So we finally made it!
It wasn't easy. But before we find our way to Fiji, there was more to see and explore in Christchurch. We last ended with a 6 hour wait in the airport , only to be told that the best we could do was get to Fiji on Sunday at 5pm. Sadly, we would miss 2 days on the island. But we had to make the most of our time in the city. We all felt after shocks from the earthquake...some more than others. It was really disorienting. Mine woke me up from sleep and shook the bed. We got to experience the Antarctica museum which was filled with interactive fun. There was a 4D movie which made me want to go there. We saw the smallest penguins, rode out a snow storm that got down to 8 below and rode the rocky ride in the transport vehicle.
The next day, we bought rugby balls and went to the Botanical Gardens and played rugby and frisbee and took some photos. Later some of the students went see NZ students play Net Ball, which is sort of similar to our basketball only there is no backboard and it's mostly played by women, and boys playing rugby. That is such a rough sport and we found a new interest in the NZ teams that are quite good and should do well in the World Cup in September. I volunteered to stay at the hotel with Van and Makenna who were not feeling well and it was an evening filled with movies and rugby on television while the others went bowling.
Then it was time to head to Fiji and one of the longest days of my life. When we got to the airport, we found that our Quantas agent, Jan, had only booked our flight to Fiji and ticketed us which was our first problem and wait. Then we were only on stand by. Finally after an hour and a half, we were ticketed and check in could begin. By this time we are all starving by happy to see our bags moving along the conveyor belt to Fiji. The plane was delayed due to steering around the ash cloud and we finally boarded at 2 about an hour later than we were to take off. Then we sat on the plane while they drew up a new flight plane around the problematic ash clouds. Air Pacific was one of the few to fly under and around it. So we take off at 3... and its a 4 hour flight. It was one of the most unpleasant flights I can remember due to turbulence and the fact that I'm on the back row in the corner near the bathroom. It was a roller coaster ride. When we finally touch ground, it's dark and raining. There was a long line to get through customs. When we emerge, we find that our bus transport has given up on us and gone home. He had to called back so we waited another 2 hours and tried to dig up some airport food which was pretty disgusting and all the shops and restaurant were closed. We ate mostly chips and cookies for dinner. Once the guy arrives in the van, we pack up and head out for another 3 hour trip to Volivoli, a dive resort on the north side of the island. It's a very bumpy ride and no one can really sleep. Just as you would try to drift off, the pavement would turn to pot holes and gravel. The roads can best be compared to what I hear the Costa Rican roads are. When asked, I found that the government has no money to repair them and they have had the most rain this year than ever. So they wash out easily and often and then don't get repaired. Fijians make money either through tourism our the sugar cane industry. We also passed the Fiji Water plant where they gather and bottle water to send all over the world. The water at the hotel is full of minerals and making tea looks like mud. So a bottle of Fiji Water is placed in every room. We finally arrive in Volivoli at 1:30pm. IT looks like a beautiful resort, but it's raining and we were all so tired from the day.
We wake to the pouring rain that stayed with us all day off and on. Miles and Brianna and Gemina went scuba diving. I could brave the cold and wet. They said it wasn't bad and they saw amazing coral and a shark and sea worms. The rest of us stayed behind for a relaxing day. Some swam and went beach combing when the rain would turn to drizzle. They found a lot of mini-starfish and sand dollars. After lunch, we took vans into the nearest town called Rakiraki. It reminded me of Mexico long ago. Van said it reminded her of Vietnam. The coolest part was going to their open air market where farmers came down from the mountains where they would grow their produce and sell. It was under a huge tree and was not too successful with the rain. There was a covered part where the kids bought hats and coconuts. Our guide, Soni, showed us around town and then to the sugar mill which was built in 1881 and it's one of only four on the island. They work 6 months on and off. A worker cut some cane for the kids with his machete. Of course, Miles, Kevin and Van all had to have one which we found at the local grocery story in town. Hopefully they can get back to the states with them. Then Soni took us to a graveyard where the last Chief of the Ra provence was buried. He was also a cannibal and all the stones around his grave symbolize the 900 sacrifices that were made. Supposedly, it would give the chief power. Yum.
Last night, we had our farewell dinner together and afterwards, some locals performed a ceremony of drinking Kava together. Supposedly it brings peace among the people. It looked and tasted a bit like dirty water and had a tingling feeling briefly on your tongue and lips. Then one of the staff showed the kids a few dances and they taught him the Cuban Shuffle. Finally, we all went out under the stars on a sandbar for our last pow wow. It was hard to talk and concentrate while the kids yelled out, “ I just saw a shooting star.” The stars were amazing...more than I've ever see expect maybe in Colorado. But the stars are different and you can see different constellations in the southern hemisphere..like the Southern Cross which navigates this hemisphere.
Today we wake you to magnificent sunshine! A group went deep sea fishing. Others kayaked and sunned and walked the beach harvesting shells and coral. I found a shell to use as a dish for my outside shower at home. We will stick around until 3 before heading back to Nadi to try a bit more shopping and finally leave for home at 10pm. We arrive at 10:15pm on the same day. Go figure.