We had already booked an early transfer for the next day by bus to Suva, which would pick us up from our hotel and take us to our next hotel, the Novotel Suva at Lami Bay... Seriously look it up (posh backpackers!!). Our short journey took us only four hours with a short stop at a handicraft shop, where we did the only polite thing and bought some peanut butter Oreo cookies, amazing. We had hoped to see more of the coastline as we travelled across the country but only caught a few glimpses. The predominant landscape was beautiful green trees stretching off into the distance with small wooden homes jutting up now and again amidst palm trees and small fruit farms. It was really beautiful and but for the lack of sheep you would have said it was the forgotten world highway in NZ.
Our bus continued along the coast stopping at ridiculously posh hotels that we were sure were leagues nicer than our modest cheap little Novotel at Lami Bay. We couldn't have been more wrong. We picked the Novotel as it had been somewhere that my dad visited while he was living in Suva as a young un. The hotel had changed significantly and whilst by most standards it was probably a fairly typical hotel, compared to what we were used to it was a palace fit for a king. The view was pretty amazing as well... A pool, lounge and restaurant area all sat on a wooden deck that jutted out into the bay with a view over three nearby islands and the sea beyond, just a few large sailing boats between the two... a view that dad had showed us from the photos he had of his time here. It was really lovely and left us with no choice again but for relaxation!! Once we had settled on a room that we were happy with, the view was not as good from the first and it was the view we wanted, we settled in with dinner and watched the NZ v Aus game before going back to the room and our own plasma screen! We could definitely get used to this life... Although we probably shouldn't!
Fresh from our very strenuous day yesterday we took the hotel's free shuttle into Suva town this morning, in search of Dad's old haunts and retracing his steps for some good photos. Suva was not at all what I had expected from the google photos I had seen before I came out, far from being undeveloped it was a capital city the same as any other... Large office blocks, big air conditioned shopping malls, traffic lights and traffic. It was nice to be walking around though and feeling more active than just sitting by the pool, even if it was roasting hot.
We had a walk along the water front, found my dad's old house, a park where he had played rugby (to a packed crowd), gazed at views that he would have looked at and walked down streets that he would have walked down... Taking hundreds of photos to take back for him. It gave me an immense feeling of pride to be there where my dad had been, I love my dad dearly and it was really nice to feel so close for the day. The main point of our trip to Fiji was to come here and follow dad's footsteps so to know that we have seen these places and that the photos have brought back some great memories for him makes it all worth it!
With the sub being typically roasting we couldn't stand the sun for long and after a quick respite in the air-conned shopping centre we caught the first bus back to the hotel for some swimming, some eating, some chilling and some sleeping. Excellent day!
As a believer in karma, having watched so many episodes of 'my name is earl', it comes as no surprise that when you are having an amazing time sooner or later you are going to get I'll and it's going to be rubbish! Rache had it and is still getting over her cough and today I was hit by what I can only describe as the headache from hell. It felt like the hangover I mustered after my 20th birthday only I felt a bit cheated that this time I hadn't had the night out that went with it. Maybe it was sun stroke, maybe it was the food from the night before but whatever it was it was rubbish!! The day spent in our darkened bedroom therefore was an uninspiring mix of sleep, water and re-runs of america's next top model and Hell's Kitchen US. At least the weather had the good decency to pour with rain all day otherwise it would have been really depressing!
Unable to get on the bus we wanted early this morning, it was full, we booked onto a later coral sun bus for that afternoon. Although we had to check out of the room we chilled by the pool all morning, eating our home-made cheese sandwiches and drying our dirty washing in the sun. Still not feeling 100% but feeling much better it was nice to just relax and sleep it off in the shade.
When our bus did arrive, early, an parked down the road we were told that we really should hurry as the bus wouldn't wait for us... Erm, excuse me? Ignoring the rude hotel staff we took our time getting onto the bus... Making sure it left when it should (and not early). It was nicely air-conned but did sound like the bottom could drop off at any second as it scraped uncomfortably over every speed bump and pot hole we went through and over (seriously who decided to put speed bumps on a road that has a 50kph speed limit and so many pot holes that you could do 50 even if you wanted to, looking at most of the cars on the road I would have said 40kph was a mechanical impossibility anyway!). The four hour journey only delayed the inevitable and as we arrived back in Nadi we were told by our helpful steward that due to 'mechanical difficulties' we would need to swap buses for the final leg to our hotel (predictable), I didn't have the heart to ask if it was because the bottom of the bus was about to fall off. So on arrival in Nadi town we all piled off the bus and waited for a new chariot to carry us back to the Nadi Bay hotel where as we had stayed before the lady on reception greeted us and sent us straight to our room.
