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Saturday, January 18, 2003
Surprise, Surprise or Weekend Trip to Toberua Island more pictures will be added shortly
For some time now Ritsu had told me that I should keep this weekend open since she planned on "kidnapping" me. All she told me was that I should pack my dive gear.
Friday: I woke up early to have enough time to make breakfast and bring the car to Asco Motors. When I returned there was still enough time for packing. At 9:45 our cab arrived and Ritsu told the cab driver to not tell me where we are going. For a second the cab driver must have thought that she alone was going somewhere and her husband should not know, too funny. After 15 minutes I realized we are driving towards Nausori, the airport, and I was wondering if our dive gear was packed well enough for flying, but a bit later, we passed the airport and again I had no clue where we were heading to. We left the main road and followed a dirt road for some time till we came to a river and a sign "Nakelo Landing" and we saw a small boat. Ah, boat trip! But where to? Also, that was not our boat as it turned out. We waited a bit and I checked out that one little "supermarket" and then our boat came. Small and it seems we were the only 2 passengers. I noticed the name "Toberua" on the boat and the t-shirts, but still had no idea what that was. We headed down the river, lined by beautiful mangroves and from time to time some little huts and swimming children. At one point we stopped to pick up a letter and a bunch of those kids were all over the boat. After 30 minutes the river widened and I spotted a tiny island and the skipper motioned that this is where we are going.
We arrived then around noon at Toberua Island Resort and were welcomed by at least 10 staff members (no singing though, that was probably cancelled due to rain) and after a welcome drink (kava) we had our grand tour of the resort. The island is only 4 acres at high tide (around 20 acres at low tide) and all resort. At the end of the island are crew quarters and the rest is 14 bures and then a bar, kitchen/restaurant bures, office/shop bure and a saltwater swimming pool. Very nice and cozy. After we signed in, we were led to our bure and we were amazed about how beautiful it was. One large room with king size bed (and 2 small beds), a minibar hidden in the closet, the bathroom adjacent (so it is not under the same roof) and a balcony facing the water, with a swing and a hammock between the palm trees. The roof was very nicely decorated from the inside. I inspected the bure for further amenities and discovered that there are no mosquito coils ... and even worse, the windows have no mosquito screens !!! I saw ourselves being eaten alive, but then Ritsu found in the welcome brochure that one of the unique features of this island is that they have no mosquitos. Wow, great!
Very shortly someone came with the lunch menu and asked us to make our selection. I opted for a seafood/bacon pizza and Ritsu had Chicken Risotto. Both very yummy. We had a quick nap end met at 2:30 at the dive store to go diving. Dive guide Rachel was a very nice and cheerful person and her brother Tim, though on holiday here, was very helpful with the dive gear and everything and so we had a great dive at a site called "the canyon". Back at the resort we showered and explored the place a bit more, I spent some time walking around taking pictures while Ritsu did some more napping. Later I talked to many of the staff members and kept reading, waiting for dinner time. Before dinner everybody met at the bar to chat. Besides Tim and his GF Amy there was a couple with a little baby girl. Another couple I saw leaving earlier that day, so, thanks to low season, it was nice and quiet.
At 8 the drums rolled and let us know that dinner was ready. Ritsu had the soup and then roast of lamb while I had a pork samosa and then prawns. All very tasty. The desert was a paw paw mousse which has seen way too much cream in its life, so I could not finish it. While I thought about enjoying a cigar after dinner, it seemed that everybody, including the music guys and the bar tender were off to bed, so we just did some reading in our bure and then had a wonderful night's sleep, listening to the waves and breeze.
Saturday: We woke up at 7:30 and got ready for Breakfast at 8. And at 9:30 we met at the diveboat again. Today we were one diver more, since Amy just got certified the day before and joined us. The dive sites were "Bird's Island Reef" and "The Playground" and the weather in between got very nice (I sure got a nice sunburn again).
The dives were nice, while visibility was various, we saw some really nice stuff. A school of eagle rays on the first dive and 2 circling white tip reef sharks on the second. We got back in time for lunch (indian omelette, thai steak and some fish, all good, some coconut/caramel custard for desert, no coconut flavor, but a miraculous resurrection of the paw paw mousse from last night) and then some serious napping.
