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Saturday, December 07, 2002

Following is the 3 day report of our trip to Savusavu and our stay at the Jean Micheal Costeau Resort. Photos will be up in one big photoalbum on this website.

We got up at 6:45 and did final packing ... we were ready when our cab came at 7:45 (the same guy who was driving us to the house before, Ramesh, we asked him if he would drive us to the airport, since we liked his car) ...
he was there in time and we where as projected at the airport at 8:30 .. we were informed that our flight is at 9:15 .. well .. to our bedazzlement it turned out the flight was at 8:30, arriving at Savusavu at 9:15 .. yeah! ... I called the resort that did the booking for us and raised hell, since the counter people told us that the 8:30 flight was gone, and the next flight, 2:30 PM was already fully booked out !!! woah !!!

Then we were even more surprised when we heard the final boarding call for the Savusavu flight .. so, it was still there ... and we raised hell again to get on .. but no way ... but to our surprise the resort person got in direct touch with the airline counter and tried to get us on ... well .. in the end they got us on the 2:30 PM flight ...

So, we had to wait 6 hours at the airport and were pretty pissed off, on the other hand we experienced stuff wrapped in roti (indian, pancake style bread) as a great hamburger substitute. We even ran into one of Ritu's coworkers, again, the island is way too small ..

After that long long wait things went pretty smooth .. our flight was on time, and we had a great little plane with big windows to see what is going on ... funny to see the clouds are only hovering over landmass, not over the water ...

We landed at Savusavu (the airport is a small shag) and for a brief second we feared that we had lost one suitcase .. but it was hidden in the front compartment of the plane ..

Now, the fun resort experience started .. we were picked up by a welcome lady and a driver in a nice AC bus, got cold wet towels to wipe away the sweat and some cold fiji water as refreshment .. we then drove down pothole alley to the resort, passing through Savusavu city (way smaller than Suva) ... after 25 minutes we arrived at the resort and were greeted by 5 guys on guitars singing some "bula" song just for us (there were no other people arriving with us) .. and some nice lady came with some super freshly squeezed / blended juices as a welcome drink ...

The sign in was done on a very large / open / friendly desk (not the usual hotel / counter style) and we got a tour of the premises before we were shown our Bure (that is a fijian style hut, brought up a bit to tourist standards, but willingly not having things like AC, telephone or TV.) ... since we had that "incident" with the flight (which was clearly a communication error on the resort / resort - airline side) they upgraded us to ocean front room (we were supposed to have gardenview)

These Bures are hard to describe .. though it sounds basic .. it is just wonderfull .. none of the windows has glass .. it is all mosquito net, to keep the bugs out, but let the wind go through ... they have shutters in case it is getting cold (yeah right) or to keep people from watching. The space it pretty big, a kingsize bed and another small bed and then a small room with another queen size bed .. so .. actually 5 people could fit ...

The lady who showed us around was very nice .. she had that great idea of "anything to eat ? a fruit platter ?" but that platter never came ..

next we checked out the dive shop to make sure we can dive tomorrow .. it was a bit confusing, we started a little discussion about diving / flying, regarding low level flights (like the ones from island to island) but we will just have to see.

After freshening up we took a walk along the beach and then went for dinner. On our way we heard drums and saw a half-naked fijian running around the outline of the premises, lighting all the torches around the resort, that was the fijian torch lighting ceremony. Since we were early we had drinks at the bar and then the marine biologist Mike started a slide show (well, while he set up we lost power ... but in the end it worked fine) ,. the slide show on reef critters was quite nice .. but right after that we went for food (which was also included in the package price :)

... we both had samosas as appetizers, then Ritsu had fish / chicken curry and I had a steak (great) and we both had a fantastic fruit sorbet with fruit ... very nice indeed ...

There was a group playing music around the kava bowl .. and unlike I have seen it before, they just sat on the floor and played close to the dining area .. so, we joined .. had some kava but then we focused on playing with one of the cats that belongs to the resorts .. so cute ... early, but tired we went to bed .

