Sunday, May 7, 2000

Bula! Bula! from Matamanoa Fiji!

(Bula Bula is Greetings in Fijian)

Hi Everyone!

Thanks everyone for all of the birthday greetings!!!
When I last left you, it was almost three weeks ago and we were in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island and on our way to see the yellow-eyed penguins.
The penguins were definitely worth seeing - much different from the fairy penguins we had seen before (larger and much more solitary) but the Lonarch Castle was a bust. It was not a castle; just a large imposing house. From Dunedin we headed north to Christchurch.
Christchurch is a very pleasant city - cosmopolitan and full of life. Unfortunately we didn't get much time to enjoy it as it is our last stop in a first world city for quite some time - we had some shopping to do, vaccinations to get, boxes to post home, banking issues to deal with, and that ever thorn in the side of a US citizen - tax forms to complete. We did manage to catch dinner with my old friend Jo and her new husband Chris - Jo hasn't changed one bit in the 5 or so years since I last saw her. We also did get to catch a Super 12 Rugby match on my birthday (Thanks Chris!) - The Canterbury Crusaders completely stomped South Africa's Northern Bulls. I mean COMPLETLY. it was 76-3 before the Crusaders decided to play their extra's and give the Bulls a chance to do something - final score was 76-24. These Kiwi's sure take their rugby seriously - about 1/2 the fans were in Canterbury colours and a good proportion had their faces painted in Red and Black as well.
We didn't manage to catch up with Peter and Ava - our schedule's just didn't work out. Sorry Guys!
The day after the game we had to get up at 2:00 AM to catch a flight at 3:40!!!! Ouch!!!!!! but we were in a good mood and Fiji bound!
We finally arrived in Fiji at about 10:00 AM. The Keenan's had pre-arranged the whole Fijian itinerary and we were to be met by a tour guide upon landing - But the tour guide (Rosie's Tour's) didn't know who we were. They had no record of us at all. This took some restraint on SGK's part to straighten it out, but they finally took us to our hotel - the Tanoa where we would spend 2 nights before getting on the Blue Lagoon Cruise.
I would recommend to anyone going to Fiji to AVOID the Tanoa hotel. The only employee of the hotel who was not rude to us was the gardener. It proved impossible to get drinks with our meals, they wouldn't clean our rooms (they smelled), the air conditioners were broken, the phone didn't work and when we asked for these things to be taken care of we were ignored. The last straw was when I went to buy a shirt in the gift shop (cheaper there than in town if you can believe it!) they ran my Amex card through twice and asked me to sign both slips. Of course I'm not that stupid and told them no and gave them the shirt back. Well, they still wanted to keep the charge slips, and would not give them back to me. I had to go behind the counter and pull them out of their book. Assholes. The town of Nadi also had nothing going for it - it reminded me of a sort of a downtrodden version of Ochos Rios in Jamaica - only in worse repair.
Well, our two days imprisonment at the Tanoa eventually came to a close and we were Blue Lagoon bound! We had a 4 day 3 night cruise through the Yasawa Islands booked and it promised to be lovely! And it was - at least the one day that it wasn't raining. On that day we visited an indigenous village for a Kava Ceremony. Kava is a drink that they make out of the root to a pepper plant and it tingles your mouth and turns your gums numb. The highlight for me though was the village children - they climbed all over me wanting to see the photos that I took of them on the digital camera.
After the cruise, the Keenan's had booked us into a resort on Matamanoa Island where we are now. After waiting hours in a tin roofed and cloth sided shack for the rain (and lightning!) to stop, we boarded a floatplane for this island. - Way cool if you've never been on one before. Exciting too, as we had to abort our first landing attempt because the wind suddenly changed. Matamanoa Island is TINY! smaller than Gili Trawangan. But a lot more sedate.
Matamanoa is a VERY restful place. It is an Island made for reading under a palapa and listening to the sea. I took a couple of hikes - one around the island (possible only at low tide) and one up the volcano. We did have an interesting time with the water sports people - the Dr and I wanted to use one of the Hobie cats, and asked to use it 4 days in a row. First day they said that it was too windy. The second day that the tide was out so it was too shallow. The third day they said there was not enough wind. The fourth day that the tide was in. OK, we figured that the water sports people didn't want to work, so the Dr went and fetched the owner of the resort. She told them to let us use it. Then the guy says we still can't because it's broken. It was; the tiller was missing. Dr. Keenan soon fixed that by grabbing a handy rake and tying it to the transom. The water sports guy goes berserk and threatens bodily harm if we don't give him his rake back (I don't know why- he wasn't using it; he was just lounging in the shade) so I sit down on the rake while the good Dr. locates the owner again. Low and behold! they find another tiller for us to use! Lazy bastards.
The Diving here was pretty nice though; nothing stands out as exceptional except the staff at the dive hut, but it was enjoyable.
Where do we go from here??? Well, on Monday we board a launch for the trip back to Viti Levu and our flight back to Auckland where we have a 47 hour layover (more Vaccinations, shopping and sending stuff home - including Helen and Andy, visit with Tyler Moon and his parents) before we are off to Bali Indonesia where we are meeting Kim, Ricky and someone named Cecile, and hopefully catch up with Jo and Stephen if they're still on Trawangan.

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