In the late afternoon we walked around the Island, took nice pictures, marveled at the banded sea snakes they have around here (they are totally harmless and very beautiful to look at) and did some more reading. Around 7 we went to the bar / library and I had a nice Gin & Tonic and lit a cigar. Ritsu had first a beer and then a "Tomberua Prince", a rum based cocktail with fruit juices and a dash of Gallioano. A bit later Tim, Amy and Rachel came, Tim showing his pictures of the day on his Toshiba Laptop. And 10 minutes later the manager couple joined us and we were one nice sitting group, and when at 8 the drum rolled for dinner, nobody really wanted to get up. Eventually we moved over to the restaurant and thanks to the sunny weather all day we could sit outside, under the stars and palm trees, 6 ft away from the water and had a fantastic dinner. Ritsu had a potato/bacon/ginger soup followed by stuffed chicken while I had the crabmeat filled dalo starter and then fresh fish on mashed potatoes topped with a mango/papaya salsa. Well filled we pretty much went to bed right away.
Sunday: My sunburn interrupted my sleep a bit and we woke up around 7 and went to breakfast at 8. The weather was again gorgeous. The manager couple tempted us again saying "who said you need to leave at 10? you can leave whenever you want, most Suva people do not leave until 4 PM. Wow, how nice, if we had known, we could have maybe added 2 more dives, but we were ready to pack and just strolled some more around the island, laid lazy in the hammock and kept reading.
Just before 11 we left our bure, our stuff was already on the way to the boat, and even though it was sunday, big time day for rest and church for the fijians, all of the staff that was working showed up to say goodbye ...
So we boarded our little boat again and including some minor mechanical mishap, we just needed 90 minutes from the island to our house in Suva.
That was out of all our resort trips here so far the best ... the Jean Michel Costeau resort was only better in the food category ... we loved the very private / familiar setting ... our bure was beautiful (it seems we got a super upgrade, we noticed later that only few bures have been renovated recently, ours was the biggest of the new ones) people were very friendly but not intrusive, and the place is just beautiful. The diving was pretty cool, though viz was down thanks to the hurricane, the diveboat was comfy and very well equiped (latest nav and gps) and Rachel was a great dive guide. We will surely return soon.
Thursday started with another trip to the LTA to take care of our fijian driver's licenses, and to our surprise, they would not accept Ritsu's international license. No, they want her japanese one. For a moment they even "threatened" me with a driving test (since my license is from a country where you drive on the right side of the road), but I talked them out of it.
We then did a quick stop at Asco motors to arrange for our car being fixed, minor blemish which was supposed to be fixed before they handed us the car over.
I spent some time at the office, then grocery shopping and then at home I experimented with tamarinds to create tamarind chutney, and it turned out quite nice.
I discovered that the hatchlings are apparently gone. Probably flew out already with mama bird. But on closer look I discovered the smallest one on the ground still yapping for food ... no trace of mama bird or the others, so the only thing i could do was using some leaves to get the little one back into the nest (not bare hands so it does not smell like human, especially human who just chopped chili) and indeed, a bit later I saw mama bird returning to the nest. I hope she keeps feeding also. I just quickly looked and it seems she is still there and accepting the hatchling back.
Dinner was the leftover south seas chicken.
It will be a bit quiet here the next few days since Ritsu is "kidnapping" me over the weekend. I have no clue where we are going, but diving is involved, so I am of course very excited. We will be back by sunday.
Wednesday was the first day our new cleaning lady Marama came over to clean, and she did a great job. It kept me busy too since I helped with some things and used the time doing my room, setting up my work area.
I bet she would have stayed longer and do some more stuff, but I had to leave at 4:30 .. I stopped by the office briefly, then had new passport pictures done, bought some cheap flip flops and then picked Ritsu up from work ...
For dinner we went to Korea House, the 'other' korean place in town. But some things seem to be constant in those restaurants, patrons are only groups on kroean men, they are loud, they are smoking and they have the worst and loudest cell phone ring tones imaginable. Food was nice, we had beef BBQ .. but we also ordered some beef bone soup .. and that soup was just plain boring, even salt and hot sauce could not rescue that soup.
Back home, we watched X-Man, to see a very different side of Halle Berry's career. Entertaining movie.
Yesterday's (Tuesday) Dinner was something I had never tried before: South Seas Pineapple Chicken. I got the recipe from a cookbook I bought here (Taste of the Pacific). And it goes like this:
Make a marinade of 1/4 cop soy sauce, 1/4 cup white wine, juice of one lemon or lime, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, crushed garlic and crushed ginger (about a table spoon each), 1 teaspoon curry powder, pinch of each: thyme, oregano and rosemary.
Take clean, skinned pieces of chicken (breast and thighs) and marinade them for several hours.
During that time have fun with a fresh pineapple. Unless there is some trick I don't know or they have a hidden zipper, they are killer to work with. Mainly after you chopped off top and bottom and then carved off the sides, you are left with many ugly brown "eyes" ... I know there is some trick, but the way I try it, it does not work ... Anyways ... the recipe calls for thickly sliced pinapple (which is not visible on the picture in the book, instead there they have some fine sliced pieces as garnish, so just do both).
