Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Back in the game - Fiji to Western Australia

So this is embarrassing we have been neglecting our poor little blog and the one person that reads it, my apologies.

We have much to catch up on, so in a nut shell (more detailed blogs to follow once I've gently persuaded Stuff to contribute, holding surf boards captive may be required for this),

We sailed from Fiji to New Zealand, Bay of Islands. We crossed 1,058 nautical miles in 8 days. 
Crewed by,
The two of us: although really we were just cooks, cleaners, watch keepers and sometimes wound something if we were told to 
The skipper Rus: Marine engineer, owner and builder of our vessel, the Antipodean
1st Mate Ron: Retired teacher, full time sailor, has sailed in pretty much every race and rally ever organised and has done as well as has stories about every crossing imaginable. 

It was an awesome experience, one I would highly recommend and we really hope to do more travelling by yacht!!

Bay of Islands
Once we made port and cleared customs and quarantine, Ron very kindly put us up for a few days at his lovely home in the bay of Islands so we could recoup and plan our next stage of the journey. He also was good enough to take us on a bit of a tour of the area and for a day out on his yacht. The Bay of Islands is stunning and I hope I can go back and spend some more time there! I also hope that Ron makes it to the UK one day so we can happily repay the hospitality. From Ron's we arranged a bus to Auckland and a flight to Perth via Sydney

Going down under
We spent a day in Auckland before flying out to Australia, most of this ended up being in a bar watching and betting on the Melbourne cup whilst drinking cocktails followed by eating Indian food in our hotel room.
On course for Perth we were required to spend about 10h in Sydney this was spent eating Thai food, drinking a few beers and having a sleep in a park before heading back to the airport. The airport shuttle train thing is awesome, it takes you out of and back to the airport with next to no fuss. We finally arrived in Perth after a very long day to find Oscar waiting for us. Oscar and Stuff have been friends since uni and have lived together, the two of them plus Theo make a whole. Oscar moved to Australia 2 years ago and we hadn't seen him since then. As is always the way with good friends nothing seemed any different when we did meet up.

Oscar actually lives near Margaret River 3 hours south of Perth however it happens that he was attending a training course in the city that week so we got accommodation together for a couple of days and then heading home with Oscar come the weekend. Stuff and I spent a day chilling out recovering from the travelling, then the next day we borrowed Oscars car whilst he was at his training course and went for a drive around Rockingham, ate some sushi sat on the beach and generally mooched about until it was time to pick Oscar up and head south to our new temporary home.

Margaret River
We arrived at Oscars just in time to help him move out. He had thankfully sorted out a new place to live that was close by and had room for us. We helped him move from Grace Town to Cowaramup. This is slightly further from the surf but not much and the new house is really nice not to mention in a place called Cow Town, awesome.

The Crew of the Antipodean

Recouperating at Ron's

Together again



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Good Bye Fiji

So finally the time came when a decision needed to be made. We had been hanging on in Fiji trying to conserve money whilst I waited for a work visa to start a dive job I'd been offered. The problem with getting the work visa was that I was already 'in country' so special permission was required in order to apply for the work permit. My would be employers were unable to provide me with accomodation in the mean time or hurry the process up so it simply became unmanageable to continue waiting, this was compounded by the fact our friends Russ and Sue wanted crew to sail to New Zealand departing as soon as a weather window allowed. Fate it seemed was pushing us away from Fiji for the time being at least.

A BIG tip if you would like to work in Fiji, make work contacts before you arrive, (if you are a dive professional there are plenty of opportunities!!!!!) then when you land and have to fill out the little form at the airport, simply tick that you are there on business, this gives you a 3 months working visa provided you can prove you are employed within 2 weeks of arriving. Simple!!! From there you can get 6m or 3 year visas although it gets a bit more complicated.

Anyway I bit the bullet and decided to move on and a 1050nm open ocean voyage seemed to be the right choice.

I am a little gutted Fiji didn't pan out as we had hoped but we got a very real experience of living there and met some amazing people. I will miss the sugar and honey, pineapples, curries and weather. Also we will never know what happens to our wee puppy but we did all we can for her.

Good bye to Fiji and hello to the next chapter.....

Sharky and George, well just sharky.

We had heard really good things about this shark dive in a place called Beqa on the Coral coast in Fiji.  We left cool water lodge and got the bus from Nadi down to Pacific harbour which is the best place to stay if you are thinking of doing the dive.  The bus was super cheap and they usually have films playing but I usually prefer to look out the window and watch the world go by.  The further south and east we went the more the weather deteriorated and it became more windy and rainy.  We arrived at our hostel and it was blowing a hooly!! We did not hold out much hope for doing the dive the next day.  We were correct the dive was called off dude to bad weather so we headed back to Nadi.  We met some cool people when we were staying in the dorm that night and they were all heading to Nadi as well so we agreed to meet for dinner that evening.  Not a wasted journey by any stretch.

