Archive for the ‘Fiji’ Category

Departing Paradise

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Our last day in Fiji of course began with packing. Julie and I had thought we needed to be checked out of our rooms by 11, but Dad thought this sounded odd, so he had gone to the front desk the previous day and asked about this and they had told him 10. Once we had packed our suitcases for the last time we headed to the breakfast bar in the hotel lobby where we found Mom and Dad already having eaten but not sitting with any luggage. When we inquired about this we found out that Julie and I had been right, and Dad might be slipping into senility because check out time was indeed at 11. Why he thought the front desk had told him otherwise is anyone’s guess. Julie and I were a little peeved that we were cheated out of an extra hour of sleep, but we were already up and packed so there was no going back at this point. Our international flight to LAX didn’t depart till 10pm so we wouldn’t be leaving the hotel until around 7, meaning we had the whole day to fill before spending another two days either on an airplane or in an airport. While Julie and I were finishing up with breakfast Dad went to the front desk to pay the bill. This bill was going to be massive after all the meals we had charged to the room, room service, bar tabs, and of course the jet ski safari, and to make matters worse it was going to come in Fijian dollars so it was going to be 1.5x higher than it would be in american, numerically anyway. Julie and I did not want to be around to witness the massive coronary Dad was going to have when he got that, so we headed to the pool.

Poolside on the last day

 

 Being that it was fairly early Julie and I were able to snag two  lounge chairs in a premium position, and there we stayed until around two or three pm when we got hungry. By that time Mom had joined us and Dad of course had found a bar somewhere and probably some strangers to talk to, so Mom, Julie and I had lunch at the hotel restaurant that faces the beach.

Beachside restaurant

After lunch we got back in the pool for a bit before Julie decided she would take a nap on a lawn chair and Mom and I took a long walk down the beach. Around five Julie and I used the pool showers to wash our hair and then put our comfortable clothes on to prepare for the plane. From then on it was just a waiting game until 7 when we were getting picked up. So I took some pictures around the hotel to pass the time.

on the beach

 

 

 

Fiji water in Fiji.....go figure. We got these everyday for free.

 

The man who was driving our bus transport to the airport talked a lot about the island we were on as we drove. At one point he said “and to your left you will see the American embassy.” We all leaned to the left to get a peak, but all we saw was a McDonalds. He got a good laugh at this. He also told us that while there are 334 Fijian islands there are only three McDonalds locations, and they have to import the french fries since the potato does not grow naturally there.

We got to the airport and through security with about two hours to spare so we set off to try to entertain ourselves in the terminal. Mom walked around through all the tacky overpriced souvenir shops, Julie and I stood in line to get our Fijian money exchanged, and since there were no bars to be found Dad fished a magazine out of his giant 10 lb backpack of reading materials that he had lugged all over Australia. Knowing that the food on the Air Pacific flight wouldn’t be that good Julie and I invested in some snacks before we boarded, but the food options in the Fijian airport were shoddy at best.

airport ice cream fail

The whole time we were killing time in the terminal we had a live bula band playing, which did give the whole room a jovial atmosphere, which is impressive since we were all about to board a 10 hour trans pacific flight with two crying babies.

Bula band in the international terminal

 

Aiport security....in a skirt. If he really needed to chase someone down it might be tricky in this get up.

We boarded the flight on time and they served us a meal about an hour into it. I think I have been truly spoiled by Qantas airlines because I thought everything about Air Pacific was sub par. The food was awful, Julie’s headphone jack malfunctioned and they had significantly less entertainment options than Qantas has. Still, after you have done a 15.5 hour flight pretty much everything else seems paltry by comparison, so ten hours wasn’t awful, even though it was a red eye flight. Thankfully I was able to sleep a little bit and stretch out, as there was nobody in the seat to my left and Julie was in the seat to my right. I don’t know how long I was out for but I missed breakfast, which according to Dad was worth missing since it consisted of a very soggy hash brown and some questionable gray meat product. We landed in LA mid morning of the 19th we had left Fiji on the evening of the 19th. While the idea of time travel is cool, in actuality its quite bewildering. I don’t think I knew what day/time it was for at least three days after we got home. Still it was nice to be back in the correct hemisphere, season, and country.

Jet Ski Safari

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

We were none to thrilled too have to return to getting up early the next day, and due to this we were a little late getting out to the beach for our jet ski adventure. Never the less we made it down to the Adrenaline Water Sports loading dock just in time to be the last ones to be given jet skis. We would be jet skiing out about 45 minutes to a small island where we would then be scuba diving on a reef for roughly an hour and then we would return. We were given life jackets, scuba gear, brief instructions and keys to start the jet skis. Julie and I would be driving but Dad would go with Julie and Mom would ride with me. While jet skis look relatively simple to operate, Julie and I learned that it is a bit harder than it looks. We both had trouble maintaining a constant speed especially when Mom was sitting behind me holding on for dear life and squealing anytime I picked up speed and Dad was sitting behind Julie yelling at her to go faster. Somehow we managed to arrive at the island with all four family members intact even if we were the last ones to arrive by a long shot.

 

Adrenaline Watersports!

