Fiji 2002

On the 19th October, 2002 I flew from Townsville to Nadi inFiji. It was my first holiday since buying my house in September 2000. I felt so lucky to be able to finally afford my first overseas holiday after 2 years of saving. Naturally I was going as cheap as possible in order to stretch out the little bit of cash I did save.

I organised an airport transfer to take me from the Nadi airport to my backpacker accommodation at Travellers Beach Resort at Nadi Bay. I was picked up by an Indian man in a rickety old van. We drove along a very bumpy dirt road swerving into the cane fields to miss the pot holes. I thought the van was going to snap in half! As we were driving along I was thinking “wow how trusting am I?” Here I am travelling alone in a wheelchair in a foreign country and being driven down a dirt road….Hmmmm

Travellers Beach Resort would not be described as modern accommodation. I had the dorm room with en-suite to myself. The bed had a very thin foam mattress that looked and smelled about 100 years old. The bathroom area had one step up which I was able to negotiate. My expectations weren’t high anyway as I only paid $11.00 a night. Besides it was perfectly situated on the beach front. What more could one want!

Beachcomber Island, Fiji

I only stayed 1 night before heading over to Beachcomber Island. Beachcomber Island is a very popular backpacker island. I was looking forward to meeting new people and having some fun. Before heading to Fiji I contacted Beachcomber Island asking if they had wheelchair access. Their response was incredible. They were not wheelchair accessible, however there were more than happy to give me a hand once I arrived. They were very welcoming.

I caught the ferry over from Port Denarau in Nadi to Beachcomber Island. I sat on the back deck of the ferry soaking up the stunning water views of The Mamanucas. I was excited to think that for the next 7 days I would be laying in a deck chair on the beach reading a book and sunbaking. How perfect!

Beachcomber Island Restaurant & Barefoot Bar, Fiji

On arrival, I was greeted by a lovely Fijian man by the name of Noki. He carried me off the boat and assured me that he was going to look after me during my stay. It wasn’t until I was carried ashore that I realised the entire resort was built on sand. Some huts, the restaurant and the bar had no floors, just sand as the floor. There were no paved paths or concreted areas, just lots of beautiful white sand. How was I going to manage in my room?

I had booked and paid for a dormitory hut. To my surprise and relief after seeing the conditions I was upgraded to a private hut with ocean views. My room contained 3 bunk beds, however I had the hut to myself. The hut and the bathroom were in two different huts with sand in between them. The islands’ carpenter built me a very flimsy (but very effective) timber ramp to make it easier for me to access the bathroom from my hut. I was so lucky!

I was treated like a queen for 7 days. The Fijian ladies would greet me each morning at my hut with fresh fruit for breakfast, a coconut to drink and a flower. Noki was there to push/drag me through the sand, whenever I left the hut. I told the staff many times that I was more than happy just to sit on the beach under an umbrella for the day, but the staff would have none of that.

Noki took me everywhere. We spent most days’ snorkelling around the island. The abundance of fish life was amazing. I love the water. I feel so free in the water weather I’m snorkelling or scuba diving. I decided not to go scuba diving here as I was unsure of their safety record. Besides there was no need for scuba. I had fish following me when out snorkelling.

Noki took me sailing on a small two man catamaran to Castaway Island. Castaway Island is where the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway” was filmed. I was a little unsure as to how we were going to beach the cat because of the big seas that stopped Tom Hanks from getting off the island. There were no big seas. That was all special effects!

Sweet girl, Fiji

Noki piggy backed me ashore to visit a local village where they were selling handmade crafts. The people were so friendly and were intrigued with my wheelchair. The children weren’t to sure what to make of the situation. They cautiously followed me, hiding behind the frangipani trees.  They were very cute.

On our sail back toBeachcomberIslandwe stopped off at a tiny sand cay. We sat there for ages talking about our different lives, our dreams and ambitions, while watching the sun go down. It was so peaceful. Sadly we had to head back to the island before it got too late.

The beat of the drums indicate it’s “Kana” time. This is their traditional way of letting everyone know breakfast, lunch and dinner were ready. The buffet style meals were delicious! Because the restaurant had sand under our feet, Noki kindly organised all my meals for me so I didn’t have to leave the table. I loved the communal restaurant style set up.

Fijian Warrior, Beacomber Island Fiji

After dinner it is a must to soak up the atmosphere at the Barefoot bar. They had traditional fire dancing nights and the bar staff created the best cocktails. I met a group of crazy Irish backpackers. They believed I was completely spoilt by the resort staff and got to see more of the island and neighbouring areas then they did! They were right. I was spoiled.

