Friday, January 30, 2004

The final post

(If you're looking for our current blog, post Big Adventure, it's here.)

The book of this blog is available here.

Well, it's all over.

We arrived in Heathrow on Tuesday morning to be met by my mum and sister. It was odd to be home, largely, I suppose, due to our tiredness.

What we did right
We made lots of good decisions during our travels. We've done a lot of "assessing" of the Big Adventure lately. Overall, we conclude, a big success. Firstly, Anne and I both like travelling so we enjoyed seeing Australia and New Zealand and finding out all the little cultural difference. Quite apart from the travelling, however, it's been a good year to take stock and to slow down a bit.

We thought that we'd be old compared to most of the travellers, and were surprised to see that many many travellers were just like us - couples in their late twenties who had worked for several years and had decided to have a break. In Christchurch we read an article in the paper about "Flashpackers", travellers who had more funds than previously when more people did it straight from school or uni, wore trendy clothes, and spent more cash on trips and entertainment. This article could have been written about us. Except for the bit about trendy clothes.

During our last few months in the UK before we left, I looked into options for taking music away. An iPod would have been best (it was all Anne could do to stop me getting one in San Fran last week!) but I couldn't afford that. What I finally decided on, a CD player that plays MP3 CDs, turned out to do the job without problems. Our friend Tony even sent out some CDs with new music on to keep us hip and trendy.

Hiring cars in New Zealand was a good call. It was a little anti-social, but it gave us a lot of freedom, and meant we could stock up on food from supermarkets and eat really well!

What we did wrong
Firstly, we possibly went for a bit too long. Ten months might have been a little better.

We missed out some places we'd like to have seen. Crappy bus schedules on the West Coast of Australia meant we skipped some of the more interesting places there, and we were a bit sad not to go to Tasmania. In retrospect, I can't see that Tassie would have compared favourably to the South Island of New Zealand (our favourite place overall). Since we were looking for double rooms, and are by our natures nervous people, we tended to book rooms ahead. This meant that we weren't that flexible on the day. Not that there were many places we'd have liked to stay longer, but it meant that we couldn't do a trip to Kakadu National Park form Darwin, and we missed a few other sights.

All that said, we wouldn't want to exhaust the possibilities of a country. We left Australia having seen most of it, but with some ideas of what we could do if we go back.

Next time
If (when) we travel again we've said that two to three months away would be ideal, but I'm glad we did it for longer than that this time. A year in hostels has been tiring, even though we had private double rooms (and lots of ensuites - especially in the last few months) and only spent one night in a dorm (and two sleeping in a communal cabin on a boat). By travelling for a shorter period we could do it in a little more style (still in hostels probably, but eating out more and with more luxuries).

I'd take a laptop too. This blog has been good to keep, but we were often limited in time and had to go to an internet cafe and rush through a blog, realising once our time was up that we'd not said lots that we wanted to. The laptop would have a DVD player - I looked longingly at a guy on the plane from San Francisco who had a large-screen laptop and was watching 24 Hour Party People whilst I was watching Tomb Raider.

Also, of course, an iPod.

Many thanks
Thanks to all our regular and occasional readers. We've had lots of emails from people about the blog, and have greatly enjoyed keeping this journal. It's been expensive in internet cafe time, but well worth it for both the keeping-in-touch element, and for the permanent record of an amazing year. Occasionally it's been a chore ("Oh dear, we've not done a blog for ages"). I wish I'd never started doing movie reviews - I did the first few as a joke, but then my mildly obsessive-compulsive nature compelled me to continue. Obsessively.

The beginning
Having made the decision to continue to rent out our flat in Ealing and look for work in Cambridge, we have come home to no home and no jobs. Our old life simply isn't here anymore. It's very odd. It's good in lots of ways - if we'd come back to our old flat and our old jobs it might have felt like we'd never gone before too long. A sad thing about coming back is that we had to go to a funeral the day after we returned. It was good to see friends there, but the circumstances were unhappy. We were grateful to be home for it though rather than be travelling.

Has the year changed us much? Well, we're travelling to Manchester on a National Express coach on Sunday!

(Don't worry - we're not turning pikey: there are train problems so the coach was the better option.)

The next year is more uncertain than the last one for us, so begins the next Big Adventure...

