We woke up the next morning at 7am because we saw a really bright light shining through the window. Our first sunrise of the trip! And oh my, it was gorgeous! We opened our eyes just long enough to see the electrifying colors through the windows and then smiled to each other and said, “this is awesome”, and continued to catch up on our sleep. We heard the beat of a drum from down below the hill as we were waking up – Rosie’s signal to us that breakfast was ready.
We had delicious coconut “pancakes”, which were more like a Fijian version of beignets, coconut style. We soon found out that everything we would eat that week would have fresh coconut in it. No complaints from us! We also inhaled some fresh papaya on the side.
I should clarify that our Fiji experience was more like a homestay. The Bay of Plenty is a lodge and we paid for the accommodations (all food included), but the cost is significantly less than other resorts and the idea is that we would learn about the Fijian way of life and make some long lasting connections with the family. The lodge is on a bay, not a white sandy beach; although, white sandy beaches are accessible right around the corner. We found out that the bay is a major source of food to the region. Turtle Island, a super fancy, expensive, resort that only celebrities and millionaires can afford was right across from the bay. The guests at that resort were being fed seafood from the bay we were staying at. Guess what! We were being fed the same food 🙂 And catching it too!
What were we catching, you ask? We were digging for cockles at low tide. These are small clams that can be found about an inch below the surface of the sand. We spent an hour or more digging for the little buggers with Nana and Rosie. I must say, we were pretty darn good at it.
We filled an entire pail with the cockles and Nana boiled them to give us a taste. The boiled clams smelled just like bacon, and tasted like it too! After boiling the clams, Rosie would remove the shell and cook them in a creamy coconut sauce for dinner. They were spectacular!
While waiting for the cockles to be prepared, we decided to go for a hike. Nana and Rosie said the path wasn’t extremely clear to get to the top of the hill, but we told them to just point us in the right direction because “we’re experienced hikers”. We started off on the right path, through the family farm and past a horse and a bull. Once we got to these landmarks, we totally understood what they meant. The jungle was pretty thick and we didn’t know which way we should go to make our own path, so we wandered around for a while trying to figure out a way. We eventually admitted defeat and went back to the bay to confess that we were not quite experienced jungle hikers yet…Regardless, the farm was really cool to see and it was our first taste of jungle trekking. Much different than the clear, rocky paths in Colorado!
While we enjoyed our self caught cockles, we chatted with Rosa and Jerry about their lives and shared stories about ours. Our favorite story that Rosa shared was about a local lady who was 8 months pregnant and was going into labor on the “big yellow boat”. The big yellow or white boat make one trip out and back to the Yasawas daily. The women in the Yasawas generally travel back to the mainland of Viti Levu (don’t forget, this is over a 5 hour boat ride) to give birth. Apparently this lady was going into labor and decided to make the trek. She ended up having the baby on the boat and now the owners of the boat company don’t allow any pregnant women on the boat past 7 months. Luckily there was a tourist doctor on the boat so everything ended up well. Not only was the story comical in itself, but Rosa was laughing so hard while telling it, that we all were cracking up. It was so much fun to already make a connection with someone who’s daily life is so very different from ours.
We went to bed that night feeling very thankful for the opportunities we have been given and the 9 month journey we have ahead of us. We can only imagine the connections we will make as time goes on.