BeachcomberIslandis so picturesque. The island is circled by a beautiful white beach, surrounded by crystal clear water. But it is the nature of the Fijian people that make it a wonderful place to holiday. I felt like I was the luckiest girl on earth.

Sadly I said goodbye and boarded the ferry back to Nadi. They gave me a heart warming send off. It was like I was leaving family. I definitely want to go back!

I read in the Lonely Planet travel guide that Bega Lagoon had world class scuba diving. I had to see and compare it to diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea off Townsville. So I caught a bus toPacific harbour. Pacific Harbour is on route to Suva on the other side of Fiji. The bus wasn’t wheelchair accessible; however the driver was happy to carry me onboard. It was the most terrifying trip ever. I actually thought I was going to die on the bus. The bus didn’t stick to one side of the road and the door kept flying opened. We even travelled on the opposite side of the road when going around the mountain. I was very nervous!

I was dropped off on the side the road and left to wheel myself the rest of the way to my accommodation. I was staying at the Club Coral Coast. Once again I was staying at backpackers which weren’t wheelchair accessible; however the staff put a chair in the shower for me so that helped.

Due to bad weather the scuba diving was cancelled. This turned out to be a great blessing as it allowed me to go on a tour through theHighlands.

I found a fantastic tour with Discover TourFiji. It started with taking a longboat ride on the Navua River, stopping for a swim at a waterfall, experiencing a traditional lunch and a dance performance by the NamuamuaVillage people, and then rafting back down the Navua River on a bamboo raft. I gave them a call explaining that I was in a wheelchair and wanted to go on their tour. I expected to be laughed at and told don’t be ridiculous; however they were very excited and welcomed me to join them.

It must have been a very funny site for the locals watching a longboat carrying a guide, me and my wheelchair going down their river. The women were washing their clothes in the river while the children were playing. As soon as the children saw our longboat they tried in vain to swim after us. They seemed to be having so much fun.

Longboat on Navua River, The Highlands Fiji

Along the river we stopped at the Magic Waterfall which was a fare hike up the mountain. I offered to stay in the longboat on the bank, but my guide insisted I go with everyone to view the spectacular waterfall. Looking at the steep terrain, my wheelchair would never make it. So my guide carried me in his arms for 20 minutes through rough terrain (with only 2 short breaks I must add!) to view this glorious waterfall. It was spectacular….breathtaking! I have no idea how my guide managed, hardly breaking a sweat. He did say he was used to carrying sand bags up and down this same path….and I must admit, I was only 40kg!

Hut Namuamua Village, The Highlands Fiji

We travelled a little further up the river to Namuamua Village. We were given a guided tour around NamuamuaVillage by a Fijian warrior. It was like stepping back in time seeing their traditional thatched huts. There was a group of tin buildings which are utilised as a boarding school. Children from all over the Highlands stay inNamuamuaVillage all week to attend school and then go home to their original villages on weekends.

School boys rafting down Navua River, The Highlands Fiji

We were escorted to their Bure (meeting house) where we were treated to a traditional Fijian Meke. This is a traditional dance of the indigenous people ofFiji, which is preformed by the men, women and children. It is a combination of dance and repetitive rhythmic chanting telling stories of everyday life. This was followed with a beautiful traditional lunch consisting of their home grown vegetables. They passed around a coconut husk with Kava for everyone to try. I had to be polite and try some. It was like I was drinking muddy water. After our feast the women bought out their hand made crafts for people to purchase as souvenirs. It was a very special place to visit to which I felt very privileged to see.

Bamboo Rafting down Navua River The Highlands Fiji

The trip back down the river was just another adventure. We rafted down the Navua River on traditional bamboo rafts. This was the ancestors’ way of transport before roads and motors were introduced. It was so cool. There were about 6 of us on one raft with a guide at the front of the raft with a long piece of bamboo to push as back on course if we were headed for the river bank trees. We even went through some small rapids which was really neat. We passed two young boys travelling by bamboo raft coming home from school, which was further up the river. They were excited to see us white people! It took us a bit over 30mins to raft back down the river. It was so much fun and a highlight of my 3 days on the mainland.

The entire 10 days travelling in Fiji was simply delightful. The variety of scenery from the coral reefs to the rainforest, the very friendly locals and the beautifully handcrafted carvings were impressive. I really did fall in love withFiji. “Ni Sa Moce” means See you again.


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