Days: 8-9 (1st June 2018 – 2nd June 2018)
Total distance travelled: 4,050.46 kilometres (2,516.83 miles)
It wasn’t yet dark, but we were certainly on the cusp of twilight when we were landed at Beachcomber Resort under a blanket of grey cloud.
On our ride in, we’d passed a few other moored vessels, including a glass bottomed boat, the kind you see in tacky Thai beach resorts.
I can only assume it gets a daily workout with day trippers in the busier months.
The resort itself, spread across an entire island, and had a reputation as a bit of a backpacker haunt.
With that in mind, we didn’t arrive with huge expectations.
It was a big sprawling complex, that seemed to cover the entire width and breadth (identifying which was which was a challenge… it was almost circular) of the island, but we were shown into a reception area to all be checked in.
New arrivals were greeted with what appeared to be a tequila sunrise… this one was lacking the tequila and the sunrise was a bit too much like sickly sweet orange cordial, but the sentiment was there!
Our room was on the opposite side of the island, and to get there, it was reasonable walk along very sandy paths (soft sand that’s a pain in the arse to walk through, not nice compact sand).
Working our way through the heart of the island, we passed the dormitory accommodation, which was segregated into male and female, as well as one which was mixed and one of the largest dorms we’ve ever seen (trust me, we’ve seen a few)!
In fairness, I didn’t stop to do a count, but at a glance, it looked like it had close to ten bunks in there! Given its location right in the islands middle, I don’t imagine a lot of breeze in there, so can see it getting pretty hot and stuffy…
Our room, calling itself an Ocean Front Bure was basic, but was right on the water as the name suggested. Think like an old school holiday pad, with white tiled floors, and walls coloured in a pallid blue green shade.
As I said, simple, but it would do the job for the one night we’d be here.
One of the cool things they had here was a turtle breeding pond/hatchery, and we were right beside it (our room that is), so it was very easy to take a peek anytime we wished.
Given it was late afternoon, we dumped our things and wondered back over to the main area, which included the office where we’d been checked in, a bar (it was almost happy hour) built atop the sand and with what looked like a rooftop deck, and the main kitchen/dining area.
With this place being popular with backpackers, we expected it to be a bit more raucous, but it was a pretty sedate place which was fine with us.
Again, the time of year meant there were fewer people, and those that were here seemed more intent on penny pinching than having a few drinks.
Regardless, we grabbed ourselves a pair of beers, tried to login to the patchy wi-fi, and settled ourselves at one of a handful of bench tables that sat in between the bar and dining area.
It was one of those dull where the sky was just a solid grey, so there was no brilliant sunset to dazzle us, just a subtle shift into twilight.
When it came to meals, it was somewhat different to everywhere else we’d been across the islands.
Whereas elsewhere, it had been largely a la carte, here we were to learn it was a true backpacker, buffet affair.
Never fans of jostling for position in queues (when it came to meal time, it suddenly felt like there were more people about as well), we patiently waited and quickly discovered that it would be to our detriment, as the buffet may have been better described a pig trough.
These budget conscious kids, largely English, but with a few other nationalities thrown in, obviously at little or nothing outside of these feeding windows, and a lot of the options were already exhausted by the time we got in a position to grab portions of anything for ourselves.
Indeed, the lad immediately ahead of us in the queue, was already lining up for his second plateful!
I’m not clear whether we missed out on a lot of the good stuff, or if it wasn’t the most inspiring food, but we made do.
The following day we were to partake in a day of cruising and sailing aboard the Seaspray. Included as part of our package, with the ordinary weather on our arrival Beachcomber Island, we actually half considered not bothering with it.
Figuring that it would still be more interesting than kicking around a small island on another potentially dull day, we did eventually decide to commit to the sailing trip, and so it was, that the following morning us and our bags were transferred to the Seaspray.
The morning was again grey, but the air warm, with a clammy, humid feel that prevented us from feeling cold (things had started well, when going to shower that morning, Sarah realised that when I’d ‘packed up’ the bathroom, I’d left most of our toiletries in the shower at Barefoot Kuata… not the first time this has occurred in our travels).
We’d also forgotten that it was an all inclusive day, and shortly after we were underway, a large ice chest was positioned in the centre of the deck, and half litre beers were being liberally shared.
Given the time would have been somewhere between 10 or 11am, it was a jovial start to the day!
By now the boat was cruising through blue waters, and the cloud in the sky above was starting to break, making the day much lovelier than when it had started.
A familiar pattern emerged, as we’d pass island after island, all eerily similar, with a white sandy beach, all ringed with palms and gentle hills climbing above.
Occasionally, one would have a village or resort, their tin roofs shining in the sun, and another, we were informed by the crew, was where the latest season of Survivor was being filmed!
As fans, we were interested, but in truth, it looked like any other island!
The beers were going down nice and easily, and we eventually moored off a small, uninhabited island called Monuriki.
Sadly, the cloud was again rolling in, but we’d stop here for a bit and relax on the beach, as well as indulge in a little snorkelling.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of islands we’d seen (perhaps the dull sky coloured the experience), but it was famous, as it was here, that Tom Hanks spent his time in the film Castaway!
For a few people in our posse, that was a deal of sorts, but neither Sarah or I had seen it, so it wasn’t as much of a fuss.
Beneath the waves, the snorkelling wasn’t amazing either, being more sand than reef, and with somewhat choppy water close to shore, the visibility was quite poor as well.
We saw a few fish, but spent the bulk of our time just chilling on the beach, or in my case, as the sun came out, trying to find somewhere to shelter.
Once we were all ferried back on board, we lunched on a barbecue, washed down with more beer which remained delightfully cold.
