Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Alberts Place: Tahiti, Fiji, Kandavu, Wayasawa

The South Pacific is fantastic. Although Tahiti is a bit over touristed it is still far away from the grim reality of cold industrialized northern Europe, and certainly worth a visit. Fiji is a paradise, filled with friendly people and amazing sights both above and below the water. Your money goes a long way here and time is definitely a relative concept. Don't make plans without building in "Fiji Time" delay. We went to Alberts Place for a 10 days and ended up staying for three weeks.


We went straight to Moorea, mainly because the camping was cheap and there was no way we could afford to go to the outer islands which are very expensive to get to. Also Bora Bora etc are mainly populated by Japanese and US big business hotels which don't encourage riff-raff such as you and me to visit

Camping on Moorea was around $7US per night, but food was damned expensive with lots of it being shipped in from Europe. And it's not only Food that the French have exported to their colony, they seem to have taken with them that Gallic surliness towards visitors which is more normally seen in the cheaper hotels of Paris. Property is a big deal here and retired French civil servants jostle for beach space with tin hut dwelling Tahitians and now every man and his chicken has a Private Property notice on their garden. Speaking of Chickens, on Moorea there is a bizarre dawn chorus as the morning sun hits one side of the Island well before the other the cocks begin to crow at one spot and then it spreads in a Mexican Wave of sound around the entire Island which is nice the first morning, gets on your nerves the second and you've forgotten about it the 3rd because you are too annoyed at listening to French surfers playing the Clash on acoustic guitar and singing really badly. "Shurd ah stay ar shurd ah goo". it's worth taking a trip if you can find one and we went on a cheap shark feeding jaunt in an outrigger canoe. The captain was a grizzly Polynesian covered in traditional tattoos but his two helpers were Californian surfers. We sailed out over the inner reef baling chum into the water in a scary re-enactment of the first day's fishing in Jaws. Soon we stopped and 3 or 4 reef sharks and about 3000 multi-colored fish came sniffing around the pink water. Out came the masks and snorkels and in we dived. Absolutely awesome. After that we stopped on a little motu (islet) for lunch then went off to feed stingrays on a sand bank. All this for $10US the cheapest and best trip on Moorea. If you get there it's at the campsite three resorts down from the Club Med.( This gives you an idea of the level of tourism on Moorea)


Fiji is a complete contrast to Tahiti. Friendly people, cheap prices and a bizarrely British failure to colonialise the place. The British arrived, liked the Fijians, didn't get eaten by them too often and so they drafted all sorts of land laws which indigenous peoples in other countries have been fighting for for decades. You'll probably arrive at Nandi since that is where the airport is and its a bit of a hole, although its the main tourist area for big league operators like Sheraton etc. Nearby beaches are rubbish, and the town's main good point is the market where you can wander round and be stared at by the friendly locals.Nandi market also has a great cafe where you can get lamb curry at good prices. Avoid the expensive restaurants in town which employ touts and charge Sheraton Customer prices. Also watch out for the Indian hoteliers who could rob a blind leper and walk away laughing. We stayed at the White House Hotel which was ok for the money and has a lot of information on other locations around Fiji. You can pay there for trips to outer Islands and they will arrange transport etc. Obviously they take a commission but if a place is crummy they will tell you so. See their visitors book for good info.

Suva is described by the South Pacific Handbook (an excellent book) as "the throbbing heart of the South Pacific"which might be taking things a little far but Fiji's capital is a lively town and fun to wander round. We stayed here in a flea pit sort of a place which was recommended as not being in the lonely planet by SPH. In fact lonely planet gives it a drubbing as a hang out for whores with noisy bar and partying all night. The reality was they had security gaurds and everyone was in bed by ten. The accommodation was basic but ok once you got the Mozzy coils burning and the staff were very friendly. We also tried one of LP's recommendations which was an overcrowded noisy hole. In Suva check the museum the swimming pool, and the Tholo i Suva Forest Park. Actually more of a forest than a park, the paths aren't exactly clear, but deep rainforest just a bus ride out of the city makes a nice day trip.(see pic).


We sailed to Kandavu rom Suva on the Whippy's Shipping company ferry. When we got to the dock and saw a fishing charter boat we assumed the ferry had not yet arrived. This was the ferry. (see pic) After ten hours five of which were spent pitching and rolling outside the reef on open sea we arrived at Alberts Place. A cove on the South east of Kandavu. We pitched our tent and repaired to the dining shack for the first of many delicious meals. This place is extraordinary. There is a village of sorts in the next bay and that's it as far as population goes. Time passes gently as you lounge on the beach, or snorkel in the pristine coral just off shore. We learned to dive here and although the equipment was a bit ropy the instruction was excellent and the diving fantastic. For our final dive we went out to a pass in the reef and descended to a coral garden which was just awesome, no need to swim you just let the current take you along. Getting to and from Albert's is not easy there are two ferry services both of which are unreliable. But it is certainly worth the wait, its a bit like being shipwrecked intentionally in the best possible circumstances.


After Kandavu we went back to suva and then Nandi and on to Wayasawa to stay at Dive Trek Nature Lodge which is a resort run by the islanders so everyone gets a bit of cash from the foreigners. There are lot of ibiza clones here on their way back from a year in Australia but its generally a good atmosphere. The snorkelling here is amazing thanks to a steep drop off about 20mtrs off the beach, there are all sorts of fish and coral to be seen and the easy swim to deep water makes it a lazy swimmers paradise. Food here is good though not as good as Alberts but you get 4 meals a day, high tea if you please with tea and scones, no dinner gong here though the call to table comes from a conch shell.from what other people were saying it was way better than some of the more popular and expensive party Islands. Water can be in short supply so don't expect much from the showers. The lovo is good fun and took me back to the Blue Peter Expedition to Tonga.(ok you have to be my age for that to mean anything)

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