The Infamous Morrone

At 859 metres high, Morrone hill has to be the most recognisable geographical landmark when entering Braemar on the North Deeside road from the east. It is technically a corbett, missing out on being a munro by a mere 55 metres. For me it is a special hill, being one that I admire but also fear. Can you have a love/hate relationship with a hill? Lets say you can.

My relationship with Morrone began before my family had even upped sticks and moved to Braemar. It was June 2016 and I was celebrating the end of my last ever school exams. I was ecstatic (well kind off) and had a long summer ahead of me before heading of to university in September. The only problem was that I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do with myself for these few months with the exception of maybe getting a job at some point. Laziness isn’t something I’m immune to.

However, my parents weren’t too happy with the idea of me being idle, so Mum suggested I travel with her on the 45 minute journey up the valley to Braemar primary school for a couple of weeks. So that’s what I did, volunteering and helping out in her class. It went well, excluding the time I fell asleep at the back of her class. She wasn’t best pleased.

Anyway, while passing Braemar’s 30 mph limit signs, I would always look in wonder at the path which wound its way up the sickeningly steep slopes of Morrone to the mast which was just visible at the summit. I knew I had to run up it and one Friday I was lucky enough to give this a go.

It was after school hours and Mum was making preparations for the next day in the classroom. It had been a scorching day and the heat had seemed to keep intensifying until it had become more and more humid. If I was a weather expert or had basic general knowledge I would have known what was to come next. Hindsight is a great thing though.

At the start of my run I passed the golf course towards Fraser’s Bridge, before taking a right and embarking on the steep southern slope of Morrone. The path that is visible from the main road is the one that I would be descending. The fire road climb was long and winding as I started to feel the burn in the bright evening sunshine. After about 30 minutes of painful climbing at an average gradient of 11% I reached the summit, had a seat and took in my surroundings for the first time.

The 360 degree views from the summit are stunning when the skies are clear and atmospheric when they”re not. On this day I spent about 15 minutes taking in the many hills, mountains and valleys which lay in front of me. During this time I heard a slight rumble from the west and looked up the Dee valley to the Linn O’Dee to see dark clouds forming. Another rumble, this time louder followed by another. Each time becoming louder. Finally logic kicked in and I realised what was happening. It was time to try and loose some altitude quickly.

The approaching lightening was getting closer by the second, seemingly wanting to chase me down the hill to shelter. I scrambled as fast as I could down the rocky, technical single track as huge hailstones attempted to make my descent harder. I could almost feel the electric pulse around me as there were bright flashes and deafening booms to my left.

Eventually I reached the primary school and found shelter as the storm moved away. I realise the chances of actually getting struck by lightening are extremely low but this had still been an interesting experience. According to “Strava” that still stands as my fastest descent of Morrone and I don’t think I’ll ever beat it.

Just over a year later my family had based themselves in Braemar, giving a perfect opportunity for me to put some demons to bed and tackle Morrone again. When in the village it became my staple hill running route and is now one of my favourites. There are a few variations you can do on the route with the longest being 12 and the shortest being 7 kilometres long. The shortest variation takes you up the single track to the “Five Cairns” and is an exact copy of the hill race which is held at the famous Braemar Gathering every September.

Despite my great enjoyment of challenging myself on these slopes, Morrone truly became an infamous hill in my book in September of last year. After work I often climb the rocky path through the heather when there is enough light. Long story short, one night there wasn’t enough light and I ended up at the summit of Morrone in the quickly fading light without a torch. This wasn’t good and was a situation which should have been easily avoided.

Fearing I might not be able to find my way back to the street lights, I wanted to get down the hill as fast as possible. Then I fell. I hadn’t noticed the rock that I tripped on or even felt the one I landed knee first on. I hadn’t hurt too much and dusting myself off, I continued stumbling down the descent, fearing superficial scarring to my right knee at the worst.

As I finally reached the street lights of Braemar after continuing through the pitch darkness (as a part-time jedi the force guided me) I stopped to tie my laces and then looked down at my knee. Seeing the blood which was still flowing down to my ankle, I surveyed my knee and was taken a back by the deep hole which had developed on my knee cap.

Arriving home I tried to plaster it up to stop the bleeding but eventually gave in and showed Mum the extent off my injury. I had certainly done a good job of it. A late night doctor’s surgery visit later and I had three stitches and a very stiff knee. For a second time, the towering hill of Morrone had commanded my respect. Three weeks out from running following a nasty infection on removal of the stitches, and I realised hill running shouldn’t be messed with.