The quality of the sausages.
Not so good, but we made the best of it and had a nice feed.
A short sail onward, and we were at another island, where we again moored offshore.
This was Yanuya, an inhabited place where we’d be making something of a cultural visit, where I’m pretty sure the village shares the same name as the island… but to be fair, I don’t fully know.
Unlike other inhabited islands, such as those we’d stopped earlier in the morning to pick up others where we’d picked up more guests for the boat, this place had no long pier jutting into the sea.
The waters, at least for the time of day, were also ridiculously shallow, so we got ferried as close as possible, before we then had to walk through the shallows, thick with sea grass to reach the rocky shore.
Not soft enough to trap and release your feet with that slurp and pop sound, it was more of a gentle splashing affair before we were all on the beach, a mixture of sand and rocky shelves, before we were all walked along a short distance and led to a broad, empty hut, with a palm frond thatch mat covering its floor.
It was here a few of the villagers met us, including one who we took to be the chief, who through virtue of another Kava ceremony (for those unsure of what that is, check out the Blue Lagoon post) welcomed us to the village.
Once completed and with us officially welcomed, a bit of tackiness ensued, as by the time we emerged from the by now stuffy hut, a series of villager stalls had been set up on blankets in an adjoining room, selling largely tacky trinkets and souvenirs.
We felt bad, but also railroaded into it, and ultimately walked away with nothing…
As a somewhat scattered group, we wandered the village for a bit, mindful that this was actually the place people lived and not completely some sort of tourist village.
Trying to do the right thing and ask for permission before taking peoples photos is one thing, but in hindsight the whole affair did feel a bit wrong.
School was not in session (it was after all, a Saturday), but it was still nice to take a peek into their classroom. Rather than feel disappointed by how little they had, it was pretty cool to see how resourceful they could be, making the most of what little they had.
We meandered our way through more plasterboard and corrugated iron huts, before returning to the shore where a small escort of dogs saw us back to our vessel… at least as far as the water before they too returned to a bunch of children playing further alonf the beach.
This concluded our scheduled activities for the day, and but for a few more beers on board the vessel, the rest of the afternoon was simply a couple of drops to return guests.
We didn’t have to return to Beachcomber, rather we were transferred, bags included to the even Yasawa Flyer for our transfer back to Port Denarau.
By our standards, we’d splurged for this final Fijian night, and from the harbour, now in dim light by the time we’d made landfall, we took the required transfer bus for the short trip to our hotel.
Tonight, we’d be sleeping in the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort!
For just the two of us, this place was huge, like a whole apartment (with a kitchen, laundry, living space as well as our bedroom) just for us!
The hotel/resort itself, was a huge sprawling place, with a central hub, and from there it spread itself across a long and largely uninspiring beach (featureless black sand, and for too few trees… in fact there may have been none, just a manicured lawn).
It felt like the place was built for people to engage in their water activities either in one of the pools, or elsewhere…
We went for an evening stroll to explore the place and assess our options for dinner, the sky by now dark but the air hot and humid.
From memory, there were three restaurant options, one of which was adults only, and a small shop on the main driveway (not so much an entrance driveway, but a long concrete road that run parallel to the hotel and was served by oversized golf carts to ferry guests too lazy to walk).
Throw in room service, and we had options aplenty.
Somehow, despite them all (perhaps we were just weary after a long day), we settled on some instant pop noodles from the shop and retired for the evening!
Waking the following morning to threatening clouds, the dull morning made the largely featureless lawn and grey beach look even less impressive than it had in the dark.
Still, we had our own little porch where we could start the day the right way (with a cup of tea), and watch some small green and red birds flit about on the lawn, almost perfectly camouflaged in their surroundings.
Post breakfast, we wandered our way back towards the harbour to kill a bit of time (we had an evening flight, so there was plenty to burn), the road running alongside the canals that crisscrossed the small island, showing off the many moorings and large boats that showed off the toys of the wealthy here.
At Port Denarau, we explored a few of the shops (one can never have too many pairs of Havaianas flip flops), before a little lunch on the water and some icy cold beer.
I mean truly, icy beer!
This thing was a 50/50, where the jug (or if you prefer, pitcher) of beer was divided in half, with the cooling amber beverage in one section, and frosty ice in the other.
Certainly a novel way to keep our beer cool, although the condensation made for one very wet table!
We’d withdrawn some cash at the airport on arrival (remember that time when I forgot to bring one of the bank cards?), unsure whether some of the more remote islands would either accept, or have working card machines, yet up to this point, we’d actually not used any of it!
So it came as some surprise, when back at the lobby of the Hilton, one of the fancier places in which we’d ever stayed, it was time to arrange passage to the airport, and all of a sudden we were having to hand over a few Fijian bills to pay our way home!
Our Qantas flight home was pretty uneventful, although we did receive something of a surprise when a huge specimen of man sat down opposite us just prior to take off (when I say huge, I mean tall and well built).
He also looked very familiar to us which was odd given we didn’t recall knowing too many Fijian men.
The penny eventually dropped. It was Melbourne Storm (Melbourne’s professional Rugby League club) star Suliasi Vunivalu!
Roughly five hours later, and we were home, trying to get some rest before a Monday morning return to work.
* QANTAS return airfares to Nadi cost us $689.44AUD each, which I purchased through work at STA Travel
* Our Beachcomber Resort stay and our Yasawa Flyer transfer, was all part of our Awesome Adventures Fiji package which all up cost us about $1,500.00AUD at a charity auction
* The Seaspray Day Sailing Experience, was included as part of our package, inclusive of lunch and drinks!
* Our ‘lavish’ night at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort cost us $362.74 through wotif.com