat and more beautiful scenery. Ben tossed his hand line into the water again and chanted "fishy, fishy, fishy" for luck or our amusement. I took a couple pictures of "Castaway Island," recently renamed in honor of the movie thaw was shot there.

After lunch we tried snorkeling again. I did better at not freaking out about water in my nose. I think if I could find a nose clip I could stay down for quite a while. The view underwater was incredible. We were just 20 yards or so off the beach, but there were fish everywhere. I mean everywhere. The water is so salty the you just float on the surface with absolutely no effort and every where you look there is something cool. I saw big fish and little fish and star fish and gobs of coral. Shelley and I swam with a school of 40 or 50 sleek whit fish as long as my hand. I watched another pod of larger grey fish moving from coral to coral having a little snack at each. Every time I stopped focusing on breathing and started watching the bottom I saw more and more fish. They're all cammo'ed into the coral and as you watch they just pop into focus. It was like a Where's Waldo or something. Little blue fish that move really fast. Gorgeous purple fish hiding in the coral. Brown fish that just stare at you as you float over about a foot away. We saw a cool white fish that was shaped like a tube with a pointy bill. It was neat looking. Shelley said she had seen a bigger one the day before.

My turn now.While I was snorkeling I saw a big red fish with a very comical grim expression on his face.He looked like a professor.All he needed was a monocle.I also have to add the caveat that the cool looking tubular fish that we saw had at first impression scared the crap out of me.I thought it was a baby sea snake.I really have my eyes out for them.Haven't seen any yet, and I hope that I don't because I didn't bring a thigh knife.

After the snorkeling escapade we took a walk down the beach and picked up shells.Bryan originally spotted a neat looking purple topped shell and picked it up.As is turns out there were a whole lot of them out there and I made it a mission to find them all.Now Bryan has a whole bunch of them.Maybe more than he actually wanted.We walked far enough that we made it to the rocky cliff where we had seen the lizards and bats when we got here. I climbed the rocks and found a pretty spiral shell that had something in it so I tossed it to Bryan. Turns out it was a hermit crab.Bryan played with him for a while.I grabbed him and he promptly latched on to my finger so I gave him back to Bryan.

So now here we are.We have showered and written for a while and the torch lighting ceremony starts in 20 minutes.I want to see it, so we will update more later.

6:07 PM 6/21/01 - 12:07 6/22/01 FST

We met some new people last night before dinner. I would characterize them as crass Americans. There was a guy and his wife from San Diego. They were all right, if a little dim. I'd say the guy is/was in the Navy. He called a toilet a "gunny" and professed ignorance of the purpose of the half flush button. His wife was nice, but I didn't talk to her much. They were in the company of a couple of New Zealand couples. One of the guys showed his level of sophistication by explaining the sitting on the toilet backwards so that you leave "skid marks" on the front side of the bowl was his idea of the height of humor. They invited us to have dinner with them and Shelley's gracious reply of "we'll meet up with you later" was taken as reluctant ascent. We piddled around for a while and then Shelley politely told them that we had decided to dine alone after all.

Shelley was a little wiggly through dinner. She's not always comfortable with the idea of Fiji time. We had the youngest and shyest of the wait staff and she didn't do a great job. I think they try to time everything in the kitchen so that the guests never feel rushed at a meal, but that requires excellent timing and attention on the part of the waiter or you end up being annoyed at how long everything is taking (at least if you're an ugly American like me.)

I discovered that I'd been trying to burn the room down when we got back from dinner. I had left the converter for the laptop plugged in and it was overheating in a bad way. Hot plastic and electricity smell nasty.

Shelley woke up today feeling a little pekid. She was really tired last night and today her tummy is grumbly. She's a trouper though and after gulping down some medicine she went out snorkeling with the boat anyway. She said the dive location it wasn't quite as pretty as the last time she went out, but that it was nice. Someone in the party said they had seen a reef shark.

I hiked to the top of the island. There's a well worn trail starting behind the tennis court. We had seen someone standing on top yesterday on the way to the village and it seemed necessary to get up there today. The trail was steep and crumbly but not difficult to navigate going up hill. My hereditary ability to sweat like a pig kicked in about 3/4 of the way up (thanks Grandpa.) The little lizards we had seen at the rocky end of the beach (West?) were everywhere. The darted back and forth across the trail as commonly as ants.

