23.04.2009 - 30.04.2009
View Our Big Trip map on gilberts's travel map.
We arrived back in Fiji this afternoon - again having problems with downloading photos but will persist perhaps this evening.
We had an uneventful journey to Fiji and then the fun began. We arrived in Tarawa at Bonriki International Airport - basically two sheds stuck together. The noise and atmosphere was quite overwhelming with so many people waiting to greet relatives and also seeing relatives off on the flight that would turn round there.
The place looks like paradise - turquoise seas and beaches with coral reefs around. It's not until you look a little closer you see that paradise is not what you might imagine. The water is the temperature of warm tea and used generally as the main outlet for all the waste you can imagine (and some you can't). Therefore I decided it was an e-coli soup and would not swim in it! This island itself is a long thin back to front L shape and is travelled in buses which are minibuses which in the UK would have gone to the car park in the sky long ago - some photos will follow. They are however a vital part of the island life and are the only way to travel - a real experience.
We had a wonderful "hotel" on one side of the lagoo - it has to be said the water was a million times cleaner but still suspect. We had a room on stilts out over the lagoon and it was beautifully cool in the evening for sleeping. Otherwise the heat is overpowering and never changing. The food was good but we soon realised you needed to enjoy breadfruit ( a kind of stodgy pumpkin stuff with little taste), fish and coconut. Fine by us but I swear when I get back to NZ tomorrow I'm going to have a cheeseburger even though I NEVER eat them under normal circumstances.
After a couple of days we flew to the outer island of Kuria in a small plane (again you need to see the photos!) The journey took around 30 minutes and we were met by a reception committee of the Town Clerk and the Mayor. Apparently we are the only white tourists they have ever had there. We stayed in the Council room and a group of Council ladies (Mothers Union I guess) fed us while we were there - again fish, breadfruit and coconut although with papaya also. The mayor took us for a tour of the island where we left the normal gifts at the shrines namely tobacco and money.
The people there were wonderfully friendly and welcoming. We went to the Secondary School which is for children from 11 to 14 approximately and they all learn english. Watch out all you teachers and Sunday School leaders I've about 30 children looking for a pen friend!! I spoke with them about life for children in England, what our homes are like and how we have different temperatures during the year. It was a good time.
We were due to leave the island on Tuesday - but it was not to be. The aeroplane due to pick us up was broken so that was that. Fortunately the agent on the main island who had booked it for us was able to get another company to divert their plane the next day. Otherwise we would have missed our flight today, our connection tomorrow and possibly our connection to Singapore next week - a bit worrying for a time - but the people looked after us and made sure we were OK.
The community on Kuria is one of sharing - they really have nothing other than fish, breadfruit, papya and coconut. They have a fish co-operative and also a copra co-operative but no form of income. The have wonderful system of working together for the common good. Every day the men must work for one hour on a project to assist someone. There are some photos of them clearing an overgrown piece of coconut plantation for a woman.
Tony is currently lying by the pool - our first bit of luxury since leaving the UK - so he might want to add something more later.
Off to NZ tomorrow will be back to you soon.