06.04.2011 - 09.04.2011 32 °C
Weather wise it's been an interesting few days. Fiji is still in its rainy season and if it wasn't obvious on the mainland it certainly is now. The weather the past four days has been so extreme - one minute it's scorching hot with no clouds, the next there's thunder and lightning going on. A few minutes later, back to the sun and then vice versa. Worse than Ireland!
I left Nadi (pronounced Nandi) on the 6th heading to Mana and it lashed rain throughout the journey. To say the boat ride was bumpy is an understatement. It's just as well I don't suffer from sea sickness easily, otherwise I'd have been throwing up my breakfast. I must add that the boat itself was about 90 minutes late, but then it's Fiji time right? I booked myself in for four nights at the Rato Kiny resort which is essentially a flashpackers hostel and I'd highly recommend a stay here. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is included and they always have activites going on, most of which are free. I decided rather than do four nights on four different islands, it would be better to spend it at the one place and actually do something. As soon as I arrived I booked myself in for the Advanced Padi course. I had gotten my original Open Water cert last November in Australia and wanted to get further qualifications as diving is something I really have a strong passion for now.
I got a private room at Rato Kiny which had an ensuite and apart from the fact there was no air conditioning (again) and cold showers it was really very comfortable. In fact the cold showers were sort of a blessing as it has been so humid, despite torrential rain on and off. That day I chilled out and started reading up on the chapters in my divers manual. The following day (Thursday) I took a trip to Mamanuca island where the film Castaway with Tom Hanks was filmed. I've still not seen that film for some reason but I definitely will when I get home.
Anyway, we spent a good morning touring around the small island being shown various spots where scenes of the movie were shot. After that we got to snorkel for about an hour before a severe uphill trek to the top of the island for a fantastic view. They didn't warn us very well in advance though. I ended up practically climbing up the island in flip flops with a wallet/passport/camera in one hand and the other trying to cling onto almost anything that was stuck there. Out of six of us that did it, only three made it to the very end (including me, I wasn't giving up, I've had worse on those Glaciers in NZ). The good news is all this outdoor activity has finally given me a bit of a tan again - there weren't many opportunities to get one in New Zealand and I'm not a fan of sunbathing. If I'm going to be in the blazing heat, I need to be moving around doing something, not sitting there waiting to cook like a roast chicken.
Friday morning was an early start. We had three dives that day to do. The first one was a Deep Dive where we went to 30 metres. My previous lowest dive was only 12 metres so there is a big difference. If you can do 12 though you can easily do 30, it's not that much harder and you barely notice it until you're down there. We had to a few skill tests including a maths one - I was twice as slow competing it 30 metres underwater as on the surface which is meant to show you the signs of nitrogen narcosis (the feeling of being a little bit drunk, or slower to think). The other diver doing the course with me was the same. The next dive we did as a Buoyancy Dive where you have to learn how to balance and steady yourself in the water without using your arms or legs. It's all about the breathing! It's quite difficult actually and takes a lot of practice to get it right. I got there in the end.
That evening we did a Night Dive. I was quite excited about that as I've wanted to do one for a while now. I felt like James Bond going out on a speed boat in the dark with thunder & lightning going on in the torrential rain. I did question myself at one point 'am I crazy?' but the answer came back as a no so I continued on. Jumping into dark waters with no visibility is a weird thing. Your only source of light are your flash light and the other divers around you. It was real interesting swimming 15 metres underwater against a coral wall - it was very empty as most fish were tucked up in their beds. Only a few cool fish remained and I wondered, does their mother know that they're out? Everything looks completely different at night time. It definitely had an eerie feel about it, especially when you point your flash light into the darkness away from the coral. It's pitch black.
The next morning we did a Wreck Dive. This is the one I most wanted to do. I'm a bit of a Titanic nerd and love watching any programmes related to it. We got to dive 25 metres deep to the Saramanda, an old transport ship that had been purposely sunk after being de-commissioned 15 years ago. I can't describe the feeling of gliding over the bow of the ship, it was just awesome. It's the closest feeling to flying I've ever had. Gliding past the rooms with your flash light was so strange yet thrilling. My dive instructor brought her camera with her on this one so you can see some cool shots of it below.
The final dive was a Navigational Dive. We were brought to a site where the visibility is very poor and you had to swim in a rectangle only using a compass for navigation. I had done somthing similar before on the Openwater Cert so it was quite easy. In addition to doing the five dives we had to complete a lot of coursework over the three days. I got it all done and I'm now qualified as an Advanced Diver! The final evening was spent getting drunk (as you do). There was a Bula Special of a jug of vodka and orange juice for 30 Fiji Dollars. That's roughly about 12 Euro and when they give you six shots it's a pretty good deal. A late night of singing and taking part in Bula games was had.
The return journey from Mana to the mainland today was even worse than on the way over. It arrived almost two hours late (Fiji time) and it was like travelling in a washing machine. About 15 of us were squished onto this tiny boat where your main worries are: am I going to get sick, sunburnt or saturated? Or all three? The highlight was getting off, where I was given the honour of carrying my suitcase over my head in deep water as the boat couldn't dock close enough to shore. Anyway, today is officially the longest day I've had the pleasure of living. Seeing as I'm flying to LA tonight at 10pm Fij time, I will in fact have a 41 hour day. I'll get to LA at 2pm (which is 3 hours ago as I type this, weird eh). I'm just hoping now I'll get an aisle or window seat as it's not letting me book online...