After a night of great sleep (I was so happy they had cold drinks in the fridge, which I just need at night) we woke up at 5:30 .. sunrise and loud birds were the main reason ... but we had have enough sleep. Then at 5:45 it started to rain, a real tropical downpour. We got our dive gear ready and at 7 we went to the dive-shop, but that was still closed, so we went first for breakfast. Though I usually do not eat breakfast, that buffet was just too tempting ... on top of it they offered cooked breakfast, but really really nice stuff .. eggs benedictine, grilled ham/cheese/pineapple sandwich. But that just sounded too much. We had a not so nice experience with one staff member, who was very accommodating towards me "yes, Peter, did you sleep well, Peter, want some jam, Peter" .. he even guarded my toast and brought it when done ... but he totally ignored Ritsu and on top of it, he let her toast burn ... She discussed (a.k.a bitched) that concern right away with one of the managers, and 5 minutes later that guy was sitting at our table apologizing ... from then on he was greeting Ritsu all the time, maybe a bit too much, and he still does not get the name right ... ah well ..

While eating the rain stop and the sun came out ... in full force.

Next we booked our massage for the next day and then went to the dive boat ... turned out we were the only 2 divers. So we had a pretty small, but comfortable boat and we went to a dive-site close by (the day before, since they had about 10 people, including a japanese camera crew, they went with the big boat to some dive-sites farther out, about 1 hour away) ... that was "Barracuda Point" .. but it should have been called "Coral Bleach Central" or at least "Bat Fish Point" since we saw many cute batfish (very curious guys, come pretty close), but only one Barracuda. We returned to the resort for surface interval and spent the time at / in the pool to stay cool. We went out again at 10:30 to "Whale's Dale" or something like that ... this dive was nicer and we came across 3 or 4 turtles (one could have been a repeat sighting).

We returned just in time for lunch. Appetizers where Gazpaccio and Crepes filled with Crab and Corn ... mains were Salad with fresh Walu in thai sauce, chicken on pasta or roast beef sandwich ... we both went for the Walu. And we also both went for the banana split dessert (instead of going for choice #2, cookies with frozen berry yoghurt)

After lunch was nap time ... we checked out both beds (the one in the second room is nicely nestled between 3 windows facing the ocean and was getting a very nice breeze) ... I spend some time reading outside and one of the resort cats (the rodent control) came and hopped on my lab and slept there for an hour. I browsed around the gift shop and got Ritsu a stuffed frog (she likes frogs, and that one was just too cute) I placed it next to her while she was sleeping and she made big eyes (just like the frog's) when she saw it. I also witnessed 2 guests leaving and the music guys playing a good bye song while the 2 ladies from San Francisco entered the van. Very moving.

Around 5 we started to walk around the beach and the resort and it started to rain again, shortly after one of the dive guys came and checked if we are still interested in the night dive, since the rain and the wind would pick up (I also guess their 2nd concern was that we were the only 2 divers for that dive and only paying 50% of the dive rate, so they would not make any money). We also learnt that there were only 4 people left in the resort, us and another honeymoon couple. Amazing to see that the resort still worked their butt off to make it feel like a special holiday. There were more staff members than guests now ... We did some more gift shop shopping, then we went to witness the opening of the Lovo.

The Lovo is an old traditional way of cooking food ... you dig a hole in the ground, put first firewood in, then big rocks ... you light the fire and let it burn until the rocks are really hot, then you take the wood away and start piling food on top of it (traditionally it should be wrapped in baskets weaved from banana or coconut leaves, nowadays they use tinfoil ... then again, traditionally it was used for cooking human flesh [no kiddin]) then everything is covered with even more leaves to keep in the heat and left to cook for several hours. It was really nice that they still gave us that little lecture, though we were the only 2 guests watching.

Then the dive video guy John showed a video he did today of the honeymoon couple ... and .. well .. how to be polite ... but a monkey using iMovie on a mac could have done that job better ... (gosh, i hope he never reads that :) ... no, seriously ... the camera work was so so (to often on top of the object filming down) ... and the editing was uninspired, transitions where used using the "what else do i have" principle ... the lack of colors could have used running some filters over the UW stuff .. some shots of the divers topside would have been nice ... but it seems the couple was very happy with it and that is most important.

