Bula sia from Fiji.

I’m currently in the middle of my tribewanted project on a remote island in the north of Fiji.  Been going on the project for about a week and a half now, and have the same amount to go before flying to Melbourne, and then home.

Nadi and Beachcomber

I’ve been in Fiji since the 9th, we stayed a night in Nadi before checking out, having a wander around town, getting caught in a tourist trap and eventually heading over to Beachcomber island.  On the way we managed to bump into Ian and Dave who are Alexia’s mates from home.  She knew they were coming to Fiji but had no idea when and that they’d be going to the same island as us on the exact same day.  So that was pretty cool.  Really nice lads with more than a few funny travel stories to tell.  In fact we met a lot of cool people on that island.  We stayed for 4 nights in an open 84 bed dorm which was interesting.  The island was somewhat notorious for its parties, but to the downfall of many, worked on a tab system!  There was a live band each night, and more often than not local dancers (including fire dancers) would perform for us.  The island supplied ridiculous amounts of food, 3 times a day. By night we’d watch the local’s fish, then we’d dance, watch and bet on crab racing and then play other party games.  The beach was ok, lots of sharp coral though, Ian cut himself badly and ended up having to get treated for blood poisoning. 

Mana Island

After our stay at Beachcomber we boarded the ferry and moved onto Mana island.  Unlike Beachcomber where there is only one resort on Mana there are many and we decided to follow Dave and Ian and go back to basics.  We effectively stayed in a small beach front village, although there were plenty of other backpackers around. Our first night we spent up on sunset beach ? watching the sunset, whilst a nice man gave us fresh pineapple he’d just clambered up a tree to get.  On the second day we went island hoping with the other travelers we’d met at the hostel.  We visited Molo, Castaway and Honeymoon island, which were all amazing.  The snorkeling was amazing as was our little boat that broke down on the way home.  Sod these touristy tours, local boat is the way to go!

That night was far from pleasant, THE NIGHT OF DOOM! is how it shall now be referred as.  To put it simply – food poisoning, 9 people, 1 toilet and a distinct lack of toilet roll you do the math.  Why you’d want to hear about that I’m not entirely sure but I’d throw it in there anyway.

Not exactly how I wanted to finish my time traveling with Alexia but I’m afraid that’s how it went down.  The next morning I had to say goodbye and get back to the main land so that I could catch my flight to Labasa.  Hardest thing I’ve had to do traveling saying goodbye to Alexia!! The 2 months we’d had traveling together were just amazing, so many funny moments and amazing experiences, and she put up with rather a lot from me fainting in Noosa for one!Legend!

So, teary eyed (still a wuss even after 10 months on the road) I boarded boat back to the main land, and then my flight from Nadi to Labasa where I was met by some random taxi driver, who took me to some random hotel where I finally met someone from the Tribewanted team.

Tribewanted – Vorovoro

Island life is good!  It’s got progressively busier since I arrived but is due to get quieter within the next week.  OK, so here goes with explaining it.  This guy (Ben) had this idea to set up a traveler destination that was as far from being touristy as he could get it to be!  From Sept 9th 2005 travelers started arriving on Vorovoro (where a Fijian village already exists) and started to build another, more eco friendly village.  Funny story – one of the Fijian villagers had actually had a vision that something like this was to happen so a lot of the land had already been cleared.  The same guy also visualized the government troubles and was taken into custody and questioned about what he knew.  So the aim is to build a self sustaining, eco friendly village over the next 3 years that does not have a negative impact on the locals and their way of life whilst providing travelers with a unique experience.  A lot of the decisions about what goes on on the island are decided on its online community.   Got it??? (www.tribewanted.com)

I sleep in the big Bure located meters from the beach, in fact our whole village is.  I started sleeping in the loft space with all the spiders, cockroaches, rats and other little nasties (all named Sebastian) before moving downstairs.  We have bucket showers, compost toilets, use coconut soap and have no electricity.  We spend the days doing as we please, some days we laze in the hammocks, go swimming in the sea, get eaten by mozzies or read.  Other days we help with the building work, explore, clean parts of the island that were hit by a cyclone, visit the school on the neighboring island of Mali (and get smashed about by 12 year olds playing rugby who are already bigger than us) or build whatever we feel will benefit the island.  This last week I was helping on the new compost pit.  The Fijians are amazing at building, they use little tools other than hammer and nails, although the other day whilst constructing the new family bure one of the builders was wielding a chainsaw 10ft off the groundwith just one hand ? health and safety anyone.  Next month when the new chief is installed I believe we will be concentrating a lot on conservation of the reef which sits on our door step.  Apparently Tribewanted chief handover is pretty special! We’ve actually had a trip to the outer reef within the last week, I tried my hand at reef surfing – but with little success.  It’s mad the way you can be out at sea, 2km from nearest land but still stand up!  We also went snorkeling on that trip (I saw 5 sharks, cool eh!) and watch Marao spear fish which was awesome!

Each new tribe member has to have an initiation ceremony where they meet the real chief of the area tribewanted has leased.  Tu-Mali is a really nice guy, very well respected by everyone and head of all ceremonies.  During the ceremony we offer him Kava for letting us stay on his land and then prayers are said before the kava is drunk.  Kava is a root veg I believe, and the Fijians pound it down into a powder before adding it to water and serving it.  It’s quite social to be involved in a round of kava drinking, and watching it being given out at the ceremonies is really interesting.  Its not like alcohol, it’s a little of the opposite I guess, a relaxant.  It puts me to sleep.  An acquired taste!

The most recent ceremony was the best so far.  Tevita writes music and choreographs dances, and we learn the dances so that they can be performed at the ceremonies.  So in front of 20 odd howling Fijians, the girls and Tu-Mali myself and the 5 other lads at the time put on our grass skirts which we’d all made earlier in the day, smeared our faces with charcoal and lathered ourselves in coconut oil (old skool Pete Andre style esk) before pulling some of the best moves, and cutting some of the biggest shapes that little island has ever seen!!  It was immense fun, and I think Tu-Mali loved us for it, took us a while to learn the moves though.  That night was actually Paul and Jenny’s last night on the island.  They were from Shine TV filming the story of the island on behalf of the BBC, so come Sept time I could be on a TV near you.  Luckily I will only be in the background as I didn’t do an interview. My day filming the really wild show with Terry Nutkins when I was 6 was enough to put me off TVstardom for life!  You might however just catch me winning musical flip flops during our coconut Olympics!  Sadly I finished a miserable 6th in the final standings.

The others on the island are all really cool, a fair few English, two Swedes, one Spanish, two Scots and a few Americans.  People are coming and going all the time though, some have had it planned for months like me, others like Steve and Chris just rocked up on the island one day.  Its quite flexible.

Hmmm, not sure what else I can say about the island, it’s just something very different.  At the risk of sounding very cheesy I think I’ve found something that is very much off the beaten track and what a lot of people look for when they come traveling.  Many (including me) are guilty of just diving in the nearest bar as soon as we reach somewhere new which is great fun but I can do that at home too, this I can’t.  It’s an awesome experience.

Time to go watch the rugby now!

See ya.

Neil.

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