RTW Day 15 – This day does not exist
2nd March 2018
Our flight from LA to Nadi crosses the International Date Line. We depart the US on Thursday and arrive in Fiji on Saturday. For us, Friday 2nd March does not exist. It’s a weird concept to get your head around. Look at the trouble it caused Phileas Fogg. How will my FitBit cope? It will ruin my daily step average. It’s making my brain hurt. Time for a beer…
RTW Day 16 – Fiji
3rd March 2018
We finally arrive in Fiji, literally on the other side of the world. It’s been an epic journey; a 6000 mile, 12 hour overnight flight across 20 time zones (not to mention the international date line and the equator). With Fiji Air, packed like sardines, with one round of the drinks trolley and a meagre choice of films. It’s safe to say we’re a little weary and we still have to collect our luggage and hire car and drive to the hotel.
I may have struggled to get my head round the time zone changes but we are now definitely on island time. We have to wake the guy at the car rental office up to get served. Then get an upgrade because he can’t locate our allocated car.
The old man has booked a hotel on the opposite side of the island which means a 74 mile drive round Fiji’s only paved road. Much of the road hugs the Pacific coast so it’s a scenic drive. It says that to reach our hotel (Wellesley Resort), we must drive down a gravel driveway. It fails to mention that the driveway is 3 miles long.
We reach out final destination, a huddle of bungalows in a clearing in the rainforest next to the beach. It’s beautiful but utterly remote. We try our first Fijian beer and take a walk along the beach while we wait for our room to be prepared.
The sand is covered with hundreds of small shells. They’re hermit crabs. It’s a strange sensation when you walk along the beach and it starts moving all around you. We’re told that in the afternoon the beach is alive in a different way, as the boys from the local village come to practise rugby.
Our room is a small villa decorated in traditional Fijian style. It is beautiful and has its own patio with a pool. But after a token dip, we need to take a nap. We are definitely too old for overnight flights.
When we wake up it’s raining. We’re in a rain forest in rainy season so not altogether unsurprising. But I’m pleased I took Lonely Planet’s advice to stock up on insect repellent, as we are not alone sitting on the patio enjoying the coolness of the afternoon shower.
Suitably refreshed, we have dinner (freshly caught mahi mahi) on a verandah watching sunset over the South Pacific, framed by a large colour changing neon fish. Welcome to paradise Fiji style.
RTW Day 17 – Fiji
4th March 2018
On today’s agenda – nothing. So far we have covered over 13,000 miles. Today is about R&R.
I wake at dawn when the parrots start to sing in the palm trees. We start with breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It’s all local produce. Lots of tropical fruit and fish, which is a luxury after 2 weeks in the USA where junk food is king. Also, local produce does not appear to include nuts. It’s a revelation to be able to pick what I want from the menu without poring over it checking what may or may not kill me. I eat my fruit platter and eggs Benedict whilst contemplating emigrating to Fiji.
We decide to take a long walk along the beach but the tide’s in and there’s not much beach left so we settle for a short walk and a beer. Which is fortuitous because just as we reach the hotel, the heavens open. I know we’re in the rainforest so rain is to be expected, but I didn’t know it was possible for so much water to fall out of the sky in one go or for so long.
We drink our Fijian beer. I notice in the small print that the brewery is owned by Coca-Cola. Then a representative of the hotel’s NZ owner turns up to check on their investment. I wonder how much of the income from tourism in Fiji actually ends up in the pockets of Fijians, rather than multinational companies?
I had planned to run along the hotel driveway before (a) I realised quite how rough the terrain was and (b) the road turned into a river, so I decide to go for a swim instead. Four hours later it is still raining. We’ve eaten, had a nap, read a book and are rapidly running out of ideas of how to fill our time in a hut in the middle of nowhere in the rain. Six hours later I give up and go for a swim in the rain. It’s almost dark but the neon fish shows me the way.
Then we dress for dinner (put on more mosquito repellent) and eat scrummy freshly caught prawns and calamari in a curry sauce followed by caramelised bananas.
RTW Day 18 – Suva
5th March 2018
Today we brave driving up the hotel’s 3 mile dirt track-come-river and visit the capital, Suva. It’s a further 50 miles along the Queen’s Road, the main road which circumnavigates the island. The road condition plus speed bumps in the villages mean it’s a 2 hour drive each way.
