Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 19, Fiji!


Tanja

1 January 1998, Sandalwood Inn, Nadi, Fiji
Here we are in another paradise island, and all we want is to go home… Even Ørjan has said so a few times now – enough of new places for a while… Will go to Kilroy’s partner agency tomorrow to see if we can rebook our tickets and go home earlier. Really hot and humid here, even worse than Tonga which had a subtropical climate, while Fiji has a tropical climate. The last days in Tonga we were just chilling under the trees in the garden – in the shade – reading. “Celebrated” New Year’s Eve yesterday, hardly any people, a mediocre band, not much of an atmosphere either. Had dinner with Mick and Carla from Australia, and the Australian female manager who gave us some tips on Fiji, amongst others this place which is ok. Seemed she was of the impression that we envied her “being on holiday” in Tonga all year long, but we don’t. I wouldn’t like to live in such a remote place. A lot more tourism here. Were almost shanghaied at the airport again, but we went to a travel agency instead which booked this place for us. We were really tired when we arrived here around 4.30 a.m., 5.30 Tonga time, so we’d been awake for almost 24 hours. Went flat out when we went to bed even though it felt like a baker’s oven in the room. Slept until 2 p.m., which was fine, since it was bank holiday there was no point in getting up early anyway. Went for a meal at McDonald’s just around the corner, and my stomach was shocked at getting so much food again. Hope we’ll be able to go to Beachcomber, even though it’s a party place. Maybe try to get some tan back on the body, if we’ll get any sun at all that is – it’s been overcast and raining all day today, and the same forecast goes for tomorrow and the day after.

2 January, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After a warm and clammy night, I woke early and called Beachcomber Island to see if we could get a good deal there. I was very disappointed when they could only offer a 15% discount on the most expensive huts and nothing on the dorms. I had to say no thank you. When I paid for our room at Sandalwood Inn, I got a 25% discount since they had a cooperation with Kilroy Travels. Yay! We took taxi to the city centre and found Argo Travel to see if we could change our flights out of Fiji, but all flights were fully booked due to New Year’s traffic. We talked to Rachel at the office, and she was very helpful in finding a place to stay in one of the smaller islands. She found a place called Dream Beach on Mana Island; it would cost 70 dollars for 3 nights. We had to buy a boat transfer, either “small ferry” for 30 dollars or “big ferry” for 40 dollars. We chose the small ferry. We got transport down to the small ferry, it was an 18 foot open boat with a 40hp outboard motor! We waited for an hour on the beach while petrol was collected and poured into the boat. It was a 45-minute boat ride to the island, and we were met by Sam at the jetty who took us through a small village to Dream Beach on the other side of the island. Probably the hottest day since Australia, I sweated buckets! It was a secluded bay with some huts and larger dorms. They were expecting us and had prepared a meal for us. We got a huge dorm for ourselves, not very romantic, but plenty of room to dance. The bathroom was “private” meaning everyone used it, and there were cockroaches scuttling all around. There was a grasshopper who decided to sing us to sleep, and we did eventually.

Tanja

3 January 1998, Dreambeach Village, Mana Island, Fiji
Took a taxi to the travel agent’s yesterday. No available seats before the 9th, only three flights a week. Went to the airport too to see if we could talk directly to Air Pacific, but no, the flight today for instance was overbooked by 13 people… Met up with a travel agent’s too, and she recommended this place for USD 76 for a double room with three meals included, with discount we ended up paying USD 70. We also got a 25% discount at Sandalwood, but Beachcomber, the only place that Kilroy has a deal with, gave us no discount on the dorm price (USD 69 per person). Went back to Nadi which was horribly hot yesterday, did some shopping and waited for the transport to Mana. Had to pay USD 30 per person for “small ferry” which proved to be a small dingy… A bit steep we thought! And we had to wait for the driver at the beach in the sun for almost two hours because he had to go for petrol. The driver excused himself by saying this was “Fiji-time”, well pretty annoying when there’s no information and we’ve paid quite a lot for this. On top of that the only thing we’d had to eat was a small bag of crisps and a Fanta. It was almost 3.45 p.m. when we got into the small boat, and after 5 when we got to the island. Thought we’d reached the destination, but then we had to walk over a hill to the other side of the island – quite exhausting, so really tired when we finally got there. Melanie, a nice lady, was very thoughtful and had saved some food from lunch for us, so we had pizza at a bit after 5 p.m., then leg of lamb, potatoes and vegetables at 6… Three more couples are staying here, German, Danish and Swedish. We’d been informed that there were no more double rooms available, but we’d stay in a house all to ourselves with private facilities. Well, we’re staying in a 7-bed dorm, but we’re the only ones here and they’ve made a double bed for us. But toilet and shower are outside, so not very private. Anyway – we don’t really care anymore; we’re used to worse… Didn’t feel so good though when we learned that a worker and his daughter normally sleep on the terrace and in the dorm, and heard the daughter crying on the stairs outside the dorm last night, waiting for her father. Went to bed early last night and fell fast asleep even though it was really hot and sticky in the room. All the windows are open, and we don’t live far from the beach, but there was hardly any wind at all yesterday, and we were constantly sweating. A bit better today. Right now, it’s pouring down outside and I enjoy listening to it. Hopefully the air will feel fresher too after the rain. Got up early for breakfast at 8 a.m. today, pancakes and donuts, not very healthy, but tasty and filling. Then we went together with Pernilla and Anders to a beach on the other side of the island, amazingly beautiful – just as we’ve seen in pictures, golden sand and turquoise sea. Dived in and did a bit of snorkelling, quite a bit of dead coral reef, not many fish to see, but the ones we did see were small and colourful. Was in the shade to avoid sunburn, but forgot to put sun lotion on my back, so got a bit burnt after all from the snorkelling… Back here for nice lunch at 1 p.m. Then a shower and a rest in the bed. I feel so exhausted from the humid heat, so feels good lying in bed doing nothing. Probably food again soon, don’t quite know what time it is, but dinner is at 6 p.m. Not used to having regular meals, and not having to cook at all. One week until we’re home and only 6 days until we leave Fiji. Can’t wait!