Photos

We've uploaded the last of our electric photos to Yahoo photos. They on Big Adventure Photos 8 (link to left). The new ones begin with the one of the Hindu Temple.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Update

We've updated the blog for the last days of our Big Adventure, but the blog's not quite finished yet. We'll post a final entry of two in the next few days, and then it will all be over, and all our lives will be that bit more empty. Sob.

The final movie reviews post

We flew Air Pacific from Fiji to LA, and the film choice was poor. There was only one film that we fancied, and that was quite old: Ice Age. We dutifully watched it, and it was OK but not up to the standards of Pixar. The brightness on my screen was up far too high and couldn't be adjusted, so it looked rubbish too! Two and a half stars.

We saw Paycheck (Paycheque) at the flicks in LA. This is the latest film based on a Phillip K Dick story, stars Ben Affleck and is directed by John Woo. It has an interesting premise (man has memory erased, but has sent himself an odd collection of items from the past to help himself), which was appreciated by Anne's love of puzzles. The action scenes were quite good too. However, I felt that the premise wasn't quite clever enough, and the action wasn't quite exciting enough. Still, an entertaining two hours. Three stars.

On TV we watched a couple of movies, the pretty bad Just Married, a lightweight rom-com starring man-du-jour Ashton Kutcher (one and a half stars) and Bad Boys (two which we saw the sequel in Oz). I'd seen the latter before, and thought it was an entertaining action film, but I have to give this version one star, as it had been edited to a PG rating. People were getting shot, and the viewer only found out if the characters happened to mention it later! Terrible thing to do to a movie!

On our last day in San Fran we saw Lost in Translation at the flicks, an enjoyable comedy drama set in Tokyo - is currently winning awards and nominations. This was a great film to see on the final day of our Big Adventure, since the Adventure began in Tokyo. Like Bill Murray's character, we sang bad karaoke when we were there. We ate confusing Japanese food. We were baffled by the language and culture. And, regular blog readers will remember, like Bill Murray's character, I had a brief flirtatious affair with Scarlett Johanssen.

Hmm, that last bit may not have actually happened. Sometimes the mind plays tricks.

Four stars.

Before we flew home, we checked what films we'd bet on the plane on BA's web site. How many other people do you know who are so movie-obsessed as to do that? I'm glad we did, since we were prepared for the fact that the selection was pretty rubbish. There was only one film we both wanted to watch: Runaway Jury This is the latest John Grisham adaptation. Like other adaptations of his books, this is a solid, fun movie with a good cast. Perfect for a Sunday evening video - three stars.

Anne watched Finding Nemo (I'd seen it when I flew home for the wedding in August) and I watched the dire Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. One and a half stars as it's possibly slightly better than the first Tomb Raider movie (if only due to Lara's wetsuit). However, the plot holes are the same as the ones in the first movie, and the action and thriller elements are bland and uninspiring.

Not a good movie for me to end the Big Adventure with.

Last days of our Adventure

On Saturday morning, after our disaster, we took the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. This journey was slightly more successful and cost just $1.25 each. The bridge was good, we took lots of photies and had a walk on it. After the Golden Gate Bridge, we took the bus back to Lombard Street - the crookedest street in San Fran. Then we had a successful lunch and went back to the hotel. In the evening we adopted the tried and tested formula of Subway and coffee and magazines at Borders.

Sunday we decided to have a last day of shopping and managed to buy shoes and bumear for Stephen John. We were proud of ourselves. We're really getting back into the swing of shopping! Another nice lunch later, we went to the cinema and saw Lost in Translation at the same time that it was winning three Golden Globes. After that it was Subway and Borders for tea. We're not boring! We read lots of UK magazines with reviews of 2003 - so it seems as though we have missed nothing.

After our last sleep abroad, we left the hotel and, after coffee and internetting, went to the airport. San Fran airport did not have that many shops, so we had to content ourselves with reading a magazine at the gate. After a full security check during "preboarding", we took our seats (by the emergency exit!) (although not in Business Class) and prepared for our 10 hour flight home. It was all over.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

San Fran Fun

Friday started well. On Thursday, we tried to trade in the ten or so old books we'd been lugging around Fiji, but the 2nd hand bookshops didn't want them all. So, on Friday morning we went to Union Square and left them spread around benches for people to find. We weren't being litter bugs - we'd registered them at bookcrossing.com, so whoever finds them can go to the website and register their find. Over the year I've "released" five or six other books on bookcrossing, but none of them have been "captured". I'm hoping this is because travellers are too cheap to use internet time for such things, and that the literary types in San Fran will be more willing to play my game.

