And now our final #islandlife stop (for now): Fiji.
Day 65: Time travel is exhausting
We left Tahiti the night of September 21st, at 2:30am–so really, just REALLY early on September 22nd. But after only a 5 hour flight, we landed in Auckland the morning of September 23rd…despite having done it a couple of times now, time travel continues to be very confusing. Anyway.
We had a long layover in Auckland before our flight to Fiji, and because we had booked a roundtrip ticket from Auckland to Tahiti rather than a flight from Tahiti to Fiji, we had to spend half of that layover sitting around random parts of the airport (the Fiji Airways check-in counter wouldn’t open until 3 hours before the flight and we couldn’t go through security with our luggage). I don’t regret booking it this way because it was a lot cheaper, but this was damn annoying–we could have been in the lounge, napping or showering or eating comfortably and for free, but instead we had to twiddle our thumbs waiting for airline employees to show up. This policy is dumb. (Yes, I recognize that these are #firstworldproblems but I was tired and cranky 😂.)
We eventually checked in and made it to the lounge, where I was eager to take a shower and sit in a comfortable chair for a bit. No time for napping sadly, but at least the flight to Fiji was short (~3 hours). We flew on Fiji Airways, a bit tight with a 3-3 seating arrangement, but it’s tolerable for 3 hours. Food was a bit sad but I’ve learned to not expect much from airplane food.
After landing and going through immigration and customs, it was finally time to jump in our car and drive to our Airbnb. The typical thing to do in Fiji is to go off the main island and stay on one of the smaller islands with resorts, but we’d already done so much hopping that we just wanted an easy place to get to and stay at for a week–sleeping in the same bed for a week is now a luxury! We decided to stay in the Pacific Harbour area of the main island (which in retrospect I probably wouldn’t pick again), so we had a loooong drive ahead of us (2.5 hours), and in the dark. It was my turn to drive (as Ben had driven in Tahiti), and we were back to left-side-of-the-road driving, but by now I’m a pro. It was a slightly stressful drive, if only because it’s pitch black (barely any street lights along the way) and people are walking along the side of the road in dark clothing but we made it just fine, and without killing anyone along the way. Couldn’t tell you a thing about what the island looked like at this point–maybe it was hideous!–as it had been too dark to notice much beyond some houses on the side of the street along the way, but we’d see it again in the daylight soon enough.
Our Airbnb was unfortunately a bit of a tragedy. Again. This time we were renting a room with a private bathroom in a larger house, and there was a second bedroom with a bathroom being Airbnb’d as well. The reviews were great, pictures looked good, they even had a pool, so I had no problem booking this a while back. Well, it became clear that the pictures are a bit old and that the reviews were probably good because the hosts are really nice–and so people probably felt bad being honest. The honest truth is that the house was sort of falling apart, the bed was terrible, and they had a serious bug problem. Mostly an ant problem–like, there must be a massive infestation in the woodwork and it may all come crashing down one of these days–but also other bugs. I get that bugs are part of #islandlife, but there shouldn’t be massive spider webs and big spiders in my newly ‘cleaned’ bathroom. We started with 3 of them in the bathroom and by the time we left, they had multiplied somehow. It was tragic enough that we cancelled the last 3 nights when we found a good deal at a nice hotel elsewhere on the island–but we did tolerate it for 4 nights, if only to stay on our budget. Ugh.
Day 66: Thank goodness for the kittens
We hadn’t done much (read: any) pre-planning for Fiji, so we used our first day to research the islands a bit and determine how best to spend our few days there. It wasn’t the most comfortable of situations since hanging out in our bedroom wasn’t ideal given it had the worst bed in the world (plus the bugs) and the living room sofas were sort of a hot mess too. They also didn’t have wifi, so using our spotty service was unideal for research, but we made do. Something else that helped? The hosts had two new kittens–maybe 4-5 months old–who were SO cute and fun company to distract me from the bug trauma indoors (they were outdoor cats).
