Catsnstuff Down Under – 5.1: Fiji part one

So here we are, I thought this would be the last post on my trip, but this post became unbearably long, so I’ve decided to chop it in two. I am also contemplating doing a separate posts about the stats of the trip, so who knows, there might be loads more.

To write this entry, I needed a little help from my travel diary to see what I did exactly. One of the first things I wrote when I arrived in Nadi (pronounced Nandi) in Fiji was: “It’s steaming hot here in Fiji, hope to get a good tan here”. Let me just say one thing about that wish I expressed: you can’t have everything. I am quite pale even now, after travelling 5.5 weeks through Australia, of which a large part I went straight through the desert, and 2.5 weeks Fiji, a country known for it’s great beaches and honeymoon resorts. Hey, at least I tried! I only stayed in Nadi for a solid 18 hours, so I didn’t really see the place, but I can tell you that their airport has the best coffee, cheesecake and softest leather couches you will ever find.

After a brief night in Nadi, I was off to Taveuni, the island where my mother and her boyfriend Buli live. I was so excited, because I’d never seen him before. Well, no time to be nervous about the first meeting, my nerves were fully occupied for an entire hour and a half, because we flew to Taveuni in the smallest plane I ever had the displeasure of sitting in. Since I’m not too fond of flying, this was a real joyous experience. It was even unclear whether I could board or not, because for some reason they had not allowed me to check my luggage in. After some frantic discussion one man decided to just shove me on the plane, without anyone ever checking any of my luggage. Safety first! The plane was already revving up when I got in, and since only one of the two propellers (yes, propellers, not engines) was spinning my nerves kicked in. Why is the other one not moving, I thought. I know, totally paranoid, but every little thing I couldn’t quite understand about the featherlight plane concerned me, from the in flight magazine, obviously written by ‘journalists’ who had been taught the trade by a senile pensioner, to the giggling captains who apparently both needed to push the throttle forward because it seemed to be stuck. The heavy turbulence that made me and the other passengers look at each other anxiously the whole flight didn’t help much either.

When we landed, I instantly recognised my mother standing at the ‘gate’ (just an open space in the cutest airport ever). After hugging her I looked around and saw Buli, whose image I remembered from the pictures my mom showed me, and I flew around his neck. He was a little shy at first, but after about 10 minutes we were all chatting. We had to wait for the bus a little while, since it only runs three times a day. Since Fiji is usually very hot, buses just have open spaces where the glass usually is, and when it rains, you just pull down some flaps. Also, the roads are not that great, and the buses are not much better either, so the whole trip I thought the bus was going to break down. My mom assured me that it’s perfectly normal to not be able to talk because the engine is making so much noise.

When we arrived in the village after quite a bumpy ride, I was immediately introduced to loads of people. Since my mother has been living there for such a long time, she’s almost like a local, and family is hugely important in Fiji. It made me feel very welcome, but I was also very tired. I slept in the lodge in the village, which was not in great shape when I got there. The kitchen was dirty and the generator was broken, so I had to fumble around with candles. Above all that, my room was apparently a cockroach paradise, since there were three of them sitting happily on my bed when I arrived. After screaming like a little girl and jumping out of my room my mom was so nice to spend the first night with me. Obviously, I didn’t sleep too well, and woke up with a start every time there was a little breeze or movement on my skin from my sheet, thinking the cockroaches were back. No such thing ever happened, but I kind of slept like this every night.

The next day was great. Buli’s auntie Anna made a huge and very, very delicious welcome dinner for me. Ah, you can always win me over with food!

After this, I was invited to a fundraiser. What this basically means is that money is collected for a part of the village (school, church, youth group) by buying kava for people. Kava is a narcotic beverage that tastes very foul (think bitter medicine / vomit) but makes you feel very relaxed. In the middle of the town square, a huge bowl is placed with about 5-10 litres of kava. You walk to the organisation table, where you announce for how much money you will buy kava, and for whom. After you give the money, one person announces the person or persons who you will give kava too, and how much you paid for it. You then walk to the bowl, scoop out kava with a little bowl made of coconut shell and walk to the person you bought the kava for. He or she accepts (if not, a fine has to be paid for refusing it) and you clap in your hands.  After the fundraiser is finished, the organisers calculate who spent the most money, and that person is called forward to collect a prize, usually fish, dalo (very starchy version of potato), scone or bread. There are usually six prizes, and Buli, my mom and me were able to pick out a scone!  It suffices to say that I had a great evening, since people offered me quite a bit of kava and asked me to dance the whole time. Even though I didn’t drink that much and didn’t feel a lot of the promised effects of the kava, I slept like a baby, only waking up thinking of cockroaches two or three times.