We then checked out of the grotty Hostelling International Hostel, and in to the Quality Inn Union Square. It's a two star, which is a big step up for us. We have an en-suite, and a TV. This means we can go to the toilet until our hearts are content, and watch Everybody Loves Raymond.

We caught a bus to Haight-Ashbury, the hippy area from where the Grateful Dead came. I'd been there in 1995, and it didn't seem as hippyish this time - much fewer oddballs wandering around. Last time I was there I overheard someone say, "Hey, guess what! I found out who my real dad is last night." This time it was more "trendy" than "hippy". It was good though, and we had a really good Thai for lunch.

This is where we should have ended our day. We should have gone back to our hotel room and watched telly.

San Fran Disaster
Let's go to Fisherman's Wharf tonight, I exclaimed.

That's a touristy area, and we got the equally tourist cable car there. (They look like trams, but they're pulled up the hills by cables in the ground.) The cable cars return trip cost us twelve dollars - a bad start. We found the wharf and there were stalls selling lot s of seafood. There were nice looking seafood sandwiches, and lots of crab. We'd had a big Thai lunch, so we weren't looking for a meal, just a snack.

So how was it we ended up with loads of fried food, including chips? I really couldn't tell you. I think it involved a panic over getting the last available table, but we ended up spending over twenty dollars on loads of crap. The calamari was the worst I've ever had. The fish wasn't great. The chips were soggy.

Anne and I like our food. It's important to us. When we have a bad meal it makes us sad. We got in a mood. (Well, two moods - one each.) We left most of our meal, and forty minutes after we'd arrived at Fisherman's Wharf we were on the cable car on our way back. What a disaster. We went to a liquor store, bought some beer, and went back to the hotel room and watched Curb Your Enthusiasm. We felt full of grease and crap, and wondered if making yourself sick to get rid of your meal was necessarily a bad thing.

We'd well and truly clogged our hearts in San Francisco.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Where's my heart? I know I left it round here somewhere...

Me: Anne, do you feel like the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek IV?
Anne: No.
Me: How about Nicolas Cage in The Rock?
Anne: Are we doing this again?
Me: What about that wet lawyer (Harrison Fox) in Crazy Like a Fox?
Anne: Just get on with the blog.

That's right, we're no longer in LA, but we're still under Govenor Swarzenegger's juristiction.

We're in San Francisco.

I've been here before, in 1995. I remember liking it, and it was here that I was first wolf-whistled by a man. (Anyone who says that that's why I liked it here is lying.)

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon (flew from LA) and checked into the hostel we'd booked. The hostels in Oz and NZ were generally of a high standard, so we were a little shocked to find that our first US hostel is a big pile of poo. The kitchen facilities are woeful (so it's lucky food's so cheap here) and, despite a strict "no alcohol and drugs policy", the loos smell of cannabis. We spent Thursday morning looking for a cheap hotel. We walked for miles and miles to check out the hotels for which we could find discounts online or in voucher books. We eventually found one, and booked it for Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we fly home on Monday!)

Whilst in the hotel lobby, we got talking to a friendly Yank. He said he loves the English. There's a guy at his gym who's English he said. He then told us a longish anecdote about this guy. After a while I realised that this anecdote was all about traffic problems in San Francisco, and had nothing to do with the fact this guy was English. I was waiting for the bit where a linguistic or cultural difference caused a hilarious misunderstanding (e.g. "...and the guy turned white when I said I'd tapped her gently on her fanny") but it didn't come. Hmmm.

I did laugh though when the Yank said that this Brit was an "African American". I nearly said "You mean he's black?", but was afraid that would be too much for the American mind.

Finally, the hotel booked, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the city. We've actually done a little shopping here - our budgeting mentality going out the window a little bit. We love the big bookshops they have here. The Borders bookshop on Union Square has a cafe, into which you can take books and mags to read whilst you drink your coffee. I've become addicted to UK magazines, and can't wait to get home to devour some more.

Later, Anne and I had a row about Linux.

