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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

26th Oct – Message in a Bottle

Boy did I strike lucky today. I chose a day and night trip to Treasure Island (Levito Island). 45 minutes drive and a 40 minute cruise away. A couple at the hotel told me that it had rained at the hotel, and I had had a day of glorious sunshine followed by a colourful sunset. (Bucket List ticked).

We had a brilliant guide for the day called Bolu (Bula Bola was quite difficult to say)., who jollied a group of strangers (boy do Aussies lack style – budgie smugglers and beer bellies are not a good combination). The first activity was scuba diving, angel fish, clown fish (Nemo’s) and 2m long sharks were spotted, along with colourful coral, and calms. With me being a landlubber, I took the opportunity to walk around the island while the tide was out. I had the beach to myself all the way around – tick bucket list. Along the way I saw tiny crabs that could hardly be seen, as they merged in completely with the sand. There were also some other crabs, blue and rede ones with one large claw, which I nick named Beckham Crabs as they relied on oneimportant limb.

We had cooling coconut juice from a green coconut and tasted the young flesh. The drink was very refreshing, with hardly a taste of coconut, and the flesh was translucent oyster like in texture, again a blindfold test would not make it out as coconut. After lunch we saw how flexible a coconut could be. How to use remove the husk (used for fire starters and brillo), with a sharp stick, flowed by the easiest way to open it, (hit it behind the ‘eyes’ with the same stick), tasting the coconut juice, flesh, and milk from squeezing the flesh through a sieve made from the leaf protector part of the trunk. So far I’ve had it with marinated raw fish, as a salad with mango, and spinach cooked with the milk and flesh. The leaves are woven into baskets, used to cover the meat and veg in a lovu (see later) used as bras (yes really) and weaving material, string, building materials etc.

We had a crab race, where hermit crabs were put into the middle of the circle, and shouted at until they reached the circumference. (Number 14, my crab, unfortunately was deaf, or dead as it didn’t move much.) This great disappointment to my competitive streak may never be recovered.

Before dinner we joined in the great Fijian tradition of the Cava ceremony. This was a bit like a round of Cardinal Puff – 1 clap at the beginning and 3 at the end with key movements and words at set points. The drink itself, I believe is not alcoholic, but the herbs/drugs within it numb the lips and then slowly the senses. I didn’t risk it as something the colour of dish water, mixed with a sack in a bowl by hand just has food poisoning written all over it. Whilst it is an insult to refuse to take cava, they have included a ‘Chief’ who will take one for the team, if it is not taken. (Thanks Chief)

Dinner was a traditional Fijian one, cooked underground over hot stones in a lovu, for hours, rather like a Maori hangi. After it had been dug out, three men from Bengu Island walked over the hot stones. This was not a clever magic trick, as Bolu threw water onto the stones, which came off as hot steam.

While we were eating the food, which was cooked to perfection – no blood in the beef here, the sun began to set, one tht would feature in travel journals or on the lid of a chocolate box. Yellows, oranges and red reflected in the clouds – return here when internet speeds improve or are not charged at extortionate rates.

After dinner there was high energy south seas island dancing from Fiji, Samoa and elsewhere – including fire dancing performed by the hotel staff. I wonder how it came up in an interview. So Mr Taginjakibou, I see you are a handy man, how handy are you at tripping the light fantastic, with flaming torches?

On the coach trip there, we learnt that 48% of the population is of Indian heritage, put there by the British in the days when the sun didn’t set on the Empire, to run the sugar cane farms. Today was Fijian Diwahli. I don’t know how the date is decided upon, as the Indian population of Auckland celebrated it 3 weeks earlier. There were fireworks when the boat left the island, which continued at other venues all the way home. Coupled with the fact that it was the festival of light, and many houses and gardens had lights in them, it was a colourful end to a great day.

Message in a Bottle – The Police – Robinson Crusoe Island and ‘a hundred million castaways’. I still can’t hear the song without thinking a a guy at university who sang, ‘Massage in a Brothel’ – I only hear it as this now.

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