Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Off with her head!


Yesterday, the Queen’s head disappeared from Fiji’s banknotes. The government has made a short commercial to be played in cinemas explaining the new banknotes, which John and I saw while waiting for The Hobbit to start yesterday. This move is completely understandable as Fiji was kicked out of the Commonwealth in 2009 after delaying elections after the 2008 coup (elections won’t be held until 2014). However, is feels little disrespectful to see a large insect crawling onto the space where Lizzie’s face peered out from moments earlier, even in the name of celebrating the biodiversity of these wonderful islands.

It wasn't the best picture of the Queen anyway.

It’s been a while since I last posted because I've been busy snorkelling or being in either a languid or a slightly inebriated state during our amazing trip to Vanua Levu over the Christmas holidays. Our power finally came on in the wee hours of the 23rd, shortly before we took an early morning taxi to airport to await our flight to Savusavu. There were only two small Pacific Air prop planes at the airport that morning and one was not fit to fly, so we had to wait for the other one to fly wherever it was going, then come back (empty) before we could take off. We could see small islands and complex reef systems almost the entire way before making our descent through a small valley, the height of which made it seem like you could reach out and grab coconuts off of the trees.

The men's toilets and the welcoming committee at Savusavu Airport

My first impression of Savusavu itself is that it was just what I thought Fiji would be like before we moved here. Savusavu Bay is unbelievably beautiful and we enjoyed the view from the balcony at our room at the Hot Springs Hotel. The name of the hotel is slightly misleading as they don’t really have hot water at the hotel. They installed a geothermal water heating system which meant that (in our room anyway) when you turned the hot water tap on there was only a 50/50 chance that hot water would come out.

The view over Savusavu Bay from the Hot Springs Hotel

Our ultimate destination, however, was the Pearl Shack on the south shore of the island. The owner picked us up from the hotel on Christmas Eve morning and kindly took us into town to do our grocery shopping. What a nightmare! Savusavu is not a big town (probably around 5000 people), but every single resident was squeezed into the narrow aisles of the supermarket that morning. The market was the same. I battled the feeling of claustrophobia to try to buy what I could off of my list, but in the end I kind of gave up so we ended up with a selection of weird stuff to eat. John had been in charge of going to the liquor store, and with steely determination did an admirable job. Fortunately the previous occupants of “the shack” had left a good supply of condiments or the food might have become rather boring.

I could have written an entire post just about the shack. In fact I did, but it was so tedious in its lyrical waxing that I thought that I’d make everyone hate me if I published it. It was a completely relaxing, healing place. The snorkeling was unbelievable. Parts of the back reef were really interesting with enormous heads of coral and a good diversity of fish, but the fore reef was stunning. A walk across the reef pavement in low tide, followed by a short snorkel in about half a metre of water led to a drop off to around 20-30 meters. The wall was covered in healthy coral. John took loads of video, most of which came out kind of rubbish because his camera started to fog up. The reef went on for a long way, but we didn't need to venture too far to stay amused. Besides, once you got out too far, the drop off was too pelagic to be comfortable without eyes in the back of your head. It’s funny how the Jaws theme tune just pops into your head at the most inopportune times.

Besides snorkeling  we kayaked, cooked (we didn't eat out once we got to the shack), drank and did silly things like attempt a romantic canoodle in the two person hammock after some champagne. This ended badly with both of us stuck with our feet up in the air and our heads pile-driven into the sand. John worked on teaching himself the corals of Fiji and I wasted an embarrassing number of hours reading the Game of Throne series.

We came back to Suva to see in the New Year. Our “celebration” consisted of Thai beef salad and champagne on the patio with the kittens and enough episodes of Rome to see us to midnight. Bliss. 

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