Ørjan

Breakfast at 08:00 was nice with pancakes and freshly baked bread. We walked with new friends Pernilla and Anders to Sunset Beach, about 20 minutes’ walk from Dream Beach. A spectacular beach, and we stayed there until we had to go back for lunch at 13:00. Rest of the day spent by the water at Dream Beach.

4 and 5 January, no entries
Tanja

6 January 1998, Dreambeach Village, Mana Island, Fiji
Only two more days in Fiji before entering the flight to Los Angeles, the first stretch on our way home. Can hardly wait, but at least it’s not long now. Quite nice here now, the weather has changed and it’s very windy, overcast and liveable… Nice to get to know Pernilla and Anders, too. Up before 8 a.m. again for breakfast today and getting a bit tired of sweet pancakes now… Went back to bed, then to the beach. Couldn’t stay long, the wind was so strong that the sand was everywhere, sticking to our bodies. Spent 45 minutes in the shower trying to get it off. The day before yesterday we went back to beautiful Sunset beach, while we were just chilling here yesterday. Ørjan played volleyball together with a few others in the afternoon – Norway against Sweden. There are actually a few Norwegians here, two on this side of the island, quite full of themselves, so no one really likes them. Last night we went to see the school choir sing, lots of small children who sang really well. Were asked to give a small donation towards the build of a new school. Everything doesn’t work perfectly here, Ørjan went to buy something to drink earlier, but they were out. The water is coming and going, and our “private facilities” are used by the workers. The Swedish couple waited to get back USD 50 in change, but that wasn’t written down anywhere. They also treat the dogs really badly, the kids are running around with sticks and beating the dogs, learnt from the adults of course, who are throwing rocks at them, or knives and machetes as they did the other day. Have to speak up about it before I leave I think. Don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow, “small ferry” is due to leave in the morning, but with the strong winds and high waves I don’t know if I dare. “Big ferry” leaves in the afternoon, but costs USD 10 extra per person – steep prices. Looking forward to getting back home now, imagine having our own bathroom, take a shower and put on some properly clean clothes, sit down on our own sofa in our living room, watch telly and have our own kitchen! Can’t wait!

Ørjan

It has been a few days since my last entry. Mainly because we have done the same thing every day for a few days now. Up at 08:00 for breakfast, walked to Sunset Beach and back again for lunch at 13:00. Relaxed and played beach volleyball in the afternoon. Dinner at 18:00 and then card playing with Pernilla and Anders. Early to bed every night since the power gets cut at 22:00. We had one excursion to the village to see the children sing, and it was great. There are quite a lot of Norwegians and Swedes on this island we have found. We had a friendly match between Sweden and Norway at the beach volleyball court, Norway won! Yesterday the weather was ok first and then it went over to heavy rain and high winds. We have packed our stuff since we are leaving tomorrow. The night was heavy with rain, thunder, and wind.

Tanja

7 January 1998, Sandalwood, Nadi, Fiji
Thank God we’re here now! Been on the worst boat trip in my life – was really scared and thought we’d sink. Got up this morning, had breakfast and packed the rest of our stuff. Played cards to pass time before getting on the boat at 11 a.m. – had to be there at 10. They said we’d probably have to take the “big ferry” due to strong winds. We were waiting for Pernilla and Anders when Pernilla arrived to say we might have a problem, maybe they boat wouldn’t leave at all, had to wait to see if there was a hurricane coming. Oh, my goodness, we pictured being stuck at Mana for days, missing our flight to LA.

