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Pacific Adventure - Part I - Fiji

by Sue Ramsey

The original plan had been that we undertake this trip after we sold our property, which would have allowed us to stay “Down Under” for some two to three months.

However, since the sale was obviously not going to materialize any time soon, and potential health issues could possibly prevent us from any kind of long distance travel in the not so distant future, balancing between all the issues and not going at all – we opted for a shortened stay - now.

We booked our flight with Air New Zealand – mainly because they allowed the most flexibility in the stops that we wanted to make along the way. Since Air NZ flies out of LAX, the North American legs of our trip were with Air Canada.

Departing on a comfortable mid-morning from Toronto, March 16, we arrived mid-afternoon in Los Angeles, where we stayed overnight, taking the opportunity to visit with family who live on the desert side of Los Angeles, and rest up for the following day’s exhausting trip.

Though we left the hotel as late as possible on the morning of the 17th, passage through customs and security did provide quite some “entertainment,” what with searching through bags, removal of shoes, jackets, belts, etc., the subsequent wait for our departure time of 2100 hrs made for a very long day. Followed by an even longer night of 11 and a half hours of uncomfortable flying time, to arrive in Fiji at 4:15 a.m. in their still dark morning, March 19, having “lost” the 18th somewhere over the Date Line!

We were greeted at the airport by somewhat less formal security and beautiful music provided by a group of three very talented Fijian musicians. Our hotel’s transportation was there to greet us, and we found the muggy heat most agreeable as we made our way to our accommodations at the Club Fiji Resort.

We checked in and went immediately to bed, for some quite essential R and R!

Having never been to Fiji, it was interesting to note the open friendliness and incredible generosity of the Fijians, though a generally “have-not” population, beware what you admire, for it will likely be given to you outright, no argument accepted!

Our thatch roofed “Bure,” though not air conditioned (our choice), cooled only by fans, was comfortable with every amenity. Rising very late, we were treated to the chatter of birds, a view out over the ocean from our own balcony, superb weather and a great breakfast consisting of all local produce which included an array of marvellous fresh fruits.

Rich in historic background, Fiji is now a Republic that gained its independence from Britain in 1987, English remains the official language, though Fijian and Hindustani are widely spoken.

Fiji consists of some 320 islands, Viti Levu being the largest and has the only two International Airports on it, namely Nadi and Suva. Getting from one island to another is easy with excellent domestic airlines, helicopters and boat services, and there is a wide selection of public transportation options available on the main islands, including car rentals.

We met up with some other guests of the Resort and proceeded into the town of Nadi where we spent the morning browsing before going on to Nadi Airport for our pre-booked helicopter ride around the islands.

A three-rotor, six-place machine, we sat in front beside our pilot as we took off from Nadi Airport. We flew to a Resort on Viti Levu where we landed at the edge of the Resort’s golf course to pick up another party of three. From there, we headed out over the ocean on a tour of a few of the outlying islands.

Flying low, we could admire the clarity of the water over the coral reefs of the Mamanuca’s, the isolated cays and palm fringed white sandy beaches of a few of the more popular island resorts outlying Viti Levu, to name but a few of the rather more well known islands: Castaway, Honeymoon, Beachcomber and Treasure Islands.

Returning to the mainland, our tour took us into the interior Highlands of Viti Levu, through and over the rugged Mt. Evans ranges and their multiple waterfalls.

Returning to the Nadi Airport, this all too brief overview of a small part of Fiji served its purpose; to let us know whether we would want to return for any further visits or not. The answer being a resounding “affirmative!”

The following day, at a fashionable 11 a.m., we departed Fiji as we had arrived, in one of Air New Zealand’s 767-300 for the two and a half hour flight to Auckland. There, we changed aircraft to an A320 Airbus for the four hour and 45 minute hop to the next leg of our adventure slated to begin in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia!

Web resources:

Fiji Tourism: www.BulaFiji.com

Fiji Island Hoppers: www.helicopters.com.fj