Days M90-M91: The Fijian Chief

26.12.11-27.12.11: Boxing Day was a long, lazy day, but one in which I learnt an important life lesson: if you’re in a small swimming pool and you get everybody in it to run in a circle, you can create a whirlpool. True story. My ticket out of here, the Southern Lily 2, doesn’t leave until after New Year, so I’ve got a week or so to spend mooching about, causing trouble and generally being a crimson-headed nuisance. The day after Boxing Day, a new chief would be installed as head of Sandy’s mum’s clan. I was invited along to the ceremony which would be held in the small village of Buca Levu, a couple of hours drive out of Suva on the eastern side of the main Fijian island of Viti Levu. I’d be a fool to turn an opportunity like this down, and as I…

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Day M92: The Cannibal King

28.12.11: It was just after 9am when I said my fond farewells to Sandy’s mum and the village of Buda Levu. I jumped the bus north towards the town of Rakiraki, wanting to explore the island of Viti Levu a little more. In case you were wondering, ‘Levu’ means ‘Big’, so ‘Viti Levu’ means ‘Big Viti’. Well, actually, it means ‘Big Fiji’, as ‘Viti’ is the Fijian name for their own country: the version we know, ‘Fiji’, is actually a Tongan word. Strange but true! This time of year the days start with a burst of blisteringly hot tropical sunshine, cooking the wet ground and creating a steamy atmosphere: yes you’ll sweat so you might as well get used to it. Around noon the clouds (typically) roll in, but then that’s what makes Viti Levu so marvellously green. The afternoon is given over to the rain…

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Days M93-M94: Ed’s Bar

29.12.11-30.12.11: Since you can’t wear clothes for more than a day in Fiji without them turning into sweat rags, I had thrown my togs in for some rather overpriced cleaning at the local laundry. They wouldn’t be ready until 12 noon, but as soon as I had them back in my backpack where they belonged, I raced over to the bus station, found the first bus with ‘Nadi’ written on the front and jumped on board. Fijians have this thing in which they’ll be an ‘n’ in the word, but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at it . For example ‘Nadi’ is pronounced ‘Nandi’ (and the cannibal king name was written ‘Udre Udre’ but pronounced ‘Undre Undre’). This quirk is by no means unique to Fiji: the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, is pronounced ‘Pango Pango’, I don’t know if this knowledge is…

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Day M95: 2011, In Memoriam

31.12.11: I was looking to do something with some of the people I met last month for New Year, but all of them had either gone home or had shifted themselves off the mainland to an island resort for the holidays. So, out of ideas, I returned to Suva to see if my old partner in crime, Renato from Peru, was still knocking about at the South Seas hostel. He was. So we hit the bars hoping to see the new year in in fine fettle. After a few drinks in the Bad Dog Café, we moved into O’Reilly’s next door. There I ran into James Shute, one of the cadets from The Southern Pearl (and relative of Neville). He had some bad news: the pilot onboard The Pearl, Captain Mafi, passed away in his sleep last night. I couldn’t believe it. Captain Mafi, the tall,…

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Day M96: Happy Last Year (Of The Odyssey)!

Sun 01.01.12: Hurrah! 2012 at last! And might I say GOOD RIDDANCE to all that horrible 2011 malarkey. Yuck. Never going back there again. I saw in the new year in Albert Park in Suva amongst a good few thousand revellers dancing in the mud. I then sneaked back into O’Reilly’s and burnt the midnight oil throwing shapes to terrible music which (when I rule the world) will be outlawed. I woke up the next day in the South Seas Hotel with a bitching hangover and a load of random photos on my camera that I don’t recall taking. Okay people, this is it... THE LAST YEAR OF THE ODYSSEY EXPEDITION! I have just TEN countries left to go. Here’s how I intend to knock them pins down... In a couple of days I will be leaving Suva on The Southern Lily 2, ready to go…

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Days M97-M98: The Last Nights of Suva

Mon 02.01.12 - Tue 03.01.12: Last night I went to the cinema to watch Mission Impossible 4, which I have to say is by far the best in the series, and I would expect nothing less from the guy who directed my favourite Pixar flick, The Incredibles. Today I ran over to the suburb of Lami to pick up my gear that I left with Sandy while I toured the island. With that done, I was left twiddling my thumbs somewhat. I spent my last few nights in Suva at the South Seas Hotel, sharing a dorm for about 8 quid a night. My partner in crime, Renato, has hooked up with a local chick so he’s not up for going out and getting into trouble. The ship that’s due to whisk me away to New Zealand (via Samoa and Tonga) leaves on Wednesday. I went…

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Days M99-M100: The Southern Lily 2

Wed 04.01.12 – Thu 05.01.12: High noon in Suva saw me bundle myself out of the South Seas hostel and off to the Trans Am Shipping Agents opposite the north gate of Suva Port. There to meet Loslini, the lady who would be helping me onboard the Southern Lily 2. After explaining my mad plan to her, she handed me over into the capable hands of her number two and I was driven over to the port. A-ha! The Southern Lily 2. Thanking my lucky stars, I clambered up the gangway and onto the ship that would be taking me to 3 out of my final 10 countries. Once aboard I met with Captain Andriy, the Ukrainian skipper who would subsequently go out of his way to ensure my time in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga was a fun (and more importantly, hilarious) one. Already he…

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Day M101: Yo-Ho-Ho And A Bottle of Rum

Fri 06.01.12: We reached Apia, the capital of Samoa, on Friday afternoon. Like Fiji, Samoa is in the clutches of the rainy season, but I didn’t mind – it’s what makes it all so delightfully green! How the captain, the pilot and the helmsman managed to steer the ship into a parking space I’d have trouble getting into in a Ford Fiesta I’ll never know, but here we are, a ship with space for 1,080 containers squeezed into a dock just 40 metres wide. Eat your heart out, Doctor Who. After customs had come and gone, Captain Andriy and I set out with the port agent, Richard, for a little bit of exploration. Taking us up along the narrow peninsular that separates Apia Harbour from Vaiusu Bay, we passed the promenade, the parliament building, the clock tower roundabout, the tombs of Malietoa Laupepa and Malietoa Tanumafili…

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Day M102: Treasured Island

Sat 07.01.12: Samoa! What an awesome place! Captain Andriy had me up at 10am to head over to Valima, the home of the great Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, the chap wot wrote Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Taking Filipe the ship’s steward with us, we met with Richard the local port agent and hit the road into the interior. Back in the 1890s, Robert Louis Stevenson’s health was waning and he believed that a more tropical clime would be conducive to his general well-being, or at least more conducive than the frigid night air of the Scottish highlands or the smog-laden streets of London at the height of the industrial revolution. When Stevenson visited Samoa in the 1880s, it was love at first sight. He built a home for himself and his family in the middle of…

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Day M103: A Tale of Two Sundays

Sun 08.01.12: As the good ship Southern Lily 2 was scheduled to be leaving Apia in the wee small hours I left my passport in the ship’s office with a note saying “this is my passport, please do not wake me unless strictly necessary”. As I was three sheets to the wind when I wrote this note, I had no recollection of the event the next day when for a terrifying few moments I thought I had lost my passport somewhere in the midst of last night’s ridiculousness. I need not have worried, for not only had my passport not gone anywhere, neither had the ship. Since Samoa is still quite a god-fearing country, the loading operation stopped last night at midnight for the Sabbath Day. My hopes of having a Saturday night in Samoa, crossing the International Dateline and having another Saturday night in American…

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