Duty Bound to Write
20th December, Fiji, Coral Coast
Keeping a diary seems to be the most sensible thing to do and the stupidist at the same time. Sensible because even after a couple of days it becomes difficult to remember precisely what you did and also it helps keep track of the days (I would not be able to tell that it is, as I write this, a Sunday morning and that Christmas day is ony 5 days from now).
It's also stupid because you can easily become a slave to it. If you don't update it every day, or every other day, you have several days to try to recall and shuffle back into a correct order. This can be helped by the digital camera photos, at least, as they are date stamped - so you can get a pictorial timeline if you need one. The trick there, though, is to ensure that you change the date and time every time you change country and timezone (the camera is the easiest of all the things to forget to change).
The other downside of writing every day is that some days will naturally become carbon copies of others - woke up, had a drink of water, watched the ocean crashing in on the beach, had a swim, lazed around, went to bed and hoped the mozzies would find someone else more tasty to feast upon. Today was one of those days.
We pretty much spent the entire time sitting around doing very little, with one exception - I had some trips to arrange and some accommodation changes to make. Although we booked for 5 nights at the Beachhouse, followed by 5 days/4 nights at an island called Nanuya Lailai, we've changed it to just 3 nights here, a night back at Nadi Bay Hotel (nice) followed by a 6 day/5 night trip to the Yasawa Islands group. This will include Nanuya Lailai - the Blue Lagoon island - but will also include a couple of others, namely Naviti and Kuata. It is more expensive, but it was becoming apparant that staying on the one island might become a bit boring - and it's nice to get back on the sea every now and then to admire the islands from a distance, anyway.
Unfortunately, we were not able to get a refund on our room here in the Beachouse, as we pre-paid through an agent (STA Travel). Nevertheless, it's only about £40 lost in total, and while the Beachouse has a beautiful location, it really lacks the service and cleanliness that we had in Nadi Bay. Everyone had said what a great place the Beachouse is, but it's not all as good as everyone makes out.
What is good about this place, apart from the location as I already mentioned? Well, the crowd staying seem OK. Of course, this can change daily, but everyone seems to be getting in to the swing of relaxing and taking in the views. There are hammocks all over the place, the vegetation is beautiful, the café is pretty good and there are some activities laid on (although things like massages and horse-riding along the beach cost extra). A nice touch is the tea and scones that you get at 4pm. Everyone likes this, no complaints there - apart, perhaps, from those who want more than 2 scones per person!
The downsides to this place - which I am writing partly for my own recollection but also partly for people who might search the web for info on the Beachouse (just as I did) and get a balanced view on things.
Firstly, the loft that we are in has a pretty strange smell. If I'm completely honest, it smells a bit like urine. No joke. This might just be some kind of wood treatment, as it seems to be present in the whole block, not just our room/loft. The sheets are pretty nasty, too. White is a colour that these sheets have only a distant memory of - pull back the top sheet (whose aqua patterned finish masks the fact that it too is dirty) and you'll see sheets that would easily make it on to camcorder footage for the next 'Holidays from Hell' programme. I can live with all of this, though. I'm not expecting it to be perfect, but clean sheets shouldn't be too hard to provide.
Where the Beachouse does really let down, I think, is in its service. In Nadi Bay Hotel, the staff were very attentive, and smiled a lot. This lot at the Beachouse seem to have the attitude that guests are nothing more than an inconvenience - a bit like Basil Fawlty's view of his guests at Fawlty Towers - the place would run just fine if people didn't keep asking for stuff. A case in point - today I wanted to change some US dollars to Fijian dollars. I waited at reception while all of the staff sat outside talking. They didn't come to see what I wanted, but then the phone rang and someone came in, she then called a colleague who took the call, then she walked out straight past me. Am I invisible? I had to stick my head back outside and offer an "Excuse me ..." to catch her attention, at which point she looked surprised at the fact that someone waiting at reception might need help. Earlier in the day it had been a similar thing while waiting to pay for Internet usage. I waited while they just did their own thing until slowly the recognition that I wasn't just standing there to decorate the place hit home. Still, I had the last laugh - they gave me the wrong change - $10 too much, and after the painful experience of trying to update this site over a 28.8 kbps connection, I wasn't going to inform them of their error!
Anyway, that's enough of the moaning and bitching - not that I'm gonna get anyone's sympathy, after all, eh?! Call it a public service thing, shall we?
Down the Beach
This afternoon we both went for a swim in the ocean. Manda had been put off swimming here by a report from someone back at Nadi that he'd seen people coming out of the ocean with whip marks - the kiss of the jellyfish. So far, I'd not seen any sign of them, and with a good mask - as we both have - and the clear waters you would easily be able to see any ahead of you. We didn't stay in the water for too long - it was not yet high tide, and consquently it took ages to get out to water that was deep enough for swimming but the strong winds made for unpleasent sideways currents in the shallow waters. We hardly saw anything worth noting - but the island trips ahead should offer some fantastic snorkelling opportunities.
The winds were a refreshing change. As we sat out the front of the café, the breeze and the overcast sky brought the midday temperatures right down. It's strange, but I haven't found myself getting bothered by the lack of blue skies - the clouds have their own moody quality unlike any that I've seen before, and even when it rains it's not a bad thing. It's actually quite refreshing to walk through the pathways between the foliage while the rain splashes off the giant green leaves around you. If the music from the Bounty ad is playing in your mind right now, and if you can picture taking one of these funnel-shapped leaves and dousing yourself with the collected rainwater then you are casting the right mental image. By the way, I'm not wearing a bikini in this image. That would be far from paradise.
We didn't really do much in the evening - Manda crashed out in the loft with both fans pointed at her while I tried to read in the dim wall light that graces our room. Eventually, though, the heat and the strain of reading under that light became too much and I gave in.
We woke again when others came back from the bar, and we then had another evening listening to the world's dullest sounding German woman in the room next to us. Seriously, this woman could bore people to death for a living. I don't know what she's saying (well, I can understand some of it) but in any language she would make you want to run from the room screaming. Unfortunately we were not able to do that. Instead, I lay there constructing an appropriate phrase to holler over the partition: "Entschuldigung, es ist spät und wir möchten schlafen, bitte. Könnten sie nicht so laut sprechen? Danke!" (excuse any typos in the translation there - long time no speaka the German). In the end, though, I didn't because they weren't trying to make noise - there were no stereos on, they weren't shouting; they were simply talking, but in dull German accents that were just plain distracting to these English-tuned ears. It's just unfortunate that the partitions are so thin. We popped in ear defenders and tried our best to ignore the two annoying mädchens over the way.