Thursday, November 01, 2012

Epic Fiji holiday blog post

We are back from Fiji!

We had a lovely, relaxing time, been home for over a week and a half now and I’ve been trying to get this blog post done but I've been struggling to find the time to finish it! So I’ve been chipping away at it, piece by piece, until, well – here we are.

Let me start by saying, I’m never ever, EVER taking a red-eye flight again. I mean seriously, I’ve had two babies, I KNOW what its like to be sleep deprived, but we discovered that we are way too old to be staying awake for two days straight. And drinking copious amounts of alcohol on top of that? Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.

So while our human-babies, and our fur-babies were being well looked after back home (awesome house-sitter looked after the furry ones, awesome in-laws looked after the human ones), we clamboured aboard the plane at midnight and then arrived at Nadi International Airport, Fiji, 3 hours later, sans sleep. Local time, 5am.

And then began the endless day of WAITING. 2 hour wait at Nadi airport for the transfer to Denarau at 7am. Nothing open, nothing to do. Transfer via coach to Denarau. (on a side note: oh the things we saw from the bus, on that 20 minute drive from Nadi to Denarau… the most memorable being a house under construction, where instead of scaffolding and steel props to hold up the roof, they were using tree branches… our eyes nearly popped out of our heads!)
Arrive at Denarau, 1.5 hour wait until the transfer boat to the Island. Once on the boat, it was 1.5 hours to Mana. Once we arrived at Mana (it was still only 10.30 in the morning!) we then had to wait 3.5 hours til our accommodation was ready. Slightly exhaustipated. Slightly giddy with fatigue. Slightly sick and tired of waiting. Never, never, never doing the red-eye flight again.

Did I mention I’m never doing a red-eye flight again? o_O

When we finally got our accommodation, we found out we’d been upgraded. Originally we had booked in to a Deluxe Ocean View Bure (a stand-alone, thatched hut thingy). So an upgrade to an Ocean Front Suite on the other side of the island was not unwelcome. A two storey suite, much more room to spread out, two bathrooms, big lounge area etc. Nice.

Exterior of the Ocean Front Suites on South Beach

View from the middle landing, into lounge/dining area

The upstairs balcony.  Lots of alcohol was consumed here!

But then we made the rookie mistake of cracking open our duty free booze and having our first holiday beverage on the balcony… and then when some of our friends began arriving (for the wedding on the Friday), we started on cocktails at dinner… and then more duty free grog back in their room after dinner… oh what a night! Hubby was pretty plastered, but at least I had the good sense to slow down once I started feeling smashed!

Hubby on the other hand, did not feel too well the next day. In fact, he laid off alcohol completely until the wedding on Friday.

We spent the next few days on the kayaks, cruising over the coral reefs, going for massive walks along the beach and into the rainforest areas (I think they said that Mana is 300 acres, but you can walk around it in half a day), snorkeling in the beautiful aqua ocean, reading on the beach, glass bottom boat trip, meeting our friends for happy hour bingo and more cocktails… not to mention the resort entertainment – kava ceremony, Meke show, crab racing, bonfire night, bands playing in the lounge bar…

Lots of palm trees, as you'd expect

This was the view from our room.  The beach is just beyond the trees.

And the water was as aqua as expected.  The brown patches in the water, close to shore, are seaweed.  The coral wasn't too much further out though.

You can see the drop off here.  We did all our snorkeling out there off South Beach.

Rock pools

During our massive walk around Mana, heading towards Sunset Beach

Having a rest during our walk

This was outside the wedding chapel, just a stunning view over Sunset Beach.  Note the height of the railings though!  There is a 5 foot drop to rocks below, I dont think that foot-high railing is going to do much!

En Route to the Tuilawa lookout.

Tuilawa lookout, with round tree branches for floor boards!

Ahhh, but the view was so worth it!

Meke Show

Heading out on the glass bottomed boat


Glass bottomed boat trip

Fish and coral from the glass bottomed boat.  Pretty much what we saw while snorkeling too


On Friday the 19th, we witnessed some of our dearest friends finally tie the knot, in a beautiful ceremony, in a little chapel on Sunset Beach. The choir sang – their voices echoing and harmonising in their traditional Fijian songs, and everyone had goosebumps. Not a dry eye in the house. Very special, and very happy that we were there to be a part of their big day.

Before heading out to the wedding chapel

Our awesome friends, on their beautiful day

Some observations:
The locals are so friendly. Everywhere you went, you heard “Bula!!” (Hello!). From the gardeners and maintenance men raking up leaves, the cleaning ladies, the kids club staff, even the man driving the rubbish truck – they all waved and called out “Bula!” whenever they saw you. I don’t think you’d get that in Australia. After a day of it, we all started saying it to each other – the more drinks you had, the more “BULAAAAAAAAHHHH!” it became. Even now, back home for almost two weeks, we’re still saying it. We’ve even taught Skye to say it.
And continuing with the "friendly" theme - where ever you arrive, you get a welcoming performance - Fijian men, resplendent in Hawaiian-style shirts, strumming on guitars and singing in harmony to welcome you.  Awesome.

You have to get used to “Fiji time”. Nothing happens in a hurry. You order a drink and you MIGHT get it within half an hour. You might have to ask again. One morning I asked for a coffee three times before it finally arrived, and by then I was finished breakfast. At the a la carte restaurant it took over 1.5 hours for the meal to arrive. When we questioned how much longer it would be, a waiter cheekily asked “why, are you in a hurry?”. The reply: “No – we’re just hungry”. So we ate in the buffet most days.  We were all pretty cruisey about it, and mostly just laughed about it.
The sand – its not like the sand in Queensland. We’ve come to the conclusion that we are pretty spoiled for beaches in Australia. Our sand is really super fine, nice to walk on, and easily rinses off or falls off after a bit of walking. The sand in Fiji is really coarse, the grains are much bigger – its coral sand I guess. That shit sticks to you and WILL NOT COME OFF, unless you use vigorous force!
Hamming it up on the beach...

The sun in Fiji is FIERCE. Stepping outside in the sun, you can instantly feel the rays biting into your skin. You pretty much need to reapply 30+ sunscreen every hour, to avoid being burned. Most of us discovered this the hard way.  On the first day I only reapplied it every couple of hours, and ended up with a very red back.
Sun begins to set over Sunset Beach...

By the 3rd day we were really missing the kids, even more so when we found out that Koby had developed an ear infection and was on antibiotics. We started spending a large amount of time reminiscing over photos and videos of them on our phones, and getting misty-eyed and slightly homesick. So we were more than ready to come back home to our little ones. Yes, its nice to go away, but its even nicer to come home.
And hows this for arsey: from the time the plane landed back in Brisbane, to walking out of the airport front doors, it took 35 minutes. And yes, we declared everything we’d brought in. Home in record time to a weeks worth of cuddles in one night. Koby broke my heart a little when he didn’t quite know who I was at first, but I think he’s finally remembered his mama!

Theres no place like home.


Magda said...

Great read. Thanks Hilary. And what was that .... "you'd do the red eye again because ....."


Pip said...

Wow Hilary! Great post and photos!!! I visited Fiji for a week in 2004 and can relate to everything you are saying! Yes the locals are friendly, - and yes, I managed to get my only two marriage proposals ever by two local random Fijian men within 2 mins of speaking/meeting both of them, (had to excuse myself to check on some mates or a loo visit)! I agree, things don't happen in a hurry either! I love your photos, you captured it all very nicely! I look forward to doing my Thailand blog post!, - I arrive back tomoz!