We've gone and done it now
Thu 29 Mar 2007 - Sat 5 May 2007
From Havelock, New Zealand
We're happy and mostly healthy, even though we've been frustrated both by the technical issues that get in the way of email and internet communication and by the personal ones - inertia, dismay for not having done more, failure to anticipate how much it takes just to travel around, let alone write about it.
I say 'mostly healthy' because Dave had a few days of stomach upset in Fiji after having been there a couple of weeks and deciding to drink the tap water. But it cleared up soon and he continued to drink tap water. Diane thrived in Fiji but since the transition to New Zealand she has had stomach upset and headaches. Staying several days in restful places, as we are now, does her a world of good, so she's getting better but we'll check with a pharmacy or clinic in a day or two if she's not much better.
We were prepared to be without internet connections in Fiji but we hadn't planned on being without electricity. Our issues with getting our old email integrated with our current email continue to plague us. I thought if we could only get a geek to help us we'd get it handled, but we got one in Auckland that gave up after several days. So we won't be able to search old email including some addresses until Dave stumbles on a solution or we find a more knowledgeable geek.
Our first stop in Fiji was at the Bekana Garden Island Resort on a very small island just off Lautoka on the west coast.
We had breakfast and dinner included each day and had our first kava ceremony. We had our own little 'bure' or cabin.
The town of Lautoka was just a few minutes on the little launch that went every couple of hours.
There Diane bought her first piece of Fijian clothing.
The Fijian people are so very warm and friendly. We enjoyed them immensely. Here's Diane with David, one of the Bekana staff.
Leaving Bekana for Ovalau had us on a boat that stopped in shallow water for us to jump off and carry our bags ashore.
Ovalau, an island east of the main island of Viti Levu, is where we had our only pre-reserved place: Bobo's Farm. This is a 'bush' farm, nothing like an Iowa farm. Here's the little cabin we stayed in (no electricity or hot water).
Lack of hot water wasn't a problem though. Cold showers are mostly welcome in Fiji.
Bobo is a Fijian who has a German wife, Karin. They met in Fiji but lived in Germany for a few years until Karin wanted to come back to Fiji. Karin cooks wonderful dishes with fresh produce from the farm.
They were wonderful hosts. We no longer remember who instigated this dancing silliness.
Bobo is a deep well of information on Fijian customs and history. The farm has orchids, hibiscus, bird of paradise, pink ginger, red ginger, white ginger, frangipani, giant ferns, wild and giant queen pineapples, yucca, cassava, taro, kumquat, mandarins, bread fruit, mahogany that grows 3 and 4 stories high in 6 years. The beach is a 20-minute walk.
The local kids were a delight.
We could do some hiking, sit in the cool stream, read and nap. We were introduced to rugby and enjoyed watching Fiji win the Hong Kong 7 championship. One afternoon Bobo took us to the primary school, where the children sang and we gave out our trinkets in response to quiz questions. The teacher had us guess to find the other boy in a class of 8 girls and 2 boys. Since they we about 9 or 10 years old, all had short hair and wore traditional Fijian skirts called sulus, this wasn't an easy guess.
The kids guessed Dave's age and answered in English when the teacher asked first whether Diane was a man or a woman and then whether Dave was a man or a woman.
Ovalau, as all of Fiji, is filled with lush vegetation. We climbed nearly to the top of one of the nearby hills on a hike with Bobo.
At the end of the climb we had a pretty decent view, as usual including other islands.
From Bobo's farm we went to Levuka town on the eastern side of Ovalau island where we stayed at the Royal Hotel. Levuka used to be the capital of Fiji in the 1800's. The Royal is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Pacific, dating from the 1860's, and is colorful in the old colonial style.
Finally we had electricity in our room so we could at least use our computer liberally off line and keep our rechargeable batteries topped up.
Levuka is a quiet little port town.
From Levuka we headed back to Nadi (pronounced Nandi). Driving by bus in Fiji reminded us in many ways of Nicaragua.
Nadi isn't an especially attractive town but even an ordinary town in Fiji has its interests.
Our guest house was out of town just a few minutes from the beach.
Auckland was a different world right from the airport. We were greeted by a Maori carving that is a blessing for visitors.
We stayed in a nice area called Mt. Eden and walked up the top for a rare view of Auckland in the fog.
Mt. Eden is one of the many volcanos that dot Auckland and cows graze in the crater.
We though this driveway sign was pretty cute.
At the Auckland museum we got a preview of Australia by watching an aboriginal dance presentation.
That's Diane in the center of the audience here.
When we went to a car fair to check out cars and campers it was raining and we found travelers eager to sell because they were leaving soon.
Envisioning ourselves in a similar position, plus considerations about sleeping in an unheated vehicle in the cold southland winter, made it easier for us to decide to travel by car and hostels.
So we drove to Rotorua where steam is coming out of the ground virtually everywhere. The designated geothermal areas have the most activity.
But there's also steam right in a neighborhood.
And elsewhere too, where there's usually a little fenced off enclosure.
It seems unlikely that unpredictable geothermal activity would confine itself to areas off the designated pathways.
We found lots of interesting scenery on the way to Wellington.
The ferry from Wellington to Picton was huge - hundreds of cars. This view at the Picton destination gives an idea of its size.
This is before leaving and shows the round Parliament building in the background.
The views from the ferry were fabulous. Here's the South Island in the distance.
We loved seeing the layers formed by the hills.
Now we're taking it fairly easy in Havelock.
We drove here on beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive, through vegetation that reminded us of Fiji.
In a while we'll be heading down to the bottom of the South Island.
Let us hear from you - we want to know how life goes on back home. If you can join us on the South Island for a week or two, give us some choices of dates.
"We love you and we support you on the journey."
Dave and Diane