Approaching a year on from this hiccup and Morrone has become a staple of my training again. My weaker right knee reminds me of the risks of becoming overconfident on its steep descent and it seems like a pretty desolate and scary place to go in the dark anyway. Maybe it wasn’t a rock which tripped me…..

 

 

 

Heading Home

First Draft – Monday 23rd April 2018

The Positives :

As I sit on the beach in Nadi Bay on the largest Fijian island of Vitu Levu, my emotions are hugely mixed. This evening I am heading home. No not my Fijian home, but my real home in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. A last run along the beach this morning only made me feel a deeper sadness that I would be leaving this small piece of paradise. The sun is shining as brightly as ever through the numerous palm trees and across the blue Pacific Ocean as though the weather gods our rubbing in the fact that I will leave all of this behind in a few hours.

However, I like to think I’m optimist by Scottish standards at the very least. Therefore I want to first list the obvious positives of heading home. One is probably the most obvious, being that I miss my family and closest friends, having not seen or really heard from them for two months now. It will be great to catch up with them and make them feel jealous as I flaunt my healthy tan and blonde hair. I realise these will fade quickly so I’ll actually keep the flaunting to a minimum I think.

It will also be great to return to sunny Braemar, my home village of around 450 people with a real community spirit which could perhaps be compared to the attitudes of Fijians towards the importance of community. It would be churlish to not admit that I have felt a degree of homesickness during the last two months.

As I’ve often said being Scottish is almost a disease. During the cold long winters and following cool, wet summers that we experience I’ll often be desperate to get away to a warmer climate. However, a week away and you suddenly miss Scotland and can have moments where you are desperate to return to the home nation and have to wear layers most days.

I have also of course had a truly amazing experience which I can take back with me and treasure for the rest of my life. It is by a long shot the best thing I have ever done and I would have laughed if someone had suggested I would have ended up in Fiji six months ago. This journey half way across the globe fulfilled my overall aim. To extend my comfort zone to the absolute limit.

During my time here I have learnt a huge amount about Fiji, its culture and its people. Not giving these islands another visit doesn’t feel like it should be an option for me. Although, lets not forget I have many things to look forward to when I return home. I am lucky enough to be returning to my job as a part-time dishwasher and hopefully have a university place lined up.

The Negatives:

On the other hand, there was a feeling of great sadness as I packed up my suitcase for the last time this morning. The colourful people, the wonderful school students, the postcard perfect beaches, fellow travellers/volunteers and the “Vinaka Fiji” team will be greatly missed.

While reflecting on my time in the Yasawa Islands it is tempting to go into great detail about the sand, sea and sun. However, you probably know these things about Fiji already. No I would rather write about what well and truly makes Fiji such a wonderful place, the people. Their overall hospitality, kindness, laughter, attitude and happiness are unlike anything I have ever come across.

In many ways they have made me consider my attitude towards life and the importance of their resilience, especially in the face of worsening cyclones. Most locals to the Yasawa Islands live a much simpler, less stressful life to us. An existence which is seemingly a lot less centred on the importance of materialism.

I also know it will likely be a long time until I get another opportunity to travel to this part of the world. Maybe I will return one day when I am a little older or perhaps I will have to wait until I am much older. Whatever happens I still have hope I’ll be back on these sun kissed beaches.

At 6.15 pm I start my mammoth journey home. A mini-adventure in itself perhaps, but one I hope isn’t too adventurous. If I make it home (fingers crossed) it will be back to the norm, if there is such a thing. Maybe it won’t feel normal though and it will take time to adapt to Scottish rural life again. I’m not too worried though. If I can travel to the other side of the world solo, then surely I’ll be able to wash some dishes and then roll up at a university less than 150 miles from home. Now how do airports work again?

Keni Stops Play – Thursday 12th April

It had been a productive and highly enjoyable sixth week volunteering in the Yasawa Islands. The only disruption to the scheduled school visits had been on Thursday when we had carries out activities at base due to a poor water forecast. This had been followed on the Friday by a slightly hairy experience on our small boat in a larger than usual swell.

This was a perhaps a pre-warning of the storm which was approaching. It was a depression coming from the west which had caught the eye of forecasters who thought it had potential to become a cyclone. The damage from a Category 1 cyclone isn’t usually too significant I can’t so we weren’t too concerned.

