Tag Archives: Sailing

Sydney- The Wedding and Other Adventures


Always love a good wedding! 

Our first afternoon in Sydney started in the pub around the corner from Lucy’s flat in the area of Balmain (North West of the Harbour Bridge). Lucy is a Royals girl and has been living and working over in Sydney for 2 years and kindly was putting us up for 2 nights, so we were in the pub waiting for her to get back from work. 2 glasses of wine later and she was home and after a merry catch up over another couple of bottles of wine we all stumbled into our respective beds wondering where the evening had gone!

Oh my goodness did we feel delicate the next morning. I saw Lucy off at 7am as she had a rowing race to get to (needless to say she wasn’t feeling quite up for it!) and I eventually managed to coax Hedd out of bed to start getting ready for Ian and Teresa’s Wedding. Ian and Teresa are Royal Chester Rowing friends again. Ian was the Boat Club Captain when I first joined RCRC and Teresa his long-term Aussie partner. They both did the Caledonian Crossing Challenge last year, which saw us all row across Scotland through the canals and lochs, and thats where they met Hedd and we discovered that perhaps our paths could cross in Sydney over their special day. And so it came about- an invite to a wedding in Sydney for 2 backpackers! At 10am we began our mission to Narrabean (North of Sydney, up the coast) which saw us catch a bus to Circular Quay, then a ferry across to Manley and then another bus to Rowland Reserve, Narrabean. In all it took us 3 hours! We were one of the first to the large catamaran where the floating ceremony was to take place and, as it began to shower, was ushered onto the boat by the celebrant called Mary to get out of the rain. At 13.30 the coach with the guests staying in Narrabean arrived along with the Grooms Party. So a bit about the Grooms Party outfits- they were in beige deck shoes, blue Chino’s, beige/off white linen shirts and then a beige and thin blue stripped linen blazer. Very nice and wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in the Stewards enclosure at Henley Regatta! I soon spotted Laura, Andy and Steve- the other RCRC guests and rushed out to greet them. It was so lovely but equally so bizarre to see them , at a wedding, on the other side of the world, after 5 months of not seeing them every week! We managed to catch up on news before heading onto the boat for the arrival of the bridal party. The bridal party arrived in a blue and cream stretched VW camper van. Oh my goodness it was too cool for school! And Teresa looked absolutely stunning in an off white satin halterneck dress with fitted body and full chiffon skirt, with a delicate lace bolero. Her hair was big and pinned back with dramatic eye makeup and daring red lipstick. The flowers were devine- pastel blue pansies and cream roses. I would say the theme was 1950’s chic vintage drama, and the whole thing was gorgeous! With everyone on board we set sail to a pretty cove to moor up and start the wedding ceremony. There was a string quartet and they played as Teresa and her 2 grown up daughters, the bridesmaids, walked down the aisle. They both looked so happy and in love. They said beautiful vows- not the traditional religious one. There was a line about “my arms being your home”  and such like- lovely! Then Emma, Ian’s daughter, read a poem and then Ian read a tear jerking reading about Teresa being the best of him. Then it was the giving of rings, the kiss and the couple signed the register to the band playing ‘All you Need is Love’. All in all a great, down to earth, personal ceremony. There were nibbles and drinks at the free bar as the photographer organised us all into the various groups for the photos. We braved the top deck for those as the showers had died down. And then we set sail for the marina and during the journey we had the speeches- Erin, chief bridesmaid and Teresa’s oldest daughter; Steve, best man and my ‘Chester Dad’ from RCRC; and Ian, groom saying his thanks. We got back to the marina around 4pm and all had a group shot outside the boat before the whole wedding party got whisked off in the stretched VW camper for more official photos. All us guests got back on the bus and got dropped off at the bar just down the road from the evening reception which was to start at 6pm. After being so careful with my dress the whole day, the destruction of the dress began as the velcro from my rain jacket pulled and puckered the chiffon over-layer of my skirt on the bus- oh dear, at least it survived the ceremony! At 6pm we managed to blag ourselves a ride in the VW camper limo to the evening reception as it had started to pour down with rain. Plus it was too good an opportunity to miss- very very cool wedding transportation! Then we were at Narrabean Surf Club enjoying yet another free bar! Steve, bless him, had brought the Royals flag with him from Chester and had put it up in the venue, so when Lucy had arrived all us Royals had a picture underneath it with the bride and groom. And the night continued with many more glasses of champagne, more yummy finger food and dancing to the live band. Hedd made the mistake of switching to the red wine and soon got the nickname ‘Disaster Boy’ as he fell asleep in a chair as the night came to an end! Lucy very kindly saw that we all arrived back to her flat safe and sound at the end of a great day.

