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Just back from a fortnight in Fiji, where @@GnuGnu and I headed for the smaller islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni in order to escape the resort crowd and explore the back blocks of Fiji. We stayed at the low key 3 star Daku Resort on Vanua Levu and Cadra Ni Vula, a hilltop house on Taveuni. We used some public transport to travel around rural Fiji to discover villages, surprising wildlife and communities devastated by cyclones. Recurring themes of this trip are weather, village life and colourful flowers and birds. Weather – Northern Fiji was hard hit by Cyclone Winston on 19th-20 February which destroyed schools, crops and homes. Cyclone Zena touched some of the islands in early April a week before we arrived and while we were there a tropical depression developed into Cyclone Amos which left heavy rain, high winds and serious mudslides in its wake. There was rain most days and we became very adept at dodging showers in order to see as much of the islands as possible. Village life – many Fijians live in village communities and maintain strong ties with family and religion. The church is usually the largest building in the village, we saw simple wooden buildings to more robust stone and concrete structures. Villagers grow crops such as taro, cassava and coconuts which are staple foods as well as keeping some domestic livestock such as sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Horses are used to travel from village to farm land. Wildlife – Fiji has few mammals, the 2 most common being fruit bats and Indian mongoose. However, birds are well represented with some gems such as Orange Dove and Red Shining Parrot. Devastated southern Taveuni the beautiful tropical flowers brightened up the dullest of days, and a more traditional view of tropical Fiji. Day 1 I left Hobart on a grey day on an uneventful one hour flight to Melbourne where I met @gnu gnu. We checked in quickly and were pleased to upgrade to premium economy seats for $59. After a quick shop in duty free, we boarded the Fiji Airways flight to Nadi. The flight took 5 hours, so after a delicious lamb curry I settled in with the iPod and an extended Bruce Springsteen session. We landed in Nadi where Customs and Immigration were mercifully quick allowing us to transfer to the domestic airport with time to spare. Noisy common mynas sang, hopped and squabbled at the terminal. The one hour flight to Savusavu took us over the northeast coast of Viti Levu and I was surprised to see how green, hilly and densely populated the island is. Walking trails link the villages, appearing as distinct pathways from the air. We landed in Savusavu one hour later, where Tui from Daku Resort was waiting. Thirty minutes later we are enjoying a tropical breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, cereal and toast. As the day is already hot and humid we decide to go into Savusavu to find an ATM and explore the town. Savusavu is like many African rural centres with a couple of banks, supermarkets, a local produce market and a busy bus and taxi station. There are few reminders of a colonial past (Fiji gained independence from Britain in 1970) and the Planters Club. The harbour is a yachties mecca. Lunch is at the Captains Cafe where they do excellent pizza, iced tea and home-made ice-cream. As we are leaving the café we are approached by a man in a wheelchair who says he was injured 16 years before when he fell out of a breadfruit tree. His name is Johnny and he makes jewellery to sell in order to support his family. Life in paradise can be tough for some. I opt for a snooze in the afternoon to make up for lost sleep the previous night. There is time for a gin and tonic before dinner while we watch the bats returning to the coconut palms. Other wildlife seen today includes Indian mongoose, horrid cane toads and geckos that do a great job keeping the mosquitos and sand flies at bay.
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