On Saturday I waved goodbye to fellow volunteers Jessica and Steph, leaving school teacher Heather and myself with team members Gabby and Jim. Saturday afternoon and evening was relaxed at Botaria Resort, but the next day was far from it…

That night there was loud cracks of thunder over the islands as the rain poured down. We were starting to experience the first indications of the area of low pressure. After breakfast Heather received a phone call from Elle, general manager of “Vinaka Fiji”, informing us we were to be evacuated to the main island – Vitu Levu.

Elle is also plays a significant roll in the “Awesome Adventures” company, an organisation which helps run several of the 16 resorts in the Yasawas chain. It also provides the flyer, a daily catamaran service which provides the best way of travelling to your chosen resort while seeing the other islands. Therefore, it was her call to evacuate all guests at the resorts to Port Denaru on the mainland.

The Flyer is timetabled to arrive at Botaria at 11am on its way north. This time it arrived early and turned at the next resort along, picking up all tourists south of Naviti. Another boat would do the resorts north of Naviti.

The first challenge was actually getting on the Flyer. None of the resorts have a mooring large enough, so we are taken by small longboat to the flyer which stops just out to sea. Once the resort’s boat captain has managed to park next to the catamaran, passengers must step from one vessel to the other. This can be difficult in stormy conditions and proved to be today as Heather and I both found it hard to find any sort of steady surface to step on.

Thankfully making it onto the boat, we started our winding four hour journey south. As every guest at every resort was leaving the Flyer was soon at full capacity. Luckily Heather and I were able to find seats in the middle and at the back of the boat as we swayed from side to side in the large swell. This is seemingly the best place to sit if you don’t have good sea legs.

Relieved to arrive at the port, it was a farewell to Heather who had unfortunately only been able to spend one day volunteering while in Fiji. I was then given a lift from Elle herself to Nadi Bay, an inland hotel which would be my shelter for the next few days.

The next few days were spent sitting around and not doing very much at all. I was desperate to return to the islands but knew this was the a safe place to be as the cyclone arrived. On Tuesday it hit Nadi and there was high winds and flooding in other parts of Fiji. Nadi Bay was a sheltered spot and I felt sorry for the locals who had been forced to batch down the hatches again after the flooding which had followed Cyclone Josie a couple of weeks ago.

“Vinaka Fiji” team member Ross’ family home was flooded along with his farm just outside Nadi. Dengue fever had also been going around his village and he fell victin to it for two weeks. Meanwhile, Gabby and Jim had trekked to Kese when we were evacuated on Sunday. This village on the other side of Naviti from Botaria was hit by flooding from the heavy rainfall.

The Flyer didn’t run next untill Thursday and I met Miss Tema at the port. She had been forced to take an extended break and we were both unaware that Ross was ill as he didn’t join us on the boat. The cyclone had even worse effects in Kadavu, an island 60 miles south of the mainland. Roofs were torn of houses and locals said they thought the world was going to end, as Keni intensified into a Category 3 cyclone.

Arriving in the Yasawas again it was great to be back, but hard to hear of the difficulty my Fijian friends had faced. Difficulties that many say our becoming more common as climate change has a huge effect on a country which actually contributes to the global problem on a much smaller scale than most. When Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in January 2016 it was the strongest ever to hit the Pacific region. Huge Disruption was widespread and the current Fijian government now treats globe warming as a hugely important issue. Let’s hope for the sake of this beautiful group of islands, that there is now some restbite.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday – 30/03/18

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On Good Friday morning my alarm sounded at 4 am, eventually waking me from my slumber. Today the “Vinaka Fiji” team would be travelling to Kese village on Naviti to attend a 5 am church service.

As I finally came to, I listened to the wind and rain which disturbed the otherwise silent Bure 9 (shared accomodation). Maybe we wouldn’t be going today. Maybe the weather would keep us in our beds. Part of me hoped this was true as I struggled to find my sulu.

My roommates and fellow volunteers stirred as I tried to organise myself in the darkness. A short exchange of words later and I realised I would be the only one of us going on this early morning adventure.

In the Main Bure I found the three other volunteers looking as tired as I felt. Soon we were also joined by one of our faithful boat captains, Semmi who was from Kese. Half an hour later we were boarding the long boat in the still pitch blackness.

Elle, operations manager of “Vinaka Fiji”, and Tema, the education team leader, joined us on the boat. Looks like we would be going. Slightly less tired now, I grew a bit more enthusiastic after Tema told me that this was the first time they had taken the boat out in the dark.

