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3…2…1… Action: Fiji

Take a peak at the beauty of Fiji through the lense of our Canon cameras.

1) Greg channeling his 10 years of age on an uninhabited island within the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji.  Ignore Greg’s stupid commentary, focus on the beauty.

2) Ashley continues to push Greg to greater heights of athletic ability.  This time in the pool.

3) A brief look into the incredible villa at Tokoriki Island Resort.  Hands down the most incredible place we have ever rested our eyes.

4) O Come All Ye Faithful by John Wade.  As performed by the adorable child choir of a local Mamanuca Island school in Fijian (Polynesian).  See if you can follow along.

Bula,

Greg and Ash

Next Petrol Station: Fiji

Twenty-one nights catching Zzzzzs on couch cushions atop plywood in a cramped campervan had us longing for a comfy mattress in a room that didn’t shake from the breeze. Prior to embarking on our round-the-world adventure, we reckoned mini-vacations would be necessary to refuel from the draining world of independent travel. Bula (Hello) Fiji!

Denarau Island SunsetSanta and his elves (Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Grandma June, the late Grandma Rausch, and Kiley & Adam) spent some serious time in the workshop having pulled together some greenbacks to help foot the food and beverage bill on Denarau Island. Home to numerous resorts, private mansions, and a championship golf course, the master-planned island provided private viewings of sunset each night. I suppose the mosquito eating, upside down sleeping, and starlight masquerading bats had an even better vantage point atop the palm trees. Ash found these nocturnal creatures disgusting, but I wanted a closer look and ended up concussed from an enemy coconut.

Climbing Palm Tree HUGE Bat Concussion Coconut

During our three day stay on Denarau we made sure to make up for lost calories while cooking inside a van down by the river in New Zealand. Ashley was greeted with early wake-up calls from yours truly pleading to gorge ourselves via the breakfast buffet (included). Bottomless cups of coffee, pancakes, fresh pineapple, three egg omelets: it had all our favorites. Eating to the point of feeling ill, we would settle down near the salty water of the South Pacific or Man’s best attempt at emulating nature, only with fresh water. After such breakfast bonanzas, we filled our minds and thoughts with novels during the lunch hour. Then we would settle in for Mother Nature’s lightshow as the fiery Sun boiled the sea in the vast distance. On one such occasion, Ashley felt compelled to dawn her leotard from the pre-teen years and perform front-walkovers, round-offs, and back-handsprings all set to The Very Best of Aaron Neville. After sand-removal showers, we would prepare ourselves as normal vacationers and patronize one of the many seaside restaurants. Ash looked like a beautiful celebrity in her black dress and long golden locks while I wore a fishing shirt with a built in tacklebox and sported the birth of a mullet.

Gymnast Fake Reading Dinner and 10 Glasses of Wine

We bid adieu to Denarau Island after three nights as we had other fish to fry in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. We packed our Osprey backpacks and some spirits after having nightmares concerning the cost of booze in such a remote place. And like that, we were aboard the Cheetah Catamaran headed for Tokoriki Island Resort. We drank Fiji Beer (awful) en route with fellow travelers as we passed incredible island retreats and the location where Castaway starring Tom Hanks was filmed (Monuriki Island). We watched patiently as the catamaran ferrying island vacationers slowly emptied after being met by each resort’s transport boat. After an hour, Tokoriki Island Resort came into view and like two school girls having overdosed on Lick-A-Sticks, our excitement bubbled.

Beachcomber Resort Monuriki Island - Castaway Movie South Sea Cruise Ferry Ride

Pool Side Villa #5The Fiji Guidebook says this about Tokoriki Island Resort: “if you aren’t married or engaged when you arrive at Tokoriki, you will be when you leave.” The place was oozing with romance. Gulp. We were amazed by the condition of the villas, grounds, and common areas having been dealt a direct shot by Cyclone Mick just eight days earlier. The normally lush hills had turned brown after the foliage was uprooted and the path leading to a mountain lookout was closed due to debris. Somehow the pleasurable workers at the resort had turned the war zone into a honeymoon escape. Though much work lies ahead, the place looked serene. Our poolside villa was beyond compare. Never have I seen anything like it: climbing tree out over the South Pacific, Infinity pool, floor to ceiling windows, outdoor shower, daybed… the list goes on. Beer can even be consumed underwater! We have high praise for the architect behind the layout as each room had an incredible view (even the closet) and the airflow kept us cool. Once again, the sun’s encore was magnificent each night and gave way to an equally brilliant half moon. What a place to hang your hat.