04.03.12 will only be known to us, Hedd especially, as the day after the night before! I joined Lucy on the sofa with copious cups of tea and movies from 10am. Hedd didn’t rise from the horizontal position until 3pm! We said our goodbyes to Lucy and ventured out once more to navigate ourselves to Narrabean where we were staying with the rest of the royals gang for the rest of our time in Australia. This time though we didn’t bother with the ferry and just 2 uncomfortable bus journeys later (in our hung over state) we arrived at Ian and Teresa’s apartment right on Narrabean Beach. It was an absolutely stunning spot and we couldn’t quite believe our luck as we dumped our rucksacks in our room stepping out on our personal balcony overlooking the ocean! BBQ for dinner and plenty of reminiscing over the events of yesterday and Royals banter about Hedd and his antics with the red wine! Being apart of the Royals extended family for nearly 2 years, he was used to such ribbing! We slumped into bed at 11.30pm still feeling delicate but looking forward to our day of sailing the next morning.

We woke up to the sound of the ocean, a mere 50 meters from us. Such a gorgeous way to wake up. After showering, breakfast and putting our sea legs on, we all drove to Church Point Marina for our day of sailing on Ian and Teresa’s yacht. Debbie- another Royals lady had just flown into Sydney that morning and met us straight from the airport at the marina too for the day sailing! Very impressive stamina! So our boat was called Wind Maiden- 40 ft, 3 cabin boat, worth $225,000, and Ian and Teresa were trusting us lot to sail it! We got loaded up with drinks, food and bodies and then pushed off from the marina. My first job was to collect in the buoys and then I was on the head sail port side windlass with Debbie, pulling in or letting out as we tacked and jibed our way out and around the estuary. The weather was stunning; clear blue skies, warm and sunny. Almost a shame that the weather didn’t come a day earlier for Ian and Teresa’s wedding but Teresa didn’t mind as she said she would have been too hot in her dress else. Where we were sailing was also beautiful- pretty little bays, high top hills and we even passed the beach and little town that is used to film Home & Away! Hedd got a go at steering and, after almost tipping us all in by over-steering on the jibs, got the hand of it and quite fancied himself as a skipper! By the time we had reached Refuge Bay- our lunch stop- my arms felt like they had had a good workout. We enjoyed a lovely meat and salad lunch, washed down of course with a beer. After a while relaxing on the boat we all got our swimmers on, jumped off the boat and swam to the beach at Refuge Bay. There was a waterfall at the beach and we all enjoyed a neck and back massage as the water thundered on top of us as we stood underneath it. It was then time to swim back to the boat and set sail back towards the marina. None of us had any concept of time and we were surprised that it was as late as 4.30pm when we got back to Church Point. We dropped Hedd and Debbie off at this point as Hedd’s back was feeling tender and Debbie was just exhausted from her flight, and took on board 3 other crew members who actually knew how to sail. Which was a really good thing as now we were going to take part in a race, Ian as skipper and Andy, Teresa and I crewing along with the 3 experts. I was on the port side head sail windlass again with Andy this time and Teresa was on the main sail. It was a handicapped race with different categories going off at different times with the intention that we would all finish together (mayhem!). There were 25 boats in our category but over 100 boats in total taking part, which made for a fab sight as we all set sail with the sun slowly setting. Our race began at 5.30pm and Ian did really well steering us into good wind giving us an ace start. At the start and around the 2 markers we had to go around were the most exciting parts as all the boats bunch together and jostle for the best position. It was funny how some sections of the race could be slow-paced and calm as the wind drops and then the very next minute be so rapid and frantic as we get a gust and try to go the most with it. Very exciting and definitely wet my appetite for getting into sailing much more when I get home. The whole event lasted about 2 hours which went by in a blink of an eye, and we got back to the flat after stowing the boat after 8pm. BBQ again for dinner and we all headed to bed happily tired after a full and jammed packed day of sailing.

