Beachcomber Island and last days of travelling

DCIM104GOPROWith our stomachs filled with breakfast and our bags packed, we were transfered early morning by minivan then jetty to Beachcomber Island. After arriving on Island, we did our standard check-in procedure and chilled on the beach. For the rest of the  afternoon, we ate a buffet lunch, played volleyball and went snorkeling. Again, in the evening, there was some live entertainment of dancing and singing. it was good but not as good as the first show we saw. A few of us decided to play some volleyball after the show while drinking beers but not for too long as we were feeling sleepy.DCIM104GOPRO

The following day, four of us hired paddle boards and canoes, where we splashed around, failing to balance and smashing into the clear water. I wanted to go paragliding but unfortunately there wasn’t any wind. We also walked around the tiny island, taking photos and scraping my feet against to stones. After scoffing some food down, I left the group to return back to the main island. Everyone else was continuing onto some of the other island but I was coming to the end of my travels.DCIM105GOPRO

I caught the boat back to Vitu Levi Island and was taken to my hostel near the other hostels. I arrived early evening, where I struggled to find my room but did eventually. I took a shower then walked to the hostel I first stayed at to eat the traditional Fijian meal of steamed fish and rice.  I spoke to a few people and joined the kava ceremony before heading back to my hostel to sleep. DCIM104GOPROHowever, when I returned to my room, I realised I had no sheets or pillows so I had to speak to reception but eventually got some sleep.

I can’t believe I was going back to Sydney after 2 months of travelling. It’s insane! Where has the time gone? I absolutely loved Fiji and was so tempted to cancel my flight and start a new life here but in the end I decided to go back to Sydney to see where life would take me next.

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On my last day, I ate some breakfast then strolled down to the beach to relax and get the last of some rays. I bought a sandwich from a cafe place and went back to my hostel to lie by the pool. It was time to leave! Being picked up at the hostel and taken to the airport was pretty uneventful. I checked-in, dropped off my bag and waited to board the plane. I was soon back in Sydney in my old house. It was exactly the same as before I left. It’s weird this concept of travelling and returning with everything the same. All I can say is that I had an incredible two months exploring new places, meeting some amazing people and experiencing some new cultures. Until next time…

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Touring Fiji, Viti Levu: school, bilibili rafting, cliff jumping and fun all round

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The next day, rising early, we scoffed down our buffet breakfast, packed and got ready to leave. I bid farewell to the dutch girls and hopped on to the jetty. On the other side, back on the mainland, we drove along the main road, through towns and hills, to our hotel on the south of Viti Leva. After checking-in, we had a bite to eat at the beautiful resort, which over looked the beach.img_20160620_134548

We put our things in our dorm room, which was a huge cabin. Then headed to do the Biausevu trek, where we got dropped off at the bottom of a hill. First, we walked uphill on a stony path, passed a few houses. Next, walking through a man-made trail with bushes around us and trying to avoid standing on a snake, we saw a stunning view of greenery. On the walk, I slipped on the stones to cross a river and then along a hilly, muddy path, I fell on my backside, where I couldn’t stop laughing.DCIM104GOPRO

At the end of a hike was a beautiful waterfall, where there was a 10m jump into the fall. And of course, I cliff jumped. It was such an exhilarating feeling of falling. Majority of the group did the jump, even though some were frightened. We chilled in the water for a while before take the short cut back to the van, where we drove back to our resort.
In the evening, we relaxed in our room then went to the restaurant for dinner. There was an acoustic band bringing us entertainment as we chatted.DCIM104GOPRO

The following day, we hurried down for breakfast early as the food was just meant to be the best with pancakes, cooked and continental brekkie.Once packed, we got in the road again around the island, where we stopped in the capital. Suva was a huge town compared to the other parts but relatively small in contrast with other capitals in the world. There was nothing special about it and just had a shopping area with unexciting shops. We did, however, stop in front of the government house where there was a guard standing out. we hopped off the minibus to take some selfies with the guard and the area. as we were driving through the rest of the city, Amy talked about many other parts and a little about the history of Fiji.DCIM104GOPRO

