BIRTHDAY IN FIJI

I’m going to open this blog post with a funny, weird, ‘I almost pooed my pants’ story. So everything was fine getting to the airport in Auckland and the flight wasn’t bad. I had booked ‘the works’ on New Zealand air and so ordered myself some food and had a selection of movies to watch. Lala Land and The Edge of Seventeen, in case you wanted to know. It was a fairly short flight, just over four hours landing at 7:10pm. I took my place in a small queue for immigration reaching the front in a few minutes. And this is where I started to sweat.

The lady at the counter checking my passport asked me where I was going next? ‘To Brisbane.’ ‘And where after that?’ ‘To Singapore.’ ‘When are you going home?’ ‘I’m not sure on a date yet, but I think in August.’ ‘Have you booked your flight?’ ‘Only to Brisbane and Singapore.’ ‘Are you working in either of these places?’ ‘No, I’m just travelling.’ ‘Come with me…’
 So then I followed this woman into this little waiting room as she took my passport and customs form into another room where I guess someone else was. I waited for about 10 minutes just thinking ‘What the fuck?! I’m going to get thrown out! But I haven’t done anything wrong? They can’t throw me out, I booked a tour!’ A man then peered around the door and told me to come into his office. I sat down the other side of his desk whilst he carried on looking though my passport and on his computer screen. 
‘You are Charlotte?’ ‘Yes, that’s my name.’ ‘Where have you just come from?’ ‘Auckland in New Zealand.’ Silence as he looked at his computer again. ‘Why have you come to Fiji?’ ‘For a holiday, I’m travelling around.’ Silence again. Getting a bit angry I then said, ‘Sorry, but I don’t understand why I’m in here?’ He turned and smiled at me and did a half hearted little laugh and waited 5 seconds before answering, ‘Do you have a ticket back to your home country.’ ‘No, but I read that you only need a ticket leaving Fiji.’ (It does say this on the UK government website) But apparently one of the requirements is to have a ticket all the way back to England.

This guy then kept questioning me, asking me things like; do I have a working visa for Australia and asked to see confirmation of it. When I planned to fly to Singapore, where I planned to go after that and when I planned to go home. He even mentions the Manchester bombing with a little smile on his face, I said I had friends there and he soon shut up about it. But then he started asking me weirder questions, such as; how much money I had in my bank, who was sponsoring me (no one, I worked for a year and a half), what I did as a job. Where I planned to go in Fiji, did I have any friends there and if I booked a hostel. He asked to see the reservation for the hostel and of course I couldn’t really say no in this situation. He then commented on my booking a female dorm and that he knew where my hostel was. He noticed it was my birthday (from my passport) whilst I was going to be in Fiji and said if I was going to start partying tonight. I said ‘no, I’m a bit tired from travelling, I just want to sleep.’ ‘Maybe tomorrow night?’ ‘Maybe, I might have a beer.’ Then he started asking me about my favourite beers. ‘Maybe I can join you for a beer tomorrow night?’ ‘Oh, ha, maybe!’ ‘I can come find you at your hostel.’ ‘Suuuuuure.’ (I felt obliged to agree to anything since this man had the power to send me on a flight out of Fiji). ‘Do you have a Fiji sim?’ ‘No, I’m only here for two weeks so it’s not worth it.’ ‘Then how am I going to contact you?’ WHAT THE F**K!!!! He ended up saying he will come by the hostel and ask for me at reception. After that, he stamped my passport and let me go. I basically ran out of there.