We grabbed lunch at The Water’s Edge Bar & Grill, a well-reviewed restaurant in a little shopping area in Pacific Harbour. No pictures of the food, but it was yummy enough. That said, here’s the ‘water edge’ it’s on (needless to say, it was a slightly crappy weather day):
There was a small grocery store nearby, so we stopped there to grab a couple of snacks and some beer to have for dinner that night. I am sad to report that Fijian Doritos appear to be imported from Australia/New Zealand, and thus are not the same as American Doritos…a tragedy. Fortunately, the local beer was pretty decent.
Day 67: Everyone loves UNO
Despite mediocre reviews from the other Airbnb guests and the hosts themselves, we decided to check out Suva, the capital of Fiji. It was about an hour’s drive from Pacific Harbour, so the plan was to drive towards that end of the island, exploring Kings Road along the way, and make our way to Suva around lunchtime. Kings Road didn’t turn out to be as exciting as we had hoped, since it’s not fully sealed and we had to turn around halfway through (our dinky car couldn’t handle an unsealed road for longer than a couple of kilometers)–but we did find a cute little river and waterfall along the way:
As we drove into Suva, we couldn’t really see the defects that the other Airbnbers had found…they had made it sound like it would be a crazy busy city, crowded and dirty. Honestly, it didn’t seem that different from any other city I’ve seen–yes, sure, a bit dirtier simply because it’s dustier, but nothing crazy. We had lunch at Tiko’s Seafood Restaurant, a restaurant that was advertised on Google as being a Chinese food place but turned out to be quite different–in retrospect, it must have been a Chinese restaurant before and then bought/rebranded as a seafood place…but Google wasn’t up-to-date quite yet. This did mean that my lunch was a bit disappointing (non-seafood items are always a little sad at seafood restaurants) but Ben enjoyed his fish. I treated myself to a soft-serve cone from McDonald’s afterwards to dull the sting of a sub-par lunch. There’s nothing some soft serve can’t fix.
By late afternoon, we made our way back to Pacific Harbour, once again grabbing beer and snacks from the grocery store for dinner. Our day ended with a few friendly rounds of UNO with our fellow Airbnbers–btw, they were a Belgian/Irish couple who are both scuba diving instructors and looking for new work potentially in Fiji…talk about #islandlife!
Day 68: Kava is pretty gross
For our last day in the Pacific Harbour area, we went on a boat excursion to Yanuca (pronounced Yanutha) Island with Pacific Harbour Excursions. It was an hour boat ride to the island and totally worth it once we got there:
They had a few things planned for us while we were there, including some coconut demonstrations, a Kava ceremony, and a big lunch. I quickly learned that I prefer fresh/young coconuts to fully ripe ones and that machetes are not a toy. Also, kava is gross. For those who don’t know what kava is (don’t worry, I had no clue before Fiji), it’s a plant native to the Pacific islands whose roots are ground up and mixed with water to create a ‘drink’ that functions as a sedative of sorts. The drink looks like dirty, muddy water and tastes just as bad. It made my mouth a little numb but I didn’t drink enough for any more significant effects–I don’t know how anyone does!
After our little island trip, we headed back to our Airbnb for a shower before our final dinner in Pacific Harbour, this time at The Establishment. It was Taco Tuesday, which also meant we could order a bucket of Coronas–which we obviously did. Ben actually got the tacos but I was too skeptical to bother–I got a Caesar salad (at the recommendation of a friend who said she loved them when she honeymooned in NZ and Fiji) and fries (to even out all of the vegetables). Ben enjoyed his tacos and I actually ate all of my salad, which never happens–the fries were tragically the only thing that was subpar. But, we had some space for dessert after and that made up for the sad fries–I had some sort of banana crêpe thing that I would easily eat every day.
Day 69: Onto a new hotel, hallelujah!
