My Travel Map

My Travel Map

30 March 2006

Fiji continued...

Hey everybody! Sorry it has been a few days since my last post...I am alive and well and the last few days have been adventurous to say the least!
So Tuesday, Barrett (the dude from SC) and I met 3 travelers from the UK on their gap year (year off between college and university often used to travel the world...I wish the States had an equivalent!). We hit it off immediately, trading stories and recommendations on where to go (they had just come from Aus and NZ and were on their way to the States). We all went into town where I got to learn more abou the people of Fiji.
Fiji is comprised of around 50% native Fijian islanders, who have a pretty interesting canibal history!!! The other 50% is of Indian descent and were brought over by the British as cheap labor, aka slaves. The Indian Fijians now own about 99% of the local business while the natives live in the small villages and either work for Indians in the towns or farm the land. Unfortunately, most Fijians are extremely poor...living on only a few Fijian dollars a day (1 US dollar = 1.9 or so Fiji dollars). The really disgusting part is that the places that make the most money, the resorts, hotels, hostels, and travel companies are almost exclusively owned by Europeans and Americans. So Europeans and Americans are using the beauty and peacefulness of the Fiji Islands to draw other Americans and Europeans for travel and the Fijians see very very little of the money spent...that made me angry and guilty at being one of the many wealthy travelers. I feel such a lack for money at home...but after seeing what it is like here...I feel quite guilty for ever thinking such a thing.
Anyway...so Tuesday night we (3 Brits: Andy, Olivia, and James, as well as Barrett and myself) all got to take part in a local Fiji custom: a Kava ceremony. Kava is a root that is ground up and mixed with water to make a drink. Kava has a natural depressant in it that gives a feeling of numbness to the mouth (like novicane) and slows the body down. After learning about "Fiji time", how time slows down in Fiji, it makes perfect sense that the drink is so popular here. The ceremony is conducted by a group of native musicians who belt out a ton of songs on guitars and eukalalis with kava drinking inbetween songs. It was a great night spent with the Kavaholics, the bands name, which really added to the feeling of being in Fiji.
The next day, Wednesday, we all decided to make the quest to Natadola Beach, which is reputed as the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world. We caught local busses into town and then to the southern town of Sigatoka. We got a hotel room in Sigatoka and caught another bus on to the junction for Natadola. The only way to get to the beach is to be let off at the junction and catch a cab down the dirt road to get to it. After seeing it, I have no idea of what place can be more beautiful in order to achieve 1st place. The water was brilliant shades of bright turquoise and royal blue. There was a bright lagoon with a boat to cross at the mouth when the tide was in . The tide was out so we just crossed through the shallow water to a rocky outcropping on th e other side. We set up here and enjoyed the beautiful blue water and bright sun. We had to get back across while we could when the tide started coming in fear of getting our cameras soaked.
We then swam some more in the lagoon which was really quite deep. The only bad thing about the beach is that they are in the process of putting up a 5 star resort. The resort is owned by, of course, a group of Europeans. That also pissed me off. Anyway, it was an amazing day, and I will highly recommend the beach to anyone that gets to visit Fiji...resort or not.
We worked our way back to town, where we got a case of the local brew, Fiji Bitter, and grabbed some curry for dinner. I must say the Fiji Bitter beer is really good. I was pleasantly surprised. So the 5 of us shared more stories and aquired knowledge as well as some of the funny quirks about our respective homelands long into the night before passing out from a long day in the sun and a few good beers.
The following day, we ventured out nearer to Sigatoka town to the sand dunes. These dunes are huge. The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are also the only place on the main island of Viti Levu where there is a shore break, perfect for surfing. The beach there is wild and undeveloped...thank goodness but for how long I wonder? I rented a board from a native at a village on the dirt road out to the beach. The surf was choppy and the current was eerily strong. I got up on a few of the breakers off shore, but the current proved too strong for me to get out to where they were breaking regularly. Either way I had fun. There was a small resort there called Club Masa. By resort, I dont mean hotel, I mean paradise. It was a small group of huts inhabited by some interesting travelers and local surfing enthusiasts. The huts were surrounded by tall shady palms and grassy lands. There were a few horses and the dunes to make an amazing backdrop. It was definately the type of place where I could lose mysleft for a few weeks, or months, forgetting the outside world and giving in to pure and simple Fiji time. It was definately a surfer's (or just free spirited person's) paradise.
So that is that...I parted with the Brits in Sigatoka on Thursday. They had much more time here and were going to start hopping to the smaller islands. We lost Barrett at Club Masa. He was obviously drawn in by the peaceful chillness of the place. I truly wonder how long he will linger there.
I have pictures galore, and I am looking forward to getting to an internet cafe in Auckland to post them. I promise, they are amazing and coming soon. I hope all is well with everyone back there and you are enjoying these brief snipits! I will post more either tomorrow or the next day from New Zealand!! Til then!