The boat didn’t take long to get up to speed and we cruised through the darkness, a slight bump every now and then the only reminder that we were out to sea. On our way to Kese we passed the “Fijian Princess”, a cruse ship we had visited and given a talk to the day before.

About 45 minutes after leaving we arrived at Kese as the rain began to come on heavy again. We winded our way through the village to the church located at the back of Kese, passing the orginal church building. A structure which was a shocking reminder of Cyclone Winston (January 2016) which had totally blown it’d roof off.

Eventually we found the church. By this point it was around 6 am, meaning we had missed the first half of the service. However, we were of course welcomed in and chairs were quickly organised for us.

We watched as the congregation of 30 participated in song and prayer, being led by a Pastor who stood at the front of the church. At some points during the service Elle would stand up and address the congregation, talking about “Vinaka Fiji” and our role in the community as volunteers.

This must have lasted for around half an hour and when the service came to an end each church goer came up and shook our hands. This was quite touching and a lovely gesture.

Following this we re-entered the rain for a short while, walking to the Pastor’s house to have a bite to eat. Breakfast was a huge collection of yummy cakes, toast and scrambled egg. This did the job as I think our stomachs were all rumbling.

Breakfast was served with tea and coffee, and after our plates had been cleared, we sat and talked untill 8 am when we left for base. Fijian hospitality had again proved it was a world beater and the church visit had been a great experience. An experience that the average visitor to this part of the would be unlikely to have.

A Day in the Life of a “Vinaka Fiji” Volunteer

As I might have mentioned in my previous posts I am in the magical Yasawa Islands in Fiji. My reason for being here? Five days a week I am travelling out to three primary schools and one high school to volunteer.

Details about the type of volunteering are in a previous post, but what has happened in the average day for the last month or so. I’ll tell you….

0600 – On weekdays and in fact most days I will wake up now, often being woken by the amazingly bright sunrise.

0630 – After I have  watched the sunrise from the Sunrise beach (adaptly named I know) and perhaps read my book for a while, I try to go for a run. If your not a fan of running up and down the beach then there is the ‘Hike’ up to the higest point of Drawqa Island. This run usually takes about 20 minutes though can take longer if I meet Saki. Read the next one!

0700 – Short shower. All of the showers on the island are set to cold making them a great way to refresh after sweating it out on the run. Sometimes if it’s a really warm morning I’ll go swimming in the sea instead.

0715 – Breakfast! Best meal of the day. There is a big selection for breakfast I tend to keep it simple with some cornflakes. Sometimes I’ll treat myself with a pancake if I’ve had a particularly hard time on the ‘Hike’. At breakfast we will receive our pack lunches for the day and will choose what we want for dinner that night. So much thinking about food at the same time!

0800 – After breakfast the boat will depart to the next island along, Naviti. Journey time depends on which school we go to, the weather and which boat captain we have. Though in fairness Jim and Sammi are both exceptional. The closest school at Soso usually takes about 20 minutes to travel to, while Naviti District School can take up to 45 minutes to get to.

0900 – Most of the schools start their day at this time and we will usually get our first students of the day just after the bell. As mentioned previously, each session with a student is meant to last 25 minutes.

1030 – Mid Morning Break. Between the start of the day and recess we will likely see about three students each. This break lasts 15 minutes. If I’m lucky I sometimes get to throw a rugby ball around with some of the kids.

1200 – Most of the time this will be when we take a break for lunch and can attempt to eat the enormous contents of our pack lunch boxes which will often contain fish, or rice. Most of the primary schools have lunch at the time, but Yasawa High School students don’t knock off until 1 pm.

1330 – Our lunch break lasts for a long time! It is often very hot and humid by midday/early afternoon so it is nice to take rest bite by going paddling in the nearby ocean after sitting on the beach. Eventually we will start with the students again and will usually see about two each before we leave for ‘home’.

1430 – Mid afternoon we will usually wander down to the beach to catch the boat back to ‘Barefoot Manta’. Sometimes the long boat will be waiting for us while on other occasions we will depart at around 3 pm. Before we leave the high school we will often choose some resources to take with us we know we will be visiting one of the more remote schools the next day.

1530 – Most days we will arrive back at ‘Barefoot’ in the late afternoon and will sit back and relax until dinner. Depending on how I’m feeling I might do the ‘Hike’ again or have a nap. Recently the nap seems to have been the preferred option as the heat and a course of antibiotics for an infection on my ankle has made me feel quite drowsy by this time of the day.