Land of extremes

I both love and hate the US. The TV is so crap, and yet also has some of the best dramas in the world. Even the ads on telly, usually notoriously bad, can sometimes be short, sharp and witty. The people can be obnoxious and dumb, or really kind and intelligent.

George Bush is still a tw*t though.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

LA is my Lady

Arriving in LA was very exciting. Everyone we know who's been there has been disappointed, so I think we were well prepared for it. A quick check of The Lonely Planet in a library in NZ had convinced us that Santa Monica would be a good place to stay (avoiding grotty Downtown and Hollywood) and this decision paid off.

On the bus ride from the airport I was very excited. Anne, less so.

Me: Do you feel like Jack Bauer?
Anne: No.
Me: Do you feel like the men in CHiPs?
Anne: (Sigh) No.
Me: Do you feel like Vampire Detective Angel?
Anne: NO.

I don't think Anne's entering into the spirit.

As the bus increased its speed I became concerned that a cleverly wired bomb may blow up the bus if its speed dropped below 50mph. Fortunately this turned out not to be the case.

I think I'm going to enjoy LA. If our friend Tony was here, I think we could have broken Anne's mind by now.

LA adventures

Well, we arrived in Santa Monica on Saturday and had a little look round the shopping area, which looked rather nice, and then it was back to the motel room for takeaway pizza and beer! Sunday, we had time for a proper explore. After doing our washing in a real American laudromat, we spent the rest of the day looking in book shops and drinking coffee. It was excellent.

Monday we thought we'd do a real touristy thing and booked a bus tour of "Hollywood and Star's Homes". We were picked up from our motel and driven to Downtown LA (which looked a bit grotty and reaffirmed our great decision to stay in Santa Monica). After a tour around Downtown, we went to Hollywood. We were allowed out of the coach to look at Mann's Chinese Theatre and all those stars on the ground. We then went to have a good view of the "Hollywood" sign - just about visible through the haze. Lunch was at the Farmers Market - which used to be a real Farmers Market, but is now a big mall and food court. After lunch, we went to Beverly Hills and Bel Air and stared at the gates of various star's homes. We didn't see any stars, but, if the aim of the tour was to spot Hispanic gardeners, then the tour was a big success.

It was very tacky, but great fun! It's been ages since we did something really touristy and we enjoyed it immensely.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

From the future to the past

On Saturday 17th January at 4pm, Anne and I were walking on the beach in Fiji. We had seven hours until we had to get on a plane.

On Saturday 17th January at 4pm, Anne and I were checking into a motel in Santa Monica. We'd landed in LAX three hours earlier.

Stephen - you've gone mad! Everyone knows you can't be in two places at once. I'm starting to lose faith in your Blogging abilities

Ah, but you're wrong! We crossed the International Date Line (as I said we would) and so lived Saturday twice. It was quite odd, but also enjoyable. I win again.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Anne and Stephen's Island Adventure

On Monday we were taken by boat out to Waya Island. We'd booked three nights at the Octopus Resort there (click to see web site). We'd have liked more, but it was expensive!

We had a garden bure (a bure is a traditional Fijian building, made of sticks and things). The resort is quite small, but they have lots of activities and some good facilities. We did hardly anything there. We went to the beach during the day, where we read books and snorkeled. The snorkelling was just great. The tide was quite strong, so we'd find ourselves shooting through the water over lots of nice coral and colourful fish. It was like flying!

We also met a few nice couples there (all Brits). We've not been that sociable on our travels, but it was good here to chat to people at dinner, and the people we met were friendly and intelligent. We're so looking forward to seeing friends from home again though - it can be quite dull sometimes chatting to people in hostels, as a) they don't know you; and b) all you talk about is travelling, and you end up saying the same things to everyone.

Whilst at the resort we hired a DVD (they delivered the player and a TV to our room!) and watched a movie on the beach (they had a projector and screen). So that was pretty good - we were miles from anywhere and yet still managed to see two movies! Other than that, the only "activity" we took part in was crab racing. Our crab was out in the first round.

Back to Nadi
We returned to Nadi on Thursday. We'd booked a good room at the Horizon Beach Resort, and were damn annoyed when they told us that it wasn't available when we arrived. They made some excuses about a flight being cancelled, but no flights were cancelled so it seems they'd let it to someone else (probably someone who'd wanted it for longer than two nights). We found an OK room elsewhere but were still annoyed.