The view from the top was gorgeous. I took lots of pictures to prove it. I tried to take a series that will make a complete panorama. Other than the view from the top, the hike was much like being around the cabin in Cascade. Actually a lot about this place reminds me of Cascade and the cabin. I think I will appreciate them more the next time I'm there.

Coming back down the trail to the resort got rid of any ideas I'd had about seeing the sunset from the top of the island. I don't think a mountain goat could navigate it in the dark. I'll look around more for an alternate route the next time I go up. I think the view will definitely be worth the work.

9:56 PM 6/22/01 - 15:56 6/23/01 FST

I can use the laptop again! I plugged in the nasty smelling converter yesterday afternoon to charge the battery a little and it gave up the ghost. A nasty pop and a little smoke signaled the last hurrah.I checked with the desk to see if they had another converter, but due to a case of Fiji Time they're still looking. Anyway I was thinking about it and decided to look at the converter for the laptop. Sure enough it works with voltages from 100V to 240V. I just had to steal the plug end off of the clock and it's good to go. The converter seems to get pretty warm with the higher voltage, but it should be fine as long as we remember not to leave it plugged in too long.

Yesterday afternoon was otherwise fairly uneventful. We went snorkling again. I did a lot better at not freaking out. I probably stayed down for 10 minuted at a time or so. Shelley decided to freak out at one point because she had gotten out of the water for something and couldn't find me when she came back.

Shelley took a camera worth of pictures of all the cool fish in the lagoon. I hope they turn out well; I don't know if there's any other way to get the scene across. I wouldn 't believe how much stuff there is if I wasn't seeing it for myself.

The tide's back in so I'm going swimming. Maybe Shelley will write more later. There's a big party tonight and I'm sure there will be lots to explain. Remind me to write about the disturbing state of condiments here sometime.

2:50 PM 6/23/01 - 08:50 6/24/01 FST

Swimming was good. I was able to overcome my urge to drown once again. Actually I was pretty comfortable in the water, except when I swam over the coral. I still feel like it's too close to me. We saw an octopus. Shelley thought it was just a disembodied tenticle, but it wasn't. The little guy had buried himsleft in the sand with just one arm sticking out. It had a frilly little tuft on the end of it that he was waving just a little to entice a fish in close. I stayed to watch for a little bit to see if he'd get lunch, but there were too many other things to see to stay there too long.

Dinner was a barbeque. Lots of really tasty food from steak and chicken to octopus and lamb curry. The octopus had the taste and texture of hard boiled egg whites as far as I could tell. We dined with a nice old guy from Switerland named Antony. He reminded both Shelley and I of Frankin Spect. He drained a bottle of wine and told us the kinds of things that you are likely to hear from goofy old world travelers.

After dinner there was dancing. The humidity was still terribly high and I sweat out any water my body may have aquired since my hike to the top of the island. The dancing was billed as Fijian dancking, but it seemed a lot more like square dancing to me. It was fun though. There were several partner swapping dances and a crazy game of hot potato with a stick. That one got fairly heated and ended the evening with everyone at the bar. I danced with a lady from Italy who doesn't speak any (or at least much) English. She kept looking around for her husband to translate the instructions for the dance.

The wind that Shelley had banished the other day has returned. It's a good thing too. Apparently without the wind everything in the South Pacific turns into water. The humidity was increadibly high yesterday. It was like walking around in a steam bath where ever you went. Now that the wind is back things are tolirable as long as you stay in the open where it can blow on you.Today seems like an even sleepier and lazier day than yesterday, but only time will tell. I'm off to breakfast and we'll have a look at the big board. Mmmmm pineapple.

12:41:58 AM- 18:38PM FST

Bryan was incorrect.Today was not a sleepier day than yesterday.I went out snorkeling this morning to the side of the reef that I prefer, but the water was a little too choppy and the sun wasn't shining as brightly so I didn't see too much.I did see some sort of coral (?) or seaweed or something that was translucent.It seemed to actually give off light.It was very strange.I took a picture of it and hope that it turns out.Bryan hypothesizes that it may be some sort of bioluminescence.The only other person on the snorkeling trip this morning was Antony the crazy Swiss.He is 63 and gave up the ghost pretty early onsnd climbed back in the boat.He and Ben, the troupe leader became engrossed in planning tomorrows fishing trip and let the boat drift way the hell away from me.It was the most strenuous swim I had had in quite a time.When Ben saw how far I had swam he asked if I was OK.I was, but if I had played it up maybe we could have gotten another free trip.