Getting ready to head out

 

Once on the island we suited up in scuba gear and headed out onto the reef, or the remains of it anyway. After scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef just about everything else is going to pale in comparison, but the Fijian snorkeling experience was somewhat underwhelming. The “reef” was more like the fossilized remnants of a reef that once was there, and there weren’t that many fish around either. We did see lots of sea urchins and starfish though. And the starfish in Fiji are this incredible electric blue color. We must have seen hundreds of them, they were all over the place. In addition to the blue starfish there were also schools of very tiny electric blue fish that had a shimmer to them. They were very eye catching. Also on the ocean floor were some concrete blocks where certain environmental groups had been trying to rehabilitate the reef, and some PBC piping sticking out of the sand for reasons unknown. After getting out of the water all four of us agreed that the salinity of the water in Fiji was the most intense we had experienced anywhere. Something about Fiji, its just very salty. As we were packing up our scuba gear to get ready to head back Dad said “I have seen the remnants of a former civilization- they used PBC piping. They were ahead of their time.”

at rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue?!

 

Before getting back on the jet skis to head back we had a major discussion about who would be riding back with who. Julie had put her foot down that she would not be riding back with Dad since all he had done was tell her how crappy of a driver she was and push her to go faster. I wanted to go with Julie but that would put Mom riding back with the man she married, and she was not down for that. She hadn’t liked how fast I had gone being at the helm and she knew that Dad would want to go much faster than I had. Julie and I figured that while Dad could jerk her and I around, with Mom he had to behave. We quarreled over this on the beach for a while, but ultimately I ended up going back with Julie driving and Mom rode with Dad driving and that arrangement seemed to work out much better as Dad was scared into behaving and Julie and I were much less stressed and actually enjoyed the ride back. On the return journey Julie and I managed to stay with the rest of the group, but Mom and Dad fell behind. We arrived back at the hotel a good ten to fifteen minutes before we saw any signs of them so Julie and I got very concerned that they had gotten lost. Luckily they turned up a few minutes later with one of the guides trailing behind them.

 

After our adrenaline filled morning adventure we were pretty tired, so we spent the rest of the day being lazy in front of the TV and by the pool. While this was the last night we would sleep in Fiji, we had a long day ahead of us with a late evening flight the following day and then a red eye across the pacific ocean, so we went to bed early because it was the last time we would get to sleep on a horizontal surface for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day of Rest

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

 

Julie and I didn’t even consider getting out of bed before noon. We were so tired from the constant hustle and bustle of our vacation that we were ready for a little R&R. We probably would have snoozed right through lunch had the maid service not come knocking on our door asking to clean the room. Julie and I sent her away and didn’t roll out of bed till around one, and after grabbing a quick breakfast from one of the take away places in the hotel we grabbed some sunscreen and headed for the pool.

 

Hanging out poolside

 

We lazed around poolside for a few hours, and when that got old took a walk down the beach to see some of the other hotels that were on our island. Around five or so we started to get hungry so we headed back to the room and to find mom and dad. As it turns our parents had started their day a good bit earlier, and of course dad had been seated at the bar at 11 when they started serving alcohol. His drink of choice? A long island ice tea. Mom came along, but she can’t hold her liquor quite like Dad can, so she had abandoned him to relax in the room which is where Julie and I found her on our way back from the pool. Since she had gotten up at a reasonable hour she didn’t have much interest in eating dinner as soon as we wanted to, so we went back to our own room and changed into some beachy evening attire and took a stroll around the resort before headed to dinner together.

hammock sitting

 

overlooking the resort

 

sisters

 

Making some tiki friends

We had a “lesbian date night” as Julie calls it, dinner and drinks together at the oceanside restaurant. Once we had eaten we headed back to the room to watch movies on TV and order dessert from room service. Mom came in a bit later and we chatted and hung out and then still ended up going to bed fairly early. It was so nice to have a lazy day

legal drinking in Fiji

 

fruity drinks

 

We thought that the next day would be more of the same, but as it turns out while Mom and Dad had been throwing back long islands at the bar the morning jet ski tours had been heading out. Every year we have gone to the beach as a family Dad has suggested that we rent jet skis for a day, but it has never happened. Every year we have a conversation where he suggests that we do something adventurous like that, and every year mom shoots him down and spends her vacation in a beach chair with a book and a cold drink instead. With our Australian vacation we were breaking all the conventions of the Lapointe family trips, so in their lightly buzzed morning drinking state when they saw the jet ski groups going out Mom and Dad had finally agreed that we would in fact do something adventurous. They had booked us a three hour jet ski safari for the following morning, so we went to sleep with that to look forward to!

