Friday, July 15, 2011

South Pacific 2011 Fiji

I was already awake when our 6 am wake up call came in.  I felt refreshed in our Bula and ready to meet the day.  We had a lovely buffet breakfast poolside with lots of choices.  I had Muesli and fruit with plenty of strong hot coffee and real cream.  We had a half day excursion into town planned but the kids couldn't wait to get back to the resort and play in the pool.  I was also looking forward to a little down time...

Lydia took us all off on a bus with several stops in mind.  While we travelled, she told us about her home.  Fiji is a commonwealth of the British crown.  The average person here makes about $8,000 per year in Fiji dollars while Lawyers and Doctors make between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.  The average person pays 50cents for a stay in the hospital, 10cents for vaccinations and rides public transportation.  Drs and Lawyers have private cars and health insurance which gets them preferential treatment in the private health care sector.  Children go to school in their villages through grade 8 where they learn English, math and science along with a native language like Fijian or Hindustani, but to move to the next grade level, they must only pass English.  Over grade 8 is college then university.  Students may study to be Drs, Lawyers, Teachers, Engineers and Nurses in Fiji.  All other professions are learned in New Zealand or Australia.  Big companies pay scholarships in return for years of service. 

Tourism and Sugar are the major industries in Fiji.  Sugar cane grows for 6 months per year and the harvest lasts the other 6 months.  We passed people working in the fields and Lydia stopped our bus so that we could get out and get some pictures.  I felt like it was disrespectful to take pictures of these people at work and asked Lyda how the workers felt about it.  She said that the workers on the islands know that tourism is important to their economy so they don't mind.  She also said that the people of Fiji feel that it is a good thing that their likeness travels with us to counties that they will never see. 

The men waived as we boarded our bus and continued on our way.  There are tiny railway tracks on which equally tiny trains carry the cut cane to the processing plants.  They connected the far reaches of the countryside.  Luckily for the workers, even though it is mid-day, it's still very nice out in the sunshine and fresh air. 

Lydia pointed out a landmark here on Viti-Levu, a mountain range called the Sleeping Giant.  We were on our way to our first stop at the base of the mountain where we would visit an orchid farm. 

The Orchid Farm was named appropriately...

You might wonder why anyone would want to visit an orchid farm. 

Well I did too, but was glad we did.  I had no idea that there were so many types of orchid. 

There are more than 240 growing in this garden.  These Dancing Ladies were my favorite! 

The gardens were lush and rich with all kinds of tropical plants.  We walked the boardwalks and marvelled at the beauty while breathing in the sweet moist air.

The trails led from sunshine back to the dense shadow...

 and alongside Lily strewn ponds.  We could have spent hours here watching the way the changing sunlight touched the dewy leaves in silence, but we had to be on our way.  After a quick glass of fresh juice back at the park pavilion, we boarded our bus for the next destination. 

Our bus climbed up a steep hill where we were all treated to a private view belonging to the owner of EF Tours.  I guess that's a perk of being a travel company owner... you get to pick the best place to settle down.

Lydia introduced us to some of the native fruits growing in the garden here.

There were breadfruits and bananas, lemons and limes... Really big limes... YES LIMES!

We posed for a group photo.  All of these are Melissa's students and a parent.  We had the tour all to ourselves in Fiji.  Three other groups would join us in New Zealand but this was an add-on to the South Pacific Tour. 

We were treated to a fruit snack, all things grown here on this mountaintop plantation.  I enjoyed the tiny little banana.  It tasted just like a real banana!  But it was so CUTE!

I looked out over the water and saw a cruising sailboat lazily motoring along.  I really missed Bruce at times like these... I want us to hop on that boat and head out to paradise.

We were bustled back onto the bus for the drive to our next stop.  But before I could board, Lydia gave Melissa and I sarongs to wear over our shorts.  We would be visiting a village and women weren't allowed to wear pants in the village. Shoulders must also be covered but it is forbidden to cover your head.  Here I stand in the village courtyard where behind me, you see the chief's house.  The only building that is allowed to be higher up than the Chief's home is the church, also central in each village.  All other homes are built on ground level. 