I couldn’t quite believe it when my alarm went off at 5.15am the next day. But it was indeed time for me to get up and get ready for my early morning outing with Mosman Rowing Club. All rowing occurs super early in Sydney as that is when the weather is coolest and also so people can row before work. So that’s where I found myself, in a car with Ian, Debbie and Andy at 5.30am off to Spit Point for an outing on the flooded river bed there. We decided to go out in a quad and Ian put me at stroke with the responsibility of setting the rhythm and steering! Needless to say I had a furrowed brow come the end after all the concentration. We were on the water by 6.15am with lights on our boat to guide the way as it was still dark. We sculled to Sugarloaf Bay on the still lake like water watching the sun come up as we rowed, enjoyed the views of the limestone rock sides and mangrove forests, and then rowed back to the club. We were all finished, boated packed away and ready for a cuppa at the cafe across the road by 7.45am! By the time we were back at the flat at 8.15am, it felt like I’d already been up and active for half a day…a very efficient workout and a super experience! After a bit of Africa travel planning, Hedd and I ventured out into Sydney city on the bus to do some sightseeing. We wandered down to Circular Quay and along to the area called The Rocks where we were afforded with a great view of both the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. We sat on a bench admiring the view as we ate our homemade sandwiches. There was an absolutely ginormous cruise ship too in the harbour and we both reflected how terrifying it must have been on that Italian cruise liner that sunk last month. After lunch we strolled back around the harbour to the Opera House and booked ourselves onto the 1pm $35 Sydney Opera House Tour which was a 90 minute tour inside the building and around the theatres. Our guide was really knowledgable, explaining the architecture of the building and all about the acoustics. We saw inside the 2 drama theatres and also 1 of the 2 big Halls. Not the Opera Hall though, the Concert Hall; I think we would have had to have been on the $100 tour to see inside the Opera Theatre! As we were in the Concert Hall, Sydney Symphony Orchestra were rehearsing so we got to stand and listen to them which was a big bonus. They sounded wonderful. We also got to go out onto one of the Opera House’s Balconies which had a stunning view of the Harbour Bridge. The tour ended with a film all about the Opera House’s history and construction which was super interesting…. The Opera House design was selected in a global competition. Many of the designs were boring boxes but this one guy- Jørn Utzon- from Denmark submitted an extremely rough pencil stretch of a building of waves. His design was dismissed originally. But one member of the judging panel was late in arriving and insisted on reviewing all the previously dismissed designs. On seeing Utzon’s sketch he proclaimed him the winner. However that original build time of 3 years and 9 million budget was a complete under-estimate and many more years and millions later and a change of Australian government resulted in Utzon being squeezed out of the project before its completion. Utzon never actually visited the Opera House, his life’s work and crowing accomplishment, after it was finished. Very sad story. The Sydney Opera House is the 2nd most globally recognised image after the MacDonald’s Golden Arches, so Utzon achieved his original design brief of creating an iconic building for Australia. After the tour we grabbed a cold drink and sat on the Opera House promenade enjoying the sunshine and the view. We met up with Lucy and Steve late afternoon to have a goodbye drink and thank Lucy again for putting us up, and then Steve, Hedd and I took the 50 minute bus back to Narrabean together. We got back at 7pm just in time to freshen up and go for a ‘last supper’ as a gang of royals before we all flew off to our various different locations the next day. We were sharing an airport taxi with Laura and Sophie, who were going off to NZ, early the next morning so we said goodbye and a massive thank you to Ian and Teresa that evening. By the time we had packed and tidied up it was midnight and we crashed into bed trying not to think about the fact that we had to be up just 5 hours later!

6am pick up, 1 1/2 hour journey and $74 dollars lighter we all arrived at Sydney airport international departures. We said our goodbyes to Laura and Sophie and gave them some last-minute tips on NZ, before checking in for our flight to Cape Town and the start of our final leg of the trip. I couldn’t believe we were at our last continent already but any sadness was soon replaced by excitement at the prospect of visiting my favourite place, Africa, once again.

 Sydney in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Rain on the big day, but sunshine on the whole
  • Food= Yummy food in miniature at the wedding and a lot of BBQs!
  • Drink= Champagne Bellini’s and too much red wine for Hedd!
  • Damage caused by the Royals reunion= Surprisingly none
  • Favourite Day= Hard to pick, the wedding and the day of sailing were equally superb

Hedd’s (not so wise) words of wisdom!:

At every wedding there has to be someone who get’s a bit over excited, drinks too much and makes a bit of a fool of themselves. It’s almost a certainty. Unfortunately, at Ian and Theresa’s wedding that was me. A combination of drinking all day, a free bar (having been on such a strict budget for over 4 months) and some not so wise words when referring to the Shiraz provided at the free bar. I shall certainly never profess that I can “drink this stuff all night” ever again. That being said, before I got too drunk and fell asleep I had a wonderful time at what was the most laid back and fun wedding I have ever attended. The ceremony, on a boat was a first for me and was such a beautiful setting and very fitting for the happy couple. I want to say congratulations to Ian and Theresa, to wish them all the best for the future, to thank them for their hospitality and to promise that next time we meet, I shall stay away from the red wine!!

