Rest and relaxation in Fiji
Saturday 10th March 2018
Fiji was the perfect antidote to our time in New Zealand where we had driven thousands of kilometres and been packing up and moving on every few days - here we had the chance to relax and recharge our very depleted batteries enjoying "Fiji time" at a beachfront resort called Tambua Sands. Yes that's right we were staying in ONE place for a whole NINE DAYS!
We had originally planned to extend our time in Fiji and spend time travelling to other islands including Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa. However we realised that we needed a rest and that trying to fit in another schedule of packing up and moving on was not in our best interests so we decided to stay on Viti Levu on the coral coast side of the island. It sounds decadent and spoiled to say that you need a rest whilst travelling but anyone who has done it or even those who have taken an active time away will know that feeling of needing a holiday after a holiday! We know our limits and we also know that packing too much in and trying to continue such a jam packed schedule just leads to a burnout.
Whilst we were all disappointed at not making it to these places we've also realised that the world isn't going anywhere and that there will always be more places we want to explore. So we would rather do them justice and take our time rather than force them into our timescales and not get the time to fully appreciate them.
We arrived into Nadi having made the short journey from Auckland on a very enjoyable flight with Fiji Airlines. It would take over 30 hours for us to make the journey from the UK so we feel very lucky to have been able to make the trip here in a minimal amount of time.
We got a taxi and began our hour and a half journey to the hotel. We had found somewhere that included breakfast and was just over half of our nightly budget so we had limited expectations about our lodgings.
We arrived in the dark so we couldn't see much but thankfully found the staff to be very welcoming and were told that we had been upgraded from our garden "bure" (Fijian bungalow) to a seafront bure which we were thrilled about.
Whilst the resort was at the budget end of the scale, we found our room to be just what we required - the girls had single beds and we had a double with a decent bathroom and even a kettle and tea making facilities. There was no air conditioning or TVs or WiFi in the rooms hence its 3-star rating but this suited us. There actually weren't even proper windows, they had indoor large shutters and a mesh to prevent bugs but this led to the best soundtrack to accompany a nights sleep. Opening the shutters up and falling asleep listening to the sea crashing on the shore was so peaceful and calming we were all asleep by 9pm and woke feeling incredibly refreshed. We realised we had lost a food bag somewhere between the airport and the taxi and the girls were disappointed to have lost the Nutella whilst I was more disappointed to have lost the best teabags I had found having run out of Typhoo in Australia. A kiwi brand called Chanui (with a British person in its adverts - I knew it had to be good) had become my replacement but the bag was lost, having said that it was so hot and humid in Fiji I didn't feel that I was missing my cuppas too much.
Nikki and I had decided to embark on a fitness regime after getting into some bad habits in New Zealand - we blame Whitaker's largely for this - NZ's own brand chocolate is by far the best we've ever had and we had indulged in its range far too often. So we began our days with a run (Nikki) or a workout or yoga (me).
We would then spend the day lazing on a lounger or walking on the beach looking at shells or simply playing in the pool. Whilst it was a budget resort it is part of a company that owns much higher end resorts and their standards are very much felt throughout. The gardeners were constantly busy sweeping up leaves of tending to the detritus washed up on the beach (very little rubbish, more twigs and seaweed type debris), the housekeepers did outstanding jobs and the chefs were excellent.
We knew that we had booked in rainy season and that we had probably enjoyed a cheaper stay because of it so we were not surprised to have several periods of downpours in the first few days. It gave us the opportunity to get some homework done as the girls got stuck into their maths books and Nikki and I would fit in another exercise session.
We were eating the most incredible food every night, generally fish and vegetables in accordance with our regime but also vegetable curries, steak and other seafood - all so fresh as it had come from the ocean just outside the door.
Most evenings the resort had some sort of entertainment on and we enjoyed watching how to make a Fijian dish called Kokoda from onion, cucumber, raw sliced fish and coconut milk. Absolutely delicious! We also watched the girls take part in a limbo competition and enjoyed hermit crab racing before returning the unwitting competitors to the beach.
Nikki headed out fishing on one of the days and saw some reef sharks and I spent a day snorkeling on the reef. I was absolutely amazed by the life just yards from our front door and would happily spend hours in the sea. The currents were quite strong though although the whole reef is in a lagoon as you can see bigger waves crashing further out to sea. This means you can swim protected from any unwanted visitors like sharks and after spending a large proportion of the trip worrying about sharks, jellyfish and crocodiles it was really relaxing just to float on the surface without worrying about being eaten or stung!
We also took the girls out on kayaks for a paddle and they enjoyed snorkeling too. One of the hotel staff - Tui - took Kitty right out to the waves in his kayak which she was delighted about. Whilst there's no official kids club, Tui and Sunny were on hand most days with football games or walks to go on, seashell hunting or just playing pool or table tennis on the equipment in the restaurant. It was such a small and quiet venue and with the girls within sight it was really nice to see them having fun with other children and the staff who were all so excellent with the girls.
One thing we will always remember about Fiji is the sunsets. Words cannot fully explain how mind blowing Fijian sunsets are. We really were taken aback by them. Every night. The pictures actually really do do them justice which was pleasing as so often we've been in places where the scenery just hasn't conveyed as well in phone pictures.
The colours are incredible - reds and pinks, turquoise and purples, oranges and lilacs. It's like watching an artist paint a different scene live on the most incredible canvas. It honestly doesn't look real in the pictures and they've not been changed or edited at all. They are the most incredible sights I've ever seen.