We're here until 11pm on Saturday night when we fly to LA. We're quite excited about crossing the International Date Line and going back in time! However, we're not looking forward to hanging around in hot Nadi all day waiting for a night flight. Anne and I don't handle days like that very well.

Books and Movies
I read lots again on the island. No reviews as no time but here's a list:
Carl Hiassen - Basket Case
Arthur Conan Doyle - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Peter Farelly - The Comedy Writer
Phillip K Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Noam Chomsky - The Common Good

The Dvd we hired was Terminator 3. I'd heard this was a good action film, though not a worthy Terminator film. I'd not watched it on a plane when I had the chance as I thought it'd be better on DVD, so I grabbed the chance here. However, it turned out to be a crap Thai pirate DVD, which was annoying. As it was, I din't even think it was a good action film. I was never a huge fan of the Terminator films, but I didn enjoy them and this one was very far below them. There was no advance on the second film (more advanced robot from the future, Arnie has been reprogrammed to protect John Connor) and the woman terminator was just rubbish. Two stars.

On the beach we watched a film I'd seen but Anne hadn't - The Talented Mr Riply. I loved it. It's a brilliantly crafted thriller and Matt Damon is really good in it. Jude Law wasn't even as annoying as he normally is. Four and a half stars.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

To Lautoka

On Saturday it was back on with our packs, and onto a bus to Lautoka (on the West coast, just north of Nadi). It was a long long bus journey - five hours! The novelty of the local bus rides soon wore off and we got very bored. We were please to arrive in Lautoka and check into the hotel we'd booked.

We had a nice room (if all a bit seventies in decor), and best of all it had air-conditioning. We had something to celebrate that night - this was our eighth anniversary! We celebrated in style with a pretty poor meal in the hotel's pretty poor restaurant. Oh dear. Not to worry, we've had a lot to celebrate in the last few months as both our birthdays are near the festive season.

Still - eight long years together is pretty good. We'd wondered what it would be like travelling together for a year. It's pretty intensive, and for the most part it's been just the two of us. The good news is that we've done damn well in my opinion. I'm happy to report that I still quite like Anne, and she adores me (obviously).

We were off to an island on Monday, so we determined to buy supplies on Sunday. After a disappointing anniversary meal we'd also decided to buy lots of treats and some alcohol and have it in the room that night rather than patronising the hotel restaurant again. The weather was beautiful so we spent the morning by the pool and put the shopping off until the afternoon.

Predictably (if you know what day of the week it is - we rarely do) all the shops in town shut at 1pm on Sundays. We arrived in town at 1.15pm. Oh dear. We managed to have some lunch in a dodgy cafe, but all we could buy for the evening was bread. Anne would probably have chosen to go to the restaurant, but I was firm (stubborn?) so that night we had bread and tuna in the room. With some water.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Books Etc.

We've had lots of time to read in Fiji - it's very relaxing and we're making the most of it, as we'll soon be home and looking for jobs (see countdown on left - thanks to our man in Archway for that).

I've recently read:
Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason - like the first book, a lightweight but hilarious book. I hope the film turns out good, though am sick of reading about Renee Whatsername putting on a few pounds.

Peter Moore's Wrong Way Home - a travelogue about an Aussie going from London to Sydney by land. Quite amusing. At least he didn't have to write his travelogue in internet cafes, grabbing 20 minutes when he can afford it, and having to put up with terrible Fijian internet cafes!

Hunter Davies's The Eddie Stobart Story - a history of the haulage company. I know know more about haulage in the UK than I could ever have wished. An interesting case study. Cheers Simon!

C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity - a 50 year old book (recent reissue) on Christanity and what it means. This was sent to me by a friend I quizzed on religion when I went home for that wedding in August. It was an interesting read, though I occasionally found myself arguing with it! I will take up my issue with my friend when I have a faster internet connection. I do now understand Christianity a little better than I did, though obviously no book is going to turn a heathen athiest into a believer.

Stinky towel

Stephen's towel is disintergrating under the pressure.

After a year away, followed by a week of sun, sea, sand, showering and sitting in a soggy heap, it stinks!

Today, we arrived a Lautoka to find a bathtub in our room (in the bathroom, the bedroom had beds in it). So I put the towel in the bath, with hot water and Persil and got in with in. Imagine me crushing grapes as though to make wine. This is how I washed the towel.