26 March 2006

Fiji: Day 1

Hey everybody! Sorry no pictures yet...but I found out that I will definately be able to hook my camera up in New Zealand...so just a few more days and I will get all those out on here.
Fiji is beautiful as expected; humidity is a bit on the oppressive side though. Reminds me quite a bit of Puerto Rico actually. We went into Nadi town today, which was incredible. The locals/natives are super friendly, and the town is so different from anything you can find in the states or Canada. Everyone had a big smile on their face and said hello or good morning or "bula" (hello in the local tongue) passing by. I felt very welcome. The town is a good island town...but I'll talk about that and how it is different when I post the pictures. For now, just know I am here, staying in a hostel on the beach and pretty much just relaxing and sharing travel stories with the other guests, who are from all over. I have learned a ton about New Zealand too as many of the people here are coming from traveling there...works out well for me! Alright, so more to come, I promise!

23 March 2006

So here I am in London. This city is quite simply amazing; I drained the batteries on my camera so fast taking snapshots of all of the various historic buildings and incredible views. It is so strange coming from North America where anything from the 1700's is considered old. Here in London, I saw the remnants of a building built in 1131...now that is old.

When I got here and met up with my friends from my last visit, we started walking in order to take in some sights and catch up on our goings on. I got to see an amazing amount of the city, covering from Parliament (with Big Ben) down the south bank of the Thames to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, where we crossed to make the trek back on the north bank. The history this river has seen is unbelievable. To think that one of the worlds most powerful empires was ruled from this city is wild. We stopped in at the Clink Prison on the south bank to see the museum there. I was intrigued to find out that 22 of the brothels that lined the streets of the south shore were owned and operated by the local Bishop!!! No joke...and most of the prisoners in the Clink were women (prostitutes who didnt follow the Bishop's rules) as well as their clients (who also didnt follow the laws....or just didnt pay up) and the not so odd child that accompanied his or her "working" mother. The instruments of bondage, torture and execution that they had on display went beyond anything that should possibly be conceived by any human being. Disgusting.

So just one of the many, many things that I learned today wandering the streets of this city. I am just blown away by the density of historical buildings and places this city holds all within zone 1 (of 6) of its metropolitan transport services...wild.

Right, so I am here, I am safe, and I am with friends. I am ready to continue on this journey of mine. Tomorrow I hope to hit up at least the Natural History and Imperial War museums, and I might be able to get in the National Gallery as well...who knows. But Saturday it is off to Fiji...but as that will be over 26 hours of travel...it might be some time before I can publish again. I would have more pictures...but the one at the top isnt even mine. As I feared, I couldnt hook my camera up here so I just found that picture online as it was somehting I did indeed see today and the conditions were very similar to how it was when I saw it. It is the Tower Bridge with a British Navy ship by the by... ok, til next post!

19 March 2006

So, the time has come; my journey is about to begin. I leave Wednesday (23 March 06) for London, England where I will embark on Saturday (25 March) for the rest of the trip. I figured I would map out my plans for everybody for visualization. I have no idea how many people are actually checking this blog out, but for those of you that are interested in my travels, I hope this helps! The above world map is direct from the site that I found my tickets on: www.youthtravel.com
It shows the worldwide view of it all. As you can see, I leave from London and have a stop in L.A. I have been here before, and since it isn't my most favorite place in the world (California is beautiful though I must say!), I have chosen to have only an hour and a half layover here before moving on to the rest. From there, I fly to Nadi, Fiji, where I will enjoy my quiet little hostel on the beach for a few days. After Fiji, I fly to Auckland, New Zealand. From here on I will go to regional maps for details.

So this is New Zealand. For those of you that have followed my blog from Antarctica, you know that I love New Zealand. The people are friendly, the country is beautiful beyond all description, and the whole feel of the place is pleasant and peaceful. My type of place. So that justifies much time spent here on this trip. So I will spend a few days in Auckland planning and organizing for my bus travels around the islands. I will head south along the coast to New Plymouth. Moving on after a night there, I will get to the capital, Wellington. I plan on at least a full day here to take in the sites (the city is built around a semi-circular harbour) and hopefully get a few good conversations in with the locals. Then I will embark on the ferry crossing of the straight to Picton on the southern island. I will go on from there to Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park, which from all of my planning is one of my most highly anticipated parts of the trip. I will cover all details after I get there though, I promise! So now I have to get back up to Auckland again to catch my flight back to the southern island to the city of Queenstown, but that is fine because I get to go back a different way and see more things like the Maori town of Rotorua and the site of Hobbiton in the filming of Lord of the Rings.

