At the end of our resort stay Barb took off back to the Netherlands and I headed for Savusavu, a small town on the same island as the resort, for the next week. After a 20 minute walk took me from one end of the town to the other I knew I either needed to find a really good book or a new hobby.
With future travels taking me to Colombia, I’d been mulling over getting my open water scuba certification. There were a few dive shops on the island; Namena Divers offered me a good deal for what ended up being a completely private lesson, with training dives in some amazing dive sites. Sign me up!
The first day I started reading my PADI book and somewhere in chapter 3 I was delightfully interrupted by none other than the staff from the Remote Resort! Jackpot!! They were excited to be off for the first time in a couple of weeks and hitting up the town. They showed me how Fijians do it- we all shared one big bottle (think like a 40) of Fiji Gold beer and one person doled out shots of beer (named, the bartender. He actually was the bartender at the resort so it was fitting). They were stoked to give me a taste of the “real Fiji” as one bottle turned into many bottles as we wandered around town and I wondered what the hell they were saying ~80% of the time (Fijian is the local language). It was a fantastic day.
Over the next few days during the PADI course I got the chance to see some beautiful coral, more colorful reef fish than I knew existed, an octopus, several reef sharks (okay, 9, I was definitely counting) and a school of barracuda. Fiji definitely set the scuba bar high.
After Savusavu, I headed back to Nadi and met up with a friend from New Zealand, Arthur, for my last week of Fiji. For anyone going…Nadi is more of the gateway to the islands than a place where people spend a bunch of days. We had a heck of a time trying to dodge all the taxi drivers/tour guides/random people trying to sell us stuff. Locals outside of these folks were very happy to help us get off the beaten path, board the right bus, and avoid the tourist traps.
Our first full day we headed out on a boat for some surfing, snorkeling and fishing. Cloudbreak is a famous surf spot in Fiji that breaks out in the middle of nowhere. It also breaks a little bigger than what I was comfortable fooling around in (which for surfing for me is like, 2 feet), so the skipper and I dropped off Arthur and then headed for a school of jumping tuna. Within just minutes of trolling we snagged a big one! The skipper was apeshit excited and took it home to his family.
After a full day out in the sun we were exhausted and rested/did a beach day at the hostel. After this we were keen for more adventure. We decided to check out Lautoka (larger city than Nadi, about an hour away by bus) and stop at the First Landing, where the first Fijians settled, and another small port town on the way. I can’t say I recommend any of this. It was fun seeing more of how the locals lived and heaps of cheesy Christmas decorations but it wasn’t anything spectacular.
What was cool were the mud springs! We took a bus for $2 (rather than paying a taxi driver $100 to take us). It’s a natural hot spring with one mud pool and about four other hot pools. The way it works is that you cover yourself in mud from the bucket by the first pool. Then you wait ~20 minutes for it to completely dry while shopping for trinkets/climbing trees/doing yoga/killing time however you prefer. It’s a weird feeling, but imagine being dressed in an extremely inflexible full body spandex suit that is sucking all moisture out of your skin. Then you hop in the hot mud pool and wash it off and it feels absolutely amazing. Then you go to a mildly less muddy pool, wash it off some more, and then go into three different much cleaner hot pools. And those are the Sabeto mud pools.
The last little tidbit I’ll share shows more of the Real Fiji and just how welcoming and friendly the locals are. On the last day, we’d planned on splitting a hot dog at the hostel (don’t judge…it was the end of the trip and we were low on cash). Right before dinner I ran into the restroom and when I returned, found Arthur sitting with a local Fijian family with a glass of beer in hand. This was clearly going to be a thing. I also sat down. They shared their leftover Christmas meal with us and for a couple of hours didn’t allow our beers to become even close to half empty. The meal was a traditional Fijian Lovo, which is where they dig a pit, heat up stones, put in the meat/vegetables/etc, and then bury it for a few hours. The whole thing has this really good smokey flavor. They insisted that we stuff ourselves and we complied :).
These were the highlights, but we actually spent much more time playing ping pong, volleyball with locals, rummy/euchre/elimination, and touch rugby than this blog post reflects. I won at everything, of course. :-p.