Our next stop, several miles on, was a typical Fijian village, Nasutoka. On the way, our group was told about the kava ceremony we were going to experience, making sure we were respectful but know the agenda of it. When we got off the bus, we had to make sure our shoulders were covered and that we were wearing a long skirt (even the male among us). A chief from the our circle was appointed. At the door of the large, open, simple room, we were given a necklace made from banana leaves and a flower. The ceremony was very interesting, with a chief at the front, three others facing him and us sitting on the floor at the sides. After the initial speeches and giving of the offerings, we all had a taste of the kava.img_20160620_155834

Once the ceremony was over, we walked out the room, had a mini tour of the surrounding and waited for our traditional lunch to be set up on the floor like a picnic. The food spanned from meat, fish to fried aubergine, fritters and plantain. It was so delicious but also extremely greasy.

Next of the days activities was the bilibili rafting, where we changed in to our swim gear. As three of us sat on a bamboo float, a Fijian guy paddled the boat up to the river back to our bus. The scenery was stunning with a cool breeze blowing through our hair. We were able to stand on the raft and take pictures.DCIM104GOPRO

The last part of the day, we were taken to the village school, where they had just finished their lessons. Assembled together, the primary school children performed some songs and dances to us while we just introduced ourselves to them. Towards the end of the day, we chatted to the children and took photos with them before jumping back on the bus. As we drove through the villages to the Golden point Resort, the sun slowly set.

When we arrived, we were all feeling tired so we rested in our dorm while waiting for our dinner to be served. In the restaurant, we ate our food, where I ate a tasteless curry. img_20160620_133621Next, to our surprise with lack of interest from the group, the staff put on a show of dancing and singing. It was entertaining but in terms of funny and not too good compared to the other shows we had seen. They were so full of enthusiasm and energy, pulling us up to join them with the Fijian Macarena. Tiresomely, we all parts of my body aching, we followed the moves. Soon enough though, the entertainment was finished and we were able to rest our head for the day ahead.

Waking up for the toilet early was a bonus this morning as it just happened to be when the sun was rising. And, I can definitely say what an incredible view over the peaceful water. Once I had a little more time sleeping, I did my normal travelling routine then I sat around a table in the restaurant for my breakfast. It was a slight disappointment but it did fill a hole. In the morning, there was about an hour to spare before leaving the resort. The owner had organised a fish feeding session over the rock but it was literally watching a guy in the distance giving some food to a few fish.img_20160621_100855

On the road, we travelled through scenic Indo-Fijian sugar cane belts to the second biggest city, Lautoka, where we wandered around and grabbed a bite to eat. So… it wasn’t my choice but we ended up eating in McDonalds but as with every McD’s I go to, there is always a slightly different menu but I went with my standard choice.

A little further down, we turned off to have a stop off at the Sabeto hot pool. They were outside in the fresh air with no official building with a mountainous view in the background. Striping to our swimwear, we smothered thick mud all over our bodies including our faces. of course, we had to take some picture of the momentous occasion.

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With all the mud dried with the sun’s help, we lowered ourselves into the warm mud pool to relax. The squelching mud in between my toes did freak me out a little but after a while I got used to it. We must have looked strange to the few locals in the pool. Imagine a group of young foreigners screeching and squealing in a large bath full of mud. Strange.

When we were ready, we transferred to the hot spring, which was all naturally heated to about 65 degree. Luckily, the water flows through a tube lowering the temperature to about 40 degrees for us to bathe in. It was lush. It felt such a treat and well-deserved after all the travelling and walking we had done, plus I just love hot springs.DCIM104GOPRO

Later in the after, we were driven the last leg of our journey back to Nadi, where we stayed in a different hostel to the one I was in before. Once we had dropped our bags in our room, I had a shower before heading to the restaurant next door for a cheap pizza with some of the others. Then, we grabbed some beers from the shop (mainly because we were cheap travellers) and sat on the beach near our hostel. chatting and laughing, we moved to the kava circle to experience and taste some more kava as well as listen to the locals playing the guitar before heading to bed for an early start.

 

 

Robinson Crusoe Island: Fire dancing, crabs and snorkeling

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Starting my tour around the main island of Fiji plus two smaller island was getting me excited to see what this country has to offer.

