Casa de Bender> travel> Fiji, October 2003

Return to Matamanoa

Fiji, October 2003


Vacation! We're off to Fiji again. I don't know if I've ever looked forward to going some where so much before. It was a little weird to have a three day weekend before we could actually get started, but we're on our way now. Steve was nice enough to drop by with the love van and give us a lift to the airport.

Getting through security in Boise is a breeze and soon we are waiting at the gate. And waiting. And waiting. On the plane, off the plane and we're in Salt Lake. And waiting. And waiting.

Shelley befriends a family that's on their way to Disneyland for the 10 millionth time or something like that. The men seem nice enough (for Mormons), but they are in the company of a very bitchy mother and daughter acting the part of grandmother and wife. Oh well, not my life. :)

On the plane, off the plane and we're in LA. When we get to baggage claim our bags are waiting. Apparently they didn't have to wait as long in Salt Lake as we did. Having bags with wheels makes getting over to the International terminal much nicer. Even better when we get there we spot the ticket counter right away. Short lines take our bags through the super duty x-ray machine and get us boarding passes.

Time for dinner. We ask the waiter if he knows what happened in the Cubs game and he's clueless. The guy next to us lets us know that the Cubbies choked in the clutch once again and blew a three run lead in the sixth or seventh. I gobble down an overpriced cheeseburger and fries with the last real ketchup I'll see for a couple of weeks. Shelley ordered fish and chips. I'm not sure what she was thinking.

LAX International security was a breeze too. I think for all of the bitching I've heard getting into an airport is easier now. At least everyone knows what to do and gets it done.

More waiting and waiting and waiting at the gate. It looks like there are about 500 people waiting with us. Ugh.

On the plane and here we go. Just TEN AND HALF more hours of flight time the stewardess says. So much fun.

The Rugby World Cup is going on in Australia and there are a lot of club rugby players on the flight going down to watch and play in a tournament. The kid sitting next to us is a paramedic who's decided to go even though he's never played rugby before. By the time we've talked about it for a while I think he's decided to act as the water boy and trainer.

The plane had video monitors in the back of each seat and you could pick which bad movie you wanted to watch. That was kinda cool. Each monitor had a super NES controller too, but apparently they didn't have the decks hooked up on our plane. Shelley and I both watched Finding Nemo.


This day mostly didn't happen. We left LAX right after it started and then flew across the International Date Line. We'll make it up on the way home.


I slept for a few hours on the plane, but not enough. Legs and arms and things become a real pain when your trying to sleep sitting up in a chair that's about 6 inches too narrow to be comfortable. I'm sure Shelley had a worse time of it since she can't even sleep in a soft bed.

I watched season one Simpson's episodes on the little monitor and read some. I just want to get to Fiji.

And then we're there.

And waiting to get through immigration. Shelley and I always, without fail, pick the line that doesn't move. At one point there were 75 other people standing around and then we were the second to last people to go through. I just don't get it. But we made it and now we just have to find our bags and go through customs.

Surprise! Our bags are waiting when we get there. And customs is no problem. There's even a guy who knows that we were coming waiting after customs. We get our transfer tickets to the marina and dump our luggage in his office. And wait. And wait. And wait.


And now we are here, and we've been here for a while, but too busy to write. Things on the island are just as perfect as they were before. The people are just as friendly, and happy, they laugh all the time. The fish are friendly in the water, and yummy on the plate. The mai tais are heavenly, and the weather is always a pleasant 82 degrees, except at night when it's a pleasant 65 degrees with tropical breezes blowing.

On the mini-boat/water taxi to the island we met Pam and Dave from New Zealand. This is their seventh trip to the island. They love this place as much as we do, but discovered it earlier.

We didn't get placed in the qiqi bure we were in before, but we are in one just as pleasant named dilio. I know how many jokes lie in the name, but we just let them lie.

On the first day we arrived we had a lot more time that we did last time because we actually got here when we were supposed to, but we were exhausted, so we unpacked, ate, snorkeled, ate again and went to bed. All in all it was an ideal day.

Yesterday we both got up early, and I was supposed to start my scuba diving class, but it was postponed until today, so we read. Then I started to get fidgety (leading Bryan to call me wiggly girl) so we hiked to the top of the island and took in the view again. I tried to take a picture of us by holding the camera out in front. We'll see if they turn out. Then it was back for...you guessed it....more eating. The food here is tremendous, so we are careful not to miss a meal.

