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Published: February 5th 2014
Possibly the two most frown inducing words in the world. Expensive food, uncomfortable seats and the ever present smell of body odour relegates you to the world of travel no-mans land. The worst part is that it is necessary for the budget traveller to traverse this waste land more often than not.
By saving money on accommodation and catching the red eye out of Perth it meant that the 7 hour layover in Sydney was always going to be a hardship. Couple that with luggage carousels (why don't they let you ride on them), and the constant threat of being stuck on an uncomfortable airport lounge next to someone that wants to shave their legs (yes that actually happened) and it becomes the "perfect storm".
There are definitely some deciding factors that relate to the "perfect storm".
1. An inside seat on a red eye flight means no chance of decent neck support and a very blurry eyed traveller at his destination.
2. A luggage carousel that is it's own personal torment to every (big) kid out there.
3. A 7 hour layover on vinyl seats with
the arm rest still attached just to torment the weary traveller.
4. The aforementioned self beautician.
5. The guy that wants to eat his over priced noodles at the table next to you while simultaneously succeeding in drowning his own chin.... all while you are trying to demurely eat your over priced sushi.
That, my friends, is layover HELL!!.
It must be said though, I will never hesitate to fly Fiji Airways. With a casual comment to the guy at the check in counter when he asked about my day.... "27 hours and counting mate"..... I arrived at my seat in the plane to find a pillow, blanket, and eye mask (even though it was only a 3 hour flight), a window seat, and one of the only spare seats on the flight next to me. Service goes a long way in my book and should be recognised when done right.
Settling in to a long awaited nap at 40,000 feet, I was suddenly accosted with a TV screen being (not so) subtly pushed through the back of my skull. Now I understand that the touch screen is confusing
to some and they feel they need to punch it, but 3 hours of solid pummelling is beyond me.
So, after 20 hours of transit, arriving at Nadi
Getting a helpful ride from the airport by the neighbouring hostel's shuttle was a bonus as well as meeting some great people on the ride from California, Sweden and Germany.
Settling in to the hostel, there was just enough time to get 3 quick beverages in to me before the thunderstorms rolled in and lulled me into blissful darkness.
All up... 37 hours awake.... 20 hours in transit.... and 3 beers. Isn't budget travelling fun!! Jurassic Park...
The first thoughts that ran through my brain as we approached Vita Levu went in order as follows.... Seriously lady!!! The screen is already pushing against my back teeth..... Wow!!! Those clouds look angry..... Holy @#$%!!(MISSING)!!!! Where's the Jurassic Park sound track!!!
Rolling hills with patches of sugar cane, quickly followed by lush, dark green areas of rainforest, from above the second largest island of Fiji seemed to be a blend
of South East Asia and Hawaii. The destination of Nadi
flew underneath with the most prominent figure being the large number of rugby grounds. Schools, parks, sporting clubs, any patch of spare ground is dedicated to the national sport.
Exiting the plane required surgical forceps to carve the humid air in two and slide between, before being met outside immigration and customs by the driver for the group of hostels where i'd booked. This was the first chance to meet some fellow travellers that were to enjoy this amazing place with me, and it was a fruitful experience to say the last.
Tove from Sweden not only was booked in the same hostel as me, but also ended up in the same dorm, and after instantly hitting it off while waiting or the stragglers to file through customs we exchanged the usual conversation breakers known to all travellers.... Where are you from?... How long are you in Fiji for?...Have you been travelling long? Arriving from Sydney she had already spent a number of weeks in Australia but had had to leave again to apply for a working holiday visa... hard life when you get
to spend 6 days in Fiji just so you are out of the country.
Now let it be said that you don't go to a tropical island and not expect tropical thunderstorms. The humidity of the evening slowly turned into the light pitter-patter of rain as we checked in.... And then it got heavier.... And heavier... And heavier!! For the next two days we were confined to the hostel with only a single trip into Nadi for dinner on the second night.
Now when I say confined, I actually mean by law. By the third night the storm had gotten so bad that it was now classed as a category 1 hurricane and the police had placed a curfew on the roads, due to the threat of wide spread flooding, so that no one could go out after 9pm. Of course this just meant that we organised a "lock in" with the staff of the hostel that we'd gotten to know over the last 3 days. Participating in traditional Kava ceremonies, swimming in the rain and the odd beverage thrown in made for a great night. Never let it be said that there is
an excuse for not having fun.
The biggest issue with a tropical storm is when the sole reason you came to Fiji was to go diving. Because of the storm, the ferries out to the Yasawa Islands had been cancelled and by the 4th day when they resumed operation, the sea had been so churned up that visibility was next to nothing. So instead of spending the money to go out to the islands for something that wouldn't reap the rewards anyway, Tove, Kate, Joelie (the bartender from the hostel on his day off) and myself decided to hire a car for a couple of days and explore the local area.
Heading south from Nadi, Joelie took us to beautiful beaches, bustling villages where we picked up some lunch, and a secluded cove on the Coral Coast past Singatoka where we had a picnic and a swim. It was great to be able to get out and see some of the REAL Fiji and not just the tourist parts. Dropping Joelie back off at his house we met his dad and brother... The perfect end to an amazing day.
the car for the next day, we increased in numbers when we met Veronika at the hostel and invited her to join our adventures for the day as well. This time it was north that pulled us as we headed to the Sleeping Giant... A mountain range that looks like a giant lying on his back. Here we spent the day alternating between zip-lining, trekking to waterfalls and sliding down the natural slide in the rocks. Although most of us had experienced these things elsewhere in the world, for Tove it was a day of firsts and it was mesmerising to see the delight on her face as she witnessed a waterfall for the first time, or sailed through the air in a harness for the first time.
Carlos, the guide that took us to the waterfall, had the next day off work and invited us out for a night of singing and frivolity at the clubs near Nadi. Organising to meet up later in the evening, the 4 of us headed to the club with Carlos and his cousin Cuthbert. Through music and dancing, games of pool, and a short trip over to the karaoke bar
for a bit of a sing, the night was a great way to end a brilliant Saturday and was a good send off for Tove and Kate who, although they didn't fly out until Monday morning, had an early flight and didn't allow us to paint the town red on their last night.
With an emotional send off on the Monday morning, the rest of the day was spent lazing on lounges by the beach and a few games of beach volleyball with the locals. Just making the most of this breathtaking place before I head off on the next leg of my adventure.
Fiji.... A country filled with amazing scenery, great adventures and some of the warmest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting..... If only the sea had cleared up enough to dive. Oh well.... I guess it just means I'll have to come back!!!
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