Diary - 2004-09-25

After getting off the plane I walked around it as I could to admire its massive size. I also attempted a few pictures but they didn’t turn out. After this I walked into the airport. I was greeted at 5am in the morning with Bula’s (Fijian for Hello) & people singing.

Before we had arrived we had been given customs & immigration forms which we had to fill out. I had done this so I was ready to get into Fiji. I had to wait in line for a while to get though, but at that point I got my first stamp on my passport. I had to stop for a minute to check it out.

After immigration I had to go find my bag. I was starting to get scared because I wasn’t seeing it & most people had there bags. Plus, I had not seen it since Milwaukee due to checking it through. However, when I was just starting to get really worried it showed up. It even looked pretty good, as the protective wrapping Thad & Mom had applied had done very well.

I exchanged some money at & went though customs with no issues. After customs you see numerous travel agents, which I had been forewarned against talking with by my Lonely Planet book. I made my way through them to find the shuttle to the Horizon Backpackers Beach Resort (hostel) which I had booked before I had got into town. I found the driver & we had to wait a bit for everyone to get there. When Abdul (the driver) told me to get into the tax I instinctively went to the right side of the car. However, in Fiji that is the driver’s side, as Abdul reminded me with a little laugh. Although he said many people do that so I didn’t feel so bad. I arrived at Horizon around 6:15 or so.

At Horizon they serve a free breakfast at 7am of toast & coffee/tea. I was really thirsty & hungry so I drank coffee which I really don’t like & had several pieces of bread. I forgot that drinking coffee just makes you thirstier. I made the decision not to go to bed since I figured that would throw off my entire rhythm. At 8am the travel agent, Ase, arrived. After talking with her I decided to book a trip to the Mana Islands for 2 nights, & stay in Horizon on Monday night before my Tuesday morning flight. I also ended up talking to about 4 people around the hostel (one guy from the US – Missouri). It was cool to me how easy people were to talk to & how they were interested in where you were from. There was no formality; people just wondered where you were going or where you have been. I learned that most people go to Fiji at either the beginning or the end of there travels. It’s pretty much all new travelers or experienced people, which was nice because they gave me valuable travel advice. The people at the hostel were also very friendly. I would come to be on first name basis with most of them.

After getting all the booking done I bought some online time to e-mail mom to let her know I was in Fiji. It costs $3 for 15 minutes, but the connection is not very fast so it takes a long time to get things done. Plus it was for 15 minutes computer time, not online time. Then I went to my room & got a much needed shower. It felt like the best shower I had ever taken. I then started to reorganize my stuff since I decided to leave my large backpack at Horizon & only take my small pack & a few changes of clothes to Mana. I misunderstood that the boat left for the island at 2pm, when it actually left at 11am. So in mid-reorganization I got interrupted & told I had to go. I quickly finished up & ASE showed me the way down to the water where we would depart from.

After paying for everything I started talking to 2 guys. Yann (from France) & Stefano (from Italy). We only talked for a few minutes & then we asked to make our way down to the boat. There were also 2 girls & 2 guys who went on the boat. After a quiet few minutes we all started talking & I asked everyone where they were from. We ended up talking sporadically for most of the way out to the island.

It rained for most of the boat trip out. We had several calls to balance the boat whenever we would stand up to look at anything. The boat was covered in the front & open in the back. You could see a little out the front, but mostly to the side. We also ran out of gas & had to wait to have the driver skipper refill the outboard engine. This was a good introduction to “Fiji Time”, which basically means that it will get done whenever the Fijian you are dealing with feels like it.

Once to the island we got out & did our checking in. After that we all got shown to our dorms. This was to be my first dorm room. There were about 10 beds. One thing I had hoped for the first few nights was to sleep on the bottom bunk while I adjusted to a single bed. However, as luck would have it I had top bunk (which would become a trend).

The rain that had started when we were cruising in continued most of the rest of the day. After taking a few minutes to get organized I got my stuff together & we went to the central tables which are about a 2-3 minutes walk from the dorm. We were all a little wet, but our group from the boat made it to the tables for lunch at 1pm. After the meal & talking for a while we decided we should play cribbage. I had never played before, but the 2 girls (Lindsay from England & Laura from Canada) taught the rest of us the rules & we did a few practice games. The other 2 guys in the group were brothers from Sweden. Jonas was the older brother & Anders was the youngest.

After playing cribbage & talking for a few hours I decided I should go take my first dip in the ocean. I grabbed my mask & snorkel & made my way to the water, followed by my personal guard dog for all 20 steps. There are so many dogs on Mana that there is always one around & you often get a personal escort wherever you go. It was still raining & was a little cold so I didn’t swim around long, probably about 20 minutes. When I got done I came out, met my personal guard dog (who had sat by my shirt & other stuff for the entire time). After that I went & caught a cold shower. When you are a backpacker in Fiji cold showers become a way of life.

After the shower it was time for supper, so I made my way to the supper area with the other guys from the dorm. After supper we did some drinking. On Mana they have the biggest beer bottles I have seen. They sell them for $5, which is huge bargain considering that most places in Fiji it is $4 for a little one. So we all had a couple of those while we waited for the night entertainment to start (fire dancing). We were disappointed to find out that there would be no fire dancing because one of the dancers was sick. Our entertainment for the night ended up being a dog that would become affectionately known to us as Bow. She was extremely bow legged & she had 7 puppies. So when she walked her whole underbelly would wiggle, which was amusing to watch. Our group adopted her & fed her extra food most of the weekend.

After talking until around 10pm we decided to go for a walk along the beach. We walked a ways until Stefano hurt his foot on a rock. After that we came back, to find that the sandals Laura had left by the beach had been stolen. Around 11:30, we decided to call it a night & go to bed.