Lautoka: Bula Fiji!

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October 9th 2012
Published: October 12th 2012
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Bula, a word used by every person, regardless of where they originate, workers along the waterfront, hotel guests and screaming school children. Meaning hello, it's the main Fijian word used where most people's mother tongue is English. And boy did we hear it hundreds of times daily. Despite the fact we went nowhere!
Our flight from Auckland was a good one, fairly good breakfast on the early morning three hour flight where although we advanced, we went back in time an hour (Fiji do not have spring daylight saving for its always sunny*.)

We were greeted by a man wearing a skirt (completely normal) playing a banjo singing in Fijian folk (even more normal), we got through customs fine and although many staff wanted us to take a taxi we got the public bus, success. Although we went South to the main town of Nadi before realising we wanted to go North. In our defence the sign said Nadi- Lautoka, and we stayed on the same bus, went back in front of the airport before arriving at Lautoka some two hours after we arrived in Fiji! The town was pretty poor looking, rough unsealed roads, people with no shoes and big steel shutters on windows. We wasted no time getting a £1 taxi to our hotel.

See prior to arriving here we had a big dilemma. Big enough for us to have consulted four parents and several friends that have been to the country of roughly 300 islands, largely uninhibited and largely those that are single resort islands like the Maldives. Now our dilemma, Lauren had put Fiji on a paradise pedestal some many years previous, always wanting to come here, never dreaming she would and in those dreams her vision of turquoise waters, golden sand and cocktails. In reality, to do this costs a large fortune. It's no wonder it's honeymoon capital in terms of prices! The luxury secluded resorts will set you back over £1000 a night (for a developing nation) and even the gorgeous islands of the Yasawas would cost a bit to actually get there by boat, once per day, and the resorts here are minimal- no Internet, no shops, no electricity. We decided after several conversations we would see out the week, recharge the old batteries and sit back and relax. With this in mind we decided to stay on the mainland where there was a supermarket so we could eat in the room to save costs, two pools and a gym. We paid more to have a private room, something of a luxury in itself, and rewarded our steal of a find with a four star at £200 for the week. We shouldn't have expected much.

In reality we didn't really but you know you land in the country and people speak your language they are friendly, you begin to smile and get hopeful. Our error. Please don't think it was a terrible place, it wasn't, we had a nice big bed, a good hot shower and a tv and a/c. Although the bedding wasn't perfect white, the shower soaked the floor, the tv had BBC news and fox movies only and the a/c was horrifically loud. Still there was the pools- covered in black stuff from the nearby sugar cane plantations and the gym- well it will never have been serviced had three weight machines, two bikes with no straps and a broken rower!

Still we had a decent time and chill out, we spent every day at the hotel, it consisted of a morning run on the waterfront. 40 lengths in the pool, a brief gym workout, weetabix in the room. We ate lunch at the only decent cafe in town that offered free wifi (the highlight of the holiday), we gorged on ham sandwiches with salad for less than a £1. We watched repeats of every film (fox is what we have seen on every tv in Asia, we think they have the rights for about twenty films on replay- for instance on this trip we have seen 'The Incredibles' no less than eight times and in Fiji we saw each film no less than three times), the odd evening we had a drink at the bar in happy hour- Ben couldn't turn down bitter at £1.25 a bottle. Then we went to bed after a cupasoup roughly averaging 7pm after an evening workout and run.

Why all the workouts? Well Lauren became somewhat of a fitness freak during the last year and it's been hard to let that go, so she wanted to relish in the opportunity to work those sleepy muscles, and after a run of slightly jeering men, Ben was dragged along on each subsequent run! We did what we could with the amenities in the room- a fridge and kettle, hence cereal and dinner of soup was consumed here. We sat out on the balcony the first night overlooking the pool and the islands in the distance- yes fairly idyllic. Then we awoke covered in bites that have increased in number since and bloody itch and hurt like hell! Ben looks like he has chicken pox on his feet and Lauren's have left bruises!

That in a nutshell has been Fiji for us. We wanted to spend as little as possible and succeeded, we wanted to go to the island made famous in 'Castaway' Ben fitting in perfectly with his beard but at £100 each for a day out in a 'poor' country it was tourism scandal. Remember the £1 sandwich, in our hotel triple that, they were the biggest scandal in costs! The major flaw in our week was rain. It rained on three of the seven days and was overcast another two. Don't get us wrong, warm it was but rain does happen and had we gone to an idyllic island and had rain with no tv in the room we sure would have been disappointed and restless. We counted down till 7pm to allow ourselves to bed so imagine that! Still it was refreshing to swim in the rain and the insects were slightly more at bay (DEET no longer appears to work for us).

The only saving grace was a tv marathon on the Sunday of an American drama called 'Homeland' it was 13 hours of brilliant tv and we are now hooked the second series just starting in the UK, we urge you to watch it!

Please don't think we have become or have remained typical British mid twenties, that through the technology boom are the evidence of the effects of tv and Internet on our lives. We are not dependent on this in any way, what we did need was entertainment. Remember that for the last three weeks we were isolated in a camper van with a pack of cards and two books. The cards are severely bent and the books read, and we were looking forward to a week with a vague reminder of home and the idea of not having to think. But 'The Incredibles' will do that to you, make you think and question the future, the rest of the trip etc so we haven't been successful! The Internet was required really as we had a lot of upcoming planning, we are awaiting the arrival of Ben's parents in Orlando and for their two week stay we want a great time without missing out as we didn't plan anything! So to that end, we shall board a flight to LA at 10pm local time on Tuesday 9 October, only to travel back in time again to arrive at 1pm local time Tuesday 9 October and spent 11 hours on a plane at 35,000 ft. Dr Who you are not the only one who can do this, and we didn't need the Tardis.

Things of note-

Lautoka is a sugar cane factory area and one of the most developed towns in the mainland, predominantly full of workers.

It is national day tomorrow and the whole country was getting thoroughly excited with marching bands and flags everywhere.

Despite being independent the flag features the union jack and the money features our queen.

There are stray dogs everywhere but appear very timid.

Public transport is not for the faint hearted, loud dance music is played and people drum and clap along loudly and can appear threatening when full of teenagers!

What would we do differently-

We would come again perhaps but when our skin isn't used to DEET and splash out on an isolated island of luxury the way Fiji is described to foreigners!

Thefts: 0 although we didn't feel safe.

Near Misses: Lauren fell over when running as the grass was full of holes!

Fallouts: 0

* as seen in the blog this is not accurate.


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