Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Seeing bright blue coral and equally blue star fish was a revelation. So was seeing how coconuts are cracked, used and prepared.
Coconut trees are to Fijians what pigs are to Southerners who utilize everything but the oink.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Day two at Taveuni Paradise, Fiji, proved several things:
One, You don't need an alarm clock. Between 5 and 5:30 a.m., light sleepers may not note the switch from night time to daytime generators, but the the roosters do. Despite the hour or so of darkness remaining, they start crowing the sun up. This you no doubt will note.
Two, there's a whole lot of difference between "Oh, it's easy," and "It's a little steeper."
The day's activities began with a visit to the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Wairiki village. We had stopped by the day before to see inside so we sat outside and listened to the singing. Fijian infants seem to emerge from the womb knowing four-part harmony and carrying tunes. Any that don't I suspect are tucked into a canoe and sent to Tonga. Everyone sings and does it so beautifully choir directors will want to bring them home.
Tip: Access to the first fall and pool are easy but I don't advise the trek up to the second, Levelers, and do NOT try to reach the third.
Coconut Grove for lunch with owner Ronna Goldstein. This delightful three-bure mini-resort overlooks one of the island's only soft sand beach and caters to honeymooners and other romance-seeking couples. The food is marvelous and the views are stunning.
Tip: As you can see there are stairs and steps here but they aren't that bad.
Ronna, a Connecticut native, is a kick. "Ex boyfriend, the usual story," was her response when asked how she wound up here.
Warning: Levelers, if anyone urges you to visit the Waitavala Sliding Rocks thank them but respond with a firm "No." This switchback fall of water rushes over rocks that have become so smooth, the locals use them as a water slide. Youngsters come down on their feet! Fun to see but treacherous to reach, especially if it has rained recently. I still wonder that our stalwart guides got us up then down that steep slippery slope and two of us only went halfway up.
Muddy and soaked with sweat, we hit the road again, only to pull over and discover why Mai Kel had us take pictures of white hibiscus flowers growing along the roadside that morning. The white flowers had turned pink!
It was almost dark by now but we were determined to stand at the 180th degree of longitude line with one foot in today and another in tomorrow. There's a sign at the Taveuni Time Line, tucked unobtrusively between a house and a soccer field, that is divided in half.
Clarification: For time keeping purposes, the line was shifted around Taveuni so all of Fiji would be on the same day.
However late, however silly, a must-do is a must-do and tomorrow we could relax, spending the day learning Fijian skills and customs and enjoying our last day at Paradise.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
With its volcanic spine, Taveuni boasts lush beauty and scenic delights from waterfalls to blow holes. Rainbow Reef with its 32-kilometers and dozen-plus named dive sites is considered one of the best in the world for SCUBA enthusiasts. Even snorkelers will be enchanted by the bright blue coral and star fish to be found just beyond the shore.
What Taveuni doesn't have is island-wide electricity, traffic jams - most Fijians walk where they want to go, pollution and hordes of tourists. Paved, or "sealed" roads are also scarce as are sandy beaches of any width.
The road to Paradise Taveuni Resort was a culture shock - 30-40 minutes of really rough road, stretches of which required four-wheel drive. Our first Taveuni "massage".
First day at Paradise
Tip: No steps, Levelers, and the resort is on a flat bluff above the sea.
At lunch (I had a wonderful Thai-style fish) Alan offered us a choice: take a tour to a village and the blow hole farther down the south end of the island or relax at the resort. After 30-plus hours of traveling the latter was oh so tempting but not wanting to miss anything we pressed on.
Tip: If you want to see how few trappings of civilization are needed to be happy on Taveuni or to feel like the Pied Piper with ever-growing hordes of children following you, visit a village.
Especially when we finally turned in. The outdoor shower was refreshing but my bure was stifling despite the comfortably balmy night. After tossing and turning a bit I got up to check windows. The housekeeping staff had closed them all to make the burning mosquito coil more effective!
Days two and three coming up.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
If you hadn't been to one of the smaller, more pristine islands as I had, CC would seem like a lot of heaven - palm trees arched over blue water-lapped beaches, exotically landscaped resorts with all-inclusive or a la carte arrangements that are filled with jolly Aussies and Kiwis, a city with ATMs and shopping (Sigatoka), and excursions - jet boat trips to inland villages, rafts to cannibal caves, jaunts to waterfalls and pottery villages.
Tip: Well, if you are a Leveler, many of those resorts come with lots of stairs and not all activities are worth the effort.
I visited five - Shangri-La's Fijian Resort & Spa, Outrigger on the Lagoon Resort, Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa, Naviti Resort and Warwick Fiji. Stayed at one, Hideaway, and compared notes with guests at all the others.
Naviti received universal thumbs down from its guests despite its sophisticated landscaping and appearance. Management intransigence and inadequate supplies of basics such as towels and soap seemed to be the major problems. Good number of stairs here, too.
Tip: This is the best choice for Levelers, but get a room midway between the often noisy poolside bar and the end of the line of duplexes, which is a hike from the center of activity.
Tip2: If you don't want to be deluged by children and teens, avoid the dates of New Zealand and Australia school spring breaks. Personally, I found the older ones fun; it was the crying babies that got tiresome.
Tip: Better to take the same company's waterfall tour.
Tip: Keep your purchases small; this pottery chips easily and doesn't ship well, even wrapped in dirty clothes in a suitcase.
There will be a short stop for shopping in Sigatoka. This is a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon, especially with a guide as affable and informational as Rony.
Kula Eco Park was a hit, especially with photographers.
Not worth it was the consensus on the salt making, red train and Robinson Crusoe Island tours.