After I came back we both read for a while and then, imagine this, it was time to eat again.Bryan had been reading on the beach without enough sunscreen and got a little the color of lobster.Lunch was quite good too.We had the pasta o' the day, made out of the barbeque leftovers.Very tasty stuff and for dessert, a coconut snowball.

After lunch I talked Bryan into taking me to the top of the mountain.I was panting like a near dead dog by the time we reached the top, but the view was amazing.I saw lots of cute little lizards on the way up, which gave me a good excuse to stop and take a few rests.We stayed at the top and looked around for a while and then decided to take a different trail back down the mountain.It led use to a place called Lookout point first.From there we could get a great view of Castaway Island and the reef on the other side of the island.While we were there we spied three fruit bats sleeping upside down in a nearby tree. They are truely the size of winged house cats.We tried to take a picture, but it didn't turn out very well.We can point to where they were though.

Next we got back on the main trail and headed further down the mountain.There were even more little lizards for me to stop and play with.I really wanted to catch one, but they are quick little buggers.When we reached the bottom we were at the Palm Beach on the other side of the island, but the tide was back far enough that we could walk completely back to our beach by way of the rocks. It was very cool.In all of the little crags there crabs and snails and some crazy little thing that we have no idea what it is.It looked a little like a very big tadpole.It had body and tail like a fish, but had legs like a lizard. Its tail was colored like a peacock.They were fairly small, about 2 or 3 inches long.Maybe they were salamanders.Crazy looking little buggers.

When we finally did make it back to the beach we were pelted by sand and decided to go right back to our bure.I was very thirsty too, so it was probably a good idea that we did.I fell asleep for about half an hour and Bryan read for a while longer.When I woke up Bryan wanted to go and play in the water.I was pretty against the idea, because for the first time since we arrivedI was actually cold.He talked me into anyway, and I am very glad we went.

There were more fish out and about this evening than anytime before.They were everywhere.I found a whole school of my favorite red professor fish.There were also a whole lot of the neat cigar shaped fish.Anywhere we went we could just sit still and be surrounded by fish.It was great.I don't think that Bryan even thought of panicking once.He did great.On the way back though we were both completely pooped.The water was very choppy and difficult to swim against.

I predict after the hike and hard swimming expedition we will both sleep well tonight.Now, its time for dinner.After dinner the big board announced that there would be a surprise.Maybe they are going to try to get us high again.

3:16:20 AM6/24/01 - 21:16 PM 6/24/01

So the surprise for the evening is that they were going to try to get us high again.Bryan and ducked out before the festivities really got under way.No use spoiling a fantastic meal with dirt and aspirin water.I am already as mellow as I ever need to be.

Dinner was quite spectacular.Bryan and I both had the seafood crepes which was filled with the same yummy seafood mixture we had on the pastry two nights ago. After that a local reef fish fried in an orange sauce with more funny little potatoes.Bryan commented that while that potatoes may be the size of a golf ball they packed a lot of flavor.For dessert we both had the mango mousse. All in all, very wonderful.Now we will probably read for a while, and then off to bed.My legs are already stiff and sore from all of todays activities. Can't wait to see what they feel like when I wake up in the morning.Good night.

5:04:36 PM 6/24/01 - 10:58 AM 6/25/01

Bryan and I both slept late this morning, partially because we split into separate beds at about 1:30 in the morning after neither of us could sleep. Bryan says he couldn't sleep because I was keeping him up.Maybe so, but we were both very sweaty and restless, and with good reason.The weather today has reached all new levels of wetness.You feel like you are drowning just breathing.The tile floor is wet with condensation.The screens and glass on the windows are wet like they had just been through a rain-storm.I got dressed this morning in my jeans and orange sweater, neither of which I had worn before, and they are just wet.Its crazy.The skies are also very cloudy and the wind is blowing like mad.It is probably a good thing that we had a full day yesterday because I don't think we will be very ambitious today.

Right now Bryan is reading and I just finished another book.I think that I need to go and have a shower.This sounds odd, but I always feel drier after a shower.Maybe after that I can talk him into a game of trivial pursuit by the pool.

As an aside, I had no idea when we were coming here that we were landing on the Italian supermodel island.There are four or five women here approaching 6 foot with Pamela Anderson racks and 24 inch waists.Its enough to give a girl a complex.More later.Ciao!

11:03 PM 6/25/01 - 17:03 6/26/01 FST

Last night was the International Crab Race. Seko did a great job as the auctioneer and chief crab wrangler. Shelley got a little excited while bidding on a crab. Later she said she was glad she didn't win as $33 Fijian was too much to pay for a small crueastecian. We'll have to be careful when she starts going to art auctions.