With my alarm ringing, I rose from the bed early and sorted myself out, having shower and packing. I arranged to have breakfast with one of the guys before departing. Once I had eaten and said my goodbyes, I jumped onto the tour bus mostly full of British people who knew one other person. However for me, I was solo traveller ready to make friends and make memories with new people.img_20160618_104308

Heading away from my hostel, we all introduced ourselves including our tour guide, Amy, who was just so chatty and happy. Pretty much like all Fijian people.

On our way south along Queens Road, we stopped to have a look around Nadi and buy some supplies. Nadi is the third biggest city but it much smaller than I thought with several shops along one main road, where at the end is the largest Hindu temple in the South Pacific.img_20160618_143300

When we arrived at the tiny Robinson Crusoe Jetty, we transfers on to a long boat and winded down the river through the jungle and mangroves before crossing to the island. There was some on board entertainment in the form of a guitar, singing and individually dancing, which was amusing but also slightly embarrassing.img_20160618_162600y, abandoned place with music filling the air. when we slid ashore, a group of Fijians were welcoming us with guitar playing and singing.

With a welcoming, fruity drink in my hand, we checked in and got shown our room, which was a huge dormitory in a bamboo style hut. To my surprise two dutch girls I had met along the East Coast of Australia were staying there.DCIM104GOPRO

Once settled, we waited for our buffet lunch before an afternoon of arranged activities. Most of the smaller Fiji islands have a compulsory meal plan, which you have to pay for on top of the tour cost, even if you can’t or don’t like the food. Luckily, there was lots of fish and vegetables for me to eat.img_20160618_155742

There were a variety of afternoon activities which you could do if you wanted to. Straight after lunch, one guys did a demonstration with a coconut, where he showed us how to open, shave and make milk out of the coconut. It was interesting but also extremely difficult as I had a go.

Then there was a crab racing, which was basically a game with numbers on the back of a bunch of crabs. Each person received a number to cheer on and follow. I just spectated the game but it was a little entertainment for the afternoon.img_20160618_194816

A few of us decided to sunbathe in the glorious sun to top up our tans before returning back to our own countries. While lying on the golden sand, a Fujian man cooked a huge crab in a pot on an open fire on the sand and made a spicy curry with it. We all had a taste of this messy but extremely delicious concoction.img_20160618_155746

After, a glass-bottom boat was going further away from the island so the guest could admire the underwater as well as do some snorkeling, which I decided to join. Unfortunately the visibility was rubbish so it was slight disappointing. Also after learning how to control my breathe so I could swim deep under the water, I dived deeply under the ocean to take a closer look at the sea life, where i managed to give myself a slight nose bleed from coming up too quickly. I will work on this in the future.img_20160618_211321

When we returned to the island, I fell asleep on the beach while watching volleyball.

In the evening a larger group of visitors invaded the island for dinner and a show. Feeling a bit overwhelmed with people, we found a table to reserve for our group. img_20160619_090342Before food, there was a Kava ceremony, where they introduced the chief of the Island in their traditional clothes of straw skirts. Then we watched were they had cooked the potatoes on coals. With a long queue, we chose different, tasty foods for dinner. When everyone had finished their meal, we watched a fire dancing show, which was really professional and entertaining to watch with different dance moves and fire swinging around. It was such a lovely evening.

A relaxing day in Fiji

Today was an extremely low key day because I needed a day of relaxing and sleep before starting my tour around Fiji.

Lazily, I abandoned my bed just to do the short walk to the beach and lay on my towel in the sun. It was a glorious day with the bright sun and gentle breeze with the sound of the calm waves crashing filled my ears.

While others were walking passed, playing volleyball and other games, I simply stayed horizontal, letting life pass me. It was just bliss. I had time to think and ponder life with the last week of travelling ahead of me before returning back to Sydney.img_20160624_130239

It’s kind of a weird concept as I’ve been away from my home country for 17 months, travelling and working. At the same time, I feel like I’ve just been away from normal life for 7 weeks because I’m away from work and my settled life in Sydney. I am completely blessed to have these opportunities. Where is home? What is ‘normal’ life?

I totally agree with the quote “You will never be completely home again, because part of your heart will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of living and knowing people in more than one place”.  I love travelling, experiencing new countries and cultures as well as meeting new people.