Anyway I digress as usual, we headed down to Pacific Harbour for a second time a few days later as we really wanted to do the shark dive before we headed off on Russ and Sue’s yacht for our Ocean voyage from Fiji to New Zealand.  We hopped on the bus and hopped off 2.5 hours later in Pacific Harbour.  The next morning we were picked up by the dive company, kitted out with our gear, put on the boat and we were heading out for our close encounter with sharks.  We went with a dive company called Beqa Adventure Divers ( and they were good and professional.  We were told we could see up to 7 species of shark on the dive so excitement levels were high.  The highlight of the dive was going to be the bull sharks and if we were lucky maybe a tiger shark.  As we motored out to the site we were given all the usual safety briefs plus some shark info.  We arrived on site, had pre-dive chat about what was going to happen and then we were off.  The dive is extremely easy as all you do is sit on the bottom while the dive guides drop fish heads above your heads and fish and sharks come in and feed.  You get to see loads of big fish, like trevally and snapper and the odd bull shark on the first part of the die and then you head upto a shallower area where they feed the reef sharks which are smaller but still very cool.  I even had a 5ft white tip reef shark swim between my legs.  

Picture borrowed from the internet as we can't as yet afford an underwater camera

That was the first dive done and dusted but we still had another to go.  The second was awesome!! We dived down and lay on the seabed at about 26m and had about 20 bull sharks circling and coming into to eat the fish heads that were being dropped.  It was amazing to see the beasts of the ocean, the biggest was a pregnant female about 10ft long! Or 3m in new money.

In all we saw 4 species, Bull, White Tip, Black tip, Grey reef shark. Unfortunately no tigers but it wasn't really the right time of year. Also there were less Bull sharks than other times of year as lots had headed up river to pup, saying this we saw around 20 in a very small area which was impressive enough!!  

Also stolen photo, don't judge me!!!!
We were both in two minds about going on this dive as the sharks are fed and this is obviously not completely natural way of seeing the sharks and it does interfere with their natural behavior.  The plus side is that all the money raised through people going on the shark dives is used to conserve the area as a marine reserve, it also allows them to collect population data.  They educate local communities in shark conservation and also compensate the local villages for not fishing in the marine reserve.   I would definitely recommend doing this dive if you got Fiji.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Puppy Power

Ok so this won't surprise many of you

When walking to the beach one day we saw a very small puppy playing in a driveway with another dog, I obviously had to stroke it, this lead to it following us. When we took it back to the house it came from we found out it wasn't theirs nor did she belong to any of the houses next door.

Clearly we could not now leave this puppy next to the road alone. It became clear after closer inspection she was not in the best state, covered in fleas and very very skinny. So we took her back to the hostel to asked what we could do. The guys at Cool Water Lodge have said they'll keep her although we feel they are being too kind and don't want her to be an imposition, so we're not sure yet. Possibly if my job goes though and I'm allowed pets at the staff accommodation I may hang on to her for a few weeks and find someone that really wants her when I move on.

We have fed and defleaed her and she has come back to life, we are taking her to the vets this afternoon for a check up, worming and injections. In our current situation it is not possible to have a dog but we just want to give her a better start than she has had so far and a shot at being loved.

There are a lot of stray dogs in Fiji and even the ones with owners are not really thought of the same way as we are used to. Its quite a shock to the system and makes you feel pretty protective over this little innocent thing. That being said we can only do our best for her then hope we choose a good home for her.

We popped into the vets this morning to see about an appointment and costs. They already had 4-5 puppies and more kittens that are free to a good home, its so sad!! If nothing I'd like to insure she'll be spayed as soon as she is of age.

It may be the case for our little one that any home is better than no home.

I think people here think we are very soppy and a little crazy to worry so much about one puppy but we can not help it, I think you'll agree once I post some photos!!!

By Things

Puppy Update
We took the puppy who we named Mango Chutney to the dog shelter to be re-homed. We just didn't think the hostel where we are staying was appropriate for her as she needs a lot of attention, she is now playing with lots of other puppies and will hopefully find a loving home soon. If anyone reading this lives in Fiji and is looking for a puppy please go to the Vets/dog and cat shelter on Queens road, Nadi (just before Wailoaloa road) and ask for Mango!!!! 

Cool Water Lodge

Cool Water Lodge is the cheapest accommodation found near Nadi bay at $35 Fijian for a double room. Its not properly open yet and the owners have some grand plans for it, but currently there is no wifi, pool or bar, however you have access to a kitchen including fridge and freezer so can save even more by buying drinks and food from the supermarket. You can also buy beer from the owners if they have any in stock. The rooms are large and clean with shared bathrooms and a large garden with mango trees as well as some home grown veg including chillies.

Its run by an Indian couple Sanjay and Renna, although mainly by Renna. Renna is an amazing host and brilliant cook. The future plans are to open a restaurant and bar on the site which would be awesome. As it is Renna is more than happy to cook for you if you buy the ingredients or pay her, and amazingly for us she happy to teach you how to make curry and chutneys etc. The environment is very open and friendly there is generally nibbles or food and beer available to share most evenings, Renna and Sanjay live there so its a very homely and Renna is always on hand if you need anything.