We went out on the Sea Spray today. It's a big sail boat that takes a tour to several of the islands in the Mamanuca group. The biggest feature is the stop at Modriki, the main island where Castaway was filmed. The sea too rough around Matamanoa for the launch from the boat, so Ben and Joe(?) gave us a lift out. Joe told us that he had work with the film crew when the movie was filmed. He laughed as he told us how fake the setup was. The big wave scenes were shot on Tokoriki and they used two big ass fans for the wind on the beach. He said that they had hidden Wilson as a souvener after shooting the island escape scene.The Sea Spray introduced us to a more touristy cross section of Fiji visitors. There were several people who were staying at the Sheridan on the main island and 6 of the most unattractive people I've seen since we left LA. The crew of the boat were just as friendly and eager to please as the rest of the Fijians we've met. Ben is actually the only one that I could imagine being anything other than a waiter at home.

We stopped at the village across from the one that we'd visited the other day. It definatly had a higher standard of living and a lot more people. The said that about 600 Fijians lived there. They had a lot more and nicer boats in the cove. They also had a lot more junks stuf for sale. Shelley found a neat shell lei with a lot more color and texture than most I've seen. I almost got a coral necklace, but it was too small for my fat neck. Later I realized I could have restrung it, but that was after we had left. Oh well, as Shelley pointed out I could buy the beads in Boise. It just wouldn't be the same though. I think I'll look for one when we're on the big island Thursday.

There was a Kava ceremony on the island too. We went into the school house and had a little Kava with a lot of the local guys. They were funnay. Several of them seemed pretty distressed when the Kava cup came around. They also were pretty obvious that they weren't going to be too serious about it with a bunch of white guys hanging around.

Back on the boat we had a tasty lunch while we headed for "Castaway Island." One thing you can say about Fiji, there's not shortage of food for the tourists. I was excited to see a salad that was actually made with lettuce, but even more surprised to see potato salad! I ate a plate full while trying, mostly successfully, to keep from falloing off my bench, spilling my beer or dumping my plate off the side of the boat. The swells were rocking the boat almost 60 from side to side.

We arrived at Modriki and took the long boat to shore. Shelley and I wandered around looking at the nice views and playing in the coconut grove. Then we tried to snorkle for a while. The equipment we had gotten from the boat was a little suspect however. Shelley's snorkle was missing the bottom valve and she couldn't find the right size flippers. The sea was pretty rough too. She got a butt full of sand while trying to get her flippers on. The fish were pretty, but nothing compared to what we see in the coral right off the beach on Matamanoa. We got the obligatory tourist pictures standing above the Castaway sign made of logs on the beach.

On the way back to Matamanoa, the Sea Spray's long boat came untied. It was pretty funny to see the little boat floating off into the distance. The want back for it and the goofy long boat diver jumped into it precariously. I was sure he was going to break a leg or something.

We tried to snorkle some more once we got back, but the tide was really low. We did see some squid though. I think I got a picture of them. We'll see if it turns out. Next time I come here I'm bringing a digital camera that can go in the water.

4:37:21 AM 6/27/01 - 22:37 PM FST 6/27/01

Last day on the island.It was a little sad, but I think that we are both ready to get home to reality in some way.Today we woke up and did the usual reading and coffee routine on the lanai.Then we went and ate our enormous breakfast, and as usual I prepared for the daily snorkeling adventure on the reef.

When I got to the beach there was a lot of commotion though and as it turns out, one of the crazy old ladies from the wedding party had fallen in the boat before it ever took off.The water was extremely choppy and they hadn't brought the boat in far enough that it would sit calmly on the beach for people to board, so as soon as she stepped in the boat a wave hit it and she fell right on top of the glass portion of the glass bottom boat.Poor little thing was in very bad shape.Luckily there was a nurse on the island and she came to the rescue.The lady had dislocated her elbow, and although no one treated her for it at the hospital, I think she also had some mild head injury.She was passing out and vomiting which would seem to me to be a sure sign of head injury.

After all of the excitement, we headed off for the snorkeling trip.There were only three of us today and all of us were pretty experienced.Jope took us to the reef behind the island and it was very cool, but very deep so it was hard to get too close to the fishes.Also the swell that came up last night mixed up the water like crazy making it murkier and colder.It was neat though.Jope jumped off of the boat and did some snorkeling with us.At one point he dived I'm guessing 25 or 30 feet and brought up a beautiful orange shell.

