Monthly Archives: December 2015

Fiji Xmas


A very merry Christmas

Bula from a very sunny Fiji!

Our time on Coconut Beach was absolutely lovely.  I’m very dissapointed Laura wouldn’t allow a photo of her basket weaving as it was actually quite impressive I think.  The food was amazing throughout, and we had great fun with the other 4 guests on the island.  As we headed over on the 10 minute speedboat to Blue Lagoon I think we were slightly wary as it’s such a big place comparatively, but we had nothing to worry about. It’s absolutely lovely here.

The Yasawa Flyer, our transport around the islands

As it’s Christmas we splashed out and upgraded our room to a Garden Villa which was an inspired decision.  The room was lovely with another big outdoor shower and our own hammock (an important inclusion in any Fiji accommodation.)  The island is certainly bigger and busier, but with that comes a lot of benefits. Meal times are much more flexible, and there’s a choice of food.  There’s a full activiities board, including yoga twice a day for Laura.  There’s even a proper dive shop, which allowed us to get a quick refresher before going on our first dive for 5 years.  Fortunately it all came back to us, and once we managed to get equailized we had a great little dive (hopefully the first of a few this trip.)

On our first night we teamed up with some other people to take part in “Suvivor Fiji”, which was effectively a pub quiz with lots of Fiji questions.  Having been in last place after the first round we rallied and ended up winning a champagne breakfast!  However as we were all diving the next day we had the champagne on the evening instead.  Very nice way to start the trip.

The water here really is stunning, a deep, beautiful turqoise with great visibility.  The resort has its own great coral teeming with sealife.  Their beach is beautiful and stretches far and really isn’t ever busy.  I really don’t think there’s anywhere prettier to spend Christmas.

Xmas Schedule

We were really interested to see what would be done for Xmas out here. Would it be like any other day? The answer is an emphatic no! They really went all out.  The day started out with 2 little presents on our doorstep (a couple of wooden turtles) followed by breakfast where we were repeatedly warned to save ourselves for lunch due to the sheer amount of food.  And they weren’t wrong! After a morning of snorkling and kayaking (we managed to kayak without falling out with each other,) we sat down to a feast. They’d rearranged the tables into two long communal ones,with a big array of starters to share such as sausage rolls, mozarella balls and a bunch of other bits (see the menu picture below).  For main we had litereally everything. Fish, lamb, beef, pork and Turkey, steamed veg, salad and much more.  However, there was no gravy which let the whole affair down, but it was still very tasty and the deserts went some way to compensating.  I could easily have collapsed into a sugar coma following brownie, chocolate mouse, some pink cake which tastes of pure sugar (amazing!) and Jelly Beans.  Whilst it’s not a patch on home cooking it was more than we ever expected from a remote Fijian island.  To top it all off, there was even a full three course evening meal as well which we managed to battle through!

Nom Nom Nom

Christmas Kayaking

As if all the decorations and food weren’t enough, we were treated to a visit from Scuba Santa who paddles in in full Santa gear, gumboots and all, along with a scuba tank. He must have been roasting! It was definitely Santa too, not Jeff from the dive shop dressed up.  He handed out sweets to everyone and took lots of photos before heading back off to give presents out around the world.

The authentic Scuba Santa

Today is boxing day and we’re sad to go, but our next island awaits after another 2 hours on the boat. I’ll be sitting in the shade this time after burning my legs somewhat last time. And I’ve run out of factor 50 now!

View at the top of our Boxing Day Walk

 

Merry Christmas from Fiji

Fiji time

Bula from Fiji!

