Visiting Fiji - Day 2: Celebrate Fiji 2015 Posted on 10 Oct 22:00
The day was an instant success when it began with a 7am wake up (typically I wouldn’t be so excited about 7am, but considering the jetlag factor and the fact that it was only our first sleep in Fiji, that felt like a victory! The ocean view also helped me get my eyes open- I still get surprised by the color of the water here). The internet was down, so we headed down to the restaurant to see if we could get some internet. No luck. What we did find was my go-to breakfast in Fiji so far: a custom ordered omelet with bell peppers, onion, and tomato.
After breakfast we loaded up in our rental car and headed for Sigatoka town where they were having their annual street races, kayak races, and bili bili races. The town was packed with people. It felt like the outskirts of the Coliseum on a USC game day- people everywhere, pop up shelters packed in tightly, loud music playing from every which way, and the smell of food being cooked over an open flame. Children had their faces painted, and everyone was all dressed up in their best Fiji-wear.
Amanda and I headed out of town by foot on a road that followed along the river. We met local people, took photographs and video, and even stumbled upon a rope swing into the river. Many of the locals gave us advice on things we should shoot and where we could find the best views. Some of their advice took us to the top of a hill that overlooked the city, the river, and even the ocean!
Next we headed for lunch to another local spot above our favorite market. We were the only non-Fijiians in the place, and that felt like a badge of honor. We came here so desperately wanting to avoid just doing the touristy kind of things, and this day was just what we had hoped for.
Our post-lunch activities started off with a jet-boat ride up the river with Sigatoka River Safari where we got soaked and laughed a lot. Then we headed up the railroad tracks to watch the Nandroga Rugby team totally dominate their opponent in a special Fiji-day match. A highlight of the rugby game was that we got to watch it from the field so that we could have better access to take footage of the game, of the players, and of course (our favorite), the ball boys. We also heard the Fijiian version of “Watch Me” several times in a row and that was a highlight all in itself. Lowlight? The ball boys wouldn’t join in on the dance (though I’m sure they knew it), and the wave we tried to start died down within seconds.
When the rugby match was over the sun was hanging low in the sky. Jabid, the plant manager for Kaviti invited us to come to his house and to climb the sand dunes behind his home to watch the sun go down. When we arrived it became apparent to me that “dunes” were an understatement. They are not dunes as we know them from California. These are mountains as far as I am concerned! We climbed to the top of the hill as fast as we could. It was steep and the wind was blowing sand at us in a fierce way. When we go to the top of the hill we thought we were going to see the sunset and the ocean. Instead, we found another HUGE hill. So we scrambled up as fast as we could and made it just in time to watch the sun slip behind the horizon. Beauty. And the day had already been so beautiful!
Tired and full of more stories than we could tell, we headed back to the hotel for showers and pizza. It wouldn’t be long before our full bellies and hearts would translate to heavy eyes and another night of sound sleep.
There were many highlights from this day that I’m sure we will tell stories about for years to come, but the best part by far was that we got to spend the day immersed amongst the local people. I am continually amazed at how hospitable the culture is to strangers and tourists. There are times when I feel like someone is talking to us in an attempt to sell us on some tourist attraction that they are sure we will love, but for the most part, when the locals approach us (and that is everywhere we go) it is with a warm spirit of curiosity and a genuine interest in who we are, where we are from, and what our story is. Oh, and they also want to know if I like Tupac and Jay-Z.