Rest Stop in Fiji

One of the benefits of having been delayed 15 hours in Los Angeles was that our flight happened in the daytime, and we were able to get a proper night’s rest beforehand. But this meant arriving around 8pm, followed by a three-hour drive at night after our eleven-hour

We spent three days at the Pearl South Pacific Resort in Pacific Harbour on the south coast of the main island of Fiji relaxing with our Fijian friend Siral. Much of the time was spent geeking out — we handed him down an iPhone, and bought him an HP netbook. We drove to Suva to get a wireless modem for the netbook (people in Fiji don’t generally have wired broadband connections to their house). We also visited the Immigration Office to check progress on Siral’s passport: they are expecting a shipment of 40,000 blank passport books “next month”, though it has been “next month” for more than a year now. How does a country get so out of control of its own passports? They must be in arrears to some printing company.

We decided to drive back to Nadi through the mountains instead of along the coast, on a road clearly shown on the tourist map. Like many such adventures, the road shown merely in white on the map, instead of yellow, started out being a perfectly nice paved road. The one we turned onto was a “good gravel road”, which was supposed to go through the village of Nabukaluka. We saw the road up ahead failing to cross a river, and started seriously doubting the map. People we asked had different opinions on whether the roads on the map existed; we tried another road and it quickly became too challenging for our little Toyota Vitz. We had to turn around and drive back to Suva, and then back to Pacific Harbour on the coast road. It was such a disappointing experience that I had fast food and drank Coca-Cola for the first time in several years on the way back.

The hotel tourist office suggested many possible activites, including jetskiing, tag lining, and skydiving. When I expressed interest in something less extreme, like walking along the beach, I was warned of the dangers — some stray dogs hang out around the beach and I could be bitten. My walk turned out just fine, but some big blue jellyfish washed up on the shore probably indicated why no one was swimming in the ocean. They also had several kayaks one could borrow and paddle up the river in; the first one Ray tried had a crack in it which made it immediately fill up with water and sink. We found a couple ones which were intact and had a short but very peaceful paddle on the river which runs through the upscale housing development there.

We returned to Nadi, had another delicious Indian meal cooked by Siral’s mother (and a kava ceremony — more kava than ceremony; they are Indian and not Fijian — with his father and brothers), and headed to the airport to fly to Darwin via Brisbane, two four-hour flights on 737s. The second flight had individual seat-back displays of 24 channels yet nothing on. Even the map channel was three-fourths advertisements. Virgin Australia.

We were lucky to get on. Without my knowing it, Australia started requiring pre-issued visas about five years ago. The guys at the Virgin Australia desk checkin desk put on frowny faces and typed furiously into their bad airplane user interfaces and issued us boarding passes. It seems they had got us visas on line. So far as I know, no money changed hands.