Unpacking an Imaginary Case of Memories; in the Second Part of His Diaries from Down under While on a Six-Month Sabbatical with His Family, the Western Mail's Phil Davies Considers Fiji, Fishing and Farewells

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Unpacking an Imaginary Case of Memories; in the Second Part of His Diaries from Down under While on a Six-Month Sabbatical with His Family, the Western Mail's Phil Davies Considers Fiji, Fishing and Farewells


Byline: Phil Davies

NOVEMBER 19, 2002 ACROSS from Oakune's snow-capped mountains are some of New Zealand's most famous fly fishing rivers and lakes. All you need is for someone to lend you a pair of chest waders to go with the cheap sports shop rod and a bit of tackle.

It was a phenomenal sport of the kind practically unavailable these days anywhere in the UK and it's best to spare any anglers details that would make them cry into their creels. Suffice to say the Rainbows and Browns were big, ferocious and swarming through the runs and pools. Hard it was to leave this little sporting paradise just south of Lake Taupo for Auckland again and a flight ``abroad.''

We were off to Fiji on a budget-beater and even the mind-numbing outrage of a terrorist attack at Bali just 12 hours before could not put us off even though Kiwis and Aussies had been their target.

Fiji, of course, is the holiday playground of both these countries and it doesn't take a vivid imagination to wonder whether the terrorists might have had a second, fol-low-up target. We landed at Nadi airport, still with a few jitters, and the passport desk queue is slow, the passengers sweating and children of all ages fretting. Fiji is very warm, yet fresh, in the day and only in the evening do you start to feel the mugginess.

Travelling the budget way we are spared the plastic holiday experience of Fiji. We travel by local buses in which the seats are hard, often broken and the paintwork more than scraped. This is the reality for most ordinary Fijians and you get to sit by beautiful mums with beautiful babies with saucer eyes and burly, handsome men with tree-trunk thighs and barrel chests.

We finally arrived at Vakaviti (it means ``the Fijian way'') run by Arthur ``AJ'' Jennings who just happened to be the first Fijian to play for the All Blacks.

``AJ'' is there for a personal welcome and he shows the boy and I around his little rugby memorabilia display.

It made you tingle to stand there a million miles away from Wales and read the names on plaques, ties and trophies. The roll-call included Llanelli RFC; Pontypool RFC; Torfaen, Cardiff (many times) and even little Bethesda RFC in the North.

As you can guess he's not the only rugby nut in Fiji and my favourite is the one with a Colgate smile who stopped my old girl on our way to one of Suva's internet cafes.

``Where are you from?,'' asked the beaming young man, as we tried to get over a busy traffic junction.

``Wales,'' she said, responding instantly to his sheer radiance. ``Ah,'' he said, swift as a flash and in a sing-song tenor, ``Caaardiff! Millennium Stadium! Neil Jenkins.''

Then he asked her, digging deep into his plastic carrier, whether she would like to buy some cheap trinkets for a million bucks a go. I heard another snatch up the road later and it went something like ``London! Twickernhammm! Martin Johnson!''

NOVEMBER 16, 2002 WE christened him Tommy the Twitcher and still thank him dearly for providing perhaps the most hilarious moment in five months of travelling. ``TT'' dwelt, until recently, in Lake Tekapo in the central mountains of New ADVENTURES: Phil's wife, Sally, above, ice-walking in Fox Glacier. Right top, Ellie with a conch on Leluvia Island in Fiji; and right bottom, Ellie at White Island volcano crater holding her nose against the strong smell of sulphurZealand's South Island. He was a chunky rainbow trout that couldn't resist the silver flash of a triple-barbed lure sliding through turquoise-coloured water.

As the rod holder gazed contentedly at jagged, snow-topped mountains on the far side of the lake, ``TT'' hit the lure with the sort of force Scott Gibbs patented.

The line screamed and the rod bowed as ``TT'' tore off and it took several minutes to best him, beach him and deliver the fisherman's obligatory tap on the head.

The defeated fish was then carried back to our lakeside chalet by the gills and laid out on a kitchen draining board opposite two other rainbows that had just been gutted. …

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