Suva has a population of 85,000. It’s weird to think of a capital city less than half the size of Bournemouth. Maybe Dorset should become a republic?
First we head for a supermarket. The remoteness of our hotel has induced the owners to charge exorbitant prices for food and drink so we buy some provisions in nearby Pacific Harbour to keep costs down a bit.
The road hugs the ocean for much of the drive, but the closer we get to Suva, the more polluted it becomes with bottles, tyres and all sorts of junk floating along the shore line.
We reach the Fiji Museum and have a picnic brunch in the gardens before visiting the museum.
The museum has some interesting exhibits; the rudder from The Bounty and the sole of the shoe of a Methodist missionary – the only bit of him the islanders didn’t eat. My personal favourite that essential fashion accessory – the puffer fish hat.
Then we follow Lonely Planet’s suggested walking tour of Fiji past various buildings of note. Two exceptions; first we split the route into two and drive between them so we’re not too far from the car when the inevitable cloudburst occurs.
Second, we visit the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral. It’s a hive of activity – the big boss is in town (not God – the Archbishop of Canterbury).
We drive back to our resort, through a few downpours but make it back to our room before the mother load hits.
When the rain finally stops, there’s just enough time for a swim before the sun sets and we retire to our patio and our sensibly priced supermarket beer.
RTW Day 19 – Pacific Harbour
6th March 2018
Today the old man is planning a boat trip to swim in the reef with sharks. I’ve seen Jaws. I’ve also seen how brown the rivers that run into the ocean around here are. Of course, it may be mud, but I’m not convinced. I have no desire to swim with sharks or anything else that begins with sh so I will settle for sitting by the pool with a book.
First I go for a run. I’m not looking forward to it. The climate and terrain will make it tough. There are also a lot of men wandering round brandishing machetes. I suspect they’re harvesting coconuts but I’ve been to the Fiji Museum and seen what they used to do with Methodists and it involves a large pot and some salt and pepper. It won’t be a long run – I remember going to aerobics in Nigeria – once I have sweated off the insect repellent, I will be eaten alive, if not by cannibals them by mosquitoes.
I start by running along the beach but soon decide that running on sand is too much effort and opt instead for the track out of the valley. It’s steep and try as I might, my Strava (which is set on auto pause) pauses as it decides I am no longer running. It has a point. Once at the top, I manage a reasonable 3 mile run. I also get rewarded with a stunning view back over the bay. The noise from the rainforest is carried on the ocean breeze – a cacophony of insects and birds singing.
The old man cannot take his boat trip. They require a minimum of 4 passengers; as there are only 7 guests at the hotel, I don’t fancy his chances. We opt for a walk along the beach instead but it’s high tide so there is no beach. On what little beach remains, there are a group of men slaughtering a pig.
We decide to drive to Pacific Harbour, a village 20 miles away which has a cluster of shops and restaurants around a lake festooned with water lilies. We have lunch at the Water’s Edge, which is indeed on the edge of the water with a lovely view of the lake.
Most people are eating pizza, but my guide book says the restaurant is Indian owned so we choose the curry which comes with rice, tamarind chutney, poppadom, chapatti and dhal and is stonkingly good. The old man has fish curry, I opt for vegetable; the pig slaughter is still playing on my mind.
Then a wander round the remaining complex and a shop for provisions before driving back through the obligatory afternoon rainstorm.
RTW Day 20 – Sigatoka
7th March 2018
It has become apparent that the towels we were issued with on Saturday will not be changed. The humidity is 86% – once something gets wet, it stays wet. I can still see drops dripping from the towel I used after yesterday’s swim. I understand that they only get linen delivered once a week and that would be fine if we was staying in a Fijian hotel with Fijian prices. But the hotel is foreign owned and we are paying decidedly first world prices. It has put me in a bad mood.
First, the old man goes to see if the dive shop has managed to conjure up 3 more customers. Meanwhile, I will spend the morning swimming and reading. That pretty much covers the available activities at Wellesley Resort, until it’s no longer too early to drink. This morning however, an exciting development; for the first time in 5 days, the sun comes out. I’m not sure how to deal with this upturn in events! Sunblock over insect repellent or vice versa? I don my wet costume, collect my wet towel and head for the pool. The decking has been blocked off; it says ‘wet paint’ frankly it should say ‘wet everything’.
