Fiji Time (Part 1) - Finding our Feet in Fiji

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Fiji  , Viti Levu,
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Once again we come to my old nemesis. Flying. We are now on the home stretch and are down to our last 6 flights (still sounds like a lot to me) and we are now flying with Fjii's national airline (which clearly isn’t a big airline) – Pacific Airways. It says a lot when the dinner served is a chicken sandwich and the film shown (although we did enjoy it but I had to repeatedly explain to Kate what was going on as with my glasses I have better eyesight) was on a tiny screen mainly in English but also with subtitles (set in Africa) 3 rows ahead of us. The flight itself was thankfully without incident and my previous combination of wine, Take That and jamming my head to the side of the plane kept me without too much concern when turbulence hit. In fact, for the first time in about 8 flights I dared to leave my seat when my over reliance on alcohol to smooth the trip made me more than slightly uncomfortable. It was only when I was trying to carry out an unadvised standing toileting maneuver in a 737 airline that turbulence decided to kick in. Thankfully I am well in control of such situations, and can still aim straight. I will sit down in future however.

One moment of amusement on the plane was when I was drawn to look over at Kate when we were both listening to the same radio station. "Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire….." sang out loudly in both our ears and I knew what was going to follow. Kate’s eyes welled up with tears as she clearly is already starting to show the strains of missing a Christmas at home, and she hid the tears playfully away from me. She can’t seem to help herself sometimes from getting a bit emotional about it all, and certain things seem to flick the switch – The Christmas Song is clearly one of them. We joked about it and laughed it off but we both know that Christmas Day is going to be a bit of a tough one.

As we approached Fiji I dared to look out of the window and was greeted by a leathery surface a good few thousand feet beneath me stretching out in all directions. It looked somewhat mysterious and out of place but on closer inspection was actually the sea; the distance up giving the impression of no movement whatsoever and the little pockets of cloud also barely moving just seemed to add to the effect. The final flight down gave me a glimpse of some of the lagoons surrounding the coastline of Fiji but if I’m honest everything else kinda looked a bit 'samey’. Seen one green bushy outback, seen em all.

We got off the plane and whipped through all the procedures. We were a little under pressure as the last Express coach heading south (for cheap) was leaving 40 minutes after our landing. After 6pm you have to rely on the smoke billowing local buses (if any show up) or pay through the nose (About $150 to Sigatoka) on a taxi transfer. The Express bus was going to cost us less than $10 FJD each. We got through customs quickly although I once again had to declare my coconut candy bought from Vietnam and then we raced across the car park with a good 20 minutes to spare.

By the departures area (where we had been advised the bus leaves from), a casually dressed Fijian carrying a blue book approached us and asked us if we wanted to get the coach. We responded in the affirmative and then he wrote out a couple of tickets for us and took the fare. He explained that the bus would be another 20 minutes or so and we could go and get a drink or something if we wanted. I said I could quite fancy that and he insisted on directing us to the bar and then told us he would come and get us when the bus arrived. He sat us down and then sat next to us, while I went to get myself a beer (bottled, not draft; as we have been warned that the local brew has recently resulted in a few deaths due to the creation of methanol in the brewing process). I was thinking to myself “Surely this guy should be waiting by the bus or something” and so I hinted that maybe there would be other passengers that wanted tickets. He mumbled something about probably having to go and check and then slinked off back to his position. The casualness was not something you what you expect from a bus conductor, but it was most appreciated. The rush suddenly fell away.

The ticket only cost the equivalent of about 2 pounds 50 each. When the bus did arrive it wasn’t in a bad condition or anything and we were comforted to see some other travelers also using the service. Mostly though the bus was used by locals making longer trips across the main island. We settled in for our approximately 90 minute trip and I stared out the window watching the countryside roll by as the sun gradually set. It was nice to be back somewhere where locals seemed to just be walking about aimlessly, chatting in the fields or just watching the world tick by. It made me think of China and Vietnam and filled me with a little sadness. To add to this a young family sat next to us seemed to provide a soundtrack to our journey by singing out of hymns books practicing their Sunday best.

After most of the 90 minutes passed I got a little concerned as to how the bus seemed to halt at designated stops. It was an Express bus in that it drove quite quick but it seemed to stop pretty much anywhere that someone asked, and so you had to know where you were going. Fiji seems to be a bit of a sprawling village. Being as we hadn’t been to Fiji before, other than knowing that the Bedarra Inn was along the Coral Coast we were a little lost. Kate went up and asked the conductor and a few minutes later we were set down in the middle of nowhere. A nice lady sat a few rows up from us seemed to know where we had to go and so following her directions we walked down a very dark road alongside the beach, until we came to the fire lit entrance of the Bedarra.

We checked in and having asked the hotel nicely for an Ocean view room with my booking we were glad to have been given a room with both a garden view and a full on ocean view (eventually we would find out that our room is in fact the honeymoon suite) – Room 9. The room was lovely for the size hotel that the Bedarra is and we were very grateful. Up to that point, everywhere we had driven past looked like little shanty hotels. The reception gave us a couple of juices on checking in and I was at that point chuffed to have completed potentially our most expensive/complicated transfer (due to knowing so little about the place) for so cheap and so easy.

After cleaning ourselves  up a  bit we headed down for some food in the restaurant before they shut for the night. It was good to see that the prices were not too steep and when it was served up the food was both exceptionally presented and very tasty. We felt very out of place amongst the older couples on their holidays but it made a nice change.
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