Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 255-257 – Fiji – Maqai Beach – Part 2

After returning from Nanuku and supping a long overdue beer before hitting the sack we were – in fairness – somewhat dismayed to find out that the very next there was another village trip. This was to be to Naiviivi and involved taking part in a fundraiser for the local school. We could either go during the day, the night or not at all. Initially the idea of spending the day lounging around our Bure and the evening partying with Fijian islanders seemed like the way to go until we were informed that it’d be an overnight job and we’d basically risk losing our last day to it. Begrudgingly we changed our minds and geared up for the second boat over.

We arrived and a few people had already been there for a while and were sat in the shade of a house watching the festivities. It was basically a school fun day. The kids were all running around playing and around the football field were various shelters, each erected to house the separate groups that were competing to raise more money than all the others.

Money-raising was by donation and the donation was for being there really. There’s little point in beating around the bush – as foreigners we were as good as golden geese and encouraged to dip our hands in our pockets throughout the day for just a little more. All things considered however this was all OK. It was for a good cause, and we were fed a little and welcomed with open arms and very much part of the party that they had no intention of allowing to slow or quieten down. They may well do this every month or every week for all I know but we were all having a pretty wild time of it so fair play if they do!

For what little we saw of it life seems very different as an islander. While it would be tempting to be cynical it’s not all for show – they don’t all have beemers parked behind the village houses and spin off back to luxurious villas. What you see is what you get and they are rightly proud of it. They had very little in the way of creature comforts – while there’s seemingly not a human being in the world no matter how disconnected or isolated or traditional that doesn’t have a mobile phone stuffed somewhere they had just 2 televisions in the entire village. They don’t need them. Cheesy as it definitely does sound they have each other, a sense of community that I’m not sure I can say I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. None of them ever gave the impression they were worried about anything, whether that be where their next meal was coming from or some global concern that our dear media back home informs us we very much must be terrified about. After we left Maqai Mariliis and Susan went to stay in Rafa’s village for a while and I’d love to hear how they got on. Similarly legendary travellers Robbie K and Gilly P hit Maqai about a month after we left so their impressions will be great to gather too.

For us, while at first it was typically cagey with the obvious travellers sticking together and waiting for whatever was going to happen to happen, we soon relaxed and set about wandering around and watching events unfold. Each shelter spun a single CD over and over of a mix of music that you hear all over Fiji including the spectacularly awful “Tapioca”. Kids blazed around playing and a volley ball tournament featuring a team of the lads who worked at our – for want of a better way of putting it – resort was played over the course of the afternoon.

It wasn’t long before Fi and I engaged with the inquisitive kids and started playing with the cameras, taking photos of them and letting them take photos of each other. Their excitement rubbed off on us and three hours later we had over 300 fun & crazy photos each to pick through hence the size of the associated galleries.

As the afternoon came to a close we were informed after a few rounds of fundraising that our group had raised the most money and thanked profusely for our collective generosity. If a good chunk of that cash goes to the school and helps the kids within get a little closer to wherever it is they want to go with their lives then it was money well spent.

We left exhausted but happy and returned to Maqai – which was experiencing something of a Kava shortage – and spent the evening hanging out in the Sand Bar. Similar to the Yasawas people come and go as the ferries allow and the group changes with new faces – both in terms of staff and travellers – to meet and get to know so every evening was always interesting.

The next day was our last at Maqai and also Susan’s birthday. While we spent the morning stressed about the prospect that we might be forced to leave that afternoon due to weather considerations it eventually materialised that as long as we were prepared for an early start we’d be fine to leave the following morning. This was of no concern to us as we didn’t run on Fiji time – if there was going to be any problem here it would be with our hosts!

The day was chilled and the night was typically boisterous and – thanks to fresh supplies – Kava fuelled. There was a comedy boxing tournament organised by the huge and enigmatic Benicio Del Toro lookalike Simon, Charlie whipped a massive cake up for Susan, the ever-changing crowd all got to know each other even better, the recently restocked but now obviously surplus booze was consumed in full before our departure and I caught Fi & Mariliis in our ensuite absolutely wasted wielding scissors on Mariliis’s hair. I took the scissors and after a semi-stern reprimand kicked them both out so I could get some sleep.

We were up and ready as we knew we would be but late setting off as we also knew we would be. Tex & Langy would be our chaperones back to Nadi on the ferry so we said our goodbyes to everyone else and Stella, Fi, Sophie and I left our wonderful week long home behind. We changed boats three times in mid-water before eventually reaching Taveuni then took a comically protracted journey all the way to the Ferry where we boarded with literally seconds to spare – the door closed as we stepped on.

We were on the same Ferry as we’d taken out there which was well known to be the best of the bunch but still contrived to have an even worse food selection in the canteen than the last time and showed what was without a shadow of a doubt the single worst film in the history of the movie industry. Secret at Arrow Lake was so bad that at first we all found it hilarious but after 30 minutes when we realised it wasn’t going to be stopped steadily grew to despise.

The journey was long, tiring and uncomfortable but we all pulled together and got through in relatively good spirits. After docking in Suva we were met by a minibus that would take us all the way back to Nadi, save for Stella whowas jumping off at Uprising to do a Shark Dive after our raving recommendation.