Climbing Trees... Over the South Pacific Drinking Stella Underwater Voyeurism

Sunset View From Bed If I Could Lasso the Moon Sunset From Pool

Vanna White As if Tokoriki Island didn’t exude enough romance already, the Miller’s treated us to an incredible time on an uninhabited white sand paradise all to ourselves. I really think Ashley’s family was giving us not so subtle hints about getting hitched. Armed with a bottle of red wine from Martinsborough, New Zealand and a cooler of cheese, sandwiches, and fresh fruit, we boarded a small watercraft and leisurely made our way to a nearby strip of land where the humble boat captain dropped us forty-five minutes later. No one in sight, no footprints, nothing. Just the two of us and a pristine canvass from which to view. We explored the lengthy beach then planted our headquarters atop a rise in the glistening sand where we assumed high tide could not reach. But as the waves lapped near our towels, I summoned the magic from my days as a child along Myrtle Beach and dug a moat to protect Princess Ashley.

En Route Moat Built By Man Picnic Beauty

While she drank the pinkish wine and read thrilling novels about the risque lives of shrewd women, I slipped away to explore the world within the blue water via snorkeling. The villa’s pool where I spent most of time was outfitted with an incredible turquoise colored rock, which I discovered in its natural state in the shallow water along the rocky shore. Someday I hope to build a pool fully tiled in this Fijian rock for Ashley’s water aerobics. One must have a dream you know. For the most part though, we frolicked in the warm water, ate the delectable picnic, and debated important issues such as how to get to Miami, Florida for the Super Bowl should the Bengals return to their proper glory. In a flash, our time in this paradise free of humans was up and were whisked away back to civilization at Tokoriki Island Resort only to leave the islands for good the next day.

Snorkel Dude Fijian Rock Uninhabited Island

Fiji was just the mini-vacation our battered bodies desired. Fuel tanks “full” with many miles to go!

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. Whether at a hostel or five-star hotel, take advantage of everything included in the price of admission. If breakfast is included, stuff your belly and smuggle a couple danishes in your pocket for later. Ash hates to be woken up, but if our $15 a night hostel includes stale toast, you betcha we won’t miss it. Same goes for Internet, plan a time around your agenda to use the included service rather than a local e-Cafe. If the price for lodging includes an amenity, you are doubtlessly already paying for it, so use it.

  2. Traveling without a mobile phone is real freedom. But when you need to make a phone call, it can be expensive. Some countries have mobile plans based on pre-purchased credit making borrowing someone’s telephone troublesome. Payphones have an insatiable thirst for loose change. Thus, plan ahead to use Skype or gather toll-free numbers of hostels or transportation that you may need.

Being Good Boys and Girls This Christmas Season

Bah HumbugThe tenors outnumbered the baritones three to one. However, it was 5:10 in the morning on Christmas Day within Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands. Initially thinking I was trapped between a sweet dream and a strange reality, I hurriedly woke Ashley asking, “Did you hear that?” “What, huh, nope,” she sleepily whispered. “No, listen,” I demanded in an effort to establish my state of mind. “Yeah, I hear some faint singing,” she registered still clinging to the body pillow. Christmas 2009 was off to a strange yet incredible start: the staff of Tokoriki Resort was caroling “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at sunrise outside our oceanside bure.