The main downside is that they really do like to have a beer or twenty of an evening and although dinner is normally on offer its customary to drink until there is no drink left and then eat so if you've got a case of beer in you are in it for the long haul. Stuff fancied and little extra grub the other night (we had already had dinner) so joined in and ended up eating around midnight.

Renna showed us a wonderful recipe for lamb curry this included chopping the lamb with a large cleaver (all fingers have remained where they should be) and knocking mangoes out the tree in the garden with a large pole for the chutney (photos to follow).

We would recommend this hostel whole heatedly. It is located equal distance (about 5-10min walk) from Nadi beach and the main road that houses the supermarket, restaurants and bars and an internet cafe. If you are staying in Nadi bay there is no better value for money although if you just want a pool and bar and your food cooked for you then see the next blog for recommendations.

By Things

Here's Jonny......

Rennas hi-tech mango displacement gadget

Ummmmm Mango

Lamb curry yum yums

Update....The wait continues....

Hi all

Sorry we have been inert for a while, we are still waiting for a work visa to materialist and in the mean time we are trying not to spend any money which equals very little activity. Life however tends to happen to you even if you are avoiding it so we have got up to some mini adventures.

We are currently staying at a new (soon to be open) hostel called cool water lodge. But have stayed in many hostels in the Nadi and Nadi bay area so a full review type post of them all is to follow for anyone wanting to try to do Fiji on a budget including the best curry houses and other eateries.

As for the work visa its apparently looking good but until its physically in my hands I'm curbing my enthusiasm. Much positive thinking and willing is occurring.

By things

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Valley of the Sleeping Giants

We decided to take the bus to do some sight seeing on the cheap. We‘d heard about a place called the Garden of the Sleeping Giants and a therapeutic hot spring with mud pool. Whilst walking to the main road to get the bus a taxi driver/tour guide from our hostel stopped and offered us a free lift to the road, we were enjoying the walk but thought why not. This soon turned into some heated negotiation for a driven tour of the places we were planning to visit, he wanted to give us a good price and we wanted to take the bus!! Some people (mainly taxi drivers) can not comprehend that paying for something even if it is a good deal is more expensive than not paying for it. In the end we got across to him that we wanted to take the bus and were not just playing hard ball. 

We got a bus for $1.50 each (as opposed to the $60 the taxi driver wanted) and got dropped off at the end of a track that lead to the gardens. It was a fairly good walk to the gardens but half way a car stopped and offered us a lift as they were going there anyway with a nice couple that were staying at a resort (this happened to be the resort of Things potential future employment). The Garden was really cool, it was originally a private orchid collection now open to the public and the biggest collection of orchids in Fiji (now I’m not sure how many Orchid collections there are, but there were a lot of orchids not just 3 or anything, the photo show some of he more unusual looking ones). 

The garden is set in the valley of the sleeping giants so called as two areas of surrounding mountains resemble faces looking up as if lying down. This is fairly clear but I can’t help but think lots of bits mountains can look like a forehead nose and chin if you are looking for it.

After the gardens we got a free glass of tasty fruit juice then the same driver gave us a lift to the cross roads and we began to walk to the hot springs, good example of a friendly taxi dude. This again was a good walk, although doable and quite enjoyable as thankfully it was a little overcast, but we were thinking the walk back would be hard. Once again a lovely lady that was on her way to collect people from the mud pools picked us up and gave us a lift for the last part. Once there we found out a bus left in about 2 hours that would take us all the way back to town where the hostel was.

The hot spring bubbles up into a small pool at about 80 degrees C. This is then channelled into 3 pools this cools it a little and the pools are around 35 -40 degrees C. Before entering the first pool, you get muddy, top to toe you cover yourself, or each other in magic mineral rich mud. You then let it dry in the sun. Now we got a little carried away with throwing mud at each other and ended up plastered a little thickly, this then took longer to dry so if you give it a go I would suggest thin layers!!! Once dry you jump into the pool the mud came from to try to clean as much as you can off, this is weird as you sink into the bottom, squidgy!!!! A nice local man is there to give men and women alike a good rub down, which is a little disturbing to British sensitivities, but most helpful. You then move to a hotter slightly cleaner pool, followed by a clean very hot pool. By the last pool you are almost entirely mudless. 

Now heading to a thermal spring in a tropical country may seem like a questionable idea (heavily questioned by Stuff) but Things was very keen and  the hot water actually makes the breeze seem cooler, as does the mud. I can now see why pigs do what they do!!! Stuff really enjoyed it in the end and both of us now have very soft skin.

Cost wise,

Garden of the sleeping Giants ----- $15 Fijian
Sabeto Mud Pools ------ $16 Fijian

Would recommend both for good value for money, particularly if you can arrange cheap transport there.