June 15, 2016
After a night of good sleep, we were welcomed by the beautiful Fijian sunrise in the morning. After a quick shower, we headed to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. The restaurant located adjacent to the hotel pool offered beautiful views of the pacific ocean. The buffet style breakfast had a plethora of food options including some Indian cuisine. What made my day?? The amazing ‘Help yourself juice bar’. Yes, I am weird and get excited by juice but trust me, there is nothing better than a glass of fresh fruit juice.
After a successful breakfast, we walked down to the Wyndham vacation resort to rent a scooter for the day and explore the island. Turns out we were a little late in picking up our scooter and the lady stepped out for lunch and wouldn’t be back for 2 hours. In the interest of time, we decided to rent a car instead. After the long process of filling out paperwork, we were on our way to the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple. After a quick 20 minute drive, we were at the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere. We soon realized that we may not be allowed in the temple as we were both wearing shorts. Luckily the temple offered coverups and we were back in action. The temple is no match to some of the majestic temples you see in India and other parts of the world but was charming in its own way nonetheless. The setting was very peaceful and we spent a good 30 minutes worshipping all the shrines and taking pictures. The visit was another reminder of how good the temple food truly is. On our way out, we noticed a small family run restaurant in the temple. It was run by the priest’s wife and we couldn’t resist trying out some home cooked south Indian food. The menu was pretty simple — idli, rice, and sambhar. For only $2 (US), we enjoyed some amazing temple food that was much better and economical than food at the resort infested Denarau island. To put things into perspective, a meal at Denarau island typically cost us about $90 for 2 (including 1 alcoholic drink each). The difference in prices between Denarau Island and the local parts of Fiji is astronomical.
Next stop – the garden of the sleeping giant. We had come across this garden during our planning prior to the trip and were very much looking forward to the visit. The beautiful garden was full of all sorts of flora and surprisingly not swarmed by tourists (probably just the time and day of our visit). The experience was very peaceful and we even managed to sneak in a short nap on one of the many hammocks in the garden. Our poor research had indicated a structure in the garden that resembled a giant man in a sleeping position (thus the name ‘garden of the sleeping giant’). We walked all parts of the garden but failed to come across a structure that resembled what we saw on the internet. We finally approached an employee of the garden to ask him about the mysterious structure. He soon realized that we too (like other tourists) were deceived by the fake pictures online. He was quick to clarify that the name of the garden comes from the structure of the mountains behind it. The mountain range in the vicinity of the gardens when seen from a distance resemble the structure of a sleeping person. We were a little disappointed to hear that but were soon on a mission to see the true “sleeping giant”.
We ended the day on a bizarre note by visiting the Fijian mud pools. To take full advantage of the therapeutic value of the mud pools you first coat yourself in mud then bake in the sun until it drys. The next step is to wash off in the first hot sprint pool and then walk over to the next clear water pool for another cleansing. Fijians in the local village claim that the sulphur in the mud pools has age-defying benefits and healing properties. For someone who hates the idea of dirt on their skin, this was a torturous experience at first but somehow turned out to be fun and interesting. The owner of the pools told us about the history of Fiji and how his ancestors lived in the surrounding mountains (the sleeping giant) to protect themselves from the enemies. He also told us about the different types of schools in Fiji (Christian schools, Hindu schools, etc..) and the difference in the quality of education. After having baked in the mud pools, we jumped into the hot pools. We were told that the warmth of the geothermal springs can be credited to a volcanic source with the unmistakable odor of sulphur. The hot pool felt amazing as we finally managed to rub off all the mud and relax for a bit. The tour ended with a half hour massage by the local village women. We thanked the hosts for their remarkable hospitality and made our way to the car. A group of village kids joined us for a few pictures before we headed back to the hotel.
We ended the action packed day with dinner at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Denarau. The hotel had a Bollywood themed buffet dinner which was unfortunately miserable to say the least. We then made our way poolside back to our resort stopping at some of the other resorts on our way briefly to listen to some live music.