After lunch we snorkeled again. There is a place on the reef that is a fish bazaar. We easily saw fifty different species of fish all nibbling at things in the reef. Bryan was caught in a school of bright blue tetras (we think) and I located my professor fish, still hiding in the same little cove in the reef where I found them before. Like I said, everything is essentially the same.

Things here are the same, not in a McDonald's all over the world comforting sort of way, but in a once you've reach perfection why change sort of way.

Today we were both up at 7:00 again, or at least I was and after I dropped yesterdays coffee grounds all over the floor with a loud thump, so was Bryan. We ate big breakfasts with pineapple and rolls, and eggs and bacon, and omelets, and juice and coffee. The I went off to my scuba class and Bryan read, We met up to eat again, and then we split off so I could do more pool scuba (as of tomorrow I will never have to scuba dive in a pool again) and Bryan snorkeled on the reef.

For dinner tonight the island had a barbecue, and while they are currently limbo dancing we graciously snuck back to our room to read, write and relax and primarily to avoid limbo dancing.

Only one week to go. I wonder who is in the world series and how Annie Jo is doing. But I am not homesick, just curious.


I was a lazy ass today. I finished my second book before breakfast and played a lot more Zelda on the game boy. Then we hurried off to eat so Shelley could get to her first open water dive in time. It turns out we really didn't have to hurry. Island time kicked in at the dive shop because their boat wouldn't start. Apparently the island lacks mechanics in much the same way that it lacks medical equipment. It's not that they don't need them, they just never got a around to getting any.

They called for a backup boat from another island, but it turned out that they got the boat to run after all. While we were waiting around a couple guys came in from fishing. They had a barracuda and some other fish that looked like it was decent size (at least for the river fish I know how to catch). Shelley got off to her dive and I wandered back for more video games and reading.

When she got back from the dive trip, Shelley was positively beaming. She said scuba in the ocean was second only to driving a race car for fun. She rattled off lots of things she'd seen, but she'll have to write them down. I sounded pretty cool, but I'm still trying to convince myself that it's ok to snorkel in water that's over my head. (Panic attacks in the surf while wearing a snorkel are no fun. My trick in the lake is to calm down by floating on my back, but you can't really do that with a snorkel on, and spitting it out with waves spilling over me just isn't very calming.)

She had another dive before lunch and by the sound of it the second one was just as fun as the first. This time she took a camera with her, so we should see some cool pictures of the deeper water fishes.

After lunch we did snorkeled for a while. Shelley said she saw a great big black fish with an orange mouth, but by the time she came to get me it was gone. I can't even come close to keeping up with her in the water. She watched me from the beach for a while and said that I float really high. When the water gets choppy the top of my mask comes out of the water, so I'm sure she's right. Too bad I'm a fat slob. :)

More Zelda and a nap filled out the afternoon. We got up to shower and got to dinner. Shelley was trying to be social with some Australian newlyweds we met yesterday, but I was so tired that I wasn't much help. Maybe I'll do better next time.

Shelley got an upset stomach at dinner, so were laying around again. It's only 9:30 here, but that's 3:30am at home and she looks pretty tired. Two dives, a 200m ocean swim and 20 minutes of snorkeling seem to have done her in. I'll have to remember that combo for the next time she turns into "wiggle girl."


Yesterday I saw so many things its hard to remember. I dived at Joe's Farm first which is this amazingly colorful coral bed. It was full of fishies. I saw some clown fish swimming in and out of the anemones. I saw a beautiful school of blue fish called fusilius, but no sharks. I was keeping my eyes out for them so maybe next time.

After that we went to Bird Rock. There I saw my first garden of eels. They are honestly called garden eels because they live with one end of them buried in the sand and weave in the water like little planted grass. When you swim near them they tuck themselves into the sand, there entire selves, they just recede. It was hilarious. Then I saw Christmas tree worms. They are fuzzy little shell fish that embed themselves in brain coral and are called Christmas Tree because they are all different colors like bulbs on a Christmas tree. They also look they are wearing Ethel Merman wigs. When you flick water toward them they shrink back into their shells entirely disappearing like the garden eels. It was too cute and I giggled a lot. I learned that the name of the my professor fish from last trip is the squirrel fish or they are sometimes called the Big Eye fish. Last but not least, we saw a sting ray hiding from us under a rock. Leona, my instructor took my camera to get a picture of him mostly because I didn't know how close I could get to him without pissing him off and getting stung. I hope it turns out.