New Zealand North Island Road Trip- Auckland and the Northland


So we made it to Auckland! After touching down at midnight and jumping on a super shuttle, we finally crawled into bed at 2.30am- phew long day! We stayed at Ponsonby Backpackers, unsurprising in Ponsonby in Auckland. Really lovely hostel, 20 mins walk from the Sky Tower. After a long lie in the next morning we walked into town to the Viaduct district which has the marina and loads of bars and restaurants. And at last Hedd has his first cider since starting traveling in October. The bar also had a Welsh flag outside it which made his day. The next day after a refreshing nights sleep it was time to pick up the car- a little silver Mazda Demio. (We hired it from Apex Rentals). There were no stalling on the first drive for both of us and NZ drive on the left like us, but all the controls were in different places which caused some “arghh” moments! But we managed to navigate ourselves through the city and back to our hostel without any crashes- phew. We then headed out on foot into the city once more to check out the Sky Tower. We opted for the ‘sun and stars’ ticket ($30) which allowed you multiple entry up the tower in 1 day. The life had a glass floor so it was cool to look down and watch as you ascended the 220 meters shaft. First stop was the observatory level but the best level to walk around in is the Sky Deck. You could see for miles and there were info boards explaining what you were seeing. After having a hot chocolate at the Sky Lounge cafe admiring the view of the marina and Auckland Harbour Bridge, we headed back down to ground level and went off in search for the ‘Adventure Capital’ office who we were to hire camping kit from for our North Island road trip. It was quite expensive to hire but it would have been equally expensive to buy and we get to just drop this off with our car in Wellington at the end which is easier than trying to sell/give it away. But if your wanting to buy your kit, head to a store called ‘The Warehouse’, which is a mix between Trago Mills, Wilkinsons and TK Max in the UK. That evening we had a treat and headed to the cinema in Sky City to see the new Sherlock Holmes film and we got sweets and popcorn and everything! It was good fun and felt like home, going to Cheshire Oaks on an Orange Wednesday. One thing I noticed though is that Kiwi’s laugh out loud, really heartily, much more than British do during films, not even at that funny a scene…we must be getting too cynical! The film finished at 10.30pm and we leg it to the sky town so we could use our ticket again before the last ascend at 10.45pm. We made it and I was so pleased we did as to see the city at night with all the twinkling lights was really wonderful.

“The journey is the destination”

So the 7th January marked the start of our road trip and camp around NZ north island. And true to British camping form, as soon as we started our drive out of Auckland it started to bucket down! Undeterred (much) we powered on North up Route 1, following the Twin Coast Discovery Road. We headed north to Warkworth, Brynderwyn (which must have been named by a Welsh person!) and stopped for lunch at Ruawai at 2pm. It was still raining hard and looking at the map, it was at this point when we realised reaching Cape Reinga was unrealistic. The roads are our equivalent of an A road and were windy. That teamed with the weather made the going very slow. So we continued north for a couple of more hours but called it a day at Opononi Motor Camp, just across the road from the Hokianga Harbour Estuary. We battled with the severe wind and rain and erected our tent for the first time, tying it by its guide ropes to a tree so it would blow away in the night! After a dinner of beans of toast we retreated from the rain into our cosy tent and played cards with some ciders in our sleeping bags.

The next morning it was still raining! We got up, practically threw our tent in the boot and headed north in a hope for better weather. We popped into the local ‘i-site’ to check all the roads were still open, luckily they were plus a sneaky car ferry (crossing from C to D on the map without the need to drive all the way around the estuary) which would save some time. We made the 20 minute drive to Rawene, narrowly missing the ferry, so had to wait for the next one 1 hour later. As I drove onto the ferry platform it was just like taking the Torpoint Ferry, but this one wasn’t attached to chains. After 20 minutes we arrived on the other side at Kohukohu and drove on north on route 1 towards the Northern Peninsula. After stopping off for lunch at Kaitaia we then on the road running parallel to the Ninety Mile Beach heading towards NZ northenly point. Our little car wasn’t up to such things as driving on the Ninety Mile Beach. But if you have a 4×4 you could do. Instead we headed down to the beach at Hukatere so we could look up the beach towards Cape Reinga. We couldn’t see much to be honest through all the rain! So we kept heading north stopping at Waitiki Landing Holiday Park to set up camp. The weather had calmed down and was only lightly spitting. So we took the chance to explore Cape Reinga. After parking up, it was just a 10 minute walk down to the lighthouse. It was still blowing a hoolie but we got to see ‘the meeting point’ where the Tasmin Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. It causes waves to explode into each other and creates angled lines of white spray which looks cool out at sea. To the right of the lighthouse we also got to see on a rocky cape the famous Pokutukawa tree, reputed to be 600-800 years old, which represents the legendary departure point for the Maori spirits on their way to the afterlife in Hawaiiki. The tree looks like its clinging to the rock and growing perpendicular to it, but it still grows…amazing!  On the way back to camp we stopped off at Te Paki sand dunes. The dunes are massive and we managed to climb a little one before the weather turned bad again and we retreated once more to our tent.