On day three, we walked to the waterfall along the Lavena Coastal Walk. It’s a lovely walk, with some good sights.


Mushroom Rocks


Buli!


My lovely mom, Resi

After a slippery walk, we finally made it to the waterfall and had a little swim. It’s gorgeous, but the water was very cold.

When we came back, Buli’s mom had made us a more than delicious meal of fish stew, green papaya and dalo. On top of that, his brother caught a lobster and we ate that as well. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Fijians is that they are very generous and good cooks, which meant I hardly ever had to cook for myself. Even when you are obviously bursting, they keep encouraging you to eat more. It’s a miracle I didn’t gain weight there, I still don’t get it.

On day four we were supposed to go to the market in Naqara, two hours from Lavena. I got up at 5:00AM to catch the 5:45AM bus, but Resi and Buli’s alarm didn’t go off, so we had to wait for the next bus. That’s a five hour wait people! After some relaxing (of which I did a great great deal in Fiji) we caught the next bus. The market is four rickety tables with vegetables, and even though my mom told me not to expect too much of it, I was still blown away that this was the main reason for travelling four hours with the bus. After the ‘market’, Resi and I went to the airport to buy and change tickets, but when we arrived it turned out that the office had just closed. Just when I thought I was going to lose it (remember, I got up at 5:00!), we saw a man we hoped could answer some of our questions. When we told him we wanted to go to Suva and my mother said something to me in Dutch about her friend Susie who has a B&B there, he said: “You’re going to stay with Susie at the Colonial Lodge?”. Baffled, we said yes, and it turned out he was the husband of Susie’s niece. From that point on, I found out that where ever you go in Fiji, everyone you meet is somehow related to someone you know. It happened many more times on the trip that when I was talking to someone, they said: “O yeah, my father’s uncle’s daughter is from Lavena!”, or “Yeah, my mother’s friend’s cousin is related to the bus driver on Taveuni”. Crazy stuff!

The next two days, I just chilled a bit and watched the village life from my hammock. The most exciting part was when Buli’s pig broke loose and had to be captured.


Setting the trap


Sneaking up from behind


Victory!

Up next: last days in Lavena, visiting another island, bumpiest bus ride ever and a cat!

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2 Responses to “Catsnstuff Down Under – 5.1: Fiji part one”

  1. elsr31 Says:

    Dear Lotte and Resi,

    Finally (digibeet as I am) I succeeded in loggin in and I can send you a mail.
    Lotte, I enjoy a lot reading your detailed travelling stories. I admire you doing the anxious flght to Buli’s place and sleeping with the creepy animals on your bed. What kind of animal is this cloakraoth anyway?
    How nice to see the beuatiful pictures of Buli and Resi on the bridge!
    I wish you ,mother and daughter, a great time together at Resi’s second home.
    Here everything is going fine. A beautiful marriage of Tim and Suus and a new grandchild is been expected in January, but this tim Stef will be the proud father!
    Lots of love from Els

  2. shussmallworld Says:

    You MUST write a book about this entire trip. Your writing is so captivating and vivid and evocative!!!!! I can’t tell you enough of how much I enjoy reading all of this and feeling I am right there with you. (Though I’m not sure I could manage as you have — the Florida cockroaches skeez me out quite enough, thank you!)

    I’m terrified of flying, too, and have trembled without stopping when shoehorned into the back of a small plane. Kudos for surviving that!

    And we’ve always laughed about my mother’s being able to claim connection or relation with someone no matter WHERE she goes — the slough of a river or the other side of the world. She used to remember every possibility of being connected, so I miss that. But how fun to have a whole island full of that!

    Can’t wait to read the rest of the adventure — and can’t wait for you to go somewhere else that you can write about for us to ‘go with’.

    Thank you!!!!!

    Ever admiringly,
    Shu

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