Dinner time: turns out in that Lovo were fish, chicken, pork and lamb. Again I was amazed that for only the 4 of us they made an array of like 8 different salads (their kokoda was kick ass, less coconutty and more spicy). Sides were dalo and kasawa (both are close to the potato, but need lots of frying in garlic i would reckon to get any kind of flavor), some vegetable curry and rice. Oh, there was an option of having spinach soup before, which Ritsu tried. Did I mention that this resort grows their own produce and they say 35%-40% of all produce used in their food is from their own garden, that is pretty impressive. Not that we really had any space left, but the triple chocolate dessert was plain evil and we couldn't say no. The honeymoon couple had already left (amazing, married for only a week and they already spend their dinners not talking to each other ... while Ritsu and I were yapping away :) and the music guys were playing just for us (and I went over there from time to time to get some kava). After dinner we sat down with them and enjoyed the music and more kava, even Ritsu had 2 bilo's (those are those coconut halfshells you drink kava from), but while I was drinking "high tide" (full bilo) she preferred "low tide" (half bilo) ... everybody was very nice and it is amazing that it seems everybody can sing and play several instruments ... But at some point was said goodnight and they played us a farewell song, since they would not be there on sunday (day of church and rest) .. and as soon as we left they wrapped up and could finally go home.

Did I mention what great, fluffy towels they have here? Not those cheap ones .. but really nice ones.

We woke up not as early as usual and after showering we went to have breakfast. We had heard the night before that we and that honeymoon couple would be the only guests. It was amazing to see what great buffet they still prepared, even for just the 4 of us ... and still printing daily changing menus. Again we were to busy with the buffet, so we ordered no other food items.

We then tried out the kayaks which was a lot of fun and a nice exercise, no photos though thanks to the wet environment. We then started packing, lounged around and at 11:30 we went to get our included bonus one hour massage! Wow .. that was an experience ... nothing compared to those 10$ - 10 minute back rubs you get on every street corner in New York. Those ladies kneaded and stretch pretty much every muscle in our bodies for 1 hour, using all kinds of fruity scented oils while nice music was playing ... I was just surprised that I did not fall asleep. I think my sunburn turned some of the treatment into pain ... but that was my own fault.

Lunchtime again at 12:45. The choices were Tomato-Basil soup or Salad and then fishburger, vegetable pizza or chicken over salad. We both opted for the fishburger, which was huge .. and the burger was made out of leftover fish parts from the day before, mixed with onions and other yummy things, the tartar sauce contained olives and pineapple .. very interesting combination. The honeymoon couple had left by then, but a new couple had just arrived. But they would spend the coming night all alone at the resort.

I settled the dive store and hotel account and then final packing. As goodbyes 2 guys we have never seen before played a farewell tune and off we went again over the pothole ridden street through Savusavu to the airport. The plane was on time and the smallest thing Ritsu had ever flown. A lonesome pilot steered the 8 passenger aircraft at 4500 ft ... it was a beautiful 45 minute flight and a very smooth touchdown. At the airport a german guy who was sitting behind us suggested sharing a taxi and at 4:45 PM we were back in Suva. But not back to the hotel .. no, we went to our new house where the landlady and her daughter already waited.

They showed us how the alarm worked (weird feeling to have an alarm system) and the hot water and everything. We settled in as good as possible and then had dinner at Great Wok, our favorite sunday spot. Tired, full, happy and sunburnt was finally went to sleep for the first time after 10 weeks NOT in a hotel bed, but in our own house.

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Thursday, December 05, 2002

Since we will be traveling over the weekend, I am not sure how frequent I can update ... we are going to Savusavu, a town on the next big island for some relaxing and diving .. will tell ya kids all about it when we get back ...

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Thursday started out being quite nice and sunny, but was getting very humid again around noon. I went downtown to have fun with the telecom people again, since I have not had received any phone-call yet. Turns out that nothing can be done on the weekend, so if we are lucky, the phone will be on on monday.