1800 – Will try and catch the sunset from the beach on the other side of the island if there is one! Have tended to be more lucky with stunning sunrises for some reason.

 

1830 – By this time in the evening I’ll make my way down to the Main Bure or to the sunset deck in preparation for dinner at 7 pm which is always top notch.

2000 – Sometimes there will be post-dinner entertainment. Every Friday the staff members will patrcipate in Fijian traditional singing and dancing, ending in a rendition of the national anthem.

2100 – As a result of the heat I will often find myself going to be early during the week. Before I got to bed I like going to the beach with my music. The lack of natural light means there is a stunning view of the stars when there is little cloud cover.

2130 – Bedtime. Ready to do something similar the next day!

Weekends – My weekends tend to be spent chilling by the beach, running and just socialising with the other volunteers. Not a bad way to spend your days off! In recent weeks I have kayaked around the island and last weekend I went to Naviti to watch a local rugby game. This was a great experience and some of the hits the locals put on each other were massive. I couldn’t choose a better place to spend your down time!

 

 

Why Have I Actually Travelled to Fiji?

Believe it or not there was actually a specific purpose to travelling to the other side of the world. As well as enjoying the island paradise which I have found myself on, I will also spend the next six weeks travelling in between three schools on a voluntary basis.

Now two weeks in, I have learnt a lot about the school environment in this very specific part of the Pacific region. The three schools I have been travelling to with two other volunteers are all located on the largest of the Yasawa Islands, Naviti.

From Monday to Friday, we embark on a small boat which takes between 30 minutes and an hour to reach Naviti. This depends on which school we are visiting, whether we need to do errands and the weather conditions.

I have found the boat ride a very enjoyable experience, feeling the cooler air on my face as we speed between the islands. However, a choppy day last week has confirmed that my stomach and I are not fans of rolling and pitching when the waves get slightly larger.

Most days we will visit Naviti Elementary School, a compound which has faced many challenges after a monsoon paid a visit a few weeks before I arrived. With children up to Year 8 attending you would presume there would be eight classrooms.

Unfortunately these buildings were torn apart by the high winds, forcing the teachers to set up tents. These temporary classrooms make it very difficult for the pupils and teachers, as temperatures often rise to 30 degrees plus.

Even more recently these tents were blown down and flooded by a  short storm while we were here. This had resulted in two days off school at the start of the week, before six classes were forced into the teachers’ accommodation to study, while the other two remain in the tents in a muddy field.

When we visited the school earlier today we were lucky enough to sit through assembly. During the headteachers’ remarks he thanked the children for showing up to school despite the challanges they were currently facing.

Prayer was also said before he reminded pupils that they needed to follow the strict dress code which dictates that knees should be covered at all times. I have also been following this dress code, wearing a sulu (or sarong).

Going into the volunteering I wasn’t sure what my role would but I thought it likely included helping out in the classroom. Instead, pupils come up to a building set aside for “Vinaka Fiji” volunteers.

This base has many resources that have been donated to the organisation and when the pupils visit we will usually spend one-on-one time with them for 25 minutes. This time is spent reading or teaching them English words that they might not know.

This can be quite challenging with the younger pupils especially because they will usually speak Fijian at home and when with their school mates. There is definitely more translation included than I was expecting. I was also saddeed to find out the reason they put their hands over their heads when they get a question wrong.

The base is located in Yasawa High School which is on the same campus as Naviti Elementary. This is the school we will visit when the elementary is closed. Pupils start high school in Year 9 before leaving in Year 14, often for the mainland.

Although it wasn’t as badly affected by the monsoon, older pupils face many other challenges. As the only high school in the Yasawas, boarding is offered to pupils, a amenity that it has to fork out for itself. Pupils who board are woken at 5.30 every morning before being put to work in the fields until 7. School starts at 8am. Not the easiest start to a school day.

For many pupils who don’t board it is equally as difficult as they leave home at 7am to make a difficult hike over the mountain from their villages on the other side of the island. They must walk up a steep ascent and descent which I can imagine becomes treacherous after heavy rain. Having caught a glimpse of the route, it doesn’t look like a track I would want to tackle bare foot or in sandals. A reality for the students.

We do similar activities with the high schoolers when they visit the base. Some have good English while others struggle to even write a sentence. These students can be very difficult to work with, but slowly reading through a book with them can be rewarding as they start to pick up new words.

