It’s my first day on the Island and I am already feeling a little adventurous…But instead of heading to one of the 5* resorts along the famous Coral Coast I want to see the real Fiji with all its hidden treasures and maybe also not so pretty sides. I want to see how people actually live here and experience their culture from an inside view, I want to taste the local food and see what it’s like to grow up on an island far away from the rest of the world; but most of all I want to meet people and find out what they really think about us tourists ‘invading’ their precious space. So I decide to join some other curious adventurers to go on an exciting canoe tour along the upper Navua river that will take me to a tropical rainforest waterfall and a small local village where we get to meet some real Fijians and will be able to experience their traditions first hand. And what can I say…it was probably one of the most amazing and unforgettable days I’ve had on this island…but lets start from the beginning:
I woke up early delightfully expecting the arrival of my missing suitcase and get ready for the day. In order to get to the boat I was supposed to catch a bus around 8am. Somehow I missed it as I might have gotten into ‘Fiji timing’ a little to quickly…It seems like the clocks are moving slower here and everyone is just so much more relaxed…which is why I figured even the bus driver might stick to that principle. Yeah well I guess I was wrong..but luckily the friendly tour guide from the hotel was able to offer me a ride and so I got another nice little tour around the island along with an inside view to life and work in Fiji.
My driver is a local Fijian with a background from India. He tells me that it is very usual here to have an Indian background and that he is also fluent in Hindi, however has never been to India himself. He says he loves Fiji for its lush nature and the lifestyle you get offered over here. He enjoys running on ‘Fiji time’ as much as he enjoys his Kava which is a famous sedative drink derived from a root with a calming effect on the body. Locals use it during their traditional ceremonies but also as a medicine and to relax their muscles. And trust me…it works 😉 I am impressed with the very scenic drive and his friendliness and wonder if people over here ever really get upset over anything. Everything seems so peaceful and perfect that I am truly wondering what possible worries you can have on this Island…?!
We reach the river and I get to meet some other foreigners being taken in by the beauty of this magical place. Most of them are Australian or New Zealanders due to their proximity and so I am very surprised to meet a family from the Netherlands who came here on their vacation. We get welcomed with some fresh coffee (bless!) and then get divided into our little boats. Once again I am thankful for being single as I get to sit in the front all by myself 🙂 I cannot describe the beauty of nature I get to witness for the upcoming few minutes or hours. I completely lost track of time as I am so overwhelmed with the diversity of scenery and wildness of this beautiful terrain. We pass rain forests with one of the biggest palm trees I’ve ever seen, wide green stretches of land, exotic birds, beautiful mountains, volcanic walls and even get to witness cows (yes cows!) munching on some grass at the side of the river. It all just seems so unreal that the pictures I am taking cannot truly capture the magic of this place.
We make our way through the rocky currents and stop at a nearby waterfall where we get to splash into the fresh river. Never have I experienced a more crisp and pure water than this. I cannot even remember if it was cold or not as I just enjoyed the freshness and divine feeling on the skin.
Afterwards we head on to the local village where we get a very warm welcome and have the honor to be part in one of the traditional kava making ceremonies. I learn how women spent their days crafting beautiful arts and even get to visit a local school where I can interact with some of the children.
Once again I get overwhelmed with the friendliness of people as we get taken in so warmhearted and without any judgement of our western culture that seems worlds apart. I learn that in Fiji there is no such thing as a stranger. There are only friends we haven’t met yet. I feel so blessed for all these life lessons and am so thankful for having these wonderful people around me. Much to my delight someone hands me a fresh coconut to drink and I finally learn how to successfully cut my favorite treat. To be honest it is not that easy but at least I feel a bit more capable now as I always used to struggle with those brown ones. Apart from coffee coconut is one of my favorite things in the world. I love them in every aspect of life…coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut meat, coconut water, coconut yoghurt, coconut scent, coconut everything…not to forget about one of the most enjoyable forms: piña colada 😉
When it’s time to leave the village and say our farewells my heart stops for a moment when one of the little girls approaches me telling me to please come back soon. Never will I forget the look of her huge brown eyes staring up to me while stretching her tiny little hands out to me for one last goodbye.
For the way back down the river we exchange our little canoes for traditional bamboo boats. It is so fascinating how 10 of us (and believe me-not everyone was my weight!) can easily float down the river on a few bamboo sticks tied together with only a rope.