I ran some other errands and took this lovely picture of the reserve bank building. It happens to be the tallest in all Fiji and also the one where Ritsu is working in .. and how cool is it to have the building you work in on your local currency? It is on the 20F$ bills. (the other building there is the new parliament.) Also notice how blue the sky and how sunny it it (that vista usually does not last for long)

Back to the hotel and some packing ... Ritsu returned from work and we took a cab to bring tons of our stuff over to our new house ... the current tenant was very welcoming and we chatted a bit. Then the landlady came (incidentally) and we had a chance to meet her. There was some confusion over the key transfer, which was planned for sunday, but suddenly the daughter, with whom we had all dealings with so far, said she would not be there .. ooops ... but ah well .. i hope that will be figured out somehow .. we then waited a long time for a cab to come (we called the cab station twice) .. and the one we got .. well .. that guy seemed to be either tired .. or had too much kava ... anyways .. he ran over a pretty large dog. Wow, that was surreal ... even more so that the dog got up right away and just barked and ran around (seems all 4 limbs were still intact) ... the driver got out to merely look at his car ... I wonder if I would get out there where a dog is really pissed of and full of pain ...

Well .. we continued and went to a chinese restaurant we have not checked out yet (mainly because it looks somewhat shabby from outside) .. Foong Lee ... mainly seafood. But to our surprise they where totally crowded ... the host asked us to come back in 15 minutes .. when we came back, turned out they had an empty table .. but one silly waiter there gave it away to the next couple coming ... so, the host was all "i am so sorry" .. we ended up waiting some more .. finally we had a table .. and the food was pretty nice .. The soups come in small and large .... small easily feeds 3 people .. large seems to be good for 6-7 ... same with the main dishes .. they are huge ... i had the stir fried hot chili fish, which was very tasty and had lots of nice veggies with it ... Ritsu had Hong Kong style fish .. which was somewhat yummy, but mainly greasy and full of bones ...

No way that we could finish all that ... we had some tea and then walked home .. last night in this hotel ...

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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Yesterday (Wednesday) was so far the most humid day we experienced !!! Really !!! it felt like a complete steam bath outside ... there was some rainy - drizzle stuff mixed in, which just evaporated before it hit the ground ... very very icky !!! I think that is more the climate that is normal for this time of year ... we heard SO many times that the weather the last 6 weeks (can you believe it .. we arrived here exactly 6 weeks ago !!!) was very uncommon for this time of year .. now we are about to experience the "real" Fiji weather .... I already found some mildew on a rarely worn sweater, paper starts feeling very soft and chips are loosing their crunchiness in an instant.

Today's main event was shopping for bedding stuff, so that when we move in on sunday, we have sheets and pillows ... after that we had lunch at "Lantern Palace", a chinese place Ritsu had been to before, but for me it was the first time. The food was nice, albeit late, but it was pretty crowded which is usually a good sign that people like the food.

Afterwards I went back to the hotel to start packing. Ritsu joined me later after work. For Dinner we stayed at the hotel and tried 2 steak dishes we had not tried yet ... I had a NZ beef fillet with a mushroomy sauce, while Ritsu had some steak with a sauce which she claimed was the same as on her favorite "braised chicken".

We felt like watching a movie, but Ritsu fell asleep ... so I played DooM, the classic of the 1st person shooter games ... which I finally found as a really cool version running on a macintosh and under OSX, the latest apple operating system, which seriously kicks ass. I always loved that game, since it is quite simple, but fun to play ... after DooM, many games of a similar style were created and got technically much better ... but the developers also filled it with all kinds of more challenging riddles ... which may be nice ... but I just want to run, explore the environment, and kick some monster's booty on the way.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Tuesday i focused all my energy on getting electricity and phone connection figured out. It was no fun at all. It is all very obsolete, lining up at several places, friendly faces saying "sure this can be done till sunday" yeah, right .. we will see, but so far I have heard bad things from people who went through this ...