By the looks of what is above Bryan already clued you in on the rest of the night. I felt tired, then I felt sick. Bryan ate dinner and it looked good, but I couldn't eat. Finally we got to bed (at about 9:30).

We woke up this morning and ate because that is what you do here. It was a downpour all night and this morning the island was a mess. It was soaked, everything was soaked and part of our roof covering was coming off, but by noon things had settled down and were put back together. The rain was nice to listen to sometimes, but it kept knocking coconuts off the trees and the big thuds they make hitting the ground kept waking us up. (Before we went to sleep we found a fat gecko in our room, and tried to get a photo of him, but he was shy and ran behind the refrigerator.)

So after we ate this morning I had to go and watch more scuba videos, but now I am done with those. I came home and we read together for a while before we ATE again. Imagine that. After lunch I had to do some more pool scuba diving, so Bryan climbed the mountain again and met me on the deck after. We talked with Peta, Pam and Dave for a while, then came back to the room for a nap. Well, I napped and Bryan read. Then we had to go for another snorkel.

I saw another sting ray and this time he was out swimming about. He was huge and gorgeous. I thought about swimming closer, but he seemed to be swimming toward me, and that freaked me out, so I swam the heck away. I called Bryan to come and have a look at him but when I went back under I couldn't find him and couldn't even remember exactly where I had been. I find that snorkeling is a lot more disorienting that scuba diving. That could be because I have a tendency to move pretty fast when I am snorkeling so I move right past stuff.

After that we showered and went off to dinner. It was delicious as usual. I have had a lot to drink now though, and I think it is time to tuck in (which in American means go to bed, but in New Zealand means eat). Isa Lei.


Clear skies for the first day since we got here. Beautiful. I didn't mind the overcast skies, but everything seems much more alive in the bright tropical sun.

Not too long after breakfast we went snorkeling. The tide was way out this morning. I swam out a lot farther than I usually do. It's funny that feel so much more comfortable in shallow water. I tried some experiments the other day and found that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't sink in the sea water unless I actually dove down and ever that took a lot of effort. I float with my whole back and most of my head out of the water down here.

We took lots of pictures underwater today. That should turn out well since the sun was bright and the water was shallow. I got a shot of a cool fish that's purple with red stripes. The stripes are tangled up like the ridges on brain coral. Shelly watched a big fish that was swimming like it had an inner ear infection. I kept listing to one side and then the other as it swam around.

After an hour or so in the water we laid around on the beach to soak up some sun. I'd didn't become apparent until we were showering for dinner, but we both got a little too much sun. We put on sunscreen, but apparently we both missed some spots. The bottom of Shelley's bottom is about the color of rare prime rib. :(

Shelley had her third dive this afternoon. She was pretty flustered when she got back. They were down about fifty feet and having a good time when her instructor happened to glance at Shelley's air gauge. She let out a little squeal and then so did Shelley when she realized she was almost out of air. Shelley had to use Leona's spare regulator on the ascent because she ran completely out. She had a hard time manually inflating her BCD at the surface because she was flustered by the experience. Leona was on her 999th dive and she said she'd never had anyone actually run out of air before.

While Shelley was having her near death experience, I was laying around and reading. I took a walk down the beach looking for shells too. Chloe and Emma have requested some.

Dinner was delicious. I wish I could eat fish and pineapple every day at home too. We came home early because Shelley's tired again. Not that I mind. I figured out what my big problem making small talk is; people ask you questions, but they don't really want to hear the answers. I have a hard time coming up with those sorts of questions.


So here we are in Fiji still. Everything is still beautiful and pleasant and we are having a great time. Today I slept late and then had some coffee on the lanai with Bryan. We read for a while and then we realized that we had better get a move on or we would miss breakfast. So we scurried off. They were down to the last three slices of pineapple so it was good we got there when we did.

After breakfast we came back and read some more, then I got the bright idea that since it was 10:45 or so it was time for a nap. We both came in and slept for about an hour. Just in time to get up and have lunch. Today I tried kokoda for lunch and it was delicious. It is cubes of reef fish marinated in lime and coconut milk. Yummy.

