Well, it was definitely worth the 30 hour trip from San Francisco, which went off without a hitch. We were 7 hours early for our flight when we arrived at LA Airport, but the later bus would have left no margin for error so sitting in the airport for 3 hours before check in opened was the lesser of two evils when considering sitting there indefinitely looking for a replacement flight! We were almost first in line for check in so got rid of our heavy bags and got through security in time to enjoy our last drinks in an American bar. The Fijian airways plane took off on time meaning we had left the country as scheduled and just inside the 90 day limit allowed through the visa waiver system. I had a very comfortable 12 hour flight, enjoying two meals and getting about 6 hours sleep while we crossed the international dateline, having only seen about 4 hours of Wednesday, it was now Thursday the 13th of April giving new meaning to the 4 day week that many of you back home will have enjoyed! Suzanne’s flight wasn’t so comfortable; they called for a doctor over the tannoy about 4 hours in (someone had fainted in the loo) although she wasn’t the only responder and the patient didn’t really need any medical attention the shot of adrenaline that undoubtedly comes with being called on to abide by your hippocratic oath at 40,000 feet meant that she wasn’t going to sleep for the next few hours! We landed slightly behind schedule but still before 7 am local time and we were at our accommodation right on the beach by 8 am where it was already pushing 30 degrees Celsius and my skin was already going pink. We were looking forward to a relaxing 3 days safe in the knowledge we had the next stamp in our passport.
Given the red eye flight we didn’t venture too far from our hostel once we checked in. And there wasn’t much need to anyway: the hostel had its own pool, beach, coffee shop, bar, restaurant and travel agent and our room had air con. Given you could stay at this place for as little as $8 USD a night (if you were prepared to share a dorm with 23 others) you could probably stay there for a very long time! Having spoken to the travel agent we booked a day trip to a small island half an hour by boat from Nadi for the following day as everyone we’d spoken to had said to leave the main island if possible during our short stay. Having everything sorted for a fun few days Suzanne went to sunbath and snooze on the beach while I played in the pool and on the hammocks not feeling quite as tired after my sleep on the flight.
We were picked up from our hotel at 7 am the next morning and driven to the harbour where our boat was waiting. Our chosen island, South Sea Island, was the first stop for the catamaran that sails up and down Fiji’s islands every day, captain of that ship has an alright job doesn’t he! The island looked tiny as we approached it, might as well have been drawn by an artist with its white sand boarder and central palm trees. We were treated with singing and dancing from the staff and briefed about the day ahead: beer and wine all day and lunch included with the price as well as access to water sport activities and a semi-subversive boat.
We started off with a snorkel around their coral reef, watching the instructors feed fish and look for startfish and sea slugs for us to handle. After returning to shore we enjoyed the rest of the morning relaxing looking back over the sea to the main island and soaking up some sun. After a lovely barbecue lunch we took out some paddle boards to try our hand. All you have to do is stand up and paddle, can’t be that hard can it? Turns out quite tricky, especially after the bar has been serving you free drinks all morning! The wind had picked up a little so the water was a bit choppy which made the boards even more wobbly. We kind of got the hang of it after a while and were able to do half a lap of the island before heading black for a well deserved drink.
The wind that had made our boards less stable also began to bring in a few clouds, the latter part of the afternoon became quite overcast but it didn’t reduce the temperature and we were still able to lie on the island and enjoy the heat. We also took the opportunity to ride their submerged boat which took us back to the reef to view some more marine life before the day was up and we got back on the catamaran that was now returning from far flung islands towards Nadi and then into a coach back to our hostel where they’d actually had some heavy rain, localised showers that meant we had stayed dry just a mile or two away.
Our last full day on Fiji was definitely the hottest, we had no plans and so just decided to take advantage of a nice day between the pool and the sea. We started with a run along the beach followed by a dip in the sea. Anywhere else in the world a dip in the sea might be seen as an opportunity to ice some muscles, but the shallow water is so warm in Fiji that it barely even cools you down. With the sun beating down on us all day we both were starting to feel the burn by this point and so had to spend lots of time in the water and in the shade until the bars happy hour rolled around and we could resort to cocktails to keep us refreshed! For our last meal we both decided to go for fish as it’s, for obvious reasons, supposed to be good. I chose from the specials menu while Suzanne had what was described as a local delicacy from the standard menu. When they were served I was disappointed to be eating bits of cold fish while Suzanne raved about how nice hers was. When someone pointed out we were actually eating each other’s choices it was clear why she was enjoying hers so much: I’d made the better choice, I just wasn’t able to identify what I had ordered!
After 3 day on our island stop over between The USA and New Zealand we were back at Nadi Airport bright and early to catch our flight. The short flight meant we were in Auckland by midday. Without a doubt the greatest immigration and customs checks I have ever been through, not that is saying much given how terrible most are (particularly at home but also the two USA experiences we had), no queues and friendly staff making jokes when a the two of us with a combined 10 years of university education between us couldn’t work the electronic passport machine and failed to read that we had been offered a visa thinking it was asking us if we already had one! Despite our efforts to slow it down we were granted the next stamp in the passport in no time and my hiking boots even got a nice scrub by biological control! Next stop was to pick up our camper van which will be our home for the next month as we tour New Zealand. We were quickly handed the keys and we headed north towards some campsites. We’d shortlisted a few in an area about an hour north and were heading toward the first on on the list Auckland Naturlist site when Suzanne asked if naturalist meant nudist. I thought it was some one who liked the outdoor, predominantly with their clothes on, but when we googled a bit more looking for an address the sites logo we came across had the outline of a family of starkers campers. Realising Suzanne’s instinct was correct and deciding it was a little chilly for naturalism (would have been perfectly reasonable in Fiji!) we headed to number two on the list. We arrived to find everyone amply clothed and were given a spot to park our camper for the night. Getting everything sorted we cooked dinner and headed to bed for our first of 30 nights exploring New Zealand by campervan!