- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
Circling Viti Levu
Mark Watson, UnderGround Issue 53 December 2007
Updated 29 June 2011The orange glow of the setting sun is reflected in the towering cliffs ahead. Darkness is gathering, and as the narrow road winds around another corner I wonder if we'll find the village we're looking for before dark.
Five hours ago we landed at Nadi Airport- Fiji, ready to begin a two week-long cycle touring holiday around Viti Levu,Fiji's main island. Our hastily packaged bikes survived the baggage handlers and after an hour of putting them back together outside the arrivals lounge we pedalled off into the sticky 30 degree heat in the direction of Fiji's second-largest town, Lautoka. It's market-day and the main road was hectic with buses, trucks, and the occasional cow.
From New Zealand we had ambitiously booked our first night to stay with a local family in a remote village on the fringe of Fiji's highlands. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but Abaca (pronounced am-bath-a), wasn't making itself evident and I was beginning to think we might meet our fate in the local tribe's cooking pot.
Thankfully the steep, stony road starts to flatten out, and finally we see a light in the distance. Relief! As we pedal the last few hundred metres up to the entrance we hear welcoming voices. By torchlight our hosts show us into the quiet village.
Abaca is on the edge of Koroyanitu National Heritage Park. The local villagers, with the help of government and regional incentives, have set up a grass-roots eco-tourism operation whereby tourists can visit the national park and stay in the village with local families - eating their food and sleeping under the same roof. It's a genuine cultural experience that is hard to beat.
After signing into the national park with the village chief we were shown to the small corrugated iron bure that we would be sharing with a family for the night. The hut is home for a family of eight people - over three generations. In total 86 people live in the village, in 14 houses and everyone belongs to the same family. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the bure, we share soup with breadfruit. Questions circulate as we talk of home and compare lifestyles.
After the meal Hana and I are offered the hut's only bed - a wooden bench with a thin mat, wide enough for two. It's normally reserved for the grandmother but as guests we are in no position to decline. The rest of the family lies down directly on the flax mat covered floor. All that's needed to keep off the cool night air is a single sheet and before long we are in a deep sleep. After sharing breakfast with the family and exploring the village we depart mid-morning - eager to discover more of Fiji. The village is at about 500 metres above sea level. The morning light reveals verdant jungle and an island interior of steep rolling hills- not unlike the topography of Canterbury's Banks Peninsula.
Our circuit of the Kings Road, Fiji's main highway, takes us anti-clockwise around Viti Levu and we knock out 60 - 80 km most days. Villages are small, but pass frequently and everywhere the locals are friendly. Bula, Fiji's standard greeting is forever part of our vocabulary.
As we pass from the western side of the island to the east, the mangroves and sugar cane fields give way to lush jungle and greater humidity. The Kings Road heads inland, following the wide and murky Wainibuku River. The road turns to dirt and the power lines stop. This is a quieter, more remote part of Fiji, despite being on the national highway, and cycling along beside the river is very scenic.
At the end of a long day we crest the top of a windy dirt-road climb and enter the small village of Dakuivuna. A congregation of villagers are pounding yagona root (kava) with a giant mortar and pestle outside the bus stop. We stop to ask if there is anywhere to stay. It turns out there is accommodation about 16 km down the road. As we make the decision to carry on, one of the villagers asks us if we'd like to stay with him for the night. It's an offer we'd been hoping for and we gratefully accept. After dropping our bikes at his house (a corrugated iron hut), his kids take us to clean up at the local swimming hole.
In the evening we are fed, sedated with kava, and given a spot to sleep on the floor of the house. We are blown away by the generosity of our host Ben, who clearly owns very little. 13 children and two adults live in his house. As we prepare to leave in the morning we offer Ben money for the food, but he won't accept it. We came to Fiji knowing that sevu sevu (donations) are customary, so offer him some toys we've carried for giving to children. We leave feeling humbled by the kindness of this family.
Half a day further on, we roll into Nausori for lunch and that night stay at a tourist lodge in the hills above Suva. For the first time we feel at risk from traffic on our bikes, and at times opt for the footpath to avoid the narrow, vehicle-choked road. Beyond Suva the hilly road quietens, and we enjoy flashes of golden sand and palm trees as we enter the Coral Coast. Tourist accommodation is more common here and it's almost a surprise to see Europeans again after the almost tourist-free northern half of the island. We base ourselves at a budget resort for a few days, only a long day's ride separating us from Nadi and the flight home.
Fiji is an excellent choice for a 10-day (or longer) cycle touring trip. Although golden sand beaches and warm water are nice when you've come from a New Zealand winter our conclusion was that Fiji is not a country you go to for the scenery or the food - for us the most enduring memories will be of the warm and generous people we met and the random interactions with locals that took place in the villages we stopped in.
The Nitty Gritty> Bicycles are uncommon in Fiji. Carry a comprehensive tool kit and spare tyre.
> Our trip took us around the Kings and Queens Roads that circumnavigate Viti Levu. However the hilly interior of the island is criss-crossed with steep 4WD roads and remote villages that would no doubt make for a more adventurous cycle tour.
> We rode knobblies, which were good as the roads are very pot-holed in places and in one 70 km section, unsealed. Semi-slicks would be okay too unless you intend to ride the 4WD roads of the interior.
> Kava is a narcotic plant that is consumed as a drink. Most Fijians opt for this over alcohol.
> Donations or sevu sevu are customary. A good gift is yagona root or powder (kava), especially if you are keen to partake in a ceremony.
> Travel light: Shorts and tee shirts are all you need. In the highlands an additional light layer can be required in the cool of the morning. A sarong or sheet is all you need at night.
> Camping is out- there's little public land, and locals will be offended if you choose to camp in a village. Plan your days to arrive at places with accommodation (check the Lonely Planet Fiji guide), or be prepared for some adventures staying with locals.
> Despite NZ Government warnings, we experienced no trouble travelling in Fiji- although caution is recommended in Suva at night as muggings are not uncommon. For current information refer to the Safe Travel website.
> Additional Fiji cycle touring tales can be found at Kiewa View.