Ah, Fiji, the final stop on our trip. We arrived in Nadi, Fiji on Friday (April 6) in the evening. There was no flight to Savusavu, our final destination, that evening so we spent one night at a place near the airport. It was hot and humid, so we checked in and then went for a swim in the pool to cool off. We called it a night pretty early after dinner, because we had a 7am flight. We arrived at the airport an hour before the flight and as we were waiting to check in a Chinese dance and drum troop started entertaining in the lobby. It was a little early in the morning for the drumming and made it very difficult to hear the ticket agent. We departed on time in our little plane and about an hour later arrived in Savusavu – the landing was one of the crazier ones we’ve experienced flying close to the trees and right over roof tops. Yikes! The airport was the smallest that we have been to.
We were picked up by the manager of the place we rented and she drove us to what would be our home for the next ten days. We were not disappointed when we saw the place and knew we had found the perfect place for the last stop on our journey.
It is a self contained unit called the “The Pod House” and is completely private. As you can see it comes with it’s own plunge pool, which we took full advantage of, as well as an indoor and outdoor shower, a full kitchen, an outside day bed and all the other amenities. Once we were left on our own, Don laid down on the bed and promptly fell asleep.
We were told that everything pretty much closes down on Sunday, so we would need to shop for food, as it was Saturday. After Don woke up from his nap we took a walk into the town of Savusavu which was about 6 km (~4 miles) away on a gravel road. It took us about an hour, but we were plenty hot when we got there. We went to the open air market and got some fresh produce, after taking time to figure out what everything was and meeting some helpful stall owners. Then on to the butcher to pick up meat, the grocery store for a few essentials and finally, but most importantly, the liquor store to get wine and beer. After finishing our shopping we went to a local cafe for a late lunch and then caught a taxi home.
The next few days consisted of mainly lounging around our place. Sunday was pretty rainy so we read, ate, napped and just enjoyed ourselves. We walked into town on Monday and picked up some snorkeling gear and more food. That afternoon we were able to get out and check out the water right in front of the house. There were all kinds of interesting coral and heaps of fish – all of this was just steps away.
On Tuesday, we rented a car (actually a 4×4 truck) for two days so we could get out and see the island a bit more. We were told that the woman who cleaned our place, Kalesi, would also make a Fijian dinner for us if we were interested. So, we contacted her and arranged to meet her at the market after we picked the car up. We bought food for our dinner the next night with Kalesi at the market and then she accompanied us home. Because it was a rainy day and not good for snorkeling, we decided to drive over to Labasa – the largest town on the island – and see the sites. Kalesi said she wasn’t doing anything that day and offered to come with us as our tour guide. We headed out and boy did it start to rain. The roads are not great and with the visibility challenges the rain added it was a tough drive, but Don did a great job. When we got to a view point at the top of a hill, we pulled over to take some pics. However, when we went to start the car it would not start. Ugh! Luckily Kalesi and Stina were able to push and Don was able to get it started. We were thankful to have Kalesi with us because she pointed out that the rental company had an office in Labasa, so we could have the truck checked out while we looked around the town. If it had just been us, we probably would have headed back to Savusavu. We found the rental car place and while they put a new battery in we walked around the market. Again, everyone was super friendly and we kept losing Don as everyone wanted to stop and talk to him. The market was much bigger than the one in Savusavu and it was fun to see what all was being sold.
After getting an ice cream to cool us off, we headed back to Savusavu. The weather was starting to clear a bit and the return drive was a little nicer. We dropped Kalesi off at her house and then headed home. On Wednesday, the weather was nicer and we thought we would take a drive on the “Hibiscus Highway” to see if we could do some snorkeling in Natewa Bay, as the information booklet at our place said it was good place for that. The booklet made it sound like it was fairly easy to get to and only about a 30 minute drive away. Well, we drove quite a ways and the road got sketchier even with 4 wheel drive – the road was undergoing some major construction.
We knew where the bay was, but if we continued on the road around the head we would be driving all day. Don had seen on the map that there were some roads that cut over to the bay, but we hadn’t noticed them on the way over. We turned around and with the help our iPad GPS we were able to find the first one, but after a bumpy ride down to the water we didn’t really see any access for snorkeling. We decided to try the other road, but again after quite a long bumpy ride we still hadn’t found access to the water. We decided to give up and head back. On the way out we saw some people waiting at a bus stop near a road that went down into a small village. We asked if it would be OK for us to go down and check out the water and the woman said that they would be happy to have us as guests. We drove down a bit more and found a place to park then walked into the village (it consisted of about ten houses). We met Isaac and Ite sitting on a bench and they offered to show us around. After walking down to the water and taking a look around, we returned to the village and they invited us to share kava with them – a tradition when someone visits. We had such a good time talking, laughing and trying kava with a bunch of the villagers! Mostly we found that it just made our tongues numb, the kava that is.
What an experience, we were so glad we stopped and it ended up being better than snorkeling. If we hadn’t needed to get home for our Fijian dinner Kalesi was cooking us, we are not sure we would have made it home that night. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed home. Kalesi was already there working on dinner, but her arm was hurting a bit so she had to enlist Don’s help with the shredding of the coconut meat for her coconut cream sauce. Don got the hang of it and was doing pretty good by the end.
For dinner we had pan fried fish, fern with coconut cream sauce, taro, kasava leaves with garlic and coconut, plus plantain-like bananas for dessert. It was a real treat and one of the best dinners we had on the trip.
We returned the car on Thursday and went back to our routine of walking into town and taking a taxi home. We enjoyed our walks and were continually greeted with “bula” (hello) by everyone we met – even people we didn’t see greeted us from their homes or behind a bush. It was kind of comical as we tried to respond and find the person greeting us.
The next few days kind of run together – all that running around had made us tired so we needed some time just to relax at our place :) We took walks into town, got some snorkeling in between rain storms and just generally hung out. The rain really only impacted when we were able to snorkel, but other than that it didn’t bother us much because it was so warm and humid. We had heard that it was best to buy fish at the market on Saturday mornings and Stina had decided that she wanted to buy some lobster to put on the barbi. So, we managed to figure out who was selling what and picked up a couple of nice lobster for dinner that night from the market.
On Sunday night we decided to go out for a nice dinner at the nearby Cousteau Resort. We enjoyed the entertainment – Fijian dancers, music, and crab races – and had a nice dinner. We were able to get some snorkeling in on Monday and Tuesday before we left and were just blown away by the varieties of coral and fish that we saw – on nice days the water is amazingly clear. Since we had such good snorkeling near our place, we didn’t take advantage of any of the boat trips, but we’re sure it must be amazing along the outer reefs.
After one last time in the water and soaking up a little more sun, we headed for the airport in the late afternoon to start our long journey home to Seattle. We really enjoyed our time in Fiji. It is such a beautiful place and we only saw one island, but what made it special was the people.