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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Day 331-333: We're on Fiji time now (we were before we set off)

If preparation is the key to success then the beginning of our excursion to Fiji is probably most akin to locking yourself out of the house in your pants, just as it begins to rain. We could see that shiny key of forward-thinking and thorough itinerary-making but it was just out of reach.

Never on this trip have we arrived in a country with such a vagueness of intentions or lack of research. We had in our possession a short message of recommendations from a friend – but even that was only recovered from the internet and scrawled into a notebook (from which we could regurgitate our intentions to disappointed-looking airport attendants later) at the last moment - thank you Auckland Airport for 15min free internet.

When we touched down in Nadi we were greeted by a 4-piece band in bright Hawaiian shirts that broke from their cheery tune only to shout the traditional Fijian greeting “bula!” as one passed. Oh how the false sense of security warmed us. Once through baggage and customs we were directed by a very large Fijian man towards a his smaller female counterpart to “help us with our holiday” - hang on! we'd only shook his hands and already he knew we were British and we were here for a week from New Zealand...these guys were good.
The disappointment in our assistant face was clearly visible when we confirmed that we intended to go to Taveuni – a small island to the West of Viti Levu - and not to the Yasawas Islands – the usual holiday hotspot.
“We'd like to get there as soon as possible, maybe today?”
[broad smile] “Ooooooh no, not can go to Yasawas today”
“We really want to go to Taveuni – what would be the best way to get there?”
“Why you want to go to Taveuni?”
[white lie] “We're meeting a friend there” - if India taught us nothing else; you always have a friend already waiting for you in the hostel / bar / town you want to go to. Eliminates so much hard-sell.

And so, to cut a long story short we ended up almost buying plane tickets to Taveuni for the next morning, then deciding they were too expensive and so reverting back to our friends original suggestion of getting an overnight boat from Suva to Taveuni. Then we missed a bus to Suva. We eventually caught another bus to Suva about an hour later, arriving in the total darkness of 8PM to be told that we'd also missed the overnight boat. I had remembered one guest house's name in Suva from a glance in the Lonely Planet book in an airport shop (thus completing 365's Fiji research) and so we were dropped at Raintree Lodge, about 7 miles outside of Suva centre.

Fortunately, when we woke up in the morning, as has seemed to often be the case on this journey; everything – somehow - fell nicely into place. Raintree Lodge is a beautiful guest house; our room looked out onto a lily pond, there was a lovely swimming pool and the super-helpful staff pointed us in the direction of the best way to get the most out of Taveuni.

We were to fly the morning after and then fly directly back to Nadi on Sunday to catch our flight back to Auckland. Though the more expensive option, it turns out the boat is both long and fairly unenjoyable and since we'd only a week in Fiji we didn't really want to spend 4 days of it in transit. Plus, this meant we got to spend the day in Suva...which is no bad thing.

The town is a crazy kind of mix of traditional and modern. We caught the bus into town, a beautifully ricketty ride with perpetually-open windows and cramped seats that deposited us into a dusty bus stand. Food stalls, drink vendors ( cold juicy) and people everywhere – so far, so familiar from Asia BUT turn the corner and a huge silver building plays host to flashy coffee shops, designer clothing outlets and Liquid nightclub.

Predominantly a harbour town, the views out to sea are just incredible. Take a wander through town and some fairly tired-looking gardens and you'll reach the Fiji Museum [canoe above, clock tower, left]; a wonderful way to catch up on the history of the country that we now found ourselves so unprepared and standing in. Thanks to the large Indian population, we even managed to find ourselves a delicious Thali lunch. Yes, it had been a bit of a stressful start but I could tell we were going to love it here in Fiji.

Moral of the story here? A one-week holiday cannot be treated the same as the kind of lengthy and relaxed jaunts around countries that have become our habit these past 11 months...some planning is advisable.

Or is it? What is the least prepared you have ever started a trip? And did it make or break your trip?


  1. Great blog, great photos - love the flowers and the beach ones. The kids seem adorable!! When I saw the waterfall I went 'oh no, not another waterfall' then 'ok just swimming that's ok' then The last 4's different - suppose you knew it was safe before you started! I know it as there and you just had too....
    We're counting down, not long now before Alex is back, then Sarah's Bday, Alex's b-day and then you two are back then Easter!!- wow what a month! enjoy seeing Natalie - give her my love, do hope she's ok....

  2. Trish says

    To answer the question about whether its good to be unprepared? If it works out as it has for you in Fiji, then great. But if it doesn't work out it probably feels twice as bad? Can't wait to see you both - everyone I see these days seems to be saying 'When are they back?' VERY SOON, I say! xxxxxx

  3. Most unprepared ever for a trip for me was my trip to Prague back in 2007. Flew into Prague with a co-worker, no plans, no hotel...wandered into town, we found an amazing hotel for a steal of a price, right near the Charles Bridge, and had an amazing couple of days there. Had a few other spur of the moment trips while living in Europe, but for all of the others, I at least had a hotel booked before heading to the city (though sometimes booked just that morning before starting the drive, so still enough time to change destinations if needed.)

  4. mum - you've got ahead of even us! there's a new post up about the waterfall (and how safe it was...sort of) now!

    trish - i think you're right, when it's good it's good but when we were trying to figure it out at nadi airport i was like 'why do we always do it like this?!' and then it was fine...which is maybe my answer...and yes! home so soon now! :)

    brett - i don't think it's possible to have a bad time in Prague, it's one of my favourite european cities...having a room booked is probably good advice, there's a lesson for me to learn in here somewhere...