My first few days in Fiji were spent hiding in my hostel room or waiting to run away if I saw this guy coming. It was tense. Luckily, he never appeared. And once a couple of days had passed, I worked up the courage to sit around and have a few beers with random people who had already been to some islands or otherwise were waiting to go. I even saw a guy who was on my Stray bus from Christchurch to Wellington. We literally sat at the table for ten minutes trying to figure out where we met and when we realised it was just over a week ago, we were startled by our stupidity.
The next morning, I woke up early for my 8:15am pick up. I stood outside the hostel ready and waiting with no one else there for a good ten minutes. Then another girl came with her bags and sat down. I went over and asked if she was doing the FeeJee Experience as well, thank god she was. I was getting worried I was going to be the only one on the trip. Her name was Becky from Carlisle. She had also just come from New Zealand. We talked for a bit waiting for the bus until it finally arrived about half an hour late. But that’s Fiji time apparently!! 
These two Irish lads who were also waiting at the Bamboo hostel got in the bus as well, Sean and Kieran. There were already a couple of girls, Yoko from Japan and Sam from Middlesbrough. Only Sam was doing the same tour as me; 9 days, 8 nights, but I was just relieved I had at least one person! I thought the tour would have a lot more people, nearly as big as Stray, but once we picked up Loraine and Nick (English and Welsh couple who had lived in Hong Kong for 10/12 years) from another hotel, there was only 8 of us. Sometimes though, it’s nicer that way and it’s easier to get to know everyone!
Our tour leader was called Emi and she was hilarious! Our driver, Jimmy, was quiet but also funny. Our first destination of the trip was Robinson Crusoe island. We were dropped off next to this river which had what looked like a wooden bus shelter next to it. We got on this small boat with all our luggage and travelled along the river and towards more open water. After half an hour of cruising, we arrived at this tiny island. You look at the pictures of Fiji and see these small islands and you hear people at you can walk around them in 5 minutes, but you don’t actually truly believe it until you see it. It was just this mound of sand with trees in the middle of the water, with huts and cabins on it. It was crazy.
After being shown our dorm, an attic room on top of this big wooden building with single beds and the ocean painted on the walls, we were introduced to Ben. Ben was a kind of host for the island, and even though he kept saying it was his second day, none of us believed it. I mean, not in a ‘he’s a natural’ kind of way, he was definitely lying. Sam, coming straight from England, was jet lagged and so had a nap whilst Ben taught the rest of us how to husk a coconut. Of course I ended up being Ben’s partner and had to go first after he demonstrated. I don’t think I did a bad job to be fair; you had to loosen the husk on a sharp stick and rip it off. Then, he used a machete to crack open the coconuts. He got us to hold them in our hands. This was the second time I nearly pooped myself in Fiji. I don’t even like coconut, so I don’t know why I was even doing this. We then just watched him as he ‘shaved’ the coconuts.

Although I didn’t witness this, there was a turtle viewing later in the day. They were taken to the corner of the island where there was a large turtle shell poking out of the bushes. Becky described the shell as moving up and down as though it was breathing. Everyone was getting excited until a member of staff jumped out of it, scaring them all!!
Lunch and dinner was a buffet, and I’m not going to lie, it was a it bland. There wasn’t much choice and not much option for a vegetarian. Definitely not worth the fjd $88 you HAVE to pay for it. You’re on an island, you have no choice but to eat the food. After dinner, they did a massive fire dance display, which I have to say was spectacular. Girls and boys both danced and the guys playing with fire and knives kept scaring us. I actually screamed when one slammed his stick on our table. Then everyone stared at me.

The day visitors then left the island and the few of us who were staying overnight chilled and talked for a bit at the tables. Ben came and spoke to us. He wa basically the leader of the dance and he was still claiming it was his second day. Pfft. Another one of the dancers came over, he looked like my friend’s boyfriend, but with a missing tooth. It was kind of awkward after this as it was just me and Becky left and we were struggling for conversation, so eventually I yawned loudly and said, ‘well I’m ready for bed…’ 
We left on the boat again early next morning. The guy with the missing tooth was on the same boat and kept tapping me on the shoulder and smiling at me. I smiled weakly back and just tried not to look in his direction again. Whilst waiting for the bus to pick us up, Emi put flowers in our hair, tucked behind the ear. Apparently if it’s on the right, you’re single, on the left, you’re married.
Our main stops today were a trip through some caves where I think the cannibals used to drag and kill people, and a waterfall! We were guided through this long dark cave right to the top where the cyclone from a year ago had collapsed the ceiling in. There was hundreds of bats scattered across the the cave and we were told not to shine our lights at them and disturb them.

Next was the waterfall; by some coincidence, we had a photographer on this tour as well (there was one on my Stray bus). He had a drone with him and filmed us as we were frolicking around in the waterfall. Emi climbed the rocks behind the waterfall, we cheered her on, but I was secretly worried for her safety as she jumped off. She was fine though.
We then headed to our next resort, Uprising Hotel. It was stunning here and we all wished we had arrived earlier so we could have enjoyed it more. The food was the best, I had my favourite, lasagne and even treated myself to a few cocktails. It was another fun evening, though I kept getting headaches and a strange feeling in my stomach. I just put this down to the heat and dosed myself up with paracetamol.
The next day we had our village visit! We had already done Kava ceremonies before this, but this one was meant to be completely traditional. Kava is the root of a plant which is crush us and mixed with water through a muslin cloth. I’m not sure why they drink it, maybe just for the sake of tradition. So we entered the village in our sarongs and barefoot into the hall. Sean was our chief and sat next to the village chief and offered him a gift. There were three men sitting opposite the chiefs mixing the kava and chanting in Fijian. The kava was then given to Sean and the chief to drink and then to each of the rest of us in turn. It was quite an interesting thing and you definitely would only get this if you did a tour like Feejee Experience. For those of you wondering, Kava tastes a bit earthy and for me had a slight aniseed tang to it. It leaves your mouth feeling tingly and a bit numb and also makes you sleepy.