Next morning (9th) and still tipping it down! We said good bye to the Ninety Mile Beach and the Northland Peninsula and headed on Route 10 towards Paiha- the gateway town to the Bay of Islands. On the way we turned off the road and headed up the Karikari peninsula. We stopped at Maitai Bay to see the twin bays called Maitai Bay and Merita Beach. Maitai Bay is so curved that the waves break on it in smiles. We walked up a bank in the rain to get a better view and I preceded in slipping down it on the way back, covering my entire behind with mud. The kid at the bottom found the whole episode hilarious, giggling and telling her mum over and over that I had fallen over. Needless to say we left pretty sharpish, nursing my pride! After a stretch on route 10 again, we turned off towards Tauranga Bay to drive, what the locals call, the Million Dollar View Road. 16.5 km of scenic driving and sweeping vistas. We stopped off at Tauranga Bay, our car bonnet almost touching the coastline, and had our sandwiches. Back on the road again and getting closer to Paiha, we made one last stop just before Kerikei at Rainbow Falls- a 27 meter waterfall. We walked to the top platform and watched the water thunder over the edge and then headed down the track to the pool and sat admiring the beautiful waterfall. You could feel the spray on your face and dipping our toes into the pool, it was no 30 degrees Fijian water I can tell you…freezing! We arrived in Paiha late afternoon and set up camp at Waitangi Holiday Park 15 minute walk from Paiha, right by the estuary. Our neighbours were 4 kiwi guys from Christchurch who were traveling the north island with a boat and a 4×4 full of booze for their Christmas vacation. They were a good laugh and we drank into the night with the guys…Lewis drinking a whole bottle of Jim Bean within 2 1/1 hours for $100 was particularly impressive!

The next day was our first proper excursion in NZ and it wasn’t raining- yey! We went on a boat trip around the Bay of Islands on a 50 ft catamaran called Carino.  They are the only yacht licensed by DOC to encounter and swim with wild dolphins so we had our swimmers on in anticipation. There was about 25 of us on board and we set sail at around 9.30am from Paiha. After picking up a few more passengers at Russell, we headed north following the coast up from Paiha. We saw a big pod of 15 bottlenose dolphins just by Moturoa island. They jumped up out of the water and swam along the boat really close up. They had babies with them so we couldn’t swim with them which was a bit disappointing but It was super cool seeing them so close up in the wild. We also saw Gannet birds which the locals nickname ‘Jesus birds’ as they skip (walk) on water. We then sailed across the bay to Roberton Island, whose Moari name is Motuarohia Island (‘the island of desire’) and one of the most visited Bays in the Island group.  We anchored up and got a little power boat to the shore. We hung out on the beach and walked up to the viewpoint there where you got a 360 degree view around the Bay of Islands- beautiful. After a haphazard walk/skid down the hill again (I’d learnt my lesson from yesterdays slip!), it was time to get back onto Carino for a BBQ lunch before heading back towards Paiha. We picked up another pod of dolphins and they were diving for food so would disappear for ages and then pop up again right under the boat. Very fun. We decided to get off at Russell to have a look around. Whereas Paiha is modern and overtly touristic, Russell has an old worldly charm. We walked along the beach and then up Flagstaff hill which has a great view over Russell town and the bay. The Flagstaff commemorates the truce between the Moari’s and Europeans back in the day. But it wasn’t plain sailing. The flagstaff was put up by the Europeans and cut down by the Moari’s many times until the Moari by choice erected the flagstaff that now stands. It was fantastic weather and we sat a watched the boats for quite some time before headed back down the hill into town. We enjoyed an ice cold cider at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel which is the oldest licensed pub in NZ. A live band were playing on the veranda and the sun was out and life was good! We caught the aptly named “Happy Ferry” back across to Paiha early evening…it reminded me of the Cremyl ferry across to Mt Edgecombe back home…and walked back to our campsite via ‘Shippies’ Fish n’ Chip shop for some tea. The chippy is an old tall ship which is now permanently docked on the river just by our campsite which is pretty cool. There was no cod or haddock on the menu so we went by recommendation and tried battered Dorry and Blue Nose. We ate from the paper with a glass of wine on our picnic table and watched the sun go down. A perfect end to a great day in the Bay of Islands.