Disclaimer: This post is about to get very smug. Stop reading now if you are of an envious disposition.
So here we are, back in Fiji. We got engaged here 4 years ago and we’re really excited to be back because it was just the most fantastic place. We’re going to spend a month here- 2 weeks around the Yasawa Islands, then who knows??
We had a surprisingly fab journey here- Auckland airport is without a doubt the most efficient place I’ve been in a long time, it makes HK airport look pre historic, which I didn’t think was possible. We checked in and through security in around 5 minutes- managed to make it to duty free to pick up necessary cheap rum in plenty of time. We flew with Fiji Airways- again, this was great and would definitely recommend them.
After arriving in Nadi, we were whisked away to our hotel, ‘Aquarius on the Beach.’ Super cheap, super friendly, it did everything we needed with a smile. We spent 2 nights here and then were up bright and early to take the Yasawa Flyer- a massive water taxi that weaves through the Mamanuca Islands and then onto the Yasawa group of islands.
We’ve bought a 15 day pass which will let us take as many journeys as we want- our first was a lovely 2 hour journey to a tiny speedboat which was waiting to take us to island #1, ‘Naqalia Lodge.’ We were welcomed with a song sung by staff and taken to meet Aku #1, who seems to be charge (we later found out there are 5 Akus, so it’s easier to refer to them by number.) This is a family run resort, with everyone who works there being related either by blood or marriage. And I say ‘resort’ in the loosest of terms- only 5 bures (Fijian huts/cottages) and a dorm with 6 beds in it. Nothing was too much trouble for them- always chatting to us, helping us, refilling our water. So great. I think there was maybe 14 people staying there.
The bure was…..basic. That’s the best word I can use. Our shower didn’t work (during the 1 hour a day the water was turned on) and so we had some Laos style bucket showers, which weren’t actually too bad. The room was big, right on the rock edge, looking out to sea. So pretty.

View from our bure

Food is all included on all of our islands- we had to buy a compulsory meal plan, but the food so far has been excellent. It’s a little tricky for Sam with his ‘no seafood’ and me with my ‘no meat on the bone’ but we’re getting there and people are being really accommodating. All meals are served at a certain time and it’s communal style dining which means you get to chat to loads of different people you might not normally talk to. We ended up spending quite a bit of time with an older Kiwi couple who were so interesting and full of advice for South/Central America.
I went out with some other people on a fishing trip- naively I was expecting to catch something HUGE, but, alas, I came back with nothing. 3 hours of sitting in a boat. I don’t really understand what is so appealing about it but I’m glad I’ve tried. Patience was never my virtue (I fully expect my family to be nodding their heads round about now.)
This morning we walked up part of a mountain to see the sunrise- it only took around 20 mins each way, so Sam could cope with that. Just.
We then caught the boat going north and spent 3 hours on it to get to ‘Coconut Beach,’ at the very top of the Yasawas. It’s AMAZING here! We thought island #1 was smalll but island #2 is absolutely minuscule! Only 3 bures, so there’s only 6 of us. It’s a very beautiful place though and we’ve just come back from snorkelling, however we hadn’t anticipated how strong the current was so we drifted quite far out and off route. Not so fun.  I’ve tried my hand at basket weaving. My attempt wasn’t even worth a photo.
We’ll stay here for 2 nights and then take a small speedboat over the lagoon to ‘Blue Lagoon Beach,’ which is where we’ll spend Xmas. We’ve heard great things about this next one from others over the past few days, but judging by what we saw today when we sailed past, it’s fairly big so it’ll be interesting to go from here, to that.
Interesting note: Wifi here, out at sea, is sometimes better than in NZ. It’s not great, but at least we can get it, which is more than I can say for some of NZ’s South Island.
Also, everything here runs on Fiji time. It’s like clocks haven’t even been invented. I quite like that.

Photo of the Day: Bula from Fiji

Rough guide is better than lonely planet

Hiking and wine- the perfect combo!


Bye bye NZ, it’s been a blast!

So here we are, the final couple of days in NZ (sad face.) We have had the most amazing time here and the past week has been absolutely brilliant. After leaving the Coromandel coast, we drove over to Miranda, to hike in the Kauerangi Valley. It was really pretty here, and we’d anticipated that it would take around 5-6 hours to walk. It ended up taking only 3 hours- DOC guidelines are extremely conservative, but we keep forgetting this! So although not much in the way of exercise, it was really lovely to be out in the sun.

We then drove to the spectacular Karanghake Gorge, where we discovered part of the rail trail- guess who perked up again! This was a good 6 hour walk through abandoned mines and tunnels, and even I found it interesting! Sam was, predictably, engrossed in every info sign we came across- had to drag him away.

We stayed next to the beautiful Papamoa Beach and had the most amazing view from the back of Vanatar, One of the big pluses of living in him was the view every morning when we woke up- incredible! We then drove onto Mt Manganui, where we did our final challenging walk of the NZ leg. It only took about 30 mins to get to the top but it was bloody difficult!

