Monday 9 July 2012: Road trip and more....
What a mad day! We had to leave the resort we've been staying at on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu and go back to Nadi, as Nicky was arriving from Bahrain to join us ready for our flight out to the island of Taveuni tomorrow. His flight wasn't due till 7.30pm and we would have liked to have spent most of the day, or at least until after lunch, at the resort, and go for another snorkel. However, our bus transfer had been arranged for 9am so that was that. We were sad to say goodbye to this little paradise which calls itself "Fiji's best kept secret". It's certainly secret, being a good four 'Fijian' kilometres off the road, while the location and above all, friendly staff, make it a lovely place to stay. Not flashy, but comfortable and there's a real family atmosphere with only around 20 guests.
This is some sort of very cheerful plant that I've only seen before as a small indoor house-plant, but here it grows lavishly as a large bush. I photographed it as we were leaving the resort. I was going to blip another postcard of some buildings that we saw along the way today, but the internet connection isn't up to uploading the file size in under several hours. They were shots taken from the minibus, which had very dirty windows, as we hurtled along the pot-holed Queen's Highway, and included a school that I rather liked, set against a steep hillside. Like all the schools we've seen here, it had a big rugby pitch in front of it - Fiji is a rugby-mad nation. Another shot showed the fabulous Hindu Temple in Nadi, while another was of something that looked like a mosque, or masjid, but the driver told us was a shopping centre, in Sigatoka.
I won't go into Fijian politics here, but the population of Fiji is made up of a mix of indigenous Fijians and Fijian Indians who came here originally to work in the big sugar plantations (sugarcane production is the country's second-biggest industry after tourism). The first arrival of 463 indentured labourers from India occurred in 1879, with a total of 61,000 coming over the ensuing 37 years. The Indians brought Hinduism and Islam with them, along with many other elements of their culture, traditions and flora and fauna. The early Christian and Methodist missionaries had already brought religion to Fiji in the 18th century and we've seen churches of a wide variety of denominations here.
Arriving on Denarau Island was a bit of a culture shock. We crossed a bridge and suddenly found ourselves on an island of manicured lawns, golf buggies, gated communities of architect-designed houses and exclusive five-star resorts. Arriving at our hotel, we were greeted by drums, porters, welcome drinks and towels, marble floors and shiny shops offering designer-label perfumes, handbags and beachwear. We had lunch at the beachside restaurant and I instantly forgot that I was in Fiji and kept thinking it was Australia as all the other guests (and there were many!) seemed to be Australian.
Then, just as we were shown to our rooms, came The Call. Nicky was in Auckland airport ready to check in for his flight to Nadi, but his luggage wasn't. Apparently one bag was in Dubai and the other had never left Bahrain!
"This is stupid. I might as well go straight to Nelson. I can't come to Fiji - all I've got is the clothes I'm wearing and a change of underwear in my carry-on bag!" he said, in rather an Eyeore-ish way. I had to convince him that all would be well and we'd be able to get him kitted out here in Fiji.
So, considering that his plane was due to land in the evening and we are flying out to a very basic island (in terms of shopping facilities) at 7am tomorrow morning, I realised that the only way he was going to get any clothes was if we went and bought them this afternoon. Thus, instead of spending the afternoon relaxing and blipping on the "Australian" beach, the girls and I jumped into a taxi and went down to Port Denarau to do a whirlwind shop for everything Nicky would need for a week-long holiday.
As might be expected of a marina and high-speed ferry terminal-cum-shopping centre for the residents of an island like Denarau, we found several well-stocked pharmacies, newsagents, boutiques, souvenir shops, a yacht chandlery and a Hard Rock Café, amongst other places - "Australia" continued. We managed to get some shorts, tee-shirts, swimming shorts, a cap, flip-flops and a toothbrush, with the pièce de résistance being some bright orange underpants (which of course he said he was never going to wear, although Immy had had some fun trying them on earlier!)
We staggered back, exhausted, to the hotel and there was just enough time for me to have a quick, restorative cocktail before jumping in the shower and then heading off to the airport to meet the luggage-less Nicky. He duly emerged into the Arrivals area looking very travel-weary and also limping. Apparently he injured his ankle at the gym several weeks ago (and hadn't told me) and then re-injured it by tripping over a carpet whilst packing. Anyway, the happy reunion envisaged by all of us was rather marred by his annoyance over the baggage debacle and the fact that he had been travelling for a very long time and is also worried about emails and internet access where we are going. I'm hoping the stress will wear off soon and he'll get into holiday mode!
By the time we had returned to the hotel and had dinner, it was 11.30pm and we are due to be picked up at 5.30am tomorrow....... and so ends the mad day! Not looking forward to the very early start, I must admit.