The guy at Fiji Telecom was especially annoying, he was not happy with only having a photocopy of my passport (and then he kept it, while the electricity people made a copy for their records). And it ended with "now we process that and call you when you can come and pay your 500F$ deposit" .. great ... now I am waiting for that call ... but i think I will just walk by there again later.

Severely annoyed and fatigued by all that I went back to the hotel to eat chinese leftovers and to take a nap (the night before I did not sleep too much) ... but for some reason the phone kept ringing from time to time (with no one actually calling) and housekeeping brought laundry ... so no nap ...

For dinner we were invited at Ritsu's Boss' house, which was quite interesting. The place was big enough to seat 17 people comfortably on the porch for drinks and then later on 2 tables inside for dinner. Everything was planned very well, even the changing seating order, to make sure that people mingle. Food was (after a shrimp cocktail) some pork / apple dish with veggies ... very nice .. dessert was some orange flavored crepes and then coffee / tea / drinks. All in all a very interesting evening. Afterwards Edo and Marlee gaves us a ride back home.

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Sunday, December 01, 2002

Monday: yeah .. good news .. we signed a contract for a car ... now they take it and polish it and get it all nice shiney and new ... it is a 2000 model Toyota Echo .. and unlike all the models we have seen, it is a "hatchback" style ... meaning it is a bit shorter and has no trunk (but still plenty of space in the back). We liked that compact size a lot and the fact that it is so new is very nice and it will most likely cause no trouble in the next 3 years.

The rest of the day I spent with local burocrazy fun .. like telecom and electricity ... this is going to be a fun one to make sure that when we move in on sunday that phone and lights are on ... the people here have that very nice attitude "oh sure we can have that done by the end of the week" .. which usually means the next week .. or the one after that ... But it took me quite some running around ... finding out the hard way that the electricity place closes already at 4 PM ..

later I took a cab to our new house to meet with the landlords representitive to have a "letter of consent" signed (which i need for both, phone and power applications) ... and then Ritsu and I had dinner at the hotel... I had fish and chips (i brought my own sweet and hot sauce) and Ritsu had Gajun Lemon Chicken, which was ok ... but did not really deserve the name "Cajun"

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Sunday was actually pretty sunny (I even got a slight sunburn on my favorite spot again, my nose). I made breakfast using again lots of the salmon we bought the day before .. salmon croissant and salmon toast ... too bad I had no champagne ...

We then went to town to see which few shops are open, and we actually found some ... at the Boulevard "mall" some shops open at 11 (e.g. the VCD rental place is open from 11-2 .. people were actually waiting for it to open) , and the asian food store was open too. As to the home electronic places: Courts and Big Bear were open, while Burns & Phillips and MH Homecentres were closed.

We then spent some time at Suva's downtown beach, walking around and flipping stones. Click here for the first videoclip on this blog, a small camera pan over the Suva Bay.

We then went to JJ's for some refreshment before we would go see the new Harry Potter movie .. I liked it quite some ... first of all I was very happy about the sound in the theater ... either the projectionist finally got it right ... or my ears have made an evolutionary step back and are now happy with plain stereo ...

As to the movie ... better than the first, very nice looking, faster overall pacing (though I think I lost Ritsu somewhere in the middle) .. I was surely entertained through the whole 3 hours. Not so good .. some acting, the "showdown", the "reward" (what kind of school just cancels all exams just before the year is over ??? ). And what actually was the connection between the spiders and the snake? why did the spiders show up at each crime scene? And why did that car come back right on time? And why was the tree attacking that car? Why would Haggrit send the boys to the big spider if he was not sure it was not safe? Questions, tons of questions ...

We had a very annoying teenager chick behind us .. discussing the movie loudly with her friend, pointing out the obvious ("oh, look, he is crying") ... we only had 3 cellphones ringing and overall the audience behaved pretty much ... but I had to shush the chick behind us a couple of times (which made them laugh even more... )

We then walked home and Ritsu took a nap while I was reading. For dinner we went to Great Wok (one of the few places that is open on sunday evening) and it was very nice again. We went back, watched some "Friends" and went to bed.

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