Day 164 – Scuba diving in the Blue Lagoon

Yesterday, I spent the best part of the afternoon chatting to an English girl and a German boy who had spent that morning doing an introductory dive at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is on the northern side of Nacula island so just a short boat ride away. They both said that it was the most amazing experience and I told them about my fear of water but she said that she wasn’t too keen on the idea at first but not to worry as the instructor is brilliant. The experience sounded amazing.

We woke to rain in the morning but it looked like it would be an okay afternoon. So putting my fears to one side, I decided to book to go on an introductory scuba diving course! John, on the other hand, was not so keen. He’s an okay swimmer and good in deep water but he’s got a slight fear about being in the sea surrounded by unknown creatures. It was a bit of an effort to get him to go snorkelling yesterday so going diving would definitely be pushing it. Instead, John said that he would come along only to take photos of me during the training part and he also gets to see the Blue Lagoon where the famous Brooke Shields movie was filmed. He just had to pay for the boat taxi to get himself there.

Because I’m not a PADI qualified diver, my only option is to go on the introductory diving course. The plan was to go on the hour long taster course which allowed you to try scuba diving up to a depth of around 10 metres.

The boat taxi arrived on time and we headed over to another resort where the diving instructor was based. There was one other person also signed up for the same course. After filling out some forms and reading some basic diving information, I signed my life away and got all equipped. The instructor, Nico, meanwhile, was trying to convince John to also take the course. John was quite adamant in saying no until Nico offered John to do the training bit for free and if enjoyed it and wanted to do the dive, then he would pay for the course. This was enough to tempt him, so he also signed his life away and got all his equipment.

Testing my scuba diving equipment

Testing my scuba diving equipment

Our oxygen tanks are surprisingly very very heavy! Once we had all our equipment, we got into the boat again and headed over to the Blue Lagoon which was another short ride away. The beach was beautiful with smooth white sand and clear turquoise blue water. It’s probably the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to and with no-one else around, we had the entire beach to ourselves. We didn’t take any photos as we left our camera at the diving resort because John was now partaking in the diving. It was a bit of a shame but guess we’ve still got the memories and other people’s pictures!

We started off by getting all our equipment on; you can’t really feel the weight of the oxygen tank in the water. We learnt how to breathe through our oxygen tank and had to swim a few lengths to show Nico we could swim. The water was so nice and warm. Then we learnt some of the basics of using the oxygen mask and tank. We learnt how to clear our mask if it got all steamed up, how to clear our mouthpiece if it got water in and how to share oxygen tanks if we needed to. We also learnt how to communicate with each other. I had a bit of trouble at first but soon got the hang of it. John, on the other hand, was LOVING IT! He got out of the water after the first bit of training and turned around and was like “Bollocks, I really like this”.

So, now for the dive! I stayed close to Nico and held on to his arm the whole time. We started from the beach as the coral was very close by. We saw plenty of fish including Nemo, the clown fish. Nico had brought some bread with him and gave all of us a few handfuls to feed the fish. They surrounded us! It was fantastic. The water was also surprisingly very warm. We only wore our swim wear and our oxygen tank jacket and that was enough.

We were diving for around 40 minutes and got to a depth of around 11 metres deep. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. It went so fast! I thought that maybe we were diving for around 20 minutes or so. John had an amazing time and looked confident in the water.

For our first time diving, I think it went very well. I’m so proud of John and he can’t wait to go diving again!

On the way back to the diving resort, Nico decided to show off a little and wakeboard all the way back.

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Back at the resort, we received our diving certificate and rested a while before we got the boat back to Nabua Lodge. We returned early evening just in time to watch the sunset. We walked up a little hill and found everyone else there waiting for the sunset. It was a really atmosphere up there and then we rushed down for dinner before more party games in the evening.

At the top of the hill waiting for the sunset

At the top of the hill waiting for the sunset

Another sunset in Fiji

Another sunset in Fiji

It was a really nice end to the day! Fiji is amazing!

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Day 163 – Island hopping in Fiji and participating in a Cava ceremony

We had a very early start in the morning to get on the boat. A big coach picked us up from outside Mama’s resort which took us to the pier. It was full of backpackers. But things didn’t go well in the morning.

The islands are pretty much a cash only place with no cash machines. We worked out how much accommodation and meals would cost (meals come as a package with the accommodation as that is usually the only place which serves food, no restaurants about) but it’s hard to estimate how much extra we would need for activities, alcohol and snacks. Our credit cards appeared to have stopped working. We tried several times and hen watched others use the same machine to take cash out so it was definitely our card. We figured it was probably because we both took out our maximum allowances on there last night but that wasn’t going to last us 7 days!

I headed over to the check-in desk as we didn’t want to miss out boat because of the cash machine. They had no record of our booking for the boat. Damn hostelworld! I sorted that out while John tried to get some cash somehow. In the end, we had to use our emergency HSBC cards which charged us £5 on each withdrawal plus a really bad exchange rate. Bummer!

With a few minutes to spare we were on the boat, with a stash of cash and ready for an island adventure.

The Yasawa Flyer boats

The Yasawa Flyer boats

The boat took 4 and a half hours to reach our first resort, the Nabua Lodge which was located the furthest away on the southern end of Nacula island in the Yasawas. We had a great welcome on the beach with a song and dance which ended with a big Bula shout. We then headed to our own private room (more like a hut) and then for lunch!

We then decided to go on a group line fishing trip on a small boat; that didn’t turn out too well. On the boat of 10 we managed to catch 1 tiny fish, it then started to rain so we headed back slightly early.

In the evening we ate a huge meal all together and got to know some of the people who were staying; all were around our age and backpacking around. We had some drinks and then played some dancing games organised by the owners of the lodge which was really fun in the end.

