Tag Archives: adventure

Five Days in Fiji

I recently had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for work and when looking at flights I thought to myself about a stopover in the South Pacific on the way home back to the States. I zoomed in and out of google maps traversing across the Pacific Ocean and kept scanning over Fiji. After confirmation from a friend and colleague who previously worked in Fiji, I jumped on it. Always having the impression that Fiji would be quite expensive to travel through I was pleasantly surprised. I had 5 days and wanted to see and do as much as possible. Here are some tips on traveling Fiji in 5 days on a limited budget.

Back to searching for flights, I ended up finding travel through Nadi International Airport from Auckland International $400 cheaper then flying directly back to Los Angeles. I flew New Zealand Air to Fiji (a short 2.5 hour flight), then Fiji Airways back to Los Angeles, then on home to Denver. I highly recommend searching different providers and one-way tickets. Also, keep in mind that the rainy season in Fiji is November to April, making the best time for drier weather and sunshine April to October. I was there April 4 – 8 and had beautiful days!

Arriving early afternoon to Nadi,  I headed to Smugglers Cove Beach Resort. They have a variation of room offerings, a bar right on the beach and offer a free shuttle from the airport. A bed starts around $8.79/night. They have a travel desk to help you plan all of your adventures and if you are planning a trip out to the Yasawa Islands the bus stops right out front to take you to the boat.

View from Smugglers Cove
View from Smugglers Cove

That evening, I befriended a few Fijian locals. I ended up in a jam circle sipping on the local Kava tea. Kava is a mildly narcotic drink made from mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant with water and results in a numb feeling around the mouth, lips and tongue and a sense of relaxation. Well worth the try while in Fiji. Make sure to follow the local tradition of how to drink it with your new-found friends.

The next morning, I hopped the bus to climb aboard the Yasawa Flyer out to the Yasawa Islands. With limited time (and budget), I planned my first stop at Oarsmans Bay Lodge. This resort is located right near the Blue Lagoon, owned by an unforgettably friendly Fijian family and is much more affordable than the Blue Lagoon Resort. It was about a 4-hour boat ride on the flyer up to one of their last stops. I booked this directly on bookings.com and got a bit better deal then booking through Awesome Adventures Fiji. That said, their website is a great resource to research where you want to go and see. Oarsmans Bay was fantastic for a budget traveler. The rooms were well-kept, the food delicious and every morning they placed fresh Hibiscus flowers outside of your room. Keep in mind that wifi is not available here- which when traveling in Fiji it is the perfect reason to completely disconnect.

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Our beachside bungalow at Oarsmans Bay Lodge

I spent two days at Oarsmans adventuring out on day activities offered by the Lodge. (A side note, it might be helpful to make a checklist of your must to-do’s while there so you don’t miss out on a particular activity then double check that accommodation offers what you like- it’s great to do this on the Awesome Adventures website). I had befriended a three girls; one from Sweden, one from Italy and another from the Netherlands. We stuck together and had an incredible time! We headed out to go swimming through a cave on another island, did some snorkeling, dancing with the family and of course taking in the views. When you book accommodations in the Yasawa Islands it is important to remember included in the cost your booking are all meals and activities.

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Our boat ride out to the cave
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View from our room
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Sunset at Oarsmans
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Our new friend

After a couple of well-spent days at the Lodge, we boarded the Yasawa Flyer and all headed to our next island. I overheard that a night spent at Beachcomber Island Resort was a must-do. It is well-known as the party island and it is near the mainland (so I could catch my flight back to the States the next day).

Upon arrival to Beachcomber, the resort was packed. I was in a large hut with about 100 beds in the girls dorm and every one of them was accounted for… Come to find out it was spring break for the nearby University of the South Pacific and I found myself right in the middle of the festivities. Seize the day and the rest is history! The evening was full of Fijian libations, performances, fire dances, and I even had the honor of teaching a local Fijian dance and ending up as one of the two finalists in the limbo contest. When in Fiji! It was truly a night to remember.