With a few days left in Fiji before we flew off to S. America we used today mostly to plan for the next couple of days ad book things to keep us busy before we headed on.
With things booked we headed to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, just outside Nadi town, for a good walk around rainforest type gardens and bucket loads of orchids. It was really pretty and somewhere that I know my mum would love! We even got an ice cold fruit juice at the end for free... Sweet!
Taking what will probably be the last opportunity I will get for a while to do some diving, while Rache chilled at the hotel, I headed out for a couple of reef dives from a very plush hotel in Port Denerau. Picking up all the gear we loaded the boat and I set up my own gear, with a little help from the instructor, before we headed off. The speedboat we were on was only small and although it was a warm day there was a large swell making the journey quite tricky. Every wave crashed over the side making sure that we were all suitably soaked to the skin before we had even got in the water. The sight of the captain wearing a mask at the wheel so he could see where he was going was quite amusing.
Eventually we arrived at our dive sites, diving first 'coral garden' and then 'fish market', both 20m dives of around 40-45mins with a surface interval of around 25mins. The coral was beautiful on both and filled the ocean with a wide range of colours, all of it covered with tiny tropical fish, plenty of nemos and various hundreds of other species of fish that I will have to look up. Although we had snorkelled several times on the reef before this was like snorkelling on acid, everything was bigger and there was just more of it. Highlights of both dives a white tip reef shark, seemingly fast asleep on the sand at around 20m and 4 turtles, both hawksbill and green turtles. I even had a minute or so with the green turtle swimming around and underneath me... Amazing.
The journey back to mainland was no less exciting and huddled on the floor of the boat I got no drier out of the water than I had been in it. Thoroughly shattered I headed back to the hotel to tell Rache what I had seen and we chilled together, she kicking my ass at pool and darts before we chilled eating dinner and watching Wales lose again to Australia at the rugby.
Our final full day in Fiji and having been saying for weeks and weeks how we wanted to go on a boat with real sails we booked ourselves onto a Captain Cook Cruise day to 'mystery island'. Essentially a 1.5 hour ride to the island where you could do all manner of things for free and food, drink etc... Included. Picked up from our hotel we were invited to board the boat by a Fijian dressed as Captain Cooke, having shopped for some more sandals... me having lost my third pair, and having also decided that at a mere $2,000,000FJ buying our own fijian island was probably a great idea!
Our cruise was short, really a speedboat with a sail, but very pleasant. We received various briefings on the things that we could do and partook in a traditional kava ceremony, me being the honorary chief for the day. With dad's advice not to drink kava I felt pretty good having made it 2 weeks without but it seemed like a good time to break the duck and as I didn't start seeing double or flying elephants I reckon I got off pretty lightly.
On booking the cruise we knew that there was an option to do some scuba from the island but yesterday had been a cheaper and deeper option. However this was a simple half hour dive with good instruction and an opportunity to learn in shallow water and dive off the beach. As this was a rare chance for us to do it together I thought i'd ask Rache how she'd feel about it and unexpectedly before I'd even finished the question she snapped my hand off and said yes. So from not swimming in the sea four months ago to now being 'scuba Rache' as she insists on being called. We had a short briefing on the beach before swimming out to the dive site and going down... a 10m dive for 35mins. I felt bad for Rache that there wasn't more to see... the site was quite poor in reality but this was more about getting over any fears in the water and I was really proud that Rache had done it and that she'd enjoyed it as well. She is now thoroughly hooked on this very expensive hobby and hopefully this will be the first of many dives together. Highlight a blue spotted stingray... No sharks :-(
Back on the island we had an excellent BBQ lunch and a few beers to celebrate Rache's first dive before walking around the island (5 mins) a spot of line fishing off the beach (some vegetarian) and then heading back onto the boat. It was a short day but really good fun and all the better for having done some diving... Rache grinning like a Cheshire cat.
We had a nice dinner to round off our time in Fiji and reflect on the last couple of weeks. Fiji had been a really nice break even though it had taken us a while to get used to Fiji time and not doing much during the days. Despite being ill Suva had been a definite highlight. The whole point of this part of the trip for me had been to go to where my dad had been and it was quite an emotional day walking around the places that he had talked about. The islands too had been a highlight and if we were to return I would definitely spend all of my time out there rather than the mainland. Of course it had been great to dive as well and for Rache to get that first notch on her belt. It really feels like we are on the home stretch now with S. America our last port of call... A long day in the airport and a RWC final to miss yet though.