Bula Fiji!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Waking up at 4:45 am to check out of our hotel by 5 was not my idea of a good time, but knowing that we would be in Fiji by the end of the day did make the whole process a bit easier. We caught the shuttle to the airport from our hotel at the butt crack of dawn and after one last Qantas domestic flight to Brisbane and an international Air Pacific transfer we were in Fiji. Even though we had left Australia at an ungodly hour, by the time we arrived in Fiji we had gone forward in time about three hours and lost a whole day to being in an airport so the sun was setting when we arrived. In the airport we were greeted by a group of Fijians in bula shirts (just like a Hawaiian shirt, but they call them bula shirts) playing island music while we waited in the customs line. When we had gone through security in Brisbane the officer who helped us had told us that while in Fiji we would get sick of hearing two words: 1) Bula, which means hello, welcome, good evening, good afternoon, its basically the standard greeting, and 2) vinaka, which means thank you.

Once we had made it out of the terminal and through processing, we collected our bags, were given leis made of sea shells and loaded onto the shuttle bus that would take us to our hotel. We were told that the ride from the Airport would take about twenty five minutes but there was some big construction project going on and so it took us almost twice as long to get across the bridge that would put us on the island our hotel was on.

 

Front of our resort

Once at the hotel we checked in, showered, changed and headed out in search of somewhere to have dinner. The resort we were at had four different restaurants, and not knowing the difference between them we picked the first one we came across which just happened to be featuring an Indian buffet. All four of us got cocktails to go with dinner and after we had eaten we headed back to the room to sleep. When dad signed the bill for the meal I think he may have suffered a mini stroke. Currently 1$ USD is equal to about 1.79 fijian dollars, so the bill came out to be something like 300 fijian dollars, only Dad did not realize it was in Fijian until long after he had paid.

Where we ate dinner the first night

 

The next morning we were up early yet again to meet the bus that would take us two hours into one of the main islands so that we could then load into longboats and long boat up river where we would tour a fijian village and have lunch there. The boat ride took about an hour and a half, and along the way we stopped at a waterfall to do some swimming, but as it was still pretty early in the morning and the water was pretty cold, none of the Lapointes got in, but some of the other people in the tour group did. The water levels of the river were very low, and most often you could reach your hand over the side of the boat and touch the riverbed. We had a few problems getting over some of the shallower areas, but eventually we did arrive at the village.

Waterfall on the river we longboated down

just around the river bend!

Walking up to the village from the river

Once there we were greeted by a Fijian warrior and given a traditional lei to wear. We had to take our shoes off to be able to enter the main building, and once we did we were told we needed to pick a chief of our tribe, someone to represent us to the Fijians. We picked one of the fathers in our group, and once inside the building we had to sit in two rows, men in front and women behind.

A lei of welcome

Once we were seated, the village people filed into the room in their traditional garb and the welcome ceremony began. They sang songs, played music on drums and guitars, and performed a traditional war dance. The main event was the Kava ceremony. Kava is the main crop in Fiji, similiar to the potato or wheat it is the main staple in their diet. While Kava is a root, they also drink it by grinding it up into a powder and mixing it with cold water. The men who had danced the war dance brought out a large wooden bowl which was placed in the center of the room. They swept reeds through the bowl while chanting, and then brought a little half coconut shell of Kava to everyone in the room. On the way to the village we had been told by our guide that Kava tastes like dirty dishwater, but she is a native Fijian, and she told us this with a laugh, so I thought she was joking. As it turns out she was actually dead on. Kave does in fact taste like dirty dish water. Kava has a sedating effect and is primarily consumed to aid relaxation without disrupting mental clarity. Perhaps thats why everyone in Fiji is so laid back and relaxed. It’s either the kava or the fact that they live in paradise. Take your pick.

 

Traditional Fijian war dance

Once the formal part of the ceremony was over they brought the musical instruments back out and asked all of us to stand up and join them in a dance. Each one of the villagers came over and grabbed the hands of someone in the tour group and pulled them up to dance. We danced a traditional Fijian dance that bore a strong resemblance to the hokey pokey and formed a very long congo line around the room.

Dad dancing with a Fijian

 

Mom and Dad breaking it down

 

Julie makes some fijian friends

 

Julie and her new buddies

Once we had finished dancing the chief led us around the village and we got to see the school house and many of the villagers homes. We were also shown how high the waters had been during the big flood they had in 2009. The village had lost over half of its buildings during the storm and fortunately Australia had come to its aid and they had been able to rebuild most of what was lost since then. After about twenty minutes or so of walking around we headed back into the main meeting room for lunch. Lunch consisted of chicken sandwiches, tomato and lettuce, chocolate cake, Kava, fresh pineapple and bananas and fruit juice.

Walking around the village

lunch spread

 

After we had finished eating the villagers brought out blankets full of handmade craft items. Weavings, carvings, jewelry, beaded items, and paintings were all for sale. After making a few sales the packed up their wares and sang some more songs to send us off, and then we walked back down to the boats.

 

Saying and singing goodbye

 

Heading back out to the boats

Since we were going downriver on the way home we got out of the motorized longboats and for part of the journey we took bamboo rafts instead.

Bambaoo rafting downriver

Towards the end of our journey the sky started to cloud over and it began to drizzle. Luckily we made it back to where the busses were parked before any real rain started to pour. After a day out in the sun we were all exhausted so Julie and I slept during most of the ride back to our hotel. Once we got back we all but collapsed into bed, relieved that the next day for the first time in a long time we had nothing to do and could sleep in.

Boating into the storm