52 Weeks On: Round 2

It’s almost a year since my last blog post when I came back from travelling – time flies! Admittedly I had intended to keep posting but the summer and then uni got in the way and to be honest I just didn’t feel like I had much to write about anymore. However, one year of uni down and I’ve decided to start blogging again!

Why am I going to start blogging again you ask? Well, one of reasons is my new found abundance of free time, now I’ve finished my first year at Cardiff Uni. I’m planning to do some posts about that, probably some insights into student life in case anyone is wondering what I’ve actually been doing for the last 9 months or so, possibly also some tips and things I’ve learned from my first year.

Another reason I want to start blogging again, is that I’ve taken an interest in some new things recently and I really want to share some of this/try and educate some people on things they might not know, or might have some misconceptions about. I’m planning on posting about fitness, food, the environment and animal testing, and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten about at this moment. Obviously I’m no expert on any of these subjects, nor will I pretend to be, but I just wanted to share some things I’ve found out and learned recently. Feel free to completely ignore anything I say, but if I can influence any kind of positive change, no matter how minor, that would mean a lot to me. As they say, you never know if you don’t try.

I will also be doing some blogging about travelling, although not as much as before. This summer I am mostly going on family holidays (Spain, Cyprus and France), and I doubt I’ll write too much about these, because as fab and fun as they are, I think people would probably get a bit bored of hearing how I’ve been sunbathing at the beach every day. However, I am also going Island Hopping in Greece in September, so I will definitely be posting about that. Additionally, I’m hoping to cast my mind back to last year and write some travel tips, especially on solo travel because I’ve had quite a lot of people ask about that and I really want people to know it’s not as scary as it sounds!

So there you have it, a (not so brief) explanation about why I’m going to start blogging again, and also an introduction of sorts, to the slight change in direction of my blog. More to follow soon,

much love, Jemima X


Week 36: Kingscliff, Sydney and England.

If you’re reading this you may or may not know that I’m home!

After getting back from Fiji I spent two days packing up all my things and spending time with my aunt and uncle. On Tuesday I left my home for the past 8 and a half months and flew to Sydney. Now is probably a good time to mention how lucky I am to have such close family in Australia, and to say a massive thank you to Tracey and Scott for looking after me and putting up with me for so long, I don’t think staying away from home for long would have been possible without you.

In the 259 days I’ve been away, I’ve managed to accumulate quite a lot of stuff, which now all had to be packed to come back to England. The final result was 4 bags; including one suitcase (15kg), one board bag full of clothes as well as the surfboard (16.9kg), one carry on suitcase (9kg) and my other carry on bag (not sure exactly how much it weighs but after carrying it around on my shoulder all the time, I know it’s quite a lot!). I have also become not just a bag lady, but also probably a bit of a cheat of a backpacker with my suitcase (although my backpack is in my suitcase, no way I could leave that behind!).

With 4 and a half days to spend in Sydney, Natalie (who I met in Fiji) kindly let me stay with her for a few days. I spent the first day shopping (even though technically I can’t fit anything else in my bags, but there were so many sales going on I couldn’t resist!) The next day the weather was beautifully sunny and hot so I headed down to Coogee beach to do the coast walk to Bondi. When I got there the weather was so nice I couldn’t resist having one last swim in the sea. The walk took a few hours and I enjoyed the beautiful views of the beaches and ocean along the way. That evening Natalie and I went back to Bondi to get tattoos. Obviously I know there are a lot of different opinions on tattoos, but I wanted to have something permanent and beautiful on my body and I have spent a long time thinking about this. I think that when thought about and chosen correctly, tattoos can tell a story about who someone is as a person. I had a small wave tattooed on my left wrist, easily covered by a watch or bracelet if I want to. The sea is something I have fallen in love with over the past few months, I am constantly in awe of its beauty and power. When I go home I know how much I’ll miss living so close to the ocean, so I wanted to keep a small part of it with me.

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” –Dave Barry

The next day I caught up with Joel, an old friend who moved to Australia a few years ago. Later on I also went for dinner with another friend, who I met earlier in the year working at the Falls Festival. My last day in Australia I went for a walk around the Royal Botanical Gardens, and enjoyed the view of the harbour bridge and opera house from a different angle. That evening I went up to Circular Quay (along with thousands of other tourists apparently) to see the final night of Vivid Sydney, an annual outdoor lighting festival. It was beautiful to see the Opera house, harbour bridge and many of the buildings overlooking circular quay lit up in so many colours. Some of the ferries were also fitted with light installations, like animals, which moved across the water and small light and music installations also littered the quay. This was a great way to spend my last night in Australia and afterwards I headed back to pack and get an early night, reading for my 3am start the next day.

I got up at 3am the next morning, just as most people were returning to the hostel from their night out. I packed up and hauled my 4 bags outside to get a taxi to the airport. After trying to check in once, my bags were overweight, but by some small miracle, the next man that checked me in let me get away with my heavy bags without paying any extra! Soon I was boarding the plane and saying goodbye to Australia.

The past 9 months have been amazing, I’ve volunteered with elephants, wandered around the largest temple in the world, hiked up a mountain, learned to surf, jumped out of a plane, learned to sail and bathed in mud pools, to name a few. I’ve met the most inspiring, interesting and amazing people and I hope a lot of the goodbyes won’t be forever.

But now it’s time to get back to reality and back to my family and friends; I surprised my mum and sister by coming home a month early, which was a complete shock to them (there was a lot of tears that night!) and I can’t wait to catch up with all my friends. One thing is for sure though, this will definitely not be the last big adventure I go on.

Week 35: Mantaray Island and Nadi, Fiji

Day 8: After checking out and having breakfast, our boat arrived to take us to the next island. This was a small tin boat that’s also used to take guests snorkelling so a journey all the way to Mantaray Island, part of the Yasawa Island group, was going to be interesting. However, after a few minutes on the tin boat we approached a much larger ferry and pulled up along side it. We then had to climb over the side of the tin boat to get into the ferry, an interesting experience to say the least. The ferry journey took a few hours so we sat up on the top deck and enjoyed some beers in the sun. To get to Mantaray Island the tin boat process was repeated in reverse. Once we were safely back on dry land we were welcomed by the staff singing the Fijian welcome song. Each island had a ‘compulsory meal plan payment’ for food, and the cost at this island was FJ$94, meaning a total of FJ$282 for the 3 days we were there. After parting with our money we went to our dorm, another 32 bed (similar to the one in Nadi), then headed to lunch. The food was pretty good, with massive portions which we were all glad about after paying so much. Most people spent the afternoon sunbathing on the beach or on hammocks and soon it was time for dinner. Afterwards we went down to the bar for some more traditional Fijian dancing, since there was no other seats left we sat right at the front. This meant the dancers kept coming really close to us and of course we were picked out as volunteers to get involved in the dancing. After all that excitement we headed to bed. 

Day 9: we all got up early this morning for the activity the resort gets it’s name from; swimming with the mantarays! We waited around for an hour and still no mantarays had been spotted so we went for breakfast, then boarded the boat as some had now been spotted. The current in the water was unbelievably strong but mantarays swim against the current, so we were dropped off with our guide in the water just ahead of where they had been spotted and they swam right past us! This was an amazing experience and 100 times better than seeing a mantaray in an aquarium or something. It’s amazing how gracefully they move through the water and swim against the current so easily. After we got back from seeing the mantarays we went snorkelling from the resort’s beach. A few metres away from the beach the reef starts and the snorkelling was amazing! I would go as far as to say it was even better than the Great Barrier Reef, so many fish and so much colourful coral. We even saw an octopus! I was gutted I didn’t take my GoPro with me as its battery was flat after the mantaray swim. After snorkelling we sat in the sun for a while and dried off and it was soon time for lunch. The itinerary of free activities included a guided kayak that afternoon, but we were disappointed to be told it had been cancelled because it was low tide (which begs the question why schedule it for a time when the tide is always low, but anyway). Despite this, we were allowed to use the kayaks anyway, so we battled the current and went over to a small beach on the other side of the channel. We went for a swim then the girls lay in the sun (whilst being blasted by the sand because it was so windy-not so pleasant!), whilst the boys took it in turns playing a game throwing a tyre they found and trying to get it to land round a log they’d stood up (a desert island style ring toss if you will!). After our island adventure we had a few beers at the bar then headed to dinner. Bottles of sparkling rose wine cost only FJ$40, which turns out quite cheap between all of us, needless to say quite a lot of wine was drank that night! Entertainment at the bar that night included another crab race (sadly the stakes weren’t quite as high this time and the winner only got a free cocktail). Following a successful 6 person pyramid on the beach, we decided it would be a good idea to attempt a 10 person pyramid and roped in a few extra people. Sadly this pyramid wasn’t so successful and ended up with everyone in a pile on the floor-but you can’t say we didn’t try! 

Day 10: After all the wine everyone was feeling a bit fragile so we had a fairly lazy morning, then went snorkelling again just before lunch. After lunch we spent most of the afternoon chilling and napping on the beach. The showers we had access to only offered cold water and very low pressure, so when one of the couples in our group offered us to have a hot shower in their private beach villa shower, it would have been rude to refuse. We had a few beers on the private area outside their beach villa, then it started to rain (shock horror that’s not what I signed up for going to Fiji). We went for dinner soon after but the weather showed little signs of improving and most people soon headed to bed. 

Day 11: we got up this morning and packed up our bags after breakfast. We had to check out at 10 but our boat wasn’t due until 2pm. Necklace making was on the itinerary this morning, and we were making Mantaray necklaces out of coconut shells! First we had to draw the mantaray into the coconut, then one of the Fijian staff sawed the shapes out of the coconut. We then had to sand the mantarays, before attaching a string to make them into a necklace, dipping them into varnish then hanging them up to dry. After lunch it was time to leave, as usual we made the random tin boat trip to the ferry, we were safely aboard and settled on the top deck, which was slightly windier than before (and when I say slightly I mean a lot). A few hours later we arrived back in Nadi for our final night in Fiji. To celebrate we all put on our Fijian shirts and headed down to the bar for pizza and some drinks. 

Day 12: after packing up and having breakfast we spent our last few hours in Fiji soaking up as much sun as possible by the pool. Soon it was time to say goodbye and head our separate ways. 

Week 35: Beachcomber Island, Fiji

Day 6: we got up early after a surprisingly good sleep, before boarding a bus to the port, then a boat to Beachcomber Island. The journey took around an hour, with amazing views of crystal clear blue sea and lots of tiny tropical island resorts. Our resort was just as amazing, we arrived and were greeted by the staff singing a Fijian welcome song. I thought the 32 bed dorm in Nadi was large until I saw the size of our dorm on Beachcomber! This dorm had 100 beds, separated down the middle for boys and girls, with some beds up high on a balcony and another partition in the main part of the building to break the space up a bit more. This made the dorm seem not quite so big and it was actually fairly easy to sleep in. The island is so tiny it didn’t take long to explore, we walked around the whole island in less than 10 minutes! After that we lay in the sun for a while and soon lunch was ready. After lunch we went snorkelling which was quite good, we saw lots of fish but the reef was too deep to be seen. During the afternoon most people caught up on some sleep, before reconvening down at the bar for happy hour. After dinner we had some more drinks to celebrate some more people’s last night, which included some shameless dancing to 90’s music. Some people also took part in another crab race, this time crabs (apparently from different countries but probably all from Fiji) were auctioned off before they were raced to determine who owned which one. Ferrari the hermit crab from Italy (who was owned by someone from our group) was victorious in the end. The prize was $100, which John from our group kindly used to buy us all drinks!

Day 7:
 this morning a few of us wanted to see the sunrise so got up just before half past 6 to catch it. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, and it was too cloudy to see very much. Slightly disappointed, we went back to bed for a few hours. We got up for breakfast then some people went parasailing around the island. I couldn’t afford to do this at the time but I do wish I had because the photos they got of the island and surrounding reef were pretty amazing! Later than morning we discovered the island had its own mini golf course, so we spent a few hours playing this before lunch (the infamous 8th hole turned out the hardest, with nobody being able to pot the ball and eventually resorting to much frustration and pushing the golf ball round like we were playing hockey!). We spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing on the beach. We also had to say a sad goodbye to Sarah from our group who was leaving, and we waved her off from the beach as her boat left. That evening we got involved in the bars drinking games, organised by the dj who goes by the name of ‘mama’. She was an interesting character, being probably the least enthusiastic person I’d ever met whilst shouting instructions to drinking games, as well as Fiji’s take on the Macarena- the bula dance. After the games we enjoyed some shameless dancing to 90s classics, including but not limited to- the Macarena, Saturday night, we’re going to Ibiza and wannabe; some accompanied by the matching dance routine.

Week 34: Pacific Harbour, Nasautoka and Nadi, Fiji

Day 3: We left Robinson Crusoe island the next day and travelled to the Pacific Harbour area of Viti Levu to Uprising beach resort. The places we’ve been staying are more hotels with dorm rooms than hostels, so have all been really nice, and this place was no exception. Located right on the beach with a private dorm room for our tour group. Our afternoon activity today was a rainforest hike to a waterfall. At the waterfall some of us took it in turns jumping from a 4 metre ledge into the deep water below. The water was so refreshing after walking through the rainforest and we all had a great time. That evening we had dinner then attended a Kava ceremony where we tried the kava (it tastes like dirty water) but I enjoyed learning about the Fijian culture anyway. That evening we had a few drinks and played pool (obviously the girls beat the boys!).

Day 4
: Today we travelled to Nasautoka village, a rural Fijian village. They held a Kava ceremony for us then we visited the local primary school where the children performed songs and dances for us. Part of the school was destroyed during the recent cyclone so most lessons are held in a tent provided by UNICEF. Many people are also still living in tents as their houses have not yet been rebuilt. Visiting the school was an amazing experience and left us all with massive smiles on our faces. What never ceases to amaze me about going places like that is how happy children are, even with so little. After lunch cooked by ladies in the village we went bamboo rafting and went for a swim in the river. That evening we stayed at Golden Point resort. Again we got lucky and had a dorm room to ourselves, this time we each had a double bed! We had dinner and some interesting cocktails, there were special cocktails called a tall Ian and a happy Sarah, so Sarah and Ian (who happens to be very tall) from our group, had to have one of these each! Ian also later on ordered a Fiji gold beer, but was brought a coconut filled with what appeared to be pure ethanol, we’re still not really sure what happened there. More Fijian dancing followed, including a solo performance from the very camp reception man in his leggings.

Day 5:
We didn’t leave until early afternoon on day 5 so spent the morning relaxing by the beach and snorkelling. Later on we left to head back to Nadi, to complete the loop around the island, stopping off at Sabeto hot springs and mud pools. We had a mud fight and covered ourselves in mud before jumping into a pool to rinse some of the mud off. This was a bit of a challenge in a pool also filled with mud! This bottom of the pool was also covered in a thick layer of sludge and leaves, which wasn’t so pleasant. After this we went into the hot springs then some of us had some massages. The massage wasn’t quite as relaxing as I’d hoped as the room was full of flies that kept landing all over us, but apart from that it was pretty good. We stayed in Nadi again that night, in the largest dorm I’ve stayed in so far (32 beds!). We also went out for dinner and to a local club to celebrate some people’s last night, as they have booked a shorter tour.


Week 34: Nadi and Robinson Crusoe Island, Fiji

Day 1: After a lot of last minute night before packing, I left for Fiji on Tuesday morning. The flight was only a few hours so I was soon touching down in Nadi. I caught a shuttle to my hostel, which was right on the beach! That evening I got chatting to an English girl called Sarah, who it turned out was on the same tour as me! We had dinner and a few drinks before heading to bed fairly early.

Day 2: The next day I got on the FeeJee Experience bus and met the rest of our tour group. Our first destination was Robinson Crusoe Island, a small island off the southwest coast of Fiji’s main Viti Levu Island. Our group was all in one dorm room, which was a long room on the second floor of a wooden hut containing 14 single beds. With a full day of activities planned we quickly got changed, then headed out for some snorkelling. This was slightly disappointing as the water wasn’t very clear and most of the coral we saw had been bleached, but we did see a sea snake so it wasn’t a completely wasted journey. We had lunch when we got back then watched one of the Fijian staff scale a coconut tree, which was followed by coconuts raining down on the beach, to be used for ‘coconut demonstration’. Some of the coconuts were cut open at the top so we could drink the water. Others were impaled on a stick so that the outer could be removed, leaving the hairy inside bit. After the water from these was removed, the inside flesh was scraped out and squeezed inside a leaf, which produces coconut milk. The remaining shell can be used as a cup, made into jewellery or even as a coconut bra. After this we went on a nature walk, where our guide pointed out various trees and their uses which ranged from building materials to medicines. Next on the list was ‘turtle viewing’ which turned out to actually be a Fijian jumping out from a hole in the sand covered by an old turtle shell and scaring the hell out of everyone. Crab racing was next, we all picked a number which corresponded to a crab, the hermit crabs were then tipped out of their water bottle house and raced to the outer finish line. The winners were then crowned by some cross dressing Fijians and sadly it was all over. After all that excitement we relaxed on the beach for an hour or so before we watched a traditional Fijian Kava ceremony. This is where people are welcomed into a community and Kava (a Fijian drink made out of ground up Kava root) is drank from a coconut shell. This was followed by dinner and a bonfire on the beach (plus beers of course!). Later on we watched a show which included lots of amazing Fijian traditional dancing (and lots of bum shaking) and a fire show at the end. The night ended with more beers and our group taking to the dance floor after the show. We even attempted (very poorly!) to do some Fijian dancing, bum shaking included.

Week 28 to 33: Brisbane, Kingscliff and Byron Bay

During my trip up the east coast, I decided not to stop in Brisbane because I was under time pressure to get the the Whitsundays for my LTE course. As I flew back into Brisbane from Thailand I decided to spend a night there and catch up with a friend who was also there for a few days. I did some shopping and we went out for dinner and a few drinks that night. The next day I walked along the South Bank in Brisbane and went for a swim in the lagoon. I then said goodbye to my friend and got on the train back towards Kingscliff.

I spent the next few weeks trying but failing to stay busy while I applied for jobs in the Whitsunday’s. Unfortunately due to the time of year there was no jobs available. Luckily my old job at the cafe in Kingscliff took me back straight away so I could start saving for my next trip. After lots of research I decided this was going to be to Fiji.

The next few weeks went by fairly quickly, I worked 5 or 6 shifts most weeks, spending time surfing and at the beach in between. I also went to Byron Bay for a few days to meet up with Abby, who I met at the elephant sanctuary in Thailand. It was great to catch up, we went out both nights, got up early to watch the sunset over Cape Byron lighthouse and even fitted in time for some sunbathing. The last evening we were there we also walked along the beach and saw the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen.

The following week it was my birthday, although I worked during the day, we went out for dinner. To celebrate my birthday me and my uncle Scott also did a skydive over Byron Bay! It was terrifying but really amazing and I’m so glad I did it. A few days later I was off to Fiji!