Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Beachouse, Coral Coast

I really got used to ‘Fiji time’ (slower, relaxed pace) during my stay at the Beachouse. The resort hosts about 60 people at a time, so I got very comfortable with the rest of the travelers by the end of the trip. Everyday I woke up early, around 8am, to a beautiful tide.  A breakfast of toast and cereal and fresh fruits was served every morning until around 10am, and then activities would begin. Some activities cost money, while others, like kayaking, are free. There is a little surf school at the Beachouse, and many mornings a big group of surfers head out. Also, there is a Jungle Trek option (USD$6, with a Fijian man who tells all about the history of cannibalism, the jungle and the culture), coconut jewelry making & grass weaving (free), paddle-boarding (USD$10/hr), a freshwater pool, horseback riding (USD$20-30), fishing (USD$10-15), and snorkeling (USD $7 for a boat ride out to a better reef and snorkel gear). There are also atleast five hammocks scattered around the beach and pool, and a beach volleyball court (very popular with Fijians!).  At 3:30 is tea; scones (just like southern style biscuits) are served with tea and coffee.
One of my favorite parts of the resort are three dogs, Oscar, Lucy, and Diesel, that wander around living dog dream lives.  I thought our dogs had it good, but these dogs really top them.  They play in the water for hours during low tide, watching fish with their tails wagging, and then wander up to the pool area to receive lots of attention and table food from all of the travelers.  They run around and play with each other and it’s just adorable. I haven’t had any dogs to play with since I have been abroad, so every though they are stinky outside dogs, I love petting them and giving them lots of attention. They really give it a homey- feel.
  On Sunday I took it pretty easy, laying on the beach and in the pool, and kayaking during high tide. I also got an hour massage by a nice Fijian woman (USD$ 13) who was willing to tell me about herself a little. She called herself a ‘Fijian doctor,’ as massage has been a ‘gift’ her family has had for many years. She was pretty young; I was wondering about some Fijian customs, and she was willing to tell me about them.  For example, the 21st birthday is one of the biggest ones because that is also the legal age to smoke, drink alcohol, or drink traditional kava (the kids get to participate in kava ceremonies with juice).  Also, she said that most Fijian girls get married around 18 years old, and that a Fijian bride wears a white dress underneath a traditional brightly colored dress.  I also wondered if Fijian girls were allowed to marry people they love, or if they are chosen to marry certain men, and she really didn’t answer, just telling me she married her boyfriend.  Anyway, after a little nap, for dinner I had a delicious Mahi-Mahi meal (USD$9), and in the evening socialized with everyone out by the pool. 
Around 11am Monday morning I went fishing with a big group of guys. The boat driver took us out to bottom-fish.  It was a little choppy, and got windier and windier, and one person got a little sea-sick. From the sea, though, you realize how many palm trees really are in Fiji (TONS!) and how big the mountains really are.  I was dying to catch something big, and was a little disappointed to only catch a coral trout.  I did, however, catch the first fish of the day.   I got it cooked for lunch (USD$6 with fries). The chef, an Indian man, pan-fried the whole fish (head, tail and all) in a lemon, butter, and soy sauce, and it was tender and delicious! I was a teeny bit sunburned after fishing, so I hung out in the shade of a palm tree after lunch, girl-talking with the other travelers and listening to the sound of the surf.
 I had signed up on the board for horseback riding, but wasn’t really planning on going until the man, Eddie, came to get me for my ride.  I really needed to visit the ATM, so he told me we could go down to it on the horses on the beach. We rode down to the Warwick during sunset along the beach, and it was beautiful. He let me canter and trot and lead the horse on my own, and it was great. The horses were a little smaller than quarter horses, and they didn’t wear horseshoes (which sort of bothers me because the beach is pretty rocky in some spots). When we got to the Warwick he told me not to tell anyone I wasn’t staying there, but to just run up to reception and use the Westpac ATM. The 5-star resort was reallyyyyyy nice; I passed a little spa with a fancy fountain in front and little mini moat fountain, at least 30 fancy cushioned lounge chairs lined along green lawns, and a fancy walkway out to sea set up for dinner for two with candles. No one gave me a hard time about walking in, and there were little shops and ladies with handicrafts.  I walked back out to Eddie, who had put our horses near a little handicraft hut a woman ran on the outskirts. It was already dark, but she let me in, and I got some jewelry.  I really took to a little dog that was running around, and I think Eddie did too, because when she brought me the cash she told us that we could have the dog (an adorable, sweet, sweet little female puppy that looked like a little lab mix). Eddie let me ride the horse back with the puppy in my arms, and he proceeded to call it Vic, because my jewelry shopping had gotten him a puppy.  He told me his children didn’t have their own dog, and that his daughter really wanted one. When we got back he let me take the puppy up to the Beachouse and show it off (everyone really fell in love with her).  I am so happy he took me riding, and now that his family has a new puppy to share.