On Fridays, or when the weather is too stormy, we visit Apensia Memorial School located in the nearer village of Soso. This is another elementary school of around 80 pupils set in a background of two foliage covered hills. Two rugby posts made of bamboo add to this stunning setting.

Inside the school building there is three classes,  with the youngest students hosted by a nearby building. “Vinaka Fiji” doesn’t have a base here, so we sit on the floor of the school office when reading to the kids.

In the last couple of weeks we have focused on learning rhyming words, with a large collection of Dr Zeuss books coming in handy. Intrestingly the children at this school seem to be much further ahead than the ones we work with at Naviti Elementary. This is surely a result of the many challenges that the Naviti students face on a daily basis.

Friday afternoons at Apensia are fun as they are set aside for “organised” sports. This includes kids of all ages running around throwing rugby balls and footballs, while showing why the Fijians are known for their offloading skills even at a very young age. I try to take part even if trying to pass three balls to like 15 children at the same time can be challenging!

 

Adaptions to Travelling to the Other Side of the World

I have now been in Fiji for eleven days. Three days on the mainland followed by eight days on Barefoot Island, a tiny island in the remote Yasawas. Looking back on my short time in this magical part of the world, I thought I would look into eleven adaptions that I’ve had to make to life literally half the world away from Scotland.

1. Air Travel – Having never travelled by airplane alone, using three flights and visiting four airports was a bit of a thought. However, I quickly learned the protocols that needed to be followed when using this form of transportation. I’m not a particularly nervous flyer, but did become restless when tackling the 14 hour flight from Dubai to Brisbane. Good tips would be to take a good book, watch a few movies, sleep and whatever you do don’t clock watch!

2. A different accent – The majority of Fijians speak English along with their native Fijian. However, there is a minority that speaks Indo-Fijian and most Fijians have a strong Pacific accent which my ears weren’t used to picking up. They are now!

3. Very friendly people – This doesn’t sound like much of a challenge and isn’t. Most Fijians seem to be the most friendly people I have ever come across and take great delight in greeting you with an enthusiastic “bula” in passing. In Scotland we aren’t that big on saying hello to strangers, so it’s important to pay attention and respond if greeted this way!

4. The Heat – Coming from a sub-zero Scottish winter to the Fijian Summer was always going to be a big step. Now in the wet season, temperatures usually hover between 25 and 30 degrees celsius, with humidity often upwards of 75%. If wanting to go for a run then you need to get up early. Although the warm ocean is a great place to cool off after breaking a sweat.

5. Mosquitoes – If travelling to Fiji you need to be prepared to wear lots of mosquito spray, ecspecially at night or after rain showers when they are at their worst. I have lots of red bumps and spots, but have become gradually better at not itching them and making them worse.

6. Wearing lots of Sun Cream – On most home-is-best Scottish holidays sun cream is an accessory that can often be left at the bottom of the suitcase. In Fiji however, you need to make sure you are throughly covered in the white stuff.  Two very unattractive shoulders covered in brown and white patches are a reminder that I learnt the hard way.

7. Shared sleeping spaces – Sleeping in close proximity to strangers isn’t something that I’m used to but was a good opportunity to meet other travellers.  Although it can be difficult depending on who your dorm mates are. Despite an intresting encounter with a French couple who pushed the boundaries of what was appropriate in a shared space, I have been lucky. Luck of the draw I guess.

8. “Fiji Time” – The Fijian concept of time seems to be a much looser concept than at home. Patience is a virtue and for things to run slightly late at a more relaxed pace is the norm. Can be a change from the systematic  approach to time in the Western world. I’ve become a big fan of “Fiji Time”!

9. A Kava Ceremony – When being welcomed into a village or onto an island, visitors should be prepared to participate in a ceremony where a drink made of pepper plant root is consumed while sitting in a circle. Although it may look slightly like muddy water is doesn’t taste too bad at all and it was great to take part in an important part of Fijian culture.

10. The Food – No complaints here! Delicious meals including fish, rice and lots of salad are often cooked up for visitors. If you are worried about changes in diet you should take stomach tablets. I have some but hope not to use them. Fingers crossed!

11. Jet lag – Lastly there is obviously a reaction to travelling to the other side of the world. Fiji happens to be 12 hours ahead of GMT, meaning that it can be difficult to get used to this significant time difference. I managed to sleep a lot while flying and went to bed at 8pm local time the evening I arrived. This seemed to help, although my waking hours have changed drastically. I usually go to bed at 9 pm, waking at 6 am, before often napping when late afternoon rolls around. I think it may be the heat!