Anna and I are doing some serious research into the resorts of Fiji. Not the 5* ones or our research fund would dry up pretty quickly. Besides, who wants to hang out with drunk golf-playing Antipodeans and their screaming children, eating burgers and chips while money drains out of your bank account faster than Robbo gets a 1st degree sunburn?
We could fit in one more adventure before Anna started school. I emailed resorts looking for last-minute deals and read Tripadvisor until I was completely befuddled (does anyone else find Tripadvisor equally helpful and bewildering?) Finally, we found a little place on our island (Viti Levu - meaning Great Land), on the Coral Coast. To keep this trip as low-budget as possible we decided that we were going to take the bus for most of the three hour journey, reducing the travel costs from F$100 to F$20.
When I asked Mela how to get the bus to Cuvu (prounounced Thuvu), she stated the obvious - you go to the bus station and get on the bus. Where is the bus station, I asked. At this, she said that she was going to take Anna and me to the bus station and put us on personally. So with Binech, the trusty cabbie, and Mela and a couple of bags, we set off on Friday lunchtime for the bus station in Suva. Anna and I were both completely surprised when our taxi driver shouted to the bus station attendant who shouted at the bus driver who was pulling out of the station to stop so we could get on (another bus would have been leaving in 30 minutes). Pretty much our experience with UK bus drivers is that they drive off as soon as they spot you coming, almost certainly doing a dastardly laugh at the same time.
The bus was air conditioned, very clean and quite slow, but it felt safe and it was a great way to watch the landscape change from jungle to sugar cane fields and grassy hills. We got off at the community post at Cuvu. I'm not quite sure what the community posts are for, but I think that they are a bit like police stations, but serve a wider purpose. At the one in Cuvu, for example, someone went into the village to get a taxi to take us to the resort. When we got into the taxi the driver said ominously "no one else wanted to take you". Okay....we then started down a bumpy dirt track that must have been 5 miles long, passing sugar cane fields and a pair of yoked oxen pulling a wooden sledge.
The first 30 minutes at the resort were a disaster. The staff looked surprised to see us and there appeared to be no other guests. When I picked up Anna’s bag to carry it over the threshold, she screamed. There was a large spider on it (the first we’ve seen here). Then the resort lady said something that you should never say to someone that has just screamed after seeing a spider – “that’s just a small one”. Anna suggested that we turn around and go straight home. I’m glad we didn’t as the resort turned out to be my favourite so far.
Anna relaxes on the room's porch. Please ignore wonky horizon.
Once we saw other guests (to be fair, there was only two other people staying) and decided that the resort wasn't a ruse to get us to an isolated place to murder us, we relaxed. Namuka Bay is a wonderful place with the most amazing Fijian staff, no televisions or radios and no electricity during the day guarantees enforced relaxation. The food was cooked to order by Sylvia and was by far the best resort food that we’ve had so far – grilled marlin, Fiji donuts, chicken curry, etc... And, joy of joys, there was fresh milk from the resort’s cow every morning to put in my coffee. I nearly wept at the deliciousness of it.
Simon (who turned out to be the cousin of Bose, the chief of Wailotua, even though it’s on the other side of the island) was a fantastic tour guide. He gave us the tour of the abandoned historic settlement site where the local tribe lived during the time of cannibals and a limestone cave right on the coast. Fiji has a very strong history of tribal warfare and cannibalism. I’m not a big one for the conversion of “natives” to Christianity by missionaries, but I must say, I think that it was an improvement here.
Simon demonstrates the Fijian "naughty seat". The one in the kitchen next to the cooking pot for the ultimate punishment.
Me laughing during my go on the chair - I like the way my scrunched up face hides my wrinkles.
We also participated in a kava ceremony with the other guests, presided over by Simon. You have to drink the kava in one go, clap your hands before and after you have your turn and say the appropriate Fijian words with a big kava grin on your face. It’s not easy as after the first bowl, your mouth go numb. It tasted a bit like cold tea with earth in it. Not sure I’m its biggest fan, but it was a fantastic experience. The ceremony was followed by a full moon bonfire on the beach. We chatted with the other guests who have given up their respective homes in Columbia and New Zealand and were now intentionally homeless. They are staying in the resort for a month to figure out what they’re going to do next.