Ash Talking to Her Fam Ashley must have been a good girl and Santa certainly turned a blind eye to my misbehavior. Because here we were, 1,000s of miles away from anything resembling snow while the good ‘ole USA dealt with blizzard conditions and Europe’s Chunnel was shut down due to drifting snow. Santa Clause (Brad and Cathy Miller) really went beyond a candy filled stocking. Most of December was spent in New Zealand and a homecoming would have been costly… so Ash’s folks sent us to beautiful Fiji. An elf even left Ashley pearl earrings underneath Tokoriki’s Christmas Tree. This is not to say we didn’t miss our families dearly. Ash phoned her family prior to breakfast as the Millers (all 75+ of them) gathered at Grandma June’s home in Claflin, KS on Christmas Eve (our Christmas Day). Crocodile tears streamed down her sunburnt face the entire time. I reached my family celebrating in Cincinnati, OH at home with the Fleges, only after my Mom was kind enough to hang up on me the first try! The phone connection was poor, but I believe my Dad (Herb) got my Mom (Susan) “parrots” for the occasion. I can only hope the static on the line made deciphering the gift difficult. Though not married (expected to occur Summer 2017), Ash and I agreed we feel equally comfortable in the company of either family and love them just the same.

View From Under Glass Bottom Boat Thanks Santa! Hobie Cat

Roundly sad and missing home, we engulfed cups of coffee, eggs benedict, pancakes, and danishes. It was a quick breakfast because Mass began at 10:00am. We didn’t understand a single word during the thirty-five minute ceremony that was given in the local Maori language. But it was a pleasure nonetheless sharing the celebration with the good people of Fiji. After Church, we felt compelled to participate in a traditional Midwestern USA activity in the Winter… snorkeling. Josua (Tokoriki Island Resort’s man of the sea) boarded us on the glass bottom boat and a short time later it was fastened to a buoy above the intoxicated saltwater below. After dawning snorkels, masks, and fins, Ashley held fast onto my hand as we floated along the reef’s edge before it gave away to an incredible deep blue abyss. The tepid water was teeming with colorful fish and the occasional white tip reef shark. Though they were just baby maneaters, Ash was scared enough to not leave my side. Having swallowed enough sea water, it was back to the island for more body fuel.

Xmas Day SunsetYet another massive meal (is dessert really necessary after lunch?) then we hit the Fijian water once more. This time Captain Dietz was at the helm of a Hobie Cat. Pretty simple, even for a novice, to maneuver the small vessel. When the wind was just right and we had the proper position in respect to the gusts, the small catamaran felt like it was moving at light speed. But for the most part, it was feast or famine regarding velocity. Ash played the part of a paying passenger quite well: relaxing, sun bathing, and gazing at the reflective water. When she tried ordering a pina colada, Captain Dietz pointed at the resort and promptly swung the boom her way, knocking her overboard (in my mind). Just when I was getting a grasp on the proper sail tension and headings, it was time to locate the port ‘o call and freshen up for Christmas Dinner.

Xmas Day Mango Belini Santa and Greg! Santa and Ash!

Upon entering the tropical lobby, Joe, a friendly Fijian, handed us complimentary mango belinis. As if we needed more champagne after drinking a bottle of Moet in our bure. Before being seated at our pool side table overlooking the ocean, a sled could be heard landing in the white sand. Low and behold, Santa made his grand appearance! Then on cue, a contingent of 40 children clad in white and carrying candles lined up and sang a few classic Holiday songs along with some local ones. It was truly beautiful to watch the elated kids perform. After several rounds of applause, the children choir and chaperones boarded two boats bound for their island located thirty minutes away and just as fast as Santa appeared, they disappeared into the dark ocean. Dinner was yet another feast, this time a smorgasbord of lobster, crawfish, prawns, clams, and oysters. All local and oh so fresh! We enjoyed a nightcap back at our bure and concluded that it was such a remarkable Christmas in a magical place.

Island Children Choir Xmas Dinner Xmas Dinner with a View

But we look forward to next year’s Holiday Season surrounded by family and friends. Instead of carolers outside an island bure, we may awake in a Midwestern home and clamor down the stairs to look under the Christmas Tree.

 - Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Fiji has a plethora of options in terms of accommodation. The main island (Viti Levu), where the capital Nadi and international airport is located, has numerous resorts with a wide price range (Coral Coast is most popular area). If desiring a more remote island experience, the Mamanuca Islands are a great choice. Most backpackers looking for a cheaper island experience choose the Yasawa Islands. Most islands are accessible by ferry.

2) Resorts charge a king’s ransom for drinks. So plan ahead and bring a few bottles of wine and your favorite spirits. This will allow you to splurge for a fruity drink here and there and not worry too much about your budget.

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