And so an exciting and fun-filled day comes to an end and I am left with so many beautiful memories and impressions that I am truly thankful I came out this far and decided to go on this adventure. In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take…
The next day I decided to take it a bit more slowly as I was preparing for my upcoming marathon and so I just went for some souvenir shopping into town and then headed to the famous Pure Fiji Spa for some pampering time. I can highly recommend their treatments as they are using only special island ingredients for their product range and their staff is simply amazing. I enjoyed a scrub together with a tropical massage with one of their coconut infused body creams but if Fiji is too far away for a Spa visit you can even buy their products online:
Of course I could not stop myself from going for a little run before the big day and so I headed down the coastline to track down the race course..for preparation purpose only 😉 In the evening I received a call from one of the event organizers offering me shoes and running gear in case my suitcase still hasn’t shown up yet. Appreciative and confused at the same time I asked how they found out about my missing luggage. Apparently my seat neighbor from the flight who I had told about my dilemma contacted the marathon office in order to inform them about my situation and ask for some help. That’s when I knew I really was in one of the friendliest places in the world.
So the day finally came that I got to run the Suva Island Chill Marathon.
Excited about the race I got up super early in order to prepare myself and also have some breakfast to fuel my tired body. But as I went down the lobby for my pick up I got fooled once again by Fiji timing as the bus had already left without me…I think my Italian sense for ‘punctuality’ must somehow interfere with the Island clocks. Luckily there was another bus arriving a little later and so it happened that while waiting I got to meet another beautiful person with a passion for running and adventure pumping through her veins. I guess some things do really happen for a reason and certain people are just meant to cross your ways in life. As a matter of fact she used to live in Dubai as well but together with her husband and daughter made the Island her home now. We spent the rest of the morning together and even completed the marathon together by crossing the finish line at the same time 🙂
The Fiji Marathon was definitely very different from all the other races I have done so far as it was a much smaller event with less participants of whom most of them were locals. Maybe that was also the beauty of the run as it felt like any other random run without any pressure. There were no time chips in our shoes, no mile indicators or barriers around the course and for the first time I was in the front row of the starting line. What a great feeling. With a light drizzle and some fresh air the weather was perfect for running and I truly enjoyed the race and the beautiful scenery along the coast of Fiji’s capital city. It was a great experience and I met a lot of amazing people who share the same passion for running ❤
The recovery part is always one of the best things as you get to eat as much as you like and can just be lazy for a day without feeling bad about yourself. After a luscious breakfast in bed I chose to sleep for a few hours. In the evening I decided to spoil myself and celebrate my achievement with a fancy dinner on a boat. It’s always fun to make dinner reservations for one person and rock up at a beautifully decorated table for two. After the band went ahead and announced me as their special guest tonight it was clear that I was gonna be the topic of many tables at the restaurant…great, thank you very much. After the first shock I needed a cocktail and so I enjoyed my first Piña Colada and the world suddenly became a much happier place again 🙂
My last day was overcast with heavy rainfalls and it didn’t seem as it was gonna stop any time soon. So I spontaneously decided to leave the main Island a little earlier and head to a more remote place in the middle of the Ocean. Little did I know…
The Island was nestled in the middle of nowhere and so I had to take a 30 minute flight to the main port in order to take a boat from there. After quickly packing my bag, arranging a hotel, some more standby fun at the airport and a packed boat full of crying children (yes-I am convinced they are following me!) one can only imagine my level of tiredness when I finally set foot on the Island.
Luckily it was the perfect destination for some relaxation..but when the evening arrived I knew there was gonna be trouble. As the wind was getting stronger most of us moved inside the little Island hut for some warming tea. I know it sounds weird as you might think it would be super hot out there but imagine being on a remote Island in the middle of the Ocean when everywhere around on the mainland there are massive storms and rain. Obviously the boat that was supposed to pick us up did not rock up on time. And so I started getting a little nervous as I could not risk being stuck out here with my flight departing the next day already. When it started getting dark we finally saw the lights out on the sea that would rescue us. But by now the waves were so massive that it was a struggle only to get onto the little speedboat. And what can I say…unfortunately not all of us were ‘seaworthy’ as one of the girls started panicking on the boat. The funny part (if I may say so) was that there was a little girl of approximately 4 years of age present as well who just looked at the woman in total shock not knowing what in the world was going on with her. But I gotta admit that after seeing all those people vomit even I felt a little uncomfortable after a while. Relieved to finally reach the mainland again and making it without any seasickness I was convinced once more that becoming a flight attendant instead of working on a ship was definitely the right decision.
I spent my last night in a little transit motel near the airport where I met another lovely couple from Fiji who embraced me with their warmhearted friendliness and astonishing hospitality. Here is one of the great things about traveling..even if you leave all by yourself you never end up being completely alone. I will surely not only keep the Island in my heart but also their amazing inhabitants as it was a true gift to meet so many wonderful people along the way. And so my vacation came to an end and I leave Fiji with great memories that will hopefully take me back really soon…