Sunday, April 26, 2015

1MB Travels: Fiji: Adventure Flashpacking Day 3: Limestone Caves, Fijian at Tata's, Pacific Harbour

Island time - it can flow so slowly and ebb so quickly at the same time.  Before we knew it, the last day at Blue Lagoon Resort was upon us.  

With the hard stop of boat pickup at 1:00pm (the trade off for remote serenity: there is only ONE boat per day back to the main island), we had just enough time for breakfast and one more activity - a limestone cave excursion!

The breakfast buffet at Blue Lagoon is excellent - and something to look forward to.  They take care to change it up just a little each day so you don't get bored.  

We discovered a hot tray we'd missed the day before: it catered to international tastes, but all tasted super fresh and delicious, especially the lamb sausage!

What I was most excited about however, were the local items: gulagula was my favorite: a Fijian traditional donut with bits of banana and sultanas in a hot steaming football shaped fried airy pillow of deliciousness.
There were also Babakaus, another kind of Fijian donut made simply with flour, yeast, sugar and water.
All fueled up, we headed down to the activities desk where we piled into a speedboat towards Sawa-i-Lau, the famed limestone cave where they filmed a scene in The Blue Lagoon movie from the 80's starring Brooke Shields (I think this scene - sorry, a bit graphic)!

It was small, but breathtaking - from the beach, you take stone steps up to the narrow entrance, then descend into water and swim through to a skylit opening with soaring limestone walls.

We had been a bit apprehensive about the part where we had to swim underwater, beneath a solid stone roof, in order to access the inner rooms. 

But luckily, it was only for a few moments - no more than a 45 second swim - and our guide brought a floating device that guests who were not strong swimmers could hold onto, and be towed with, once we got into the inner rooms.

The darkened inner chambers had a sense of mystery and danger to them, heightened by the tour guide's mentions of water eels in its murky depths.  We broke the tension by shouting "Bula!" loudly throughout the rooms.

Once we were done with the tour, we were free to roam through a few tables of vendors selling trinkets and shell jewelry on the beach.  I loved that they recognize you came in your swimsuit and didn't bring any cash, so though the setup looks makeshift, they actually are very organized in recording your resort room number, and then providing a billing slip so that we can pay the boatman when we got back to the resort.

It was nice to have a bit of time before the boat ride back, to answer the call of the clear, warm water beckoning us in.

Back at the resort, it was a bit of a whirlwind - checkout had to happen quickly, and our bags were rushed to the front desk for labeling and for porters to take them to the beach, where we were to await a speedboat to whisk us back to the bright yellow Yasawa Flyer we arrived on just a few short days ago.

(My only regret is that we didn't have time to do the village visit as it was to be that afternoon, after the boat departure time.  If I am lucky enough to make it back to Fiji again, will need to plan for a longer stay, definitely to include a full Friday at the resort!)

It was a wistful goodbye, toasted with one last pina colada at the beach bar and serenaded by a bittersweet ukelele'd island song.  

The practiced resort staff of course had already planned for our food needs: they had tandoori chicken wraps or sandwiches ready for purchase, to be handed to us on the way to the boat!

For the comfort and safety of guests, the resort loads people into one boat and luggage into another.

Both shoot out to the Yasawa Flyer, and again with practiced efficiency, passengers are shepherded onto the Flyer on one side, while porters transfer luggage onto the boat from another.  The whole process took no more than 5 minutes.  Then we were off for a 4.5 hour ride.

As you've seen in our recaps so far, getting around the islands is not an easy feat - besides the long boat trips, ground transportation also takes a lot of time, and there are not a lot of ready options.  The bus from the marina on the northwest side of Viti Levu island to Pacific Harbour on the southeastern side would have taken around 4 hours and required us to fast-track to the bus station to catch the last bus out within a half hour of the boat docking, and taxis are not only scarce, we'd read in Lonely Planet that they can be sketchy with many unlicensed drivers who may not be up front with fare charges.  

So, we contacted Koro Makawa for car service - the driver would be waiting for us when we docked around 5:45pm, and he'd take us to Pacific Harbour for $160 Fiji (~$80 USD) total (cars at this rate can accommodate 1-3 passengers).  It was well worth it, not to have to deal with hauling all that luggage to a bus station and spending more precious time on a long ride, after already spending 4.5 hours on the Yasawa Flyer.

Our driver kindly made a stop for us to grab dinner too - at a local restaurant called Tata's: an open air, sort of glorified shack of a place less than a half hour from the marina. 

The short and focused menu consisted almost entirely of curries (many Fijians are of Indian descent, so there is heavy culinary influence there).  

We tried the lamb with rice and daal.  And realized that outside of the opulence of high end resorts, meat may be an expensive / luxury good in this island nation: at local restaurants there is a huge disparity versus what we would consider a size 'small' by American standards.  Though, it only cost $7 Fiji (~$3.50 USD) for the dish.  The lamb was tasty but not particularly mind blowing.

Thinking seafood is the thing to get, we ordered the crab curry in large size ($35 Fiji ~$19.50 USD) but again found the portion much smaller than expected.  There were probably 2 claws and 2 legs total.  The curry sauce was flavorful and definitely caused us to lick our fingers clean, but we wanted more meat in the crabs themselves.  

Glad we got to get a little bit of local flavor though before heading out to Pacific Harbour - we would arrive in the evening in time to catch some sleep before our big Beqa shark dive!!!



Blue Lagoon Beach Resort
Nacula Island, Yasawas
Ph: +64 3 442 9998

Yasawa Flyer

Koro Makawa Rentals & Tours (car service)
Ph: 3450567

Uprising Beach Resort
Queens Rd, Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Day 3 costs breakdown:
  • Sawai-i-Lau excursion:  $59 Fiji per person (~$29.50 USD pp, 20% tax included)
  • Pina Colada: $21 Fiji (~$10.50 USD pp)
  • Lunch to go: tandoori chicken wrap $10 Fiji per person (~$5 USD pp) 
  • Yasawa Flyer boat ticket: $170 Fiji per person (~$85 USD pp)
  • Car service (Denarau Marina pickup to Uprising Pacific Harbour): $160 Fiji for 1-3 passengers +$10 tip (~$85 USD total)
  • Tata's dinner: $58 Fiji (~$29 USD)
  • Uprising Resort (free upgrade to beachfront bure!): $73 USD prepaid one night via Orbitz (tax included)
  • Total: ~$223 USD per person

(See my recaps for Day 1 here , Day 2 here , Day 4 here, and Day 5 here)

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