I’m still glad that 2 years ago I made that decision to embark on the unknown and adventuring around the world.

Anyway, as I was laying there, I chatted to my mum on Skype, which is a surreal situation of being in the beach on the other side of the world and being able to share it in a small way with my mum.

During the afternoon, I decided to have a traditional Fijian message class to my hostel. It was so relaxing. Everywhere I go, I always try the different massage styles. One perks is that it is so cheap compared to western prices. She just hit all the right spots.

For the rest of the day I chilled a little more by the pool and met a couple of guys who had been surfing for the day. In Fiji, there was a huge international surfing competition and today was the final with contestants from all over the world. Apparently a surfer from Brazil won.

Then I had a shower before having dinner, a few beers and kava to end the night. I trued to order a traditional Fijian meal if fish in a coconutty sauce and rice but unfortunately they had sold out.

It was such a lovely day and I was ready for the next part of my adventure around Fiji. I was going to miss being here with the welcoming Fijians and the people I met. It felt like home for a few days.

Fiji: Nada and first time scuba diving

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Fiji was just one incredible country and 12 days was definitely not enough time but luckily I still managed to experience the culture and learn about a whole new place.After a long, overnight flight from Perth with a stopover in Brisbane, I landed safely at Nada airport, where I had lost several hours because of the time difference. I was welcomed by a couple of guys in a colourful shirt with a guitar singing Fijian songs. Later, I realised that Fijian just love singing all the time and they are actually good.

At the airport, I went through immigration which was a doddle and was met by a lovely young girl from the hostel, who arranged my lift to my accommodation. By now, it was late after with the sun still blazing. The vibe from the airport and just the drive made an impact where I thought I’m going to live this place. I had heard fantastic things from different people about the views, people, culture and their experience.

Once I had checked in and dumped my bags in a 16 bed dorm, I decided that I should probably eat and get in a routine here. I didn’t want to stuffer from jet lag or waste my time with sleeping at funny time. After eating a veggie quesadilla at the hostel restaurant, I chilled in my room, giving myself an early night as I knew I had to be up at 6.30am the following morning.

Even though I was in a large dorm, I managed to sleep extremely well but I think this was because I was exhausted from flying. To my surprise, quite a few people from my dorm got up at a similar time as me to go on trips. I was so excited for my next few days. I had booked to do a PADI open water scuba diving course. I had never been scuba diving so I was feeling a little anxious. However, my excitement overrode the nervous feeling especially after not being able to do it in Australia due to complications.

Today, I knew I wasn’t going to be diving deep just the theory part and basic skills in shallow water. Once I had a shower and scoffed some breakfast biscuits down my throat, I was ready to rumble. Outside my personal chauffeur was waiting for me. I always feel a bit anxious when I first meet someone especially as I knew it was going to be a fourth-five minute journey. However, he was so lovely and chatting with an infectious laugh and I didn’t feel awkward.DCIM104GOPRO

The journey was first through Nada main city then on the main road with small villages and crops on each side, on to windy country road through mountains. The actually dive centre was being renovated so there wasn’t many people around and seemed a bit dead. The first thing that came to mind was ‘is this a legit centre?’. Soon I came to the realisation, it was and used to be booming. At a wooden cabin, I filled out various forms with the lady at the desk. I had a slight panic attack when my card didn’t work but it was easily sorted out.

During the morning, I sat in a dark room with a projector to watch three of the theory DVD’s. After each unit, I had to fill in the revision part of the book then complete a test with my diving instructor, Scuba Sam. Some of it was common sense, whereas other part were interesting and more complicated especially as I hadn’t done any underwater activities before.

Gazing out onto the ocean with the tide so far out, I ate my pre-packed lunch of tinned fish and crackers while chatting to my instructor about general Fijian life.

After, I sized up for a wetsuit, flippers, goggles and wet shoes then we headed out on a small boat into shallow waters to start my skills. On the boat, I was shown the different equipment and how to construct the BCD, regulator and tank together. It wasn’t too difficult but I knew it was important to carefully put it together otherwise my life would be at risk. With a safety check in place; equipment, flippers and goggles on; I lowered myself into the water. Under the water, we practised breathing; taking out the regulator and the goggles off; different hand signs etc…

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Breathing under water was kind of a weird sensation, where I felt a little panicked but also excitable. It was harder than I thought to breathe normally and slowly with the constant sound of inhaling and exhaling. I started thinking maybe this wasn’t for me but also loved it at the same time.