We could have watched these for hours but they are over all too quickly - they never got old, every night was as stunning if not more so than the previous and every night was a different shade regardless of what the weather had done in the day.
Indeed one of the days we had caught the tail end of a cyclone and it had literally poured a deluge of rain all day, relentlessly heavy rain that had turned the little stream in the grounds (flowing into the ocean) into a torrential river smashing its way through to the beach widening its entrance as the water poured down through the mountains, but that night we had the most spectacular sunset that completely belied the grey dull day we had endured.
This storm had an incredible effect on the landscape. We had often walked along the beach outside our front door and crossed over another small stream to the right by hopping over it. Whilst we had seen the stream swell to river proportions to the left, closer to the restaurant, we were absolutely gobsmacked to go on a walk and find the weather had created an impassable ravine (ok on a smaller scale but no longer were we able to hop across this) and had washed down fence posts and tree trunks, many of which were floating in the sea. The sea itself had turned from a crystal clear turquoise to a sandy murky brown colour.
We spent this day in the bar as the staff put cartoons on the television for the children and we logged into the WiFi and caught up with emails and messages from home.
We also spent one evening watching Fijian weaving thanks to a lovely local lady called Lomi and her husband coming in, armed with coconut leaves to show us their skills.
It was amazing to watch and the girls were truly mesmerised as they sat on the floor chatting away asking their questions. Kitty especially loved that Lomi told us how the coconut tree is called the tree of life as Fijians use all parts of it - from the coconuts themselves to the leaves and the bark fibres. Lomi told us how the art of weaving is dying out because the younger women don't want to learn the skills, and yet the villagers need these women for the skills as tradition dictates that decorations for weddings and funerals must be made this way. She told us that they will end up buying the items at great cost when they could learn how to make them for free.
Lomi delighted the girls by making them each a hat, and I was so proud of the girls for sitting and learning and taking an interest. This sort of education means so much to me as they learn about other cultures and ways of life so removed from our own. They both agreed that Lomi's weaved storage holders were much more environmentally friendly than plastic and would look much prettier hanging on the walls too. They took back to the bure all the items that had been made and we learnt about how Fijians also use underground ovens called a "lovu" much like the hangi we had seen in New Zealand.
Our time passed so quickly despite the fact we barely did anything. We took a trip to Sigatoka and wandered around the town. Everyone was so friendly with their cheerful "bula bula" - hello in Fijian, we also made the journey to Pacific Harbour which we had envisaged as some sort of pretty boat harbour but in fact turned out to be a small town with no such harbour area to see.
We enjoyed driving through the villages and hearing the calls of "bula!" wherever we went. We saw people riding horses and ladies selling hot corn, it reminded us a lot of Uganda with its lush greenness and people growing crops and selling by the roadside.
There was a lot less activity than Uganda however as Fiji time means everything happens very slowly and in its own time. We had certainly got into his frame of mind and enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks with our exercise sessions done!
We decided to pay a visit to one of the resort's sister sites - Naviti - as it was free to use its facilities as guests of Tambua Sands. We really enjoyed an afternoon playing tennis although the scorching sun meant we didn't play for long and the girls loved the massive pool and swim up bar. It was a great resort and definitely up the budget scale but that also meant it was huge and really busy with many visitors. I actually prefer the lower end scale and the quietness and intimacy of a smaller resort. We got to know other visitors at the hotel and enjoyed chatting to other residents. We've really realised what we like and don't like whilst on this journey and we've realised we definitely aren't very good at doing "fancy" - we like relaxed and cosy, and we have very little must haves anymore. Small things like a washing line are really valued and waking up on the beachfront with two wooden swings in the tree outside our door was just so lovely as the girls would swing looking out to sea.
One evening we were in the restaurant listening to the relaxing local music being played by a trio of men with guitars, all in Fijian shirts with a flower behind their ear, and I stood out on the decking watching yet another spectacular sunset and it was all so beautiful that it made me cry. The sounds and sights all culminating in an overwhelming experience for the senses. It was just a moment of such beauty that I will always remember.
And all too quickly our time in Fiji was over. It had been so good for us to have some proper downtime and whilst I was worried we might be bored having got so used to being up and out we all enjoyed the time spent recharging our travelling batteries. We were heading to Hawaii where we knew there would be the opportunity to relax desert island style but with many places we wanted to visit as well so in turn a busier itinerary.
We headed to the airport and arrived with many hours to spare so made a little nest for ourselves and watched something we had downloaded on Netflix. We had a walk around the around the airport to kill some time and bumped into the same taxi driver who had taken us to our resort. He came over to say hello and promptly led us to his car as he had our food bag!! How brilliant is that! We thought it was lost or thrown away but he had kept it in his boot in case he saw us again!! The girls were happy to have their Nutella and I was grateful for my teabags! The girls just thought it was so brilliant that this man had kept our things and that we found him again and we all decided that it must be karma. We would always hand in something lost so we were very happy to have the universe work in our favour in this small but very satisfying way.
We'd really recommend Fiji as a destination to anyone wishing to get away from it all. It's the most relaxing place with the friendliest people and gorgeous sea and beaches. We enjoyed it more than any of the islands we have visited as it isn't overrun with tourists or too commercialised - yet. We left having gone to bed by 9pm every night, eaten the freshest healthiest food, avoided all chocolate and having done the most exercise we felt fitter and healthier too. Fiji will remain as one of our favourite places I'm sure, although we say that every time we leave somewhere!
As we left we also learned about the international date line and how we were going to get to be time travellers living the same day twice! Check back in a few days and see what happened in Hawaii.