Cruisin’ Part Three: Bula! Fiji!


Bula, Blogland!

I suppose it’s about time I finished up my cruise recap with a round-up about our three stops in Fabulous Fiji.

After wild Vanuatu, Fiji looked downright normal, though of course stunningly gorgeous and populated with the warmest and most welcoming people on any of our stops.

Far and away my favorite stop in Fiji was the little island of Dravuni. With a population of about 150, it had the wonderful unspoiled feeling of Mystery Island, while still giving the sense of a tight-knit community. We were greeted with an effusive Bula (a bit like “aloha” in Fiji) ceremony of dance and singing by the islanders.

We had a quick look at the little village, including the sweet primary school where the children chorused, “Bula!” at all of us interlopers staring in the window, and then stared at us curiously as they trotted off uniformed and bare-footed for lunch break.
Primary School schedule. The theme of the week is “being helpful” and there are 11 students enrolled.
We spent an hour or so on a gorgeous, if strenuous, hike up a hill in the middle of the island, which afforded us a pretty spectacular 360 degree of the island. Picture postcard Fiji.

Thanks to P-i-C for this photo.

We spend the rest of the day on Dravuni snorkeling, beach bumming, and avoiding the kava, which was flowing freely. It was a simple and perfect day.

Second stop in Fiji was Port Denarau, a tourist gateway to fancy resorts and island hopping tours. We were too lackadaisical to book a tour, so we ended up settling for the $7 “Bula Bus,” which ferries tourists around to the island’s different resorts. 
We hopped off at the Sheraton, where I straightaway staked out the secluded adult pool with hammocks. I was more than happy there with a book for the afternoon. Partner-in-Crime, feeling antsy and understimulated by the easy-breezy American resort lifestyle, got back on the Bula Bus to check out the rest of the resorts, and picked me up right where he left me some time later, reporting that the purportedly super-fancy Hilton and the rest of the resorts were nothing much to see. He’s a tough crowd, my P-i-C.
As unmemorable as our Denarau day was, we were rewarded that evening with the unrivaled best sunset of the trip.

Our final day in Fiji was a stop in Suva, the capital city. I was a reluctant traveler in Suva, as I’d heard some pretty ugly tales about the aggression of the local merchants, as well as the high rate of crime. I’m glad that I swallowed my fears, though, because while there were a fair share of pugnacious peddlers, it was mostly a highly friendly, if bustling and chaotic, city.
We were greeted coming off the ship by the police band, who serenaded us with American rock songs. How could you not like a town whose police officers wear outfits like these?!

On the exit ramp of the port, we faced a cacophony of hucksters tempting us with their tours, taxis, and so forth. We finally agreed to take a free shuttle into town, after feeling convinced that it was really-truly-no-strings-attached free. The driver took us on a complicated 15 minute ride which let us off at one of the department stores (hence why the ride was free), which turned out was actually about a 2 minute walk from the port. We pranced off to the tourist information office, passing up many offers for rides and “information” from “helpful” locals. We got advice on what to see, as well as the many scams to avoid, from an exceedingly friendly tourist bureau worker.
Off we walked to the Fijian museum, a nice if a bit ramshackle collection of old and modern arts, crafts, and cultural items. If you recall the “no wata” incident from the Vanuatu parliament, I can report that this was repeated at the Fiji Museum, and the sink featured a bottle of Fiji water (which, yes, really does come from Fiji) for washing ones hands. 
We recruited an (also exceedingly friendly) Indo-Fijian taxi driver to take us up the road to a park that our tourist bureau friend recommended. In my head, I was picturing a manicured lawn park, but it turned out that it was actually a quite rugged rainforest experience, complete with potholed, muddy, unpaved roads that I was sure were going to pop the tires of our game driver’s little car. Somehow he made it, and took a short, dirty hike to a waterfall swimming hole. I was so sad to not have brought my suit, as the water was lusciously clear and inviting.
Our chatty driver took us all over Suva, slowing down the car for photos as he pointed out highlights like …
The Mormon Church:
A local chief’s house:
Our cruise ship:
We had him drop us off in the center of town, and we found the local artisan market, where we picked up a few handcrafted wares from a Fijian artist/ Brigham Young graduate who sold us woodcrafts and suggested that we join the Latter Day Saints. 
We had a bit more of a wander around town, concluded by our now-traditional look at the local fruit market. I had been doing quite well with the lack of respect for personal space up to this point, but it all became a bit overwhelming for me here. I was happy to have seen it, as it was about 5 times the size of the other markets we’d been in, and certainly more alive, but I was ready for fresh air when we emerged back in the sunlit streets.

We finished our Suva day on a shopping frenzy, as the prices were far too favorable to pass up. We spent an embarrassingly long time in a fantastic chain store called Jacks, which clearly catered to both locals and tourists. I settled on a beautiful, flowy island dress, while P-i-C picked out some festive print shirts. We picked out a marble turtle-shaped soap holder, new placemats, and heaven can even remember what else we loaded up in our basket. The (exceedingly friendly) salesman was pleased enough with us that he hailed a company van to drive us back to the cruise ship.
And so, we bid farewell to Fiji … Bula-ed and blissed out on island charm. 

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