We fortunately found a decent deal for a nicer hotel closer Nadi, a major city on the island and where our departure flight would be leaving from in a few days, so we happily left our tragic Airbnb. It was going to be a 3 hour drive, so we planned some fun along the way. Ben really wanted to go to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park for a short hike, so that was our first stop. I had grand plans to join him but panicked and chickened out as soon as we got there–it felt like it was a million degrees and I just flashed back to our trek through the dunes of Green Sand Beach that nearly killed me. No thanks. I happily waited in the AC’d car while reading my book. He said it was a tough hike, as the sand was very soft so he kept sinking, but he loved it and to be fair, he did catch some lovely views:
Afterwards, we made our way to Natadola Beach, which is considered to be one of Fiji’s best beaches and probably the best beach on the main island. I was a tiny bit disappointed because the sand was a bit dirty, but that’s because they offer horse rides on the beach and the horses obviously can’t control where they poop 💩 The water was nice though and it was refreshing to take a dip. One warning about this beach: you will be nagged to death by locals trying to sell you something. There are several little shacks set up along the beach offering massages, horse rides, and probably some knick knacks. It’s impossible to avoid them and they will nag you to get a massage or ride a horse. I ended up succumbing and getting a 15 minute massage (the Airbnb bed had murdered my back anyway) since one lady had let me use her little shack to change into and out of my bathing suit–FJD$20 well spent.
We then went to the Intercontinental Resort for some lunch, plus it would offer a good opportunity to scout out one of the fanciest hotels on the island. Honest opinion? The hotel looked quite nice (fantastic infinity pool and nice, spacious grounds) BUT it was actually a bit too touristy (if that makes any sense) and the food was subpar, especially given the price. Ben’s poke bowl looked good, but my club sandwich was dry and had the saddest bacon ever, plus the fries were sort of soggy and eh. After my fantastic club sandwiches (note, plural sandwiches, that’s how much I loved them 😂) in Bora Bora, I was highly disappointed. Drinks were good but very pricey. Glad we didn’t shell out the big bucks for a room there.
We finally made our way to our new hotel, the Fiji Orchid. This is a really nice boutique resort with upscale bures, basically like really fancy glamping. Since they only have 6 bures, the hotel has a really intimate feel and the staff take the time to get to know you a bit. I’d fully recommend!
Our dinner that night was spectacular:
Day 70: Feeling just like Tom Hanks
We had another island excursion on the books for today, this time a cruise around the Mamanuca Islands. The tour included 1) a stop at the main island from the Cast Away movie (Modriki Island, pronounced Mondriki, also known as Monuriki…don’t ask) for a little snorkeling, 2) a delicious lunch on the boat, and 3) a stop at another Fijian island to visit a village and partake in another kava ceremony. The kava was less icky this time, I think because it was weaker…thank goodness.
We had a great time but were happy to head back to the hotel by the end of the day. Dinner that night was accompanied by some entertainment of the animal variety…one of the hotel cats had a bit of a stand off with a lizard. The cat won.
Day 71: A day on Cloud 9, literally.
For our last day in Fiji, we ventured out to a tourist classic: Cloud 9. This place is a bar/lounge built literally in the middle of the ocean, and on a day with good weather, it really is Cloud 9. We got lucky–it was sunny, not too windy, and we managed to snag a day bed in the shade with chairs in the sun right next to us…perfect. There were a handful of way-too-fratty people there, but they mostly stayed downstairs (we were on the second level), and so we had a lovely and relaxing time. They have a platform for jumping off the second level and needless to say, I did not use it–but Ben did. It was the perfect way to end our time in Fiji.
On the way back to our hotel, I went through the Mickey D’s drive thru for an obligatory taste test snack (the soft serve from Suva doesn’t count, I need to taste the chicken nuggets and fries for proper assessment, obvi) and I had to eat it in the car while driving because the traffic was très tragique. Despite the less than ideal eating location, it was delish. I approve. We did have a real dinner at our hotel, something much fancier, that was good too. 😂
And so ends our time in Fiji! Next time: our travels to and time in India!