After lunch I did my last dive for certification and Leona, my instructor had her 1000th dive. It was pretty exciting for us both. At the dive site we saw an enormous starfish, probably 3 feet across and it was an olive green color. Quite lovely. I didn't take a photo though because I couldn't find my camera at that moment. As we were preparing to ascend I saw my first shark. He (or she) was very large, maybe 6 or 7 feet long, but probably 20 meters below us. Leona says he is a white tip. Apparently they can be rather nasty at times. Not today though, he just went on his way. Friday I have a two tank dive, and that will be it for my Fiji diving on this trip. It has been really interesting and exhilarating.

Back on shore Bryan snorkeled for quite a while it sounds like, and then went on a photo excursion. He says he got quite a few photos of the Seaspray, and those should be pretty. Tomorrow we are going to go back to shell island and do a little shopping. It should be fun.

Tonight however, we are going to have lobster and champagne for dinner and that will be wonderful if it proves to be anything like last time. So that is all that writing for tonight, because after dinner I hope to have had too much champagne.


Mmmm, lobster. I'd guess that they were about two and a half pounds each. Shelley and I both tried valiantly to eat it all, but in the end we lost.

The weekly Kava ceremony was after dinner. I think we both held our own since we were invited back to the staff quarters afterward for more. I thought I'd had enough after 6 beers, half a bottle of champagne and the three big bowls of kava. Shelley seemed a little disappointed, but "drunk girl" always hates to leave a party.

After breakfast this morning we took the boat over to Tavoua. I didn't find it as depressing this time as I did a couple of years ago. It was pretty obvious that Ben was proud of the things that the tribe had accomplished over the years. There were some teenage boys playing rugby in the field and Ben pointed out that this was what life on the island was all about. You work when you need to and then you relax.

I watched closely while John's wife made another pot. It's still pretty amazing how quickly they can make one. There is obviously a lot of practice involved.

The ride back to Matamanoa was pretty wet. Tide was coming up and there was about a three foot swell. This coupled with the fact that the boat was about 600 pounds overloaded made Shelley and my position near the bow pretty soggy.

We got back just in time for lunch. Man we eat a lot here. Then we sat around and read for a while and Shelley had a little nap. Around 4 we went out for our daily snorkel. The tide had come way up by this time and there were a lot of fish out. Shelley went out over the lip of the ref and said it was really pretty out there. She saw a few big fish and a giant clam. I think she got a picture of the clam so we see what that looks like.

I went down a gathered shells on the beach later. I got a big double handful of them by the time I was done. I'm going to make some kind of cool necklace out of a lot of the little purple shells.

When I got back Shelley had broken out the champagne that we had in the fridge. We drank it down and watched the sunset. Now she's getting ready for dinner. There's big doings tonight. It's the crab race and then they are getting out a TV in the bar so that the staff (and anyone else) can watch Fiji and Japan play a World Cup Rugby match.


Here it is, the last full day of our journey. Bryan and I have intermittently had stomach aches all day, but not enough to slow us down for more than a half and hour hear and there. We did however, decide to forgo breakfast, and so I did two scuba dives on an empty stomach, which is best as it turns out, because putting anything in it turned out to be a bad idea.

As an aside...our crab won the crab race last night. We paid $23 for him and won $100. That might cover our bar tab for a couple of days.

Back to today...my diving trip didn't turn up anything new and spectacular, but it was pretty nonetheless. I saw giant gargonia fans, which are truly amazing. Overall it was fun, and most importantly, I didn't run out of air. Yeah! On the boat ride back to the island a school of dolphin came up to the boat and followed us part of the way back. We circled around and watched them for a while, Leona says its the first time she has ever seen them in so close. On my second dive of the day the dive master tried to point out a more eel to me, but I didn't see it. Next trip.

Bryan hiked the island again, but this time he came back the long way and played on the beach for a while. Apparently he also got conned into playing a game of beach boccie ball, which turned out badly because they lost. Bryan hates to lose, but he rallied well, and after some lunch, we napped and then went for our last snorkel on this trip. The tide was really high again today, so I went over the reef and took some photos of the other side of the reef, an entire camera full, so lets hope they turn out. Of course there was additional reading interspersed throughout the day. Bryan finished Quicksilver. He was trying to explain it to me and from the sounds of it is some king of math/science historical thriller. Odd.

We are both packed now, and I was dreading going home, but then I saw Bryan looking at pictures of Annie Jo on the computer and I am ready to go now, We need to get home, hand out the loot we are bringing home for everyone, and make some more money so we can come back soon.

Goodbye Matamanoa. See you again next year maybe.

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