Next, it was onto Hamilton to see my lovely friend Hilary. We used to work together in London and haven’t seen each other for about 4 and a half years- was so lovely to see her, can’t believe it’s taken so long. We had a great catch up- far too short though. Having laid off the booze for a week now, it was then time to head on upto Waiheke Island (or wine island as it’s also known,) about 40 mins by ferry away from Auckland. We met my awesome schoolfriend Nicola and her friend Penny for an absolutely fab weekend of vineyards, cycling and eating. Bliss! Waiheke is probably one of our favourite parts of NZ- could easily envisage us living there. It’s a small island with only about 8000 permanent residents, with a lot of batches, which the Auckland set and tourists jet off to on a weekend. Some people commute over to Auckland and it is super tempting to do it, as the island is just perfect.

We fly out of NZ on Thursday, and we are ready to hit diving and the beaches. Vanatar has gone back, which was very sad but it is nice to sleep in a proper bed again. We’re staying at Nicola’s where there’s excellent water pressure, comfy sofas and free wifi. Fantastic stuff. Bring on the sunshine!

We may/may not have good wifi in Fiji, so hopefully we can continue to regularly update the blog with all our news. This has definitely been the best decision we have ever made- incredibly excited for the next 7 months.

 

So long, Vanatar!

Coromandel part 2

It’s been a great week for me, as we’ve done almost zero walking! I think when I said to Laura that I was “done with walking” she thought I’d finally cracked, so instead we’ve had a rather relaxing time of late, in preparation for a lot of relaxing whilst we’re in Fiji.

After the very enjoyable Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach we headed all the way up to the peninsula’s main town, Coromandel Town.  We thought there’d be more there, but to be honest it was just an average small town (although I did get an exceptionally good Hot Chocolate, made with hot milk and a stick of chocolate in it melting. Yum.) There really isn’t much in the Coromandel at all in the way of towns and stuff, but there’s lots of nice views and beaches.

We’d originally planned to stay up there for a night but as there didn’t seem to be much there we decided to head back down to Whitianga, but not before visiting The Waterworks, a weird but very fun activity water park (that’s the best I can describe it). It had a ton of interactive things, normally made of recycled car parts, which usually involved playing with water.  There were bicycle water guns, trick showers that soaked whoever was pumping the water (me!), boat racing and much more. It’s really hard to describe, but we had a lot of fun.

Human Mouse Wheel. With fallen human.

Flying bike!

As if the day wasn’t already fun enough, Laura then suggested we go play mini golf! She knows I love mini golf, and this is only the second time in the trip we’ve gone.  It was an absolutely excellent course.  For those wondering, Laura was leading in the 9th but I came back with gusto to win by about 4 shots (although I almost bottled it on the last hole).

After these antics were complete, we headed to Whitianga, a lovely little seaside town on the east coast of the Coromandel.  On the first night we went for a lovely meal by the docks with lots of wine and beer and just had a really nice night.

The next day we wanted to find a beach. Whitianga isn’t actually that far from Hot Water Beach (10km), there’s just a lot of water in the way which means to drive involves going the long way round and Vanatar guzzling extra fuel.  There’s a local passenger ferry that continually goes from one side of the estuary to the other which we’d heard about, so decided to take as there were meant to be nice beaches on the other side.  We were ecstatic to discover that the cost of the ferry ($12 total, about 5 quid) included a free coffee or tea at a local coffee shop on the other side! Worth it for that alone.  The coffee shop was about a 20 minute walk but was a really nice, locally run shop which served excellent chocolate Baileys cake.  A little beyond that we found Cooks Beach, a beautiful long sandy beach which had about 4 other people on it for the whole length.  There were nice big waves to jump around in and we brought lunch and kindles and made a really nice day of it.

We enjoyed it so much that the next day we caught the ferry again, got another free coffee, before this time heading past the beach to Mecury Bay Estate- that’s right, we were back on the vineyards! Well, vineyard singular, as it’s the only one in the region.  Although it was an hour walk from the ferry it was worth it, as the wine was lovely and the platter delicious. The walk back seemed much quicker after tasting 5 wines and drinking 2 bottles :).

Before calling it a day in Whitianga there was only one thing left to do; “The Lost Springs”.  Not quite as dramatic as it sounds, it’s another set of thermal hot pools.  Although a tad on the pricey side, we got a day pass and got to spend the day sitting in nice hot geothermal water of different temperatures and sunbathing (I managed to burn. Oops.) Exceptionally relaxing and a great way to cap off a few lovely days.

Unsurprisingly we’re now back on the walking, but I’ll let Laura tell you about that in the next post :)