Auckland and the Northlands in a snapshot:

  • Weather= A mix of torrential rain/wind and bright sunny spells!
  • Car snack of choice= Pineapple Lumps (pineapple chews covered in chocolate…its a NZ thing!)
  • Drink= Cider- Monteaths
  • Best achievement= Getting the tent up and keeping it up on day 1
  • Radio station for driving tunes= ‘Rock FM’!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

So much to cover!! So let’s start with Auckland, just another city, a bit drab, says it all when the highlight was a cinema trip!! What happened to the New Zeland summer? Those first few days of camping were a nightmare, although I’m glad we got 30 minutes without rain so we could enjoy Cape Regina. Things took a much more positive turn at the Bay of Island as we enjoyed a day on a boat and saw the sun again. Its amazing the impact that weather can have on your perception of a place. We also had our first proper encounter with native kiwi’s here (people not the bird – that comes later)!! We met 4 guys from Christchurch on a fishing / drinking holiday. It was an interesting night as we watched one of them drink a litre of Jim Beam in 2.5 hours to win 100 dollars, he won the money, but was definatley worse off for it!! We also found out he wanted to become a driver for the Kiwi Experience buses or as he called them  “The Vagina Liner” as they are full of young european girls who get drunk and fall prey to their sleazy bus drivers!!! We have seen a few of these buses since and their drivers certainly look the type. Thankfully we chose another company for our adventure in the South Island!!

Island Living- The Yasawa’s, Fiji


Last year I spent New Years on the Island of Anglesea, Wales; this year I was on an Island in the Yasawa’s, Fiji…not a bad jump I’d say!

So my boxing day 2011 was spent on a flight to Nadi, Fiji (pronounced Nandi…I don’t know why!) to spend 10 days touring the Yasawa Islands, North West of the mainland. We got into out hostel in Nadi late afternoon and went straight to the beach. Not often I spend boxing day swimming in bath water warm seas; it was a welcome change! The next morning we set off for the Yasawa’s- a chain of volcanic islands varying from larger islands with steep hills and lovely lagoons, to tiny low-lying island which you can walk around in 10 minutes. We were travelling on a package called the Ultimate Lai from Awesome Adventures company and it was great that everything was organised for us so we didn’t have to think too much and could have a bit of a break from independent travel. The islands are accessed by a fast catamaran (ours was called Cheeta) and it was a bumpy ride! Bowts of sea sickness were unwelcomingly frequent as we travelled to the very north island of the Yasawa’s called Nacula and our first stop on our tour….

Nabula Lodge, Nacula Island- 27.12.11- 29.12.11

My goodness were we thankful to get on solid (well solid’ish, it is sand after all!) land after 6 hours of a swaying catamaran! I felt like I was a contestant on ‘Shipwrecked’ as I jumped into the little water taxi to take us the rest of the way and wadded through the sea to the shore of our first Fijian island. The resort on the face of it was shabby chic but the staff were so welcoming. We just made it into the dining room just off the beach when the rain started. And when it rains, it pours in the Yasawa’s as we were to discover over the next couple of days! In a brief intermission in the wet weather we got shown to our ‘Bure’- a traditional Fijian hut with wooden sides and a straw roof- which we would call home for 2 nights. It had a lovely little veranda out front and was right by the beach. We chilled on the covered veranda watching the rain until dinner time, which was announced with the banging of the ‘Laili’ (a wooden drum) which seems to be the form of notification for all sorts of things…meetings, weddings, christenings etc etc. Food was basic but perfectly edible and accompanied by sneaky swigs of Archers and lemonade that we sneaked onto the island from duty-free! After dinner was BULA time, basically an excuse for the staff to get us up and “shake what your mumma gave you” (i quote!), even Hedd! The weather still hadn’t improved come the next day but we caught the water taxi to a nearby island to go caving. The first limestone cave was an open ceiling cave with a pool 10-15 meters deep. We then had to dive underwater and swim through a tunnel to get to the inner closed ceiling cave. The tunnel entrance was a deep dive to get into and really dark. There was a guide on either end shining a torch and you just had to take a deep breath and go for it. It was a relief once you reached the surface on the other side I tell you. The inner cave was really cool and the guide got us singing and shouting so we could hear the echo’s. He also said you haven’t been to the Yasawa’s until you have visited this cave so that’s that one ticked then! We had sun by that afternoon so we made the most of it and went to Blue Lagoon beach to snorkel. I didn’t have fins through and cut my feet on coral so we ended up just chilling on the beach after!  That night was our first encounter of the local hallucinogenic drink called ‘kava’. It is made in a big bowl filled with water, where the server puts a ground root called kava in a muslin bag and then infuses the water with it like you do with tea. The result in a dirty dish water looking drink! And it doesn’t taste much better than it looks like…like your drinking soapy muddy water! Before you take the drink you have to clap once and shout BULA, then you have to down it and then clap 3 times and say vinaka. If you want a small amount you say ‘low tide’ and a large amount ‘high tide’. We got given a ‘tsunami’ bowl which was massive and full to the brim! I managed 1 tsunami and 2 high tides before calling it a day. Yuk! The next morning  we took a trip to the local village (1 of 4 on the island). We had to cover our shoulders and knees and I was baking! The village was made up of 4 tribes (family groups- grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousin etc) and was headed by the Chief who is the authority before the Police in the village, and in charge of preserving order and tradition. We got to meet the chief and ask him questions. We then got to meet some of the villagers and have a tour of their houses. The trip cost $5 each which is kept collectively to renew grey water butts and fund the education of the children of the village. Education is compulsory in Fiji from 6-12 years old and the children of the village have to board at a school 3 hours boat ride away. They have to go to Nadi (the main land) for secondary school. And I complained about the 30 minute walk to Devonport High in my school days (in my defence it was up hill most of the way!)