It is now sitting in the sun. I hope it smells less.

Suva adventures

We were back on the local buses on Wednesday morning to travel from the Coral Coast (and Stephen's paradise on Earth) to Suva, the capital of Fiji. The bus into the city took a couple of hours and then we caught a local bus out to Colo-i-Suva, where we were staying. Raintree Lodge was very nice. However, it boasted in it's literature that there were no mosquitoes. This was proved to be untrue 10 minutes into lunch, when I had four new bites. Grrr! we spent the rest of Wednesday sat in a hammock, reading.

Thursday morning we ventured into Suva City to meet up with a friend of my Dad's, Alastair. He moved to Fiji about ten years ago and it had been twenty years since I had seen him. We met up outside the ubiquitous Golden Arches (only three in Fiji and we have seen them all) and went for a chinese lunch. Afterwards, we took a bus out to the University (where Alastair works) and had a look around the rather gorgeous campus. Then back into town for a mooch around the fish and the vegetable market. It was a great day. It's lovely to meet up with someone when you are away from home and knowing a local is invaluable. We actually got to learn some Fijian history, which we had been missing.

Friday we intended to go to the Forest Park in Colo-i-Suva. When we woke up it was raining, so we hung around, read and had lunch. The rain seemed to be clearing after lunch, so we walked down to the park. Needless to say, the rain wasn't clearing and we got soaking wet. I'm sure the Forest Park is very beautiful, but I was wet and I fell over (yes, again!) and I got rather grumpy. Ho hum. At least when we got back to Raintree Lodge the showers were hot (for a change!).

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Heaven on Earth

We did a silly thing on Monday morning. We were so intent on sending stuff home, to lighten our load, that we went down the post office with tunnel vision. The choice was to send the stuff surface mail or air mail. The first option would have taken 4-5 months, so we chose the second. It cost us $111. When we left the post office we realised that it'd probably have been cheaper to throw the stuff away and buy it all new in the UK. We are wallies.

Then it was time for exciting traveller travelling. We eschewed taxis and tourist buses and took the local bus to the Coral Coast. It cost next to nothing (and I'm sure they charged us three times what they'd have charged a local). It was exciting in that way travelling can be where you're not sure whether you'll end up in the right place and have little idea what's going on around you.

We stayed in a place called The Beachhouse on the Coral Coast, on the south of the main island, for two nights. It was just great. Only a couple of times on this trip have I wanted to stay somewhere longer than we planned to - usually the constant moving on is part of the fun, always wondering what the next place would be like. Anne suggested we change the plans, but we'd booked our accommodation in Suva, and that looked nice too. We spent a great day and a half at The Beachhouse, sitting reading in a hammock, sunbathing, and swimming in the sea. They also had a good, reasonably priced cafe, and had free afternoon tea and scones at 4pm every day.

I was sad to leave, but we caught the local bus to Suva on Wednesday morning. We're staying in a resort just out of town, called Raintree Lodge.

And now, the learning

The internet services here in Fiji are a bit rubbish, so I'm having trouble here. I will, however, valliantly attempt to educate you all abot the place. We were too tight to splash out on a guide book, so travelled in ignorance for the first few days. We've now found some info though, so no longer have to make up facts about the place to amuse each other.

Population - well, that was around 775,000 at last count (1996). There are native Fijians, Brits, and Indians. Apparently the Indians were brought over by the Brits to work on sugar plantations. It was a Hindu temple we visited back in Nadi on Sunday. So far we've only had one curry here, but it was a good one!

Fiji was ceded to Britain in 1874, and 96 years later it ceased to be a Crown Colony and became a self-governing Commonwealth member. Then it gets complicated. In 1987 it ceased to be a Commonwealth member after a Military Coup and a Republic declaraion. It re-entered the Commonwealth in 1997, but then in 2000 there was a Civilian Coup and it was expelled. In 2001, when democracy was restored, it again became a Commonwealth member. It seems to have been all go here in the last 20 years!

We're currently on one of the bigger islands, Viti Levu, on the east coast in the capital, Suva. On Saturday we're travelling back to the east coast, to the only other city, Lautoka. From there we're getting a boat on Monday to Waya Island to Octopus Resort for some beach luxury (in a backpackers resort - it was the cheapest island resort we could find).