So just a hop, skip and a jump to our first stop – Fiji. Flight time just under 4 hours. We touched down just on dusk and straight into the tropical heat. Customs was made just that much more bearable by the traditional music being played by a large contingent of smiling locals. We would later discover this was not just a token gesture put on for the arriving tourists. There is a strong musical culture on the islands and it seems wherever you go there is someone strumming a guitar.
We were promptly greeted by our transfer driver Big Joe. After some last minute research, we settled on the private car option as the company offered not only direct transfer to the resort, but the option to stop at a local Nadi supermarket to pick up supplies – thus avoiding the price gouging of the isolated Coral Coast resorts.
We wandered the aisles to grab a weeks worth of necessities, getting smiles and ‘bula’ greetings at every turn. For those of you who have never been to this part of the world, ‘bula’ covers just about everything – hello, goodbye, thank you etc. Tourism is the back-bone of the economy, so the sincerity is real.
During the 45 minute drive from the airport area to the resort, Big Joe offers us a brief history and cultural lesson, explaining the ancient origins, British influence (both good and bad) and the volatile political existence that is modern-day Fiji. He also gives a run-down of the many natural disasters Fiji has faced during the last few years. It seems a cyclone or tsunami warning is never far away.
The darkness had inhibited our introduction to the rolling hills, abundant coral and beautiful resort grounds. But that makes for a pleasant surprise when we finally rise and swing open the curtains at 8am the next morning. It’s postcard / travel brochure perfect (first pic in this post).
It’s true – you could be at any number of pacific island resorts, or even Queensland for that matter. But that doesn’t take away from the spectacular beauty. What sets it apart is the Fijian hospitality. Always warm and welcoming – nothing is ever too hard. Just don’t expect them to be on time. The locals work to Fiji time, which roughly translates to “Don’t worry it will get done… Eventually”.
It’s no surprise that the resort is packed to the brim with Aussies and Kiwis. Similar to us, most are here for a wedding. This is big business at our resort, and there are at least four on during our six-night stay. Days are spent lounging by the pool charging cocktails and beers to the room (or someone else’s room where possible). Nights are spent at one of the many quality restaurants on the resort grounds, followed by more time by the pool with drink in hand.
We got out and about yesterday and wandered west along the coastline talking to the locals, dodging rickety buses and splashing about in the pacific. We stopped for lunch at a little place called Koko’s and having missed the lunch-time rush had run of the place for the next two hours. The food was very good, only bettered by the view out over the water. We had a brief period of feeling like we were the only people on the island. A nice change from the packed pool and bustling areas of the resort.
After getting adventurous in the afternoon, we decided to explore the nearby Sigatoka Town for dinner. We had been recommended a good local restaurant – Raj’s Curry House. Almost half the Fijian population is of Indian descent, so there had to be some quality food. Some might describe it as run-down, but we’ll just say the decor had character. Thankfully the food was decent.
Unfortunately parts of our order got lost in translation… Karina requested for the entree serving sizes to be made into six pieces rather than the usual four pieces (as we had six people). This resulted in six servings of everything… ie. 24 spring rolls, 24 samosa etc. and before we knew it more food than we could eat in two sittings started flowing out of the kitchen. After some quick negotiation the remainder was packed in to take-away containers and the taxi was loaded up. When you are away from the resorts, it’s not as big a disaster to over-order – but I”m sure Raj will be hoping we come back again soon.
It’s been awesome to spend extended time with Karina’s best friends away from home. Plenty of eating, drinking and laughter. Loads of laughter actually. Our first overseas holiday together and hopefully its the first of many more to come.
And did I mention the Rugby? It is like a religion here. In fact it is more important than religion. On the way to the resort, Big Joe warned us that we might struggle to get dinner after we checked-in. Fiji was about to play the hosts Hong Kong in the Rugby Sevens and every television in the country would have the locals crowded around. Late on Monday night they played Wales in the tournament final and the roars of the employees could be heard around the resort every time Fiji scored. They went on to win a tight match and celebrations went long into the night.
We have been out of Australia for a few days now, but it certainly hasn’t sunk in that we are on extended holidays. With every log-in to the email I’m certain there is going to be fifty new work-related emails to be read and actioned. And my phone has never been quieter… I could certainly get used to this.