Korovou Resort, Naviti Island- 29.12.11- 30.12.11

So that afternoon we said bye to Nabula Lodge and got back on the fast catamaran to our next island and resort 1 hour away called Korovou. From the boat the resort look gorgeous- sweeping white sandy beach with hammocks hanging inbetween the palm trees. We were in a Bure by the sea again and had our own steps down to the beach. Before dinner we walked over the headland through a mini forest (avoiding the many gecko’s on route), to reach Honeymoon beach on the other side. My goodness it was pretty. Aquamarine waters and white white sand. When we arrived the beach was empty so we renamed it Hedd and Helen beach and enjoyed an afternoon at our own private beach! BULA time on this island involved us playing bowling using water bottles for pins and a coconut for the bowling ball! I was just as bad as I am at home with bowling and the girls side inevitably lost to the boys, resulting in a forfeit of dancing to All the Single Ladies, Beyonce, for the boys- very embarrassing! 

Waya Lailai Eco Resort, Waya Lailai Island- 30.12.11- 02.01.12

After 1 night in Korovou we were off again to our 3rd island called Waya Lailai. This island was my favourite and was incredibly pretty, with a lovely beach and a huge white rock rising up in the background (you can see it in the pic opposite). After a chilled evening getting to know the resort (i.e. lying in hammocks and trying a few of their cocktails!), the next morning (new years eve) we went on a snorkeling trip to a deep water reef to swim with the reef sharks. My snorkel was broken so I ended up just holding my breath which defeats the object slightly! But the reef was great and the guide had some fish for bait so the reef sharks came up really close. It wasn’t too scary as they are not that big, 1 1/2 meter long and 1/5 meter wide, but I did slightly freak out when one touched my leg and ended up sputtering out sea water at the surface! That lunch time we went with the staff to their annual new years staff picnic to a little island around the side of the island. The food was all laid out of banana leaves and they had a big huskies ice cooler full of drinks; it was a pretty cool way to spend new years eve afternoon. Then it was back for a quick shower (cold- no hot water on the Yasawa’s), to get ready for new years eve celebrations 2011-12. After dinner we were all given free bubbly and taken to the field for a show of BULA dancing and Fijian tradition. They guys danced with fans and Fijian weapons, wooping and clapping as they went. The wife of the resort owner also talked us through some Fijian traditions and showed us traditional dress (sarongs, or ‘sure’s’). The staff choir also came together to sing some of the traditional songs of the islands. It sounded like Ladysmith Black Mambazo group but with more clapping and slightly more smile in the singing. They then got us dancing with the men (who are incredible buff for people who have a slow pace of life!) before heading back to the bar for more complimentary bubbly and snacks as we waited for 12 o’clock. When midnight came, we got all in a circle and shouted the countdown and then it was all handshakes and kisses wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and of course more bubbly! Hedd and I wondered down to the beach to speak to family and watch the first 2012 waves. I fell on the only concrete steps in a whole resort of sand and cut my knee…not that I was too fussed as I continued to speak to Mum without a pause! It hurts now though! We spent the next day chilling in hammocks and drinking plenty of water. I got a massage on the beach which was so relaxing and we went swimming in the sea. The next morning (2nd) we got up at 5am to walk to the summit (‘the big white rock) to watch sun rise. Our guide had got a bit drunk on Kava and beer the night before so we didn’t set off until 5.45am after one of our group woke him up with a torch! It was still pitch black and the stars were spectacular as we set off up the hill guided by our half asleep/hungover guide and head torches. We reached the top just after the sun broke the horizon. It was a little cloudy but the sun turned the clouds a vivid orange which was very pretty. This was the last day on Waya Lailai and we made the most of it. That morning we took a water taxi and got drop off at the sand bar which joins Waya (big island) with Waya Lailai (small island). On the sand bar the waves crashed onto it from both sides which made for great fun running along the bar and playing chicken with the waves. I felt like I was on ‘Ultimate Wipe Out’, just needed Hammonds witty, yet so scripted, commentary! After getting picked up and having lunch, we went to the village to learn how to weave with the dried leaves the locals use to make ‘carpet’ and jewellery etc. I made a bracelet and Hedd even weaved a bookmark (he was incredibly proud of his efforts!) 