But the boat arrived and departed. Was pretty smooth in the beginning of the trip, picked up some people from other islands, big, nice catamaran-like boat. But then it got bad, giant waves making the boat rock steeply sideways, then up and down between the waves. Every now and then we hit the sea with a bang, heard sounds from the boat that didn’t feel like they should be there, and the splatter from the sea and the waves now reached the top of the boat. Really scary! Didn’t feel any better as Ørjan had to go and sit on the sundeck due to the smell from the toilet beside us. Was nervous about how he coped up there, and was scared he’d fall overboard, would have liked him beside me holding his hand. People got sick and were vomiting everywhere, the crew handed out a lot of plastic bags. Pernilla sat covering her eyes with her hands, very scared too. Had to hold on to the chairs during the worst waves. The only thing that was reassuring was that the crew were very calm and collected. Over the moon when we finally got into the harbour and learning that my love was ok. What a trip – must give thanks for getting through that! Just got back to the room after a visit to McDonalds with Pernilla. Were almost back as the sky opened and heavy rain made us soaking wet within five seconds. The forecast says a cyclone is passing around 360 kilometres offshore, and it’s the results of this we’ve been experiencing today. Hope it doesn’t hit the island and that the flight will leave as scheduled on Friday. Not a particularly nice ending of this trip having to worry about cyclones.

Ørjan

When we were about to depart from Dream Beach, we got word that the little ferry would not be coming due to a hurricane warning for Fiji. I got a bit nervous since our flight from Fiji to Los Angeles was in just a little over a day. We could not afford many delays. We walked with Pernilla and Anders to the other side of the island and at the jetty we got word that the big ferry would depart for the main island. The ferry was a passenger catamaran, and it looked ok, but I was still nervous since the wind was picking up and the skies were black. The first part was quite rough and already then there was puking from some passengers in the large cabin we had gotten seats in. We stopped at Castaway Island and a few other resorts and since we were on the backside of islands, the sea did not feel that rough. I went up to the sun deck to get some fresh air and Tanja stayed behind with the luggage in the cabin together with Pernilla and Anders. When the boat rounded the last sheltered part behind the last island all hell broke loose! I am sure that some of the waves were 10 metres tall towering over the boat that was now more a cork floating in the currents and wind as supposed to a passenger ferry. I had no chance of leaving the sundeck without fear of being washed overboard. And had I gone indoors I am sure I would have spewed my guts out. I just had to hold on while big waves washed over the boat and the sundeck where I held on for dear life together with fellow passengers who were screaming on the way down a wave and of the way up while water cascaded over us. An Asian man had gotten hold of a large dustbin and spent most of the trip with his head down in there calling for whatever god he could get hold of all the while spewing the contents of his stomach into the black hole beneath him. I have rarely been this afraid, the boat seemed to become smaller and smaller in the increasing waves and the islands around us seemed to become smaller and smaller. I was comforted by the fact that I sat on one of the life rafts, and that the water was warm, only the possibility of being eaten by a shark to worry about. I had no way of communicating or getting to Tanja, so I was worried about her as well but comforted that she had Pernilla and Anders with her. I could see into the captain’s wheelhouse and there were two dudes with turbans holding on to the rudder for dear life. After 1 ½ hours of pure terror we approached the jetty and the sea got calmer, I found Tanja and kissed her, and when I got on dry land, I kissed that as well. The crew were all helpful and gave a hand to those who were bruised and those who had said farewell to their breakfast and lunch. We got a bus into Sandalwood resort and made a deal with Pernilla and Anders to meet them at Mc Donald’s at 18:00. Only Pernilla showed up, Anders had gotten the time mixed up. Later that evening a Cyclone warning was issued for Fiji, it is supposed to pass later tonight. I am happy we got off Mana Island when we did, even though the trip was rough. We will go for some shopping with Pernilla and Anders tomorrow, and if the weather is bad, we could just play cards…

Anders, Pernilla and Ørjan
8 January, last entry by Ørjan, no entry by Tanja

The night was very windy and blustery, and it was raining coconuts and mangos on our roof during the night. It was cyclone Susan that passed, and it missed Fiji by a few miles, it could have been much worse. Pernilla and Anders woke us up and we walked down to the city centre. I purchased a large hardwood traditional mask to hang on the wall, it was 90 dollars and I got it for 50 dollars in the end. We found another one a little later that was only 35 dollars, but it was not as nice as the one I bought. Tomorrow we will get up at 05:00 to undertake the first leg of our journey home. I think it will be quite OK to get back home to civilisation in Norway….

We flew home via Los Angeles, and we spent a full