These villages are true communities with everyone helping raise the children and bring in money.  They share almost everything.  There were some women selling trinkets that we were told would bring personal money but the husband's employment brought income to the community as a whole. 

We boarded the bus to travel to our next brief stop.  The Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Hindu Temple was very beautiful and fraught with rules.  Heathens that we are, we needed herding like kindergartners so that we did not do anything to offend the worshipers here. 

We could only photograph the outside from beyond the fence, but we were allowed to remove our shoes and silently walk through the temple. I was able to find these bootlegged pics and they almost do the real thing justice.  Here is one of my favorites depicting  Ganesh, "Remover of Obstacles" or God of Success!

We had a very heavily accented Hindu Priest guide us through the temple. He spoke quietly and we understood very little of what he actually said, but soaked up the feel of it all while gazing at these beautiful works of religious art. 

Next we collected our shoes and turned over our sarongs to board the bus once again.  Next stop, the market!  It was a typical open air market much like you would see anywhere. 

There were definitely some strange things you WOULDN'T see anywhere... These seagrapes for instance. Not today...  I'm sure I could find a recipe on the Internet...

The Market was sprawling and bustling with business.  Packed with fruits and vegetables of every imaginable shape and size. 

We hustled through the fish market, thankfully enclosed to keep the overpowering stench IN!

Michael brought up the rear having spent way too much time with the fish... what's that smell?  He purchased some fruit to take back to the Resort.  I think we ended up leaving it with Lydia without ever tasting it.

The last stop of the day before returning to the Resort for some long awaited R&R, was the town of Nadi.  We picked up some souvenirs and then went to the grocery store to get some sandwich stuff to feed the kids for dinner.  We would be at the resort and hadn't seen anything on the dinner menu that would interest the kids.  We had lunch at the deli where we found Indian food, mostly unrecognizable.  I learned that there are many different interpretations to the term "Roti".  It all worked out.

Melissa and I shopped at the meat counter for cold cuts which was quite the adventure.  The Nadi pictures were lost so I found these on the Internet but this is the place.  The deli meats were made on premise and looked like meat playdoh formed into patties.  I was skeptical that the kids would touch it but they later proved me wrong and ate the lamb patties up. 

We were redeposited at the Sonaisali Resort for the rest of the day.  Yay!  Some free time! 

We all split up and went our separate ways for a while.  Melissa and Michael took a romantic walk on the beach and had a little fun...

Finally Michael got his "alone time"...

I took full advantage of this time as well.  I found a secluded spot in a lounge chair on the water and caught up on my journaling.  I appreciated the silent beauty at my feet as I watched the sun setting over a distant island across the water.  Again I missed my husband as I felt the warm sun on my face...

Melissa and Michael came by and collected me to join them in the hot tub.  We found it more of a cold tub but it was very soothing to our travel battered bodies.

The kids were already at the pool when we arrived.  They really are the greatest group of young people I've had the pleasure of knowing. 

We had some deep discussions and some fun times too. 

We enjoyed the beauty around us and I felt it was the perfect time for an Island Sunset Photo to send back to my husband in the States...

We all watched as the last rays of the day disappeared with a sigh...

Dinner time!  We gathered poolside at the hotel dining room where Melissa handed out the sandwiches we had made from the afternoon's purchases.  They devoured them!  Amazing! 

Vic, our fearless leader suddenly stepped off into the pool and began looking up at the sky.  Soon... we were all standing shin deep in the pool looking up.  It was quite funny as other diners passed by and obviously wondered what we were doing.  Vic was giving us all an astronomy lesson!

The Southern Cross was the highlight for me as I've never seen it.  I've enjoyed sailing songs about it so this was a special moment for me.  I attempted to catch it on digital with mild success.  Maybe you can pick it out on the right.

After dinner I went off to bed while Melissa and Michael enjoyed the resort's evening entertainment show.  I'm sorry to have missed it but enjoyed their pics.

The serene image of the moon on the water was all I needed to cast me off into deep slumber after a full day.