Beachcomber Resort, Beachcomber Island- 02.01.12- 03.01.12 

So Beachcomber Island was our last island on the tour. Fondly known locally as the ‘party island’, we stepped off onto the island feeling as though we had stumbled into a 18-30 holiday crossed with Freshers week! After grabbing a quick dinner and some cocktails we settled down to watch the first (of many) organised drinking games of the night…the boat race. Mightily funny when you’re not involved, especially as the teams had to dance to their favourite song before starting, and our friend Liz was in one of the teams so we cheered her on. As the band started up again singing the Beachcomber Song, where the lyrics are “At Beachcomber, where the girls are easy and the guys are hard”, we decided perhaps we were quite tired after our 4.45am atart and should escape to bed!

The next morning we walked around the island which took 7 minutes (!), before heading onto our Seaspray Day Sailing Adventure on a big ship with sails (aka a schooner). It was all-inclusive day, so as soon as we got on board the Champagne was out which I enjoyed sipping from my plastic cup as we set sail from Mana Island towards Mondriki Island where they filmed the Castaway movie. The island is tiny and uninhabited (due to lack of fresh water and flat land) and the ‘HELP ME’ sign in the sand is still there. I managed to dive quite gracefully off the boat and snorkel about for an hour or so, seeing lots of different colourful fish, before heading back on board for BBQ lunch, which was yum! The early afternoon was whiled away drinking more bubbly and listening to the staff play on their guitars. We then stopped off at Yanuya Island where we visited the village and had Kava with the chief…I only had a low tide this time! We then headed up to the school and the library, watched the locals play a peculiar version of rounders (with pieces of 4×4 and coconut shells!) and finished off at the shell market before getting the little boat back to our big boat, ‘Seaspray’. From Mana Island, where we started, we got dropped off to catch the fast catamaran back to Nadi, arriving to the mainland early evening. All in all an ace day (plus managed to smuggle a full bottle of wine off the ship)!

After an overnight stay at Nadi Bay Resort, we got our flight to Auckland on the 4th. Not after a 8 hour delay though…we have been lucky though with all our travels on whole, so not complaints that we had to spend another day in Fiji. Oh the trials…!

 Note: This post has been brought to you in Fiji Time, in conjunction with Bad Weather Camping Ltd. and CrapInternet.com

The Yasawa Islands in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Hot hot hot (even in the storms!), with a welcome sea breeze
  • Food= Curry (randomly) and a lot of fresh pineapple
  • Drink= ‘Tribe’ (Smirnoff ice equivalent), ‘Fiji Gold’ (the local brew), Cava (yuky soapy muddy water!)
  • Favourite Island= Waya Lailai
  • Fijian words spoken most often= ‘BULA!’ (hello **must be almost shouted when used**) and ‘Vinaka’ (thank you)
  • Favourite Fijian philosophy= ‘More Beer, More Beer, Happy New Year’!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

BULA, BULA, BULA!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever said a word as often in such a short space of time. In Fiji, everybody says hello to you and they all do it with a smile on their faces. The Yasawa islands were beautiful, the weather when it wasnt raining was hot, hot, hot and the people were so friendly. My favourite parts however, were the village visits we went on. It was good to see how the villagers lived and how much impact the resorts had on them. It was good to hear from one of the Chiefs that most of the money from tourists goes towards improving water infrastructure and towards education and the villages seemed to be keeping most of their traditions alive. I hope that this continues for a long time. VINAKA FIJI, VINAKA.