The woman of the village had cooked us lunch. Most of it was made out of spinach, which was surprisingly nice. They had these deep fried spinach wraps that I couldn’t stop eating. After this, we went bamboo rafting. The men of the village took us on these bamboo rafts down a river. It was actually pretty cool! The photographer got his drone out again and told us he got some amazing shots of us! Most of the guys in the group and Becky jumped into the water. I had my denim shorts on, so decided not to… at least, that was my excuse.
We then journeyed to the next resort, Golden Point Resort, which turned out to be a bit weird and shit. There was the one guy, a waiter, who kept getting people’s orders wrong. Becky was trying to order a warmed up muffin with chocolate sauce and he kept repeating the wrong thing to her and she didn’t even get it for about half an hour. We all ended up waiting ages for our food, especially Loraine and Nick, whose food was apparently, not even worth the wait. A few of us had ordered the cheesecake and some of us were waiting so long for it that Kieran ended up describing what it taste like and the texture. But it seemed we all got different cheesecakes as a couple of us agreed that the texture was grainy, a bit like icing sugar in buttercream.

In the morning, as we weren’t to leave until 1pm, Becky, Sean, Kieran, Emi and I went kayaking across to a little island. I hadn’t kayaked in years; probably not since I was in year 8 at manor adventure where a guy who worked there kept chucking water into my kayak, soaking the pad I was wearing causing me to panic… ANYWAY… I soon discovered that kayaking was nothing like rowing either (having briefly been in the Chester University’s rowing team), it was all arms and no legs, which actually caused my legs to burn a bit. Although I lagged behind, it was fun. Once at the island we snorkelled for a bit. But still fearing my lack of swimming experience and coral, I came out pretty early and decided to start the journey back as I knew I would take longer than the rest. Turns out Sean had swallowed a lot of sea water, no one noticed he had been throwing up and I genuinely thought he was having a low journey back. He survived though.
We ordered lunch to take away and the waiter I mentioned before actually came over to correct another waiter saying Becky had ordered cheese and tomato toastie, Becky said no, I wanted a HAM and cheese toastie. It was ridiculous. We then had to pay our bills. I had booked a meal plan, so had a voucher to cover the cost of my lunch and dinner. However, when I gave the voucher to the waiter (same waiter as before), he started having a go at me saying I should have told the receptionist when I checked in because there is a separate menu (no doubt cheaper) for people on a meal plan. Emi had told me the voucher was worth $85 and my bill came to $79 so as he was telling me this, all I did was smile at him and say, I didn’t know that. He was going to charge me for my two orange juices I had and my cheesecake. He then got all confused, again saying I should have told them about this and said he was going to talk with his manager. Two minutes later, he came back and didn’t charge me for anything as the voucher covered it all. Dickhead.

We stopped at a mud pool on our way back to Nadi. We literally covered ourselves in this mud , waited for it to dry and then washed it off in the mud pool. It looked like it had stained my skin until we went in the hot springs and it washed off completely. We headed back to Nadi where we said goodbye to Emi and Jimmy and I was put in a 34 bed dorm whilst Yoko and Sam were put in a smaller dorm in a different hostel. We all gathered at Smuggler’s Cove as we were saying goodbye to Sean, Kieran and Becky who had only booked the four day tour. It was a sad fairwell, but as Sean said, it was fine because we’ll never see each other again. Cool, thanks bro.