When we got back Bryan and I tried to snorkel a little here on our beach, but the tide just would not go out today. The waves were crashing like mad and when we went under all we could see was sand swirling around.So we ditched that effort and went back to eat again.

At lunch we finally ate out of shells.It was good too.Fish marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice served with julienne peppers.It was called Kokoda.And of course we had dessert too. Bryan had chocolate ice cream and I had a banana split, but they had run out of bananas so I had no bananas in my split.It struck us both as odd that a tropical resort would run out of bananas, but I guess it happens.

Since we are actually having to leave tomorrow, we thought it would behove us to actually make sure that all of our arrangements were made so we went to Kini in the office and she got everything squared away for us.We decided to leave on the later shuttle.That should still give us plenty of time to see the Garden of the Sleeping Giants when we get to Nadi.That is Raymond Burr's orchid garden.We are both pretty excited to see it.Also we went on a little shopping spree in the gift shop so that we can share some of the cool stuff here on the island with everyone at home.

Finally the tide went out so that we could get back in the water.The snorkeling was great.It seems that whenever the water has been at its worst the fish are out in droves.The same as fishing at home I guess.We got in the middle of a couple of very cool schools of fish. I think that Bryan is now as good a snorkeler as anyone I know.He is doing awesome.He is also a better photographer so I passed the underwater camera on to him for a while today.We also saw an octopus.He was just swimming into a rock when I spotted him and he stuck himself to it for all the he was worth as soon as he saw me.I got a couple of pictures of him though and I hope that at least one turns out.

It was still pretty light out when we decided we had had enough snorkeling so we took a stroll down the beach to the rocks which I now call Hermit Crab Cove.We gathered up eight of the little buggers and Bryan drew a deep circle in the sand.We set all of the little guys in the middle and had a little hermit crab race of our own.It was pretty fun except we decided that one was dead.I picked up the one that we thought was dead and tossed him into the water.When it hit I saw that the shell had broken and I went over to investigate because I wanted to see what a hermit crab looked like when it was out of its shell. Turns out he wasn't dead and I felt very bad because he was inevitably doomed to be somethings dinner without his shell.We went on a hunt to find him a new shell, but couldn't find one and when I got back to him he was gone.While we were hunting for the shell though we found what we thought was a dead octopus, but was instead a live starfish so I threw him back out in the water so he wouldn't dry out.

After our rock adventure we returned to the bure and had to start packing.We both had to employ some fairly serious engineering to get everything that we had brought with us back in the bags plus the stuff that we bought here.It is all in and lets hope it stays like that until we get home.

Our last dinner on the island was excellent.Fish, fish and some more fish, plus dessert.Its been a little overa week and already I couldn't fit back into my wedding dress.After dinner it was Kava night again.We both partook of some, and I had a little more this time than last which is partly why this entry draws to an end.I am very sleepy and apparently the room is moving in time with the waves outside.Crazy.Good night for the last time from Fiji.

9:09 PM 6/30/01

The vacation is over. I want to go back already. I still need to tell all of the fun things from the last day, so here we go.

Our last morning on Matamanoa was leisurely. We got up and ate breakfast. I stuffed down as much pineapple as my stomach would handle. Then we sat by the pool and read until it was time to get on the shuttle. We opted for the 12:30 boat to Mana so we wouldn't have to rush around in the morning. I think that was a good choice. The 9:00 shuttle was packed with people.

I watched Jope while we were sitting by the pool. He never stopped moving during the three hours or so I was there. He swept up the deck and layed out the rubber mats. Then he carted all of the luggage for the 9:00 shuttle down to the beach. He came back and setup all of the umbrellas. Then he went and got all of the luggage for the 12:30 shuttle from the bures and stacked it by the office. Then he wandered down and did more stuff at the boat shed. All of the Fijians on the island work hard to make everything so nice and liesurely for the guests.

The shuttle ride to Mana was uneventful. Shelley and I both stared out the window at the ocean for the whole trip. We transfered to the Tiger IV at the Mana dock and watched the good bye show for the tourists leaving the resort there. We tried riding on the top deck again, but the wind was pretty strong, so we moved down to the middle deck where we coulod get some shelter. There were a lot of little kids on the Tiger. One lady was packing a baby that couldn't have been more than a couple of months old. We also got another shot of Fijian saranades. Two versions of "Home on the Range" was two too many. Someone needs to send new song books down here.