The time is also good to finely slice 4 medium size onions and create a big heap of onion rings.
Once you consider the chicken to be marinated enough (having turned them at least twice in that time, the book says), at least several hours, drain chicken, reserve marinade, dredge chicken in flour and set aside.
Heat some butter in pan and fry onion slice golden. Set aside. Then melt some more butter and brown the chicken on both sides. Add the reserved marinade, toss the onion rings on top, cover the whole thing and let simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
During those last 15 minutes use a small frying pan to sauté the pineapple slices in yet some more butter. Arrange the thick slices on a heated platter and keep the small thin pieces for decoration.
Place the chicken pieces on top and garnish with pineapple and slivered almonds (which should have been carefully toasted before, great NOW i am telling you)
Now the recipe gets a bit hairy, it tells us to add more white wine to the pan juices, but does not specify which pan, the chicken or pineapple pan. Well, i tried the pineapple one, but I think they talk about the chicken pan. So this way you create some more sauce to pour over the whole thing.
The book also says this is a great party dish, prepare before hand and just reheat. Check out the picture comparison above. Not bad in taste at all, but I would recommend to add some crushed pineapple to the marinade, as it adds flavor and tenderizes the meat.
After Dinner we finally got around to watch "Monster's Ball", quite an interesting movie with a somewhat sudden ending, though it made sense to me. I found that Billy Bob Thornton played the same stoic character he played so well in "The man who wasn't there" and while Halle Berry was pretty good, if not even great, I did not really see an oscar performance there. I have to admit that the sex scene was done quite well and tasteful, but I wonder if they used body doubles. Oh, and I sure liked the cinematography, and I was positively surprised by Sean "Puffy" Combe's performance, pretty strong.
It seems hurricane "Ami" has left the island and left quite some devastation, especially on some smaller outer islands. The main drag for us was that just after we prepared for an extra holiday full of watching movies and cooking, the power went out. And it stayed out for the whole day pretty much .. so, while the sun came back bringing her heat, the fans did not work and the fridge got warmer. Power finally came back at 6 PM.
Here the promised pics of some trees (the first is actually leaning on the powerlines leading to our house).
The wind died down quite some, and we spent some time shopping for food (and to seek the nice ACed environment of the supermarkets).
Around 7PM we were treated to a great sunset:
(on request I can also put up a small video clip of that sunset :)
This blog got a pretty bad review (and a 1 out of 5 star rating) from one reviewer:
Rating: 1 by Anonymous, 01.13.03
One day is enough for Fiji, ONE STAR!
Hmm ... what shall I think about this one? What is that person's point? Is he a disgruntled tourist? Or did not get the concept of this blog? I'd like to hear from this person, but I doubt he/she would ever show up again here.
And hey, this is not a way to get your own blog entry :)
The cyclone is still around, but we are ok (and so are our little birds it seems). Ritsu did not have to go to the office today (but I went down town, looked a bit like a battle field, I saw some trees cutting of streets, pictures later.)
Wow, quite some weather going on outside. Time to make sure the car is not parked under a coconut tree.
Yesterday's gardener adventure ended with me firing them. They just did not do their job right and tried to hike up the rate. Then they suddenly said they can do the job in 1 day, though 2 days was agreed earlier ... then they complained the job is harder than anticipated, and other people give them more money plus lunch and breakfast. Ah well. Took me only 30 minutes to get a new gardener who looked very happy to do the job next month.
Dinner last night was by the way some beef satey stir fry with lots of veggies ... but it did not turn out the way that I wanted ... well, Ritsu liked it :)
As to the weather, yes, tropical storm Ami is coming, but not to Suva, so no hurricane warning for us, but it still affects the weather quite some and we have gusting winds and lots of rain ...
So, this is where the hatchlings are at now. You can actually make out feathers now. And what I find very interesting is that their position's in the nest seems to stay the same ... and I bet the slightly bigger guy is the first who hatched .. and since he is the first to yell for food, he will keep on growing fastest. Survival of the fittest. Depends all if you were strong enough to hatch first (or you were gifted with a weaker shell to break through)
Sunday was a very relaxed / lazy day, we had to give those sore muscles some time. Then later we had dinner at neighbor Wayne's and his family's house, and it was very nice, very nice people. We had some really yummy burmese noodle dish, and later we got to see their new puuies, very cute. Wayne drove us home, though it is just 500 meters to walk, it is dark and full of dogs.
Today (Monday) I am sitting in and checking on the gardeners. I got a surprise call from our New York friends Berna and Chris. And what I am preparing for dinner I cannot say since Ritsu may read it while at work :)