I woke up on my birthday alone (in the sense, with no friends around me) in a smelly 34 bed dorm. It that was ok because the day got increasingly better after that. We took a very slow boat over to an island called beachcomber. As Sam and I discovered, you could literally walk around it in five minutes. Seriously, it was so small. At lunch, Loraine gave me a little Kava cup and a postcard signed by everyone on the tour wishing me a happy birthday. It was just the sweetest thing!! I know that I had mentioned my birthday a few times, but I was never asking everyone to celebrate with me. I was just happy to be spending it on this tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with some lovely people.
In the past I’ve not really had amazing birthdays. In fact, some have been a bit crappy. Last year was probably the worst (though made better by seeing my Uni friends back in Chester), but things have happened on or around my birthday that have made it not so enjoyable. The day before my 20th I was in a car accident on the way home from my placement. The car was a write off and I woke up on my birthday with major whiplash and not being able to move so much. At A&E they even had a go at me telling me that I should have taken some painkillers before coming. I wish I had responding with ‘Oh sorry, but I’ve literally come straight from the accident where the van driver who crashed into me left me stranded for three hours in the middle of nowhere. So sorry I couldn’t stop by a boots on the way here.’ (I obviously have some anger here still.) On my 21st, I almost definitely dodged a proposal from my then boyfriend. My 17th, I tried to organise a party with all my friends, most of them told me they were busy as it was half term. On that day, I saw two of the girls walking on the opposite side of the road, they even waved at me and then pictures appeared on Facebook of them all at the park. However, my friend Amy drove me, Kurtis, Andy and Alan all to Stratford for the day where we did one of those town quizzes that take you all around and you kind of discover the city. So that didn’t turn out so bad after all.
It was weird just to be sunbathing and swimming in this bright blue ocean. This time last year I never thought I would even be away from home on my birthday, let alone here. In the evening, at dinner (the food was a small buffet again), Loraine and Nick had got someone to weave me a little crown and then bought a jug of beer to share. Honestly, it was the most lovely thing, I was so grateful, but I’m really bad at expressing that in the moment. The evening’s entertaining me to was crab racing! People bet on a number, which had a country attached to it. The crabs were then let go in the middle of a ring and the first two to reach the edge, won a money prize. No one at our table won…

We spent the rest of the evening playing card games, teaching Yoko and Sam about rummy (I think that’s how you spell it?) and the moving on to bullshit. It was fun, I always love playing card games. However, in good old Worrall luck fashion, my head started to hurt and I started to get a migraine so unfortunately I had to end the night early and head to bed. The others apparently didn’t get to bed until about 4am and a couple ended up missing breakfast…

I had a very interesting talk with Nick that morning. After travelling, him and Loraine were debating setting up a business, but they weren’t 100% sure. He was sort of debating other options to me as he was technically retired, but he wanted something ‘meaningful’ to do. I think he needed someone to just tell him ideas to out loud and I’m a good listener, so I hoped I helped a little. He also gave me a few things to think about. As you can guess by now, I’m still not sure what I want to do when I get home. The fact that Loraine and Nick had lived and worked in Hong Kong intrigued me as how amazing would it be to live somewhere like that?? Again, it’s definitely another option, along with a few other little ideas I now have.

We said goodbye to Loraine and Nick later that day as they flew out the NZ the next morning. The weather will definitely be a shock for them! So it was only Sam, Yoko and myself left and with Yoko going to a different island to us the next day, it would only be myself and Sam. We were taken to this ferry on a smaller boat and had to jump on without falling in. We sat on the top deck with the sun finally out. It took a good 3 hours to get to mantaray as we had to stop at different islands along the way.

Manta Ray didn’t look like much to begin with, but Sam and I spent the days sunbathing and snorkelling with a lot of enjoyment. The coral and fish were amazing and they were all there as soon as you stepped in the ocean. You could rent snorkel gear with flippers which help you float, so I wasn’t scared of going out deep. Unfortunately my go pro died just before we got to the best part of the ocean, but a picture or video would never convey how beautiful it was.
The food was also pretty decent. You had a proper three course meal at night. The breakfast was my favourite. I couldn’t stop eating the pancakes and they had fruit yoghurt to put on cereal!!! It was heaven. On our last morning they called for us to come and see then manta rays. We all got excited and got on the boats ready to dive with them, but unfortunately after forty minutes of looking, they had disappeared. That would have been a good end to Fiji, but you can’t have everything.

We headed back to the mainland and back to our hostels, arriving late if course because that’s ‘Fiji time’! Sam and I had one last dinner together at Smuggler’s Cove before saying goodbye. On my walk back to my hostel a taxi driver pulled up and asked me if I smoked weed, I said no and he proceeded to say he had some in his car. I told him to enjoy it and carried on walking.

Luckily, I didn’t have the same problems leaving the country as I did entering it. I think I’m going to have to report he guy from before. 

My next stop is back to Aus where I’m going to do an outback tour. Hopefully I don’t get bitten by a spider or snake, especially when we camp in swags outside. Lots of people I have met have said the outback was their favourite part of Aus, so I’m just excited to finally experience it. But if my next blog doesn’t come out, you’ll know why.

Love ya ❤️

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