After a couple of hours out to see, we returned where I got a lift back to my hostel. I had a shower then went in search of food. I quickly realised that my hostel generally had the cheapest food but there was a offer for cheap pizzas at a different restaurant. I ate the vegetarian pizza which was too bad, not Italian but it was edible. Back at my hostel, I enjoyed an evening of Kava time. This is basically a traditional drink that is used in ceremonies, which looks like dirty water and doesn’t really taste any better. Sitting on a large straw mat in a circle with no shoes, we each were handed, one at a time, a small bowl of Kava. The Kate was made in a large bowl of water where spices were put into a bag then washed though the water for a few minutes. A Fijian would massage the bag into the bowl with his hands until it was ready. Before receiving a bowl of kava, they would ask ‘high tide’ or ‘low tide’, basically a small or large amount. After answering, I had to clap once with curved hands, say ‘bula’, drink the bowl in one, give it back without it touching the floor, then clap three times.

In between Kava, there were people playing guitar and singing, where many people joined in this session. I chatted to several traveller and locals including a girl from the USA currently studying in New Zealand and a French guy living in New Canadonia. img_20160614_130406

When Kava time had finished, I decided to go to bed as I had to be up early to check out and be collected.

Once I had sorted myself out and changed room because the hostel said there wasn’t anymore room in the large dorm (which I later found out was a lie as there were empty rooms), I found my chauffeur. Exactly as the day before, he drove the route to the dive centre with the time passing quickly.

Scuba Sam welcomed me at the cabin, where I changed into my scuba gear ready for the morning in the ocean. Walking a km through the shallow waters, trying to avoid any slime or animals was slightly difficult but we reached the boat eventually.

Three of us were on the boat: myself, Scuba Sam and the driver so it was a private scuba diving session. I was feeling a bit nervous but also extremely excited for first dive which was 12m deep. My love of the ocean and all the creature has just grown so much over this trip and it wasn’t going to stop now.

With a plan arranged and all our gear set up, we were ready to embark on this new adventure. The best thing was not to panic. Sitting on the boat, I rolled myself in with all the equipment on and puffed up my BCD until I was afloat. My instructor entered the waters, where we swam to the front of the boat to lowered ourself down through the water. Holding my hand up high squeezing the air out with my regulator in my month, I merged into the sea. Slowly but surely, we lowered ourselves to the bottom of the sea, surrounding with blue water with a visibility of 15m and temperature of27 degrees.

First we did the cramp removal skill as the day before with Scuba Sam demonstrating them and then I copied him. Trying to calm and slow my breathing, we mooched around the bottom, where I found it difficult to get my buoyancy, causing myself to bob unnecessary. It was a whole new world down here with various fish just swimming around and loads of different coral including trumpet fish, coral fish even a white tip reef shark, stingray and Hawks bill turtle. My eyes were just darting everywhere with the goggles enlarging each organism and a closer depth of perception. I was constantly looking at my gage to ensure I had air and the depth below sea level.

I did have a slight panic attack when I started floating up and my instructor wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t know what to do. Eventually he came and got me, and dragged me back down. I definitely need to work on my buoyancy but at least I know now that I should push out the air, stand vertically and breathe out with small slow inhaling breathes. img_20160614_173244

Not long later, we surfaced taking a 3 minute safety stop at 5m. Back in the boat, we took a rest as it important to have a decent amount of time out of the water for my safety. We drank a cup of tea with a fresh coconut and a weird fruit called bread fruit. It was delicious but had the consistency of bread. I think it had been cooked before.

We drove to our next stop, where we did a bother dive of 12m. It was a similar procedure but I did more skills: removal of scuba and weights, regulator exchange. Down the bottom, there were high walls of corals with fish deep inside. We also saw another white tip reef shark, sea slugs, moorish idol fish, cornet fish and big eye fish.

The time at the bottom seemed to go so quickly and soon enough we were back on the boat. Before heading back, I had to swim around the boat three time and be afloat for 10 minute to ensure I could pass my PADI.

