Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter Eight, "Fiji, 'Ni Sa Bula Vinaka... Y'all!'" (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27 October 2011)

If you think Daylight Savings Time is rough, imagine landing in an exotic locale in the early evening only to learn it's an hour later because DST just kicked in that day!  (It's the Southern Hemisphere, so it's "Fall forward," kind of like the aftermath of a drinking binge.)  Such was my arrival in Nadi, Fiji.

Immediately upon landing and entering the terminal at Nadi (pronounced "Nan-DEE") International, I was struck by the beauty of this island country: the people, the culture, the language, the lifestyle, the landscape.  I cleared customs, grabbed my bags (each of which weighed roughly 3500 kilograms (400 tons) by now), and was met by the driver sent by my resort in Sigatoka (pronounced "Sing-ah-TOE-kah").  It was pitch black as we emerged from the terminal and found the car, and it was an incredibly dark, bumpy ride on barely paved roads  as we traveled 1 hour and 15 minutes Southwest to Sigatoka.

The Outrigger on the Lagoon is a sprawling, funky resort on the Pacific Ocean with fantastic restaurants, shops, and Fiji's best spa, perched high on a hill above the resort with panoramic views of the Ocean.  The festive sounds of a wedding reception filled the giant lobby as I checked in, and the bustle of "Sunday Night in Paradise" surrounded me as I was escorted from the lobby across the resort to my oceanfront room.  Everywhere I turned, I was met with a spirited "Bula!" (pronounced "MBU-lah"), the standard Fijian greeting.

I arrived at my room just in time to catch the second half of the Rugby World Cup finals between the New Zealand All Blacks and France.  (Sunday night... Rugby night... In Fiji...!)  Who won, you ask?  "GO THE ABs!!!" (See Chapter One.)

The next morning, my first full day in Paradise, began with buffet breakfast at the resort.  It was then that I realized I was thoroughly exhausted from weeks of packing and unpacking, getting on and off the coach, taking off and landing, and enjoying almost no downtime.  And it was then that I decided Fiji would be all about downtime.

SPOILER ALERT: My three full days in Fiji were comprised of walking the beach (actually a coral reef), enjoying tasty meals, catching up on movies and blogging (really!), and TWO FULL DAYS at the Bebe (pronounced "BEM-beh") Spa.  That's it.

Exciting, hunh?  Maybe not, but possibly the most relaxing three days of my life.

On my last day in Fiji, my flight was not leaving Nadi for LA until 10 PM.  Checkout time was 11 AM.  When I inquired about late checkout the day before, I was told to call the next morning and speak with the room coordinator.  I awoke bright and early, called the room coordinator, and she said... "NO DOGS ALLOWED!!!" (or something like that).  So I crammed everything into my already overstuffed bags, arranged a driver, and left the Outrigger.

The drive from Sigatoka to Nadi in daylight was the perfect punctuation to my four days in Paradise.  The island is rough and refined, dirty and pristine, ugly and immaculate.  It is unspoiled and real and special.  Fijians love their home and for good reason.

At the airport in Nadi, I learned two things: (1) I couldn't check in for my flight until 6:30 PM (it was 1 PM) and (2) I left my ultra-cool All Blacks hat in the car from the resort to the airport.  DOUBLE BUMMER.  I set up shop in a coffee shop in the airport, where I was "that guy in the airport with all his electronic devices plugged in" and I was able to get a wireless signal so I could continue blogging (really!).  I made the mistake of continuing to blog (really!) at 6:30 when check in for my flight opened, so when I packed it all up and went to check in at 8 PM, it looked as if the island was being evacuated.  I'm still not sure how 15,000 people managed to fit on a plane that seats 500, but we did.
Vinaka, Viti Levu! Moce! 

"I'm going going, back back, to Cali Cali...!"

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