My Fijian adventure has set the bar high for the rest of my trip. I found a wonderful host on for my brief three day/two night stay. I didn’t realize this until right before my flight, but when flying from Honolulu to Fiji, you cross the international date line and lose an entire day. I left at 8:10am Sunday morning, February 13, and after a 6.5 hour flight arrived at 1:55pm on Monday, February 14. So my stay in Fiji shrank to two nights, but I spent them in the best way possible: with locals.

Most of the countryside is lush, very green, and sparsely populated by little villages and the occasional town.

Nadi and Suva are the biggest cities on the biggest Fijian island called Viti Levu, but you couldn’t compare them to any big city in the States. They are more of a sprawl with no tall buildings or busy financial centers. My host Save (pronounced Sah-vey) arranged for someone to help me find a taxi to his village, about fifteen minutes by car from the airport. There’s something odd about the way they drive here.

When I arrived at the home I was immediately welcomed by its simplicity and tranquility. Save’s family doesn’t have a lot in the way of amenities, but they are a big and very happy family. Here’s a view of the home from the back:

In the front yard Save’s two sons John and Marco were enjoying a favorite pasttime of Fiji, rugby.

I came inside and as I took my bearings I chatted with Save’s uncle Elijah and nephew Cody. We spent a lot of time playing guitar, singing and talking about Fijian culture and their lives.

Both of my evenings in Fiji centered around a pasttime unique to the South Pacific: Kava time! Kava is a plant whose active ingredient is a natural anti-anxiety drug used by native cultures for centuries. The root of the plant is soaked in water and the drink is passed around a group of people, usually men. It was definitely a relaxing affair. Save and I sat for a few hours with Sebastian and Erica, two couchsurfers who were staying with Save for the week. Sebastian is French and Erica grew up in Hawaii; they met while couchsurfing in Yemen.

The morning of my second day Sebastian, Erica, Save, Marco and I drove around in a car Sebastian rented to explore the west coast of Viti Levu. We passed by a couple Hindi temples and stopped for pictures for a minute. Fiji has a large and growing Indian population, something that appears slightly frustrating to native Fijians.

We drove to a beautiful beach next to what Save called the second largest resort in Fiji. I didn’t catch the name of it but it looked quite nice from a distance. Men on horseback occasionally rode by soliciting rides, which we declined.

Swimming proved irresistable on such a great beach. As we were driving back to town to get lunch, we saw more and more people lining the road waiting for something. Save explained that beloved former president Ratu Josefa Iloilo recently passed away and his funeral procession was scheduled to drive from Suva to Nadi (about 190km) during the day. By the time we reached Nadi, four different policemen had advised us to park immediately. Eventually we obliged them by parking in a metered space along the main road. We didn’t pay because we didn’t notice the meter and besides, we were following the officer’s orders. By now we had seen thousands of people out on the road. For all that anticipation, the procession drove by rather quickly.

After lunch (SPICY lamb curry at an Indian place) we walked back to the car only discover a parking ticket under the windshield wiper. The fine: FJ$10 (~$6USD). At first we found the amount amusing, but after a moment Sebastian said, “well no, I cannot pay this. I was obliged to park there, the police officer obliged me. We must have a little argument with the police about this.” So off we went to the local counsel office to discuss the matter with the powers that be. First he explained our story with the woman behind the fines and fees counter and she didn’t know what to say so she called the police chief to let Sebastian discuss it with him. The police chief referred them to the public prosecutor, who after hearing the story referred them to someone else. After almost a half hour, the Fijian government gave in to Sebastian’s French charms and let us go without paying the fee. It was a lot of arguing for a small fee, but Sebastian and Erica insisted on the princple of the matter, and I conceded that it was a reasonable endeavor.

Finally back to exploring again, Save directed us to the Coral Coast, a string of beaches aptly named for the coral pieces that litter the beach. I found a wandering sandcrab and played with the macro setting on my camera.

As Save caugh fish for future dinners I walked around capturing the serenity of the scenery.

At one point I walked around in the forest next to the beach and stopped moving when I noticed a thick thread of spiderweb in front of my face. I looked up and two inches from my nose was a spider about a five inches tall that didn’t look like he was happy to see me.

I escaped unscathed other than about a dozen mosquito bites on my ankles and fled to the safety of the beach. At that point it started raining, gently at first, but within ten minutes lightening and thunder about a mile away complimented the noisy rain that poured down harder than any rainstorm I’ve seen back home. The ocean was warmer than the rain so we went swimming for a while before heading home through the deluge.

Sebastian and Erica left at 5:30 to catch an early flight to Auckland to find an apartment and some work. Good luck guys! I stayed through the morning, eating the traditional breadfruit, casava and tea breakfast with Save’s family.

A quick picture with Mr. Too Cool For School Marco and just like that my Fijian adventure had come to an end. I packed my backpack and walked to the village entrance to catch a bus to the airport. Next stop, Auckland.

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