What an amazing morning of my first scuba diving experience. Back at the centre I ate lunch then completed the last two unit of the course, where I completed the final test. Then I received a lift back to my hostel, where I checked back into the hostel. My room was a little further away in a separate house up a set of stairs at the back, where I dropped my bag off then wandered to the pool to catch some end of the day rays. DCIM104GOPRO

In the evening, I grabbed some food from the restaurant and sat with a group from different countries chatting while they drank some beers. I didn’t want any alcohol in my body as I was diving the next day as I can be sensible sometime. We jammed on the floor by the Kava for a couple of hours, where I talked to the American girl and French guy. With familiar song played on the guitar, a Fijian guy showed us a Fiji tobacco which was rolled into a long, thin straw using newspaper. It was bizarre.

After a couple of rounds of Kava and singing, I went to bed on my squeaky top bunk.

The following day, I rose as usual for my last day at the dive centre. I was excited to go diving again. Again, I got picked up then transferred 45 minutes. Today, we were riding around on a bigger boat as there were four other divers with their own guide.

Once everyone was geared up and ready to vamoosh, we dawdled towards the boat, squelching on the ground. I was able to take my GoPro to video some footage of the underground world. We drove to the edge of the reef, where the others started their dive first, then I went through the plan and safety check with my instructor before stepping off the boat into the ocean. Holding the cord, we pulled ourselves down under with the regulator in my mouth.DCIM104GOPRO

There were a few skills I had to do at the bottom before exploring the surrounding area. I felt so much more comfortable and confident. We glided at around 18m, actually some of the time, it was lower. To one side was a high coral wall, where we admired the life. My instructor was great at seeing all different types of sea creature and would constantly point them out to me. We saw 4 white tip reef sharks, 18 century anchor, green turtle, soft coral, nemos and 4 line snappers. I can’t explain how magical it was, swimming through the blue water.

As we were swimming through the nursery reef, we started and finished at different point, which meant we got to see a lot more. When we ascended to the surface, I climbed onto the boat and soon found out I didn’t run out of air for 50 minutes, which is better than my 35 minutes when I first started.

To my surprised the others had other been down for about 35 minutes. We rested with a cuppa and coconut.

On the way to the canyon reef, we went in search of dolphin. This must have been the most incredible experience of my life. There were massives of dolphins swimming and just over the water. I managed to get some footage but it’s not as good as real life. Our captain drove the boat around in circles, where the dolphin glided parallel to us. We all just didn’t have the words to say.

On the next dive, we descended to 16m with a visibility of 10m. Without any warning, at the bottom we swam through a dark cave with hard coral, where I cut my hand as it was so narrow. Unexpectedly, the cave was long than I thought, turning left and right to avoid the walls then ascending a little to leave the cave. img_20160616_135333

My love for diving has just grown so big. I can’t believe I didn’t start diving earlier in my life. Down in the reef, I saw a white tip reef shark, unicorn fish, grouber fish, hard and soft coral, ghost coral and a school of snappers. I just loved every minute and didn’t want to return to the boat but soon enough I had to as my air was running out.

I did a controlled emergency swimming ascent then used the inflatable signal tube so that the captain could see us and collect us from our spot.

Calmly but quickly, we were driven back to the mainland, where again we had to walk about a kilometre back to shore. I washed my equipment and took a seat while all my paper work was filled in and signed. I learnt how to fill in the dive record book with all the correct times, condition and what we saw. After I sat on the floor with some of the locals sharing their food of tea and breakfast crackers with a mixture of butter and jam. It was delicious.

When we were ready, we drove back to the hostel, filming along the way as this was the last time I would do this journey.

At the hostel, I just chilled by the pool in the sun, trying to top up my tan as much as possible.img_20160616_134729

When the sun started setting, I sat with a group I had met the previous few days, chatting and drinking beers to say goodbye to some of them who were leaving and me for completing the PADI open water scuba diving course. we were a little bit cheeky as we bought Berra from the shop then drank them in the hostel. One of the guys had a traditional Brazilian drink so we shot this down as well.

For the rest of the evening, we just hung out. One of the girls went with some Fijians to a local club but a couple of us decided to stay then go to bed.

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