The trip back stopped at several resorts to board more outgoing passengers. Getting a look at the other islands really reinforced that we had ended up with the best place to stay in Fiji. The other resorts even on the outter islands were way too touristy and they didn't have the cool beach we'd enjoyed.

We landed at the Denarau Marina around 14:30 and hopped in the car that the travel agency had sent for us. We had another rapid ride though the crowed streets of Nadi Town back to the airport. There was a "Left Luggage" office at the airport where we were able to dump all of our bags for a while. I was glad to put down the damn laptop.

Shelley smartly decided to go to back to the travel agent's office to find out about how to get the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. They hooked us up with a driver and entrance to the garden for FD$30, which was less than what it would have cost just to take the cab one way.

The garden was beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen so many flowers in on place. Of course there were lots of different orchids, but there were a lot of other neat plants too. The "self-peeling bananas" were really neat looking. They are little red bananas that open up like flowers when they get ripe. Shelley and I wandered around the whole grounds and took lots of pictures. Some of them even turned out ok.

Our driver was a Hindu and he took us to see the temple in Nadi. It was beautiful. The main temple was classic Dravidian architecture. It is flanked by two smaller temples to Ganeshand and Shiva. I took my last pictures and thanked the driver for bringing us.

Then we were off to shop. We'd raided the gift shop at Matamanoa, but we still needed to find stuff for the kids. We went to Jack's in downtown Nadi. It's a giant tourist emporium full of all the standard tourist stuff. We got some shirts and sulus. I got Adam a cannibal fork (which he seems to be enjoying even if I won't let him kill anyone to try it out.) The weirdest thing about the store was it's sales method. As soon as we walked in the door a saleman latched on to us. Shelley and I tried to brush him off and browse by ourselves, but the guy was unshakeable. As soon as we touched something he was right there to point out what an authentic piece of Fijian memorabelia it was and to ask if we'd like to buy it. When you picked anything up and wandered with it for a couple of steps he was right there to offer to take it and set it aside for you. It was creepy. The car driver was following us around too, waiting for us to get done, so Shelley and I were leading this entorage around through the store for half and hour or so.

Finally we had to give up and head back to the airport. We ate our first bad food in Fiji at the dirty restraunt in the airport lobby. We also had to stop at a booth in the corner and pay FD$20 each for a stamp that said we could leave the country. Shelley was befriended by a group of Indian girls while sitting in the lobby. They seemed excited to talk to a real live American.

When we went through the little check point leading to the departure area we got quite a shock. The dirty airport was suddenly transformed into a super clean mall full of "duty free" stores.

My turn again.It was quite a shock to see all of the clean shiny goods for sale after having been through the sea of poverty in Nadi.Bryan suggested that next time the Fijinas decide to have a coup they should forget the government and hit them where it really hurts, in the duty free shops.

We made our way to a couple of seats and waited, and waited, and waited.....and then we got on the plane.The leg room seemed a lot more cramped than it had on the flight over, although it probably wasn't.It was probably just the fact that we were going home instead of to Fiji.I had planned on staying awake for the entire trip home so that I would be good and tired when we got here, but that didn't last.I stayed awake long enough to watch part of a bad movie, "Double"something or other and to pick at my extremely disgusting meal, and then I started sleeping off and on all of the way back to Boise, including on the flight from LA to Boise. Bryan stayed awake and read the entire way.He also ate his extremely disgusting meal.I did wake up long enough to watch "Miss Congeniality".It was Ok.Then I went back to sleep.

When we arrived in LA we had to do the customs falderal again.There was a gift for Adam sticking out of my carry on which was made of wood and the obnoxious customs woman made us go through the agriculture line.It didn't really take any longer, but it still annoyed me.Then we made our way to the Southwest Terminal and got ourselves checked in.Next we headed to some funny little mexican restaurant where we got our first good fountain soda since we had left. I had missed real diet coke.Then we went and sat and waited, and waited, and waited....and then we got on our last flight to home.It was uneventful except that I still couldn't stay awake.

When we arrived in Boise our bags got there pretty quickly, but we couldn't find Adam.I thought it might be a sign that we should just turn around and go back, but then Bryan spotted the Datsun in the parking lot so we had to find him instead of going back to Fiji.We found him and made our way home.It felt good to be home, but also it was kind of sad.

We've been back for two days now and the jetlag hasn't worn off.Maybe we'll just stay on Fiji time until we can go back.

Casa de Bender