On Tuesday morning Laura and I got up early to go paddle-boarding. After a little confusion over which one we could use, and the details, we both set off on one.  We figured out a little system (because both of us couldn’t stand up, and one person paddling was really slow)- I laid on the front and paddled like I was on a surfboard, and she stood on the back and paddled correctly. We really got going, and some friends of ours had rented surfboards, so we set off to go out nearer to them, past where the waves were breaking.  We made it really far, and we were really enjoying looking at the reef underneath our boards, when we started hearing people yelling at us and waving their arms.  Laura and I had a conversation like “hm, we must be doing something wrong, but we don’t know what…” and I made a joke about them coming out on a boat to get us, if worst came to worst.  All of a sudden a boat was coming towards us; the owner of the Beachouse came out to get us! He brought us in the boat, gave us a lecture about being in the waves (and how the coral was super sharp and dangerous), and took us and the board back in. He also told us we weren’t to paddle-board again (which I don’t think he was serious about). We felt a little rebellious, and I guess I still don’t understand what the big deal was.  Anyway, in the afternoon I took it easy, laying out on the beach, lounging in the hammock, and floating on a life-jacket for awhile. For dinner I had a little toastie sandwich.  Some of the girls did a horseback ride down to the same little jewelry shop I had been to, but had a bad experience.  One of them got bucked off, and it was dark and scary on their whole walk back.  Also, not all of them had much experience riding horses, so they felt unsafe. They got back sort of later, too.
On Wednesday I was so sad that it was my last day at the Beachouse (I think I could spend weeks here, like a lot of other travelers we met).  I waited around to go fishing until 11am, but we had a great day. Within the first 15 minutes one of the guys leading the trip caught a little Trevally on our way out the spot trolling, and when we anchored I quickly caught 4 little fish (I am not sure what they were). Some other people on the boat also caught all different kinds of little coral trout and stuff, and we really did much better than the last trip (maybe because it was a smaller group?). I split the little fish with the other girl who went fishing for lunch, and then she and I split the trevally for dinner (USD$8 each to get it cooked with fries). The chef prepared the little fish similar to the way that the fish was prepared last time, but the trevally was baked and delicious, with just enough spiciness.
After fishing I went on another horseback ride, this time up a mountain. We literally went straight up a mountain, to a summit that looked down over Navola village’s school and church.  The view was absolutely stunning, and when we got to the top I gave my horse a break and walked around for pictures. Instead of Eddie taking me on this trip, a little boy, maybe 12 or 13, led me through the trail. He was happy to tell me about his school and rugby games.  He was also very good with the horses, and it was clear that he is learning how to take care of them from Eddie. While I was up there I learned that the Japanese have a nice school in the village, and handpick Navola village children to learn their language and trades so that they could be able to go to work in Japan. There was also a big building being built: a second church for the village! The villagers seem to be very religious from everything I have seen, as they take Sundays off and place high importance on the church. I wonder if this could be because it has lots of community purposes, or serves as a neutral community meeting place?...
I was back from the horseback before sunset, and it was beautiful from the beach.  A couple of us went exploring the low tide grassy and rocky areas of the beach, because I had heard that there are lots of beautiful blue sea stars. There were all kinds of interesting creatures in the water, like sea slugs and sea snakes and weird feather stars. There were so many sea stars, too! The water was just deep enough in some areas to cover big pieces of coral, but just shallow enough to let me get right up to it and peer at it closely; it was better than being in an aquarium.  I really wanted to see an octopus (the villagers go out during low tide to collect octopi for eating), but didn’t have a pokey stick to get them out of holes, and didn’t really know where to look. The dusky evening was so relaxing, and I was tired by 9pm. 

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