Sunday, March 06, 2011

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

yasawa islands fiji
Saying "bula" all the time takes some getting used to. It is welcoming and excited at the same time. My first thoughts compared it to Hawaii's "aloha" and Saipan's "hafa adai," but bula is used more often than those words, I think. You can even say it a few times in succession to add emphasis -- bula, bula, bula!

And sad to say, that's about the extent of my understanding of the Fijian language.

octopus resort waya island
The staff of Octopus Resort came out to greet my landing boat with a chorus of bulas and a song. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.

fijian bure
The flights to Fiji from Guam arrive on different days as the flights from Los Angeles, so I arrived about a full day before the rest of my associates. I had the option of staying near the airport, traveling on ahead to our first destination, or doing something completely on my own. As these pictures show, I chose the third option.

fiji hibiscus
Using the wonders of the Internet, I was able to book a bure -- a Fijian hut of sorts -- for one night on an island I'd never heard of in a country I'd not yet been to. Waya is the largest island in the Yasawas, I think, and is home to Octopus Resort, the kind of place you dreamed existed, but could never be sure until seeing it with your own eyes.

octopus resort fiji
The resort is tiny, with about 20 small bures on a short spit of sand.  There is a swimming pool, a covered restaurant in the sand, and a spattering of tanned Western travelers from places like Australia, Iceland, and Wisconsin.  There were even a few Canadians.  Like all resorts, there is a list of daily activities that included learning Fijian culture, visiting neighboring villages, and getting your face wet.  There were less culturally immersive activities, too.  The night I stayed there we played shots for shots volleyball.

octopus resort fiji
I did my best to stay wet. I got in one dive the afternoon I arrived and two dives the morning I left. I found a whitetip reef shark on the second dive and a fully grown Napoleon wrasse on the third. We used to have those big fish on Saipan -- but spearfishermen keep killing them. They are a protected species in Fiji.

big yellow boat fiji
And before I could really get comfortable or relax, my one day in the Yasawas was over. From Nadi to Waya I took the hotel's speedboat, but on the way back I took the Big Yellow Boat along with about 200 tourists of varying hues of pink, red, and golden.

And that is where I had my first taste of true Fijian hospitality. Three hours after boarding the ferry on Waya, I found my laptop case to be missing.

"Are you Mr. Veelya?," asked the woman who worked on the boat. "We've been paging you since Waya. Maybe you did not understand the way we pronounced your name?"

From Villagomez to Veelya? Ya think?

Turns out my laptop was sitting back at Waya. And I was about to leave Nadi for Pacific Harbor. And that's when something amazing happened. The nice man trying to sell me Wyndham timeshares on the dock said he'd help me get my laptop back.

I had Octopus Resort's phone number, so he called them up on his cellphone, arranged for the computer bag to be delivered the next day (the Big Yellow Boat is owned by a different company), told them to deliver it to him at his timeshare gazebo, and that he'd send it to my hotel in Pacific Harbor. He said he'd give the driver F$10 for his troubles.

I can sum that up nice and tight, but in reality it took about an hour to confirm this plan. Afterwards my new friend even offered to take me to my hotel.

So did I get my laptop the next day?

Nope. The hotel forgot to put it on the ferry and it got to spend another night in the Yasawas. When I got the call from my friend the timeshare salesman, he promised it would be on the next ferry.

And it was!

Bula, Fiji!

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