Bula, from Fiji.
The flight to Fiji was as smooth as 12 hours can be. Fiji Air had movies and music on demand in each seat so we all watched movies we loved. It was nice to have great service and a dinner and breakfast served – it was like air travel of our youth.
Fiji was hot and humid. We found our ride at the Nadi Airport and dropped bags at our first hostel, a charming little hostel on the beach, the Bamboo. Our early morning arrival got us to the beach before 10am and rooms would not be ready until 2, so we jumped on the local bus (no doors or windows) and made our way into the heart of Nadi. I’m glad we saw it so we can assure you that, should you come to Fiji, you do not have to.
We did manage to find an ATM to get beautiful Fiji money, get a coffee, find flip-flops for John and buy water and snacks at a grocery store. Nadi is eight blocks of two story uninspiring buildings and has the appearance of any developing country’s commercial street. There were lots of general merchandise shops full of back-to-school shoppers (school starts again Jan 17 – their grades change with the year, which sort of makes sense doesn’t it?). We sweat through our clothes, drank water, sweated again.
Finally, we spotted our local bus headed back to our part of the Nadi. The driver advised us it would be thirty minutes before he left; which was fine with us as long as we could sit on the padded seats and in the shade of the bus. “Leaving” apparently meant moving to another part of the bus station area where we sat for another thirty minutes or so until more passengers got aboard the bus was almost full. This did give us a lot of time to observe the regular folks of Nadi town buying groceries, walking everywhere barefoot and ponder the blending together Indian and Fijian cultures here. Back at our hostel, the kids made friends in no time and played with other kids in the pool for hours. They loved swimming through an incredible rainstorm—warm rain.
The next day we made our way to the Beachouse, which is located about half way between Nadi and the capital city of Suva, and along the Coral Coast. The Express bus reportedly stops near the resort but we weren’t sure it would run on Sunday so we explored the option of a cab. As near as I could tell, the Beachouse doesn’t really have an address; everyone just knows where it is. I began some negotiations with our fine Indian cab driver Asok – it would be $15 to the bus station and the bus to the Beachouse would be another $60. The ride there in his cab would be minimum $150. Asok rings up the “big boss” and lets me haggle the price. I had read the going rate was between $120-150. We agreed to $120 and it was totally worth it. Note that the conversion is $2Fiji to $1USD.
Not only did Asok stop at the store so we could buy water and snacks (everything here is chicken flavored – I bought chicken flavored Cheetos called Twissties, which we only sampled, even John passed on them), saw several luxury resort properties, drove through several of the towns along the way so we could tour them, stopped at vistas. We even stopped at the road-side stands (each village had dozens of these out on the road) for fresh fruit road trip snacks (fresh pineapple much better than chicken flavored anything). Like our visit to Nadi, this whirlwind trip put to rest any need we had to dig into any of the surrounding towns and let us focus on our beach time.
We can’t say enough about the Beachouse resort – it is entirely our kind of place. The sticky heat has a way of making you less and less interested in doing much of anything. Time started to slow down. The owner and his 20-something son live on the property and you see them wandering the property in shorts and maybe a shirt. The mandatory meal package is a wonderful thing – you get breakfast (English style consisting of coffee, tea, breads, beans, eggs and sausages – a change, once in a while, might have been nice, but always served by a charming crew of Fijian ladies) and dinner which was sometimes a selection of entrees or a buffet. All the food was excellent. The common areas are equipped with long tables and benches (Andrew the owner explained that this is not a ‘soft chair’ sort of place and if people think they want that type of experience he refunds them and sends them on their way). At meals, you are drawn to interact with other guests and the staff, who are often there eating with you. John was in “activities heaven” – we played pool, darts, swam in the pool, swam in the ocean, played cards, surfed, paddle boarded, kayaked, did Fijian crafts, did an island tour where we snorkeled in amazing blue-green water, and even collected coconuts. It had everything our Fiji trip could have dreamed of. But the point of why this place is so great, is the feeling of being part of something that is going on there.
It’s hard to explain life at the Beachouse, but it is like they have opened up their big family estate on the beach to you and you just happen to be visiting while they are surfing early in the morning, doing the company books on the table out front and getting the boys together to talk about some bit of business. All the while they are playing with their dogs, watching tv, picking up the grounds or playing pool, if no one is ordering from the bar. After a day or two you know them by their first names and they know you. They ask if you are up for an activity and if you want to do it, a person just sort of appears or they come find you wherever you might be (no formal schedules or sign up forms – just put your name on the blackboard) and if not, they shrug and say, “sure, on Fiji time.”
Fiji Beachouse – http://fijibeachouse.com
Four bed room with bathroom – $94 (dorm beds from $20)
Meal package – $25 each (kids half price)
1 Queens Highway, Korolevu, Fiji
Taxi from Nadi $60; Express bus $6 per person
January was hot and humid with afternoon thunder showers of warm rain.