Bula Bula

If you also follow me on Instagram (@jetsetmegs_) you’ll no doubt have seen the torrent of photos I’ve been uploading of the whitest sand beaches with the clearest waters full of the most colourful sea life you have EVER seen. And for those who’ve spotted the location tags you’ll also know where they were taken. Oh yes, it’s finally here. This is the Fiji blog…

So before I left and even throughout my travels so far, as soon as I mentioned that I was heading to Fiji after Asia, I’d be met with the classic head tilt, combined with an eyebrow raise, swiftly followed by “yeah? Fiji? how much did that skin you then?”. And my usual response would be that I simply didn’t know. When it came to booking my flights around the world, I paid it as a lump sum rather than scrutinising the total and breaking it down into individual flight prices. In hindsight maybe I should have took more of an interest in that part but hey, that’s the reason travel agents exist. They do all the boring leg work working out your budget friendly flights with the shortest layovers while you sit there, like I did, trying not to wet yourself with excitement screaming “just take my money god dammit!”. So I didn’t reeaally realise how much I’d already paid, or how much more of my bank account was about to get drained on this teeny wee island paradise…but I did get student discount (shoutout STA travel) & you only live once, right?

So yeah, back home in the UK I’d already done plenty research on the best ways to get around the main island of Viti Levu and the best places to see while I was there but id actually put more effort into researching how I was going to get the hell out of there onto the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands that Fiji is so famously known for. I’d quickly worked out that the “Bula pass” (Bula means hello in Fijian by the way!) was the way forward, giving you a set amount of days that you can essentially hop on and hop off the island ferry, permitting one hop per day for as little as 5 days all the way up to like 14 days or longer if you really wanted to. There are two kinds of passes, the standard Bula Pass which is just the ferry transfers, or the Bula combo pass which is more expensive but includes the accommodation and the meal plans on the islands that you choose. I like to keep things pretty flexible to be honest, so I opted for the cheaper option. On one hand it meant I had to book my own accommodation, but on the other hand it gave me the opportunity to stay at any one of the resorts wherever I decided to go.

The issue I found with the combo pass is that you can only stay at certain places where they have an agreement with awesome adventures, and you’re not always guaranteed your first choice either. I just pictured myself being told I couldn’t have the one I wanted, throwing an absolute hissy fit and going to bed with a dummy in my mouth like the big baby I am…so for everyone’s sake, I chose to keep it casual and have no expectations. So even though I had my pass sorted, I still had no accommodation booked right up till the minute I landed in Fiji… until border control whisked me into a room and forced me to book somewhere on the spot. Whoopsieeees. It really is getting kinda worrying how “awk, I’ll just sort it when I get there” has filtered more into my list of every day phrases and replaced the more typical, “what day is it?”, “What time is it?” and something else I dont think I’ve said once in two months “man, I miss the rain…”

Now, since the Fijian islands are essentially ISLANDS, literally in the middle of the ocean, it’s not somewhere you can really hop off the boat, head to Tesco for some Koka noodles and live on a backpacker diet. Oh no, the food that you eat is provided entirely by the resorts that you stay at, and whether you like it or not, you’re paying 99 Fiji dollars (30 quid…) a day for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you’re probably thinking, what’s she moaning about I spend that at mcdonalds on my hangover scran…but coming from South East Asia where an entire meal sets you back around 1.50, I felt like I needed CPR when I found out the cost of the food there. Probably the same feeling my dad used to have every weekend when I held out my hand looking for my “gin fund”. He says he misses me, I reckon he’s glad to see the back of me to be quite honest!

But anyway, back to Fiji. So with my half-assed preparation done I felt like I knew pretty much what I was going to be getting up to during my two weeks in paradise. Until about 2 weeks before I went when I decided to cancel the whole lot and just wing it completely. Of bloody COURSE. So what prompted me to wig out and do that? WELL. I joined a backpacker page on Facebook where travellers from all over the world would post their tips and tricks for what to do and what not to do in Fiji and the islands around about it. More often than not I was seeing the same name over and over with people giving 5 star reviews and commending him on the awesome job he did organising their trips for them. I sent him a message and he told me that the 5 day Bula Pass I’d paid for, he could actually get me the 7 day pass for the exact same price. Meaning two days extra on the islands and not a single penny more. NAE. BRAINER. So together we drafted a rough itinerary over Facebook (I was still in Vietnam hiding from the rain at this point) where I’d spend one week on the islands and the following week on the mainland chilling out and checking out the real Fijian culture in local villages. And all he wanted in return was a bottle of bounty rum from duty free when I landed in Nadi Airport. Classic.

True to his word he was there to pick me up at 5am when my flight landed, and took me to his family home to meet his kids, his wife and his cousins’ daughters’ sons, and what felt like every other person in the rest of Fiji. I felt like a wee celeb it was fantastic. But I was absolutely shattered from the 10hr flight that I didn’t sleep at all on plus I’d also lost 4 hours with the difference in times zones. By that point I’d probably been awake going on 34 hours and I was beginning to taste colours. I needed my bed.

He showed me to my room which I’d be sharing, it seemed, with every other person in Fiji and explained that since I was the guest, I’d actually be getting the double bed that the two cousins usually shared – meaning they had to sleep on the floor that night. I tried to protest but they just weren’t having it. It’s actually ruder to decline than it is to just thank them profusely and have a little cry at their generosity. To be frank, the floor might have been comfier than the bed anyway, but I was so tired I could have slept on a bed of nails. So I shut my eyes and dozed off listening to the sounds of Fiji waking up around me, whilst swatting flies, scratching my rapidly accumulating mossie bites and flicking gechos off my face. It was heaven…

The next morning I got up, got dressed and headed to the port to grab my ferry to the islands. While we were waiting on our call, we watched local Fijians load up the back with sacks upon sacks of rice, sugar, flour and endless boxes of meats, fish and dairy products. I was heading into the ocean, with absolutely no idea what to expect from the next week of my life. I spent the following 4 hours staring out onto deep blue oceans, not a cloud in the sky as we passed tropical island after island as we headed north to the very top of the Yasawas. Fiji is one of those places that when you arrive, you genuinely just cannot believe that you’re really there. It’s one of those places you see and read about but never actually imagine you’ll ever go. And that’s exactly how I felt. Here I was, a wee Scot in a big, blue pond skudding over the waves just absolutely pinching myself that I was lucky enough to be seeing it all. I’m a lucky lucky girl, I know this. I know there are people who would love to do what I’m doing but never will be able to. And I’ll always be grateful for the experiences I’m able to have. But I really worked hard for this, ask my family. I put in the hours (and the over time) and I sacrificed a lot of time with friends and family to save up for it all. So if I don’t make the most out of everything I’m doing, in my eyes it will all have been for nothing. I don’t care if I go home without a penny to my name as long as I’m able to say I did absolutely everything I wanted to with no regrets. This year is about pushing myself to my limits and finding out my interests and what I really want to be doing with my life. So I’m trying everything. I’m tasting all the foods (within reason, I’m travelling but I’m still deathly allergic to pretty much everything!), I’m doing all of the optional activities and I’m saying YES to life.

*Stay tuned for my next post on my adventures in the paradise islands. I’ll be writing about a lot of “first time experiences” like snorkelling without freaking out my skull, getting my open water diving license, swimming with sharks and fist bumping turtles at the bottom of the Fiji ocean!

It’s all about to get very exciting…

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