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Fijian fire dance

With an evening flight the next day, I spent the morning and afternoon going out for a snorkel and relaxing on the beach. Right on schedule, the flyer arrived and toted us back to Nadi. I quickly dashed back to Smugglers Cove to collect my belongings, they let me leave locked in storage, and hopped in a shared taxi back to the airport.

Walking out of Denver International Airport nearly a day and a half later with the Fijian sun and sand still lingering on me, my heart was filled with gratitude for such a wonderful adventure with new friends in an unforgettable place. I’ve encountered many extraordinary places and memorable faces and Fiji tops the list. The people here are amongst some of the most friendly. When traveling Fiji remember, as famous poet and playwright once wrote, “live, love and let be.”

Fijian traveler tip: get used to saying, Bula Bula!  Say it.  Just once, maybe twice.  It is hard to say the words without a smile immediately parting from your lips.  Go ahead…try it.  The word is heard everywhere in Fiji.  Bula originates from the Fijian culture and means anything from hello, goodbye, welcome, love and more.  It means LIFE.  A blessing of health and happiness.  Regardless of where you live; the concrete urban jungle, down under or near the north pole…you do not have to be in Fiji to celebrate LIFE.  Enjoy how one simple word can transform your entire day.  Bula blessings to you!

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My new found friends… until next time!
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Beautiful words about Brazil (By:Mateo Hajek)

A fellow and a partner that I am working with and living with in Brazil shared these thoughts with me, he has allowed me to share….

Barely able to see the filth collected on the lenses of my eyeglasses. I manage to snap the perfect shot of favelas under highway overpasses.Perfectly capturing the severe destitution and poverty that exists in Brazil and most notably here in Salvador de Bahia. All the while, our cab driver speeds hurridly through the chaotic and seemingly ungoverned streets with a zen-like calm about him. 

To avoid being caught in the riots and protests against the blatently corrupt government of Brazil, our driver took us through one of the poorest areas of Salvador and in a sweet irony we passes by graffiti that spoke greater volumes than any photo of riots could ever capture. 

(the graffiti wrote..)

“Brasil capital corrupcao terorismo subvercao propina”

(Brazil the capital of corruption and terrorism via subversive propganda).

“Corrupcao fora legislativo, Judicario, Execitivo”

(Corruption comes out of the legislative, judicial, and executive).

No more than an hour before this, a boy who appeared to be early  teens in age begged a group of friends and I for the scraps from our lunch. While scams run rampant in the streets here, the reality of children starving and literally dying in the streets from inadequate nutrition and lack of basic medical care while government officials and legislators recently raised their own salaries to R 17000 per month and the worlds most expensive soccer stadium recently finished construction. Even further, the profits from games belong to FIFA and not the tax payers who funded constructing the stadium to the tune of R 35,000,000.

Since our arrival four days ago, protests and full on riots have spread through every major city in Brazil. While the government has wholly ignored demands for pay to equal costs for living and the media paints epic images of villians destroying the great democracy that Brazil has become. The reality is these people are homeless, starving,  and have no means for upward mobility. As a foreigner, this is not my fight though for the sake of human right, it is and my weapon is the written word. 

Thank you dearly, my friend, Mateo Hajek. 

My first week with my students in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil!

Oi everyone! I apologize that it has taken me a week to get started on the blog. It has been a little hectic, exciting and busy this past week with the protests going on (I will write about this later) and also the intermittent internet connection.

My first week overall has been indescribable, I will do my best to translate it into words.

The first day that we arrived in Salvador we had just a few hours to rest after coming off of traveling for over 24 hours. The flights weren´t terrible, however I was surprised that our 13 hour flight from Miami to Salvador was only a small plane with only six seats across. We travelled on this flight through the night and it was next to impossible to try and get some good rest before landing.

The initial drive to where we are staying in, Patamares, was one of curiosity and excitement. As many of you can relate when you first land in a foreign place having your face peeled to the new world that you get to experience is a unique feeling.

After we were able to rest for a couple of hours we had a meeting at Sesi and Senai which is the school that we are working at in Salvador. Our students were not expecting for us to be there that day and we had the opportunity to run into a few of them. I wish that I could have stopped this moment in time. It was as if I was meeting my best friends or family that I loved so dearly for the very first time. Brazilian culture and the way that they show appreciation and care for others is absolutely beautiful and powerful.

The next morning we awoke early to head to school and the students welcomed all of us with handmade lifesize billboards with our names and beauitfully drawn pictures. Mine was an amazing drawing of Dory and Nemo. They knew that I love this movie and the ocean! They are so attentive. After we were welcomed the students played an hour long concert for us with food and drinks. They adorned us with crazy sunglasses and gifts. After the show, we headed into the auditorium and performed a play filled with humor, Brazilian tradition, and the story of Brazilian colonization. It was one of the most creative plays that I have witnessed. This students are incredibly motivated and talented.

Thursday, we had the day off because there was a holiday and also the protests were starting to begin in Salvador. With the protests it is very difficult for some of the students to get to school since part of the protests involove transporation and the bus system. We were able to go to the Pelorinho, which is the historic center and spend most of the day (I will post some pictures and write about this later too…)

Today is Friday and every Friday our groups are expected to present based on that weeks theme. This weeks theme was building a team. Our team comprised a skit that started with Queens- We Will Rock You then it transitioned into the Macarana! It was so much fun! All of the groups that presented were so creative and had so much fun with being on stage.

That is a very brief overview of what all has happened with my week with the students thus far and I am anxious to share more with everyone. To wrap up I just need to express the true beauty that lies within this culture. It is one that is so diverse in every kind of way however, it seems to me that great divides don´t neccessarily exist. It is an amazing thing to have the opportunity to witness and it makes me question how this type of love and acceptance could transcend many problems that the United States is facing today….

until next time and I promise to write about the protests and our day in the Pelohurino.

Tchau!!

students

The Journey Begins… (almost)…

In 8 days, I am officially heading out to spend one month in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil! I am working for the Brazilian Confederation of Industry and US-Brazil Connect, teaching high school students english through a unique immersion program.

During my stay in Brazil, I am going to do my best (internet connection depending) to blog about my experience in Salvador. I invite you to follow me along in my journey.

I am anxious and excited to be exposed to such a colorful and beautiful culture. I am heading into this experience with an open mind and heart and I am absolutely ecstatic to see what is in store. During part of my stay in Salvador one of their biggest festivals, Sao Joao, will be taking place. I am looking forward to sharing this experience with everyone….. I would love any advice or comments that you may have if you have travelled or wish to travel to Brazil or if you have taught english abroad!

Stay tuned……

Here is a photo of my amazing students that I will be working with (missing three in this pic;)….

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Our World Is Getting Smaller

Cordillera Blancas-Peru
Cordillera Blancas-Peru By: Axel Nilsson

 

For many travelers and especially adventure travelers to set out on a journey means to an extent disconnecting. Disconnecting from the stresses at home, from the high demand lifestyles, from ourselves, from the internet and our devices and the ability to always know exactly where we are at every moment… I will be the first to admit that this is my preference of travel. My most recent trips abroad I have left my phone in the cup holder in the car at the airport with it awaiting my forsaken return.

However, today I am writing about the benefits of our world getting smaller through this connection. We have access to the world at the tip of keyboards. I recently have taken on an internship position that partners with the Brazilian government to work with high school students teaching them English. I have already gotten to know them immensely through a private facebook page where we share all kinds of information. We also use skype and google plus to connect with one another. Right now I also have a sister in Colombia and another in Costa Rica (one mind you is 21 travelling solo) which through good ole FB I have been able to stay in touch with. I just received a message from a very good friend from Montanita, Ecuador that he made to the small surfing town. These outlets are amazing ways to make new connections and connect with the ones we love. Not to mention the occasionally fb stalking of my friends that are travelling abroad and perusing through the libraries of photos and following their journey along the way.

This has created somewhat of a conflict with me deciphering the line of disconnect and connect and questioning how much of these outlets are inhibiting us from truly running wild and free.

What is your opinion?

Photo: Taken by Axel Nilsson in the Cordillera Blancas, Peru. (a friend that has been trekking through South America for eight months.)