Ok, so now I fly to Queenstown, where I will do some more city walking and people meeting and also catch a bus to Fjordland National Park to see some sweet fjords and Milford Sound. Then I fly on to Christchurch where I hope to get up to see either Arthur's Pass or Kaikoura. All done with New Zealand, now on to Australia.

From Christchurch, I arrive in Sydney. I will be spending a good few days here getting used to the place, seeing the sites, visiting a friend named Daniel (a student in Sydney who I met at South Pole), and hopefully avoiding any run-ins with the plethora of deadly creatures that call Australia home. I have purchased a "Great Southern Railway Pass" and will be using this as my primary means of transportation while down under. So from Sydney, I will move westward to the Outback town of Broken Hill and further on to Adelaide. Moving on to Melbourne, I may rent a car and check out some of the coastal scenery and vinyards around the city...supposedly quite worth it. I then travel north to Alice Springs, where I will rent a car to make the several hundred kilometer journey through the desert to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Since Bill Bryson and pretty much every other person that has ever seen the monolith recommends it as the one thing you MUST see in Australia, I figured it might be worth the drive. I then take more train rides to get to Perth, which I am really looking forward to visiting. I can get way too carried away with what I am looking forward to here and everywhere else, so I will just have to make you all wait for more details until I actually go. Perth is now my point of exit for Australia. I fly on to Singapore.

So for those of you not familiar with your southeast Asian geography, this is a really horrible map to show since you probably don't know where this is at all. But no worries! Simply correlate to the world map at the top of the page and hopefully all troubles are solved. Anyway, I will be visiting with a friend from school who now lives in Singapore. He has promised me a "balistic" time so I am really looking forward to it! I just need to avoid chewing gum, jay walking and feeding any wildlife (Singapore has some strict laws). Hopefully they aren't too rough on those having a "balistic" time. But Rakhil lives there so I will trust in him! From Singapore, I move on into Malaysia and Thailand, where I will basically be bussing and ferrying between major cities and tropical islands. This should be a really, really beautiful part of the trip, and I really hope I will get good computer access to keep the pictures (or at least stories) coming to you all! From the pictures I have already seen of some of these islands and cities...this is going to be really good. And for those of you familiar with the region, don't worry; I have been warned many, many times about Thailand (and I know you know what I mean).

So after a mad dash down the eastern side of the peninsula, I fly on from Singapore to Mumbai, India. From here I will travel (mostly by train) to Bhopal to hopefully hit up a national park that is home to lots of tigers and Jungle Book-like terrain. From there I will go on to Agra to, of course, see the Taj Mahal (also one of those must sees, eh?). I will do a little maneuvering around, possibly through the "Pink City" of Jaipur, through Delhi and on to see Amritsar, the Sikh capital with the golden temple. I then want to get up into Kashmir to Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama currently resides. I have a strong interest in both Sikhism and Buddhism, and I am also looking forward to catching a glimpse of the Himalayas. From Dharamsala, I go back to New Delhi to see its sites before going back to London.

So Europe will be the end place of my travels. I fly into London, but I will do my best to get out of the UK as quickly as possible due to the overwhelming price of nearly everything there (with the exception of their amazing museums and galleries that is). I don't care how much money I have left, I will see Ireland. From there, I have one month worth of Eurail pass, and I will go with sleeping on trains and wandering through Europes many cities for as long as I can afford! I am most definately expecting to be running out of my funds in Europe, so it will basically be a crap shoot as to where and when! There you go, maybe someone can start a betting pool on that... :P

So, my realistic goal right now for Europe is: Dublin, Galway, and Wexford in Ireland; hopping a ferry to France for Cherbourg, Paris, and Toulouse. Crossing the Pyranees to see at least Barcelona, and crossing them again to see the French Riviera on my way over to Italy. Here I have hopes for Pisa, Florence, Rome, and Venice. I must also make it here to meet up with two friends from school: Gianluca (a native Italian) and Chris. Gianluca has promised to show me and Chris the real Italy, and I am really looking foward to it! Then hopefully I will book it up through Austria and Germany and into the Netherlands and Belgium before flying home.

So there we go. I am leaving in two days and I can barely believe it. I want to thank everybody who has helped with any advice, money, and motivation. This trip started out as a dream, and I have only been able to make it a reality because of all of you. I hope that you enjoy this blog, and I will look foward to telling even more stories when I get back!