After that we tried some cava in a traditional Fijian ceremony. Made from the root of a plant, cava is mixed with water and passed around a group. It’s meant to have different effects from making you pee loads, numbness in your mouth, slight light headedness and relaxation. However it didn’t have much effect apart from numbing your month and making you pee, but that might have been due to drinking loads of it.

The cava ceremony, the cava is mixed in the big bowl

The cava ceremony, the cava is mixed in the big bowl

Low tide for me

Low tide for me

The drinking was fun as there was a routing to drinking, first asking for a different size of drink, low tide, high tide and tsunami. You clap your hands with your hands cupped, say “Bula”, down it, then clap three times and say “mathe”. So although the drink wasn’t great  the process of drinking and explanation was all very interesting. Power then went out; it only runs off a petrol motor so we only have electricity at certain times of the day. So we headed to bed in our little hut!

Cava for the group

Cava for the group

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Day 162 – Booking onto the Yasawa Flyer and Feejee Experience

It’s hot, very hot and sunny too! Prior to coming to Fiji, our only plans were to go island hopping for 7 days which leaves around 4 days free before our flight to Australia. That was it. We didn’t know which islands we wanted to go to, we had just blocked out 7 days of our trip in Fiji for it. We needed help to book the hotels as we heard that the people won’t let you off the boat unless you’ve got accommodation on the island. So we used the booking agent at Mamas Tropic of Capricorn Resort where we were staying.

We decided to go island hopping along the Yasawa islands, a string of small islands west of the main island we landed on. We had already booked our 7-day boat ticket via Hostelworld so all we really needed to do was to pick the islands and resorts to stay at. The guy at the travel desk was very friendly and helpful and managed to sort everything out for us.

As well as the island hopping, we also booked onto the Feejee Experience, an organised tour around the main island, this time for three nights.  This would fit nicely in our schedule but it was all a bit pricier than we had originally budgeted for. Overall, it would work out at the most expensive two weeks of our whole year away.

After we sorted out the booking we decided to head to the shops to get supplies for the island including water. It was recommended to us to take as much water and snacks as possible as prices on the islands were much more expensive. I guess that makes sense.

We walked up to the main road where there was a supermarket to buy supplies, water, snacks, etc. There were some very expensive items due to the cost of imports.

We headed back to the hostel and headed next door to Smugglers Cove Backpackers which was another backpackers place with a restaurant. We had a really nice pizza with some drinks in the sun.

Pizza in the sun

Pizza in the sun

We relaxed in the afternoon, had a little swim in the pool and packed our bags ready for the boat tomorrow! Mama was kind enough to let us leave some of our items in her storage room for the week to lighten our load.

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Day 161 – Bula Fiji!

It’s our last day in New Zealand; in the afternoon we were to fly out to Nadi in Fiji for the next part of our RTW adventure.

We had bacon sandwiches for breakfast, packed our backpacks and Mike took us to the airport in Auckland. At the airport as a parting gift Mike bought coffee and cake as a last snack before the meal. We had been really well looked after at Mike’s and Lynda’s and would miss the home comforts! But it’s now holiday time and I’m pretty sure it’s just going to be hot hot hot for the rest of our trip now!

The three hour flight with Air Pacific was entertaining. It was a small plane, similar to the budget European airlines for short haul flights but slightly crapper. All the air hostesses had traditional colourful Fijian clothes on matching their big bright smiles and cheerful Bulas. There were no TVs on the plane, just a big screen. It was just a short flight so we didn’t mind.

We arrived in Nadi at 5:30pm where John had his apples and chicken sandwiches confiscated. We were actually given a meal on the place so we were too full to eat the packed lunch Lynda had given us. John was a bit gutted about that. We had prebooked beds at Mamas Tropic of Capricorn Resort which was about a 15 minute ride from the airport. The hostel had arranged to pick us up but there didn’t appear to be anyone waiting for us. So we went to the helpdesk who called them for us and they were to send someone now to pick us up.

Sat outside waiting for our ride, we were hounded slightly by people trying to sell us island hopping tickets and accommodation but they weren’t hard sell type people so it didn’t bother us too much. Everyone is so relaxed. It was coming up to the evening, and the temperature was pretty perfect. Very warm!

We had a great first impression in Fiji with everyone being really friendly. It helps that the word for hello is “Bula” which had been shouted at us by everyone we had met including Mama who owned the resort. She’s an 80 year old woman full of life and insists that we call her Mama. She’s great and really just wants you to have a great time.

We checked into the dorm and luckily no-one else was in our room. Bonus! After dropping all our bags, we went to explore the area a little. The resort backs on to a beach and along the beach are several other resorts which you canf reely walk in and out of. We went next door and had some food. I wasn’t too hungry so I just had a chicken and sweetcorn soup whilst John had fish and chips.

In the evening we read and updated the diary which provided notes for these blog posts! We were pretty tired after the flight!

The first of many sunsets in Fiji!

The first of many sunsets in Fiji!

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Day 160 – Last full day in New Zealand

So it’s our last day in New Zealand and the last time we’ll have proper home comforts for a while. John did the last bit of lawn mowing and then we made final preparations for Fiji tomorrow which involved doing a last wash of all our clothes.

We then went for a drive to Lake Karapiro where the New Zealand rowing teams train. Here, we had some coffee, tea and cake overlooking the hydroelectric dam at the end of the lake – John enjoyed the dam!

We headed to the shops on the way back to grab some party food buffet style for our last night in New Zealand. In the evening we had wine, beer, and the party food along with John’s aunt, uncle and two cousins. We also played a game of trivial pursuit in teams of two; team Chan / Campbell won.

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