The dive isn’t on so we decide to visit the biggest village on the Coral Coast, Sigatoka. It has 2 claims to fame; sand dunes and a fort.
Today, the sand dunes (we don’t want to peak too soon and do both on one day). I’ve seen an exhibit about the dunes at the Fiji Museum. They are being eroded by the wind. They also contain one of the largest ancient burial sites in the Pacific, meaning that as the sand recedes skeletons appear.
The dunes are Fiji’s only National Park. A very friendly ranger shows us the route map. We opt for the shortest (one hour) loop. It’s a lovely walk over the dunes, across the beach and back through the mahogany forest planted to reduce the erosion. This is the highlight of the visit. The noise as we enter is tremendous. At first we think it’s birds but realise the tree tops are home to thousands of bats, hanging upside down stretching their wings in the sun.
We return via Sigatoka. Lonely planet recommends a good seafood restaurant for lunch, but is it has closed down. Luckily the lady who works on the spot it once stood gives us directions to its new location 20 miles away. It’s completely empty, which is not surprising bearing in mind how difficult it was to find, but a shame because it’s in a great spot overlooking a bay with the waves breaking on the coral in the background.
We order food, it takes an age. 45 minutes later our dhal soup and fish curry arrive. It’s essentially the same thing only one has bits of fish added, and cucumber. I’ve never had cucumber in a curry before. I can see why it hasn’t caught on. In an ironic twist, it takes longer to cook than it takes to make a sudden and not altogether expected reemergence.
Another exciting development when we return to the hotel, my towel is dry for the first time in 5 days. It takes a while to locate and retrieve; it has fallen off the wall where I left it into a large bush next door. Finally, if a little gingerly (follow the curry re-emergence issue) I can use our private pool for something other than watching how much rain can bounce.
We end the day with Fijian beer and chilli chicken pies from the excellent Hot Bread Kitchen rounded off with watching sunset and rugby training on the beach.
RTW Day 21 – Coral Coast
8th March 2018
Today we decide to remain on the resort. There are roadworks on the driveway. Yesterday we got stuck behind a convoy of vehicles attempting to add, dampen and flatten gravel and it took almost an hour to cover the 5 km to the road.
I eat breakfast; bananas from the market in Sigatoka which weirdly doubled in price when I told her I only wanted half a bunch. Tree ripened bananas taste so different to the tasteless yellow blobs we get at home. Then I head for the pool to make the most of the rain intermission. It’s still early – not even 8. There aren’t any Germans here, but if there were they would be hard pressed to get their wet towels on a sun lounger before me. The staff bring the cushions out and unwrap the parasols. This is a good omen – the first time either of these two events have been risked in 6 days.
The old man makes his daily pilgrimage to the dive shop. This time he does not return. Of course at his age, I cannot rule out the possibility that he has got confused and wandered off, but it looks as if his dive has actually gone ahead.
I have a relaxing morning swimming, reading and sunbathing. I figure I’ve probably had enough sun when my iPhone tells me it needs to cool down! I have lunch – tuna with avocado from the market. Again it’s sweet and juicy and delicious, not like the green bullets we have to make do with in the UK.
The old man returns content from his dive having seen lots of marine life. A debate ensues; to go shopping or not to go shopping. It’s a 42 mile round trip. The answer, when you factor in the price of resort beer v supermarket beer, is yes. We have dinner at Baka Blues Cafe which is highly recommended by Lonely Planet and seems to specialise in weird pizza toppings. We are the only customers yet it takes 62 minutes for our Cajun shrimp pizza to arrive. Ironically, after such a long wait, the base is so burnt it’s black.
We return to the hotel where the old man spends the evening moaning and muttering. He has sunburn and he doesn’t intend to suffer in silence.
RTW Day 22 – Coral Coast
9th March 2018
Our last day in Fiji is uneventful. The old man is burnt from his much anticipated dive and vows never to expose his skin to the sun again. He spends the day on the lanai playing candy crush and moaning alternatively about the sun, heat and mosquitoes. I take a swim then devise a way to read without being troubled by the aforementioned. I sit on the bottom step of the pool exposing only my head and one hand.
One last thunder storm, one last sunset walk along the beach and our wet week in Fiji is at and end.