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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Liberal Guilt

A word of warning about travelling to Fiji: don’t buy a package tour. A second word of warning about travelling to Fiji: don’t buy a package tour that includes ‘Awegasm’ in its title.

We were lazy. It was the middle of the second semester, and there was no way we could work out where we wanted to go—so we had an Awegasm.

And we loved it. We had an amazing nine days swimming, snorkelling, hiking and reading trashy books in hammocks.

What we didn’t love was our liberal guilt about being such—yuck—tourists.

After spending one night in a hostel in Nadi on arrival, we were collected and taken to our boat at Port Denarau. We had arrived in the early evening and didn’t have a chance to explore the town. Driving to the port was a wake up call about the realities of tropical island paradises.

The town was basic. There was no real centre; just a long road with shops on either side. As you passed schools with barbed wire fences, you began to move into the countryside. People sat on doorsteps of shacks and watched the bus pass by. Money was in short supply, although friendly waves were plentiful.

Then, out of nowhere, arose Port Denarau. More correctly, the gated community that surrounds the port arose. Liberal sensibilities tweaked, it felt decidedly strange to be surrounded by golf courses and luxury homes so soon after passing shacks barely resting on their foundations.

Our boat—a luxury catamaran—took us five hours north up the Yasawa island chain to a backpacker resort called Coral View. We were welcomed by singing and clapping, and the staff shook our hands as we waded through the water from the boat to the beach. We were fed, shown our bure, and then went exploring.

We spent two nights at Coral View. In that time, we hiked to the island’s summit, snorkelled (and discovered that Coral View boasted no coral), participated in a socially awkward lovely legs and hairy chest competition, and found shells the size of your head. It was quiet. It was peaceful. We loved it.

At dinner on our first night, the staff welcomed us by name and introduced us to our fellow travellers. They sang and danced for us. It wasn’t until the second night that we realised that they did the same for every group—word for word. Liberal guilt was stirred once again.

Our next stop was Manta Ray Resort, two hours south. Here, to our relief, the staff treated us like friends, not masters. The snorkelling was amazing. Off the beach was a coral reef of every colour and with every fish imaginable. We jumped in one end, popped up the other, and ran back to start again.

Next was Kuata Natural Resort, which, as the name suggests, was basic. We ate a lot of cabbage. We twice hiked to the summit—waving a handkerchief before us to disturb spider webs and chatting loudly to scare away snakes. The view was worth it, and besides the rumbling bellies and birds that tried to nest in our bure, all was peaceful.

Our final night in the Yasawas was meant to be on Bounty Island, but overbooking saw us upgraded to Treasure Island. We were sceptical when told—what constitutes an upgrade in these parts?—but quickly swallowed our words. Treasure Island is where rich people go. We were surrounded by families with blonde-haired children wearing white. Our suite (yes, suite!) included a king-sized bed and air conditioning. Immediately throwing aside any liberal pretensions, we were in heaven.

In our one short night on the island, we managed to consume two steaks, one lamb cutlet, three fish fillets and a handful of mussels. Plus salads. Plus desserts. We were positively blimpish.

In between meals we wind-surfed, kayaked, snorkelled and swam. We had to be dragged to our boat, kicking and screaming.

And that was it. We had one final night in Nadi, then flew home.

Being in Nadi was a different experience on our return. Yes, people were poor. Yes, they worked hard. But there was also a feeling that they were living their lives in a typical Fijian fashion. Having seen more of Fiji—albeit the tourist areas—suddenly it didn’t seem so bad to have a plot of land in a bustling small town. Liberal guilt—while still present—decreased a notch.

One final word of warning about travelling to Fiji—don’t leave valuables in your checked baggage. We didn’t, but some poor soul got a hell of a whiff of our dirty laundry when they raided our bags between Nadi and Auckland.


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  1. Moomama says:

    what’s wrong with FIji you dick my boyfriend is Fijian

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