Archive for August, 2009

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Welcome to the team!


The Think Pacific team proudly introduces a new face to our overseas operations! Tim Hooper will be taking on the role of expedition leader for the next 10 months, living alongside our volunteers in the rural communities, offering support and guidance and leading the many project aims and adventure activities. 

Tim has been to Fiji twice before, in 2004 and 2006. On both of these occasions, he lived in Wainunu, in a remote area of Vanua Levu, northern Fiji, where he gained experience of kaiviti life and enjoyed teaching in a rural school and helping with community projects. Tim  has just finished a masters in Property Management alongside a part time job in construction, so he is well placed to help out our Fijian building managers!  His fun and relaxed personality make him the perfect candidate to settle our volunteers into  ‘Fiji time’ and ease them into the culture shock. We’re hoping his rugby skills will come in great use for some fun Think Pacific matches against the local teams (he’s certainly the only one in our team who can match the Fijians in size and strength!)  Harry has known Tim for many years and we are delighted that he has decided to join the Think Pacific family!

Following his intensive first aid training in the UK, Tim has spent the past month working with Benjy, Harry, Jack, and the local villagers as we get the final preparations in place to welcome our September volunteers to Fiji on the 5th.

The next expedition is just around the corner, and we can’t wait for it to get underway!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Karen’s thoughts of Fiji

karen with the kindi meke

So I’m finally getting to wear a bikini, sit in the sun, swim in a pool and frankly…I miss Daku. As far as goodbyes go, I think it was about as emotional as they get.  It was another surreal Fiji moment having the entire village walk along the beach and through Uluibau to see us off on the boat. In true Fijian style we stopped halfway along the beach for an impromptu dance and it was definitely the best farewell I’ve ever experienced! Looking back I don’t think any of us really understood how much the people have appreciated us being there until we had to say goodbye, and I didn’t realise how much I would miss everyone until I had to leave.

This last week has been incredible: from meeting the government officials to jumping off a 15ft boulder on the kayaking trip. It was really interesting visiting another village and see how it differed from Daku, but I do think we set the bar pretty high and to quote a few people “it was no Daku!” I feel so lucky that the Fijian people we’ve met, the Think Pacific group itself and, of course our team leaders have all been amazing. I know I sound cheesy but the whole expedition has exceeded any expectations I had for it and that is because of everyone who’s been involved! People reading my blogs might think that I’ve missed out the parts of the trip that were tough and didn’t go to plan or that I didn’t enjoy. And to anyone who is thinking of coming on a Think Pacific expedition there have been times when it was really hard, it’s just when you look back on the last month, week or day there was always at least 20 times more things I’ve loved than I’ve not .

It has been an amazing 5 weeks and the goodbye in Heathrow is going to be difficult to say the least. But who knows? We might just break into a spontaneous dance at the baggage reclaim and show off all the new moves we learned.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Rob’s final blog


So, i sit here in the sunny tropic of Capricorn resort. A pool, bar and warm shower within arms reach and a very comfy bed…. I miss Daku.  I miss the bucket showers. I miss having no privacy. I miss being absolutely knackered after carrying sacs of sand all day, i even miss the food which my stomach never got used to.

Its been a while since my last blog entry so lets recap. The last week in Daku was rather stressful with much planning going into DakuFest.  The day arrived and nobody turned up! Well, thats a lie, but not as many as predicted turned up. But despite the slow start and everybody being more interested in grog than pin the tail on the donkey it was a huge success, with over $600 raised.  Woot.

After DakuFest it was a sombre few days until we left, the morning of leaving was an emotional one. the whole village walked us to where we were getting the boat, a whole half hours trek away past the next village. We stopped several times to do some dancing to the villagers playing the guitar. Their plan seemed to be if we keep them dancing they wont leave, it definitely worked to a large extent but eventualy it  came the time to embark on the short journey to Caqalai. The village sang ‘Isa Lei’ and we said goodbye to everyone. Up until this point i was very sad but i was tear free. Then it came to saying goodbye to my mother who was in floods of tears and instantly i was bawling with the rest of them and didn’t  cease until we reached Caqalai. After a day there we set off again to pacific harbour. After a night in relative luxury we set off once more for our 2 day kayaking adventure. It. Was. Awesome.

We had a rather bumpy journey into the mountains and after an interesting Sevu sevu we were off. Me being the only person brave enough to take my camera because of potential water damage (youd have to pry my camera from my cold dead hands to prevent me from taking pictures) i was the official photographer so cue several hours of comical attempts to paddle and take photos at the same time. We stayed in a village overnight in tents and then continued our water-based journey and after jumping from varying heights of rocks into varying depths of water and being burnt to a crisp (no, just me then?) we got back to pacific harbour stayed the night and then travelled to mamas where we had the debrief and the TP awards. I gpot the Mata Ni Venua award for settling into Fiji life and for my expert (if i do say so myself) performance in the Meke.

That brings me to now, the Last day. Sat in the sun and missing daku. Our flights are a mere 10 hours away and im frantically charging my ipod in order to stave of a comatose state on the rather epic journey home. I don’t know what else to say except see everybody soon (i’ll probably get home before this gets posted online, like some digital post card arriving several days after the sender).

Now, to pack or not to pack…

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The end of the July 09 TP expedition

With the expedition almost at an end, there was just enough time for some last minute shopping for ice creams, Fijian handicrafts and souvenirs before arriving at Nadi Bay and Mama’s lodge.  In preparation for their flight home, Abi and Matty visited the hospital to check their cuts and bites. Abi has been an absolute warrior battling with a badly cut leg and swollen foot since about day one of her trip, and we are all extremely impressed and proud that she stuck through the expedition until the end. Abi has visited clinic waiting rooms with our expedition leaders across the country, always with a smile.  It is for this reason that she deservedly achieved the honour of the now infamous ‘Abi Heath Award for Determination’!  An award we’ll continue for future expeditions, so her name and courage may continue!

With the afternoon sun beating down, the team sat in the shade beside the pool for a project feedback session conducted by Simon. It is so important to receive the thoughts and ideas from the team so we can make Think Pacific better and better for future volunteers, and for the communities of Fiji who our projects support.  It was immense to have so much constructive feedback on all elements of the trip and to see how much the expedition, Think Pacific and Daku village has meant to everyone. Fiji, it seems, really has had the amazing impact we hoped it would have upon our volunteers.

It is touching to see how many volunteers are already making plans for return trips to Fiji to visit Daku village and see their Fijian families.  It’s also great to see members of the team expressing their interest in applying for expedition leader jobs with Think Pacific.  We could certainly put the talents of our volunteers to the full potential working on the staff team one day!

The final evening saw a barbeque, an awards ceremony and a speeches. Nicola read out a poem for the team (the “cheers”) written by the TP girls, and in the comedy moment of the evening, Harry saved the famous  tp trophy coconut from a tourist’s machete!

Everyone was missing Daku and over drinks, which went on until the early morning, we all sat up telling stories and laughing and looking back at an incredible project.

As well as the first homework classes and the completion of so many building aims, this has been the team that brought us the TP Olympics, the establishment of project specific committees and the most successful village festival ever to be held in Daku. We’ve had the first plays, aerobics and contemporary dances for the village children, the first health and hygiene lessons and the first time a group of ‘tourists’ on Moturiki have ever mastered the  ‘meke’ or made such an impression and given so much time, energy and care to the village children.

It has seen the start of cricket, rounders and soccer,  the first structured TP coaching sessions for the rugby team and the beginning of the institution that will become the TP Ashes! 

As the team left for the airport the next day, with Sophie saying goodbye first and then the majority of the team flying out in the evening,  it was emotional, with chants of ‘TP, TP’ and hugs and tears at the airport, it was a very sad moment to see our volunteers head through the gate.  With Oli, the remaining TP volunteer, due to fly out early the next morning, we headed back to the beach for dinner. At midnight, we burnt the Think Pacific Olympic Trophy on a bonfire to create the TP ashes and chatted until the early hours about Fiji.

July 09 team will forever be remembered by people of Daku as the start of something very special. So much of this team’s spirit and ideas will be carried forward for years to come. So much work lies ahead for Think Pacific as we make sure our volunteer teams keep making a huge and sustained difference to the villages of Moturiki, to make sure we fulfil the development targets of our local partners and to endeavour to provide our teams with the best, most rewarding experience of their life.  It’s been a huge learning curve for our volunteers and the Think Pacific team, but one thing is for sure, we’ve loved every minute and we’ll never forget July 09.

Vinaka Vaka Levu to all our volunteers. You’ve done a tremendous job and it’s been an absolute privilege

Take care, keep in touch and we hope to see you in Fiji again soon.


Simon, Harry and Benjy x

drinks by mama's pool  Abi Heath Award Winner  airport goodbyes

by the pool at mamas  final evening speach

Tp awards  tp boys

Tp girls  last night drinks at sunset

last hour on the beach in fiji  the ultimate tp sign

leaving Fiji  

burning the ashes in nadi bay   July 09

daku at sunset

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

White water kayaking and jungle adventure

tp team ready for the highlands!  white water kayaks  are go

enjoying the ride   expedition leader benjy

jumping from the boulders   a happy and tiring afternoon of adventure

The team headed from Moturki across to their castaway island for an evening of rest and relaxation, and some sun-tan time by the beach. The next morning they took motor boats to Suva and a brief stop at the Fijian government offices for tea and cakes with The ICD task force, the Assistant Roko and the National Centre for Health representatives. This was also an opportunity for the team to meet the Commissioner for the Eastern Division of Fiji, Tomasi Tui, and the Permanent Secretary for Fiji. Leaving the capital, it was time to jump aboard their mini bus and drive along the coral coast to start the adventure phase of their trip!

Reaching Pacific Harbour, finally the team could enjoy a well deserved ice cold ‘Fiji Bitter’ and a welcome hot shower at the beautiful Safari Lodge.  The afternoon was spent jumping into the river and splashing in the resort’s swimming pool before a barbeque and an early night ready for their kayaking trip.

The team set of very early into the Namosi highlands, where they spent the day white water kayaking, jumping off waterfalls, navigating huge boulders and camping beside a highlands village.  Arriving in the the community, the team presented a sevu sevu to the chief and the villagers. This is where they reaffirmed just how special Daku had been and how much of real Fiji they had been immersed into; The Namosi village is geared towards lots of commercial tourist visits and sadly the occasion had little of the age old ceremony and tradition of the kava ceremonies they enjoyed in their Lomaiviti Islands. Meeting and chatting with other tourists at the village camp site, the team realised how much of the ‘real Fiji’ they has been experienced during their project and impressed everyone with their knowledge of traditional Fijian life, culture, customs and language.

After a night sleeping in small tents, the team woke up to a cooked breakfast and a morning of trekking the village surroundings, swimming in waterfall pools and another  4 hours mastering the river canyons and jumping off even bigger rocks into the cool water…the team were very proud for Karen who literally threw herself into the activities, despite being  scared of heights!

Arriving back to our resort by bili bili, motor boat and four wheel drive, the team enjoyed dinner and drinks at the pool side bar, with laughter, games and stories of adventures in the Fijian jungle!

time for a swim   on the road

relaxing at safari lodge  safari lodge

saf lodge  tp safari lodge

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Leaving Daku Village

The final day and evening in Daku was amazing. The TP team volunteered to take sabbath in the morning with readings, English hymns and fabulous plays and songs with the kindi children. A lot of work had been put in by our volunteers. Hanna gave a wonderful speech before Nicola narrated a very creative  bible play. In the afternoon the village ladies used their brand new kitchen to cook a fabulous meal, with the whole community coming together to eat and enjoy fresh fish, vegetables and later, mountains of cakes, scones and pancakes!  The evening was spent sat around the grog bowl, enjoying Fijian dancing and Kava until 3am.

Abi during the daku party    hanna and jessie in charge of the kitchen  

farewell   the kava party begins

Daku kids    patrick says his goodbyes

Fijian home   benjy all smiles


Leaving the village the next day was an emotional affair. We were due to leave at 9am. The villagers were up early and tried to prevent the team from leaving for as long as possible!  By 11am the team were all still dancing in the community hall.  As we said our goodbyes and our words of thanks for the community’s wonderful hospitality, we set off for the long walk to the boat. The entire village and the team set off down the beach to the boat. Halfway along an impromptu dance kicked off with Pai playing the guitar and everyone singing along, the Fijians led the conga and we stayed for a while longer at the end of Daku’s beach, singing and dancing – totally surreal!  

Led by the Ratu, the whole village walked the team through the next village of uluibau, and then through a swamp. Finally reaching the sea, the emotion overwhelmed everyone, singing isa isa and hugging their family and friends in the village with tears and sad goodbyes, it was clear what a huge impression the volunteer team has had upon the village, how much the local people cared about them and how close the volunteers had become to their Fijian families over the past few weeks…this is what is so special about Fiji!


time to leave the village

the whole village walk with us   leaving day

dancing all the way home!

goodbye on the beach   waving daku goodbye 

A hugely emotional end to the volunteer’s experiences in Daku and after the tearful goodbyes it was back over to Caqalai and the afternoon, to greet the wonderful staff and enjoy an afternoon to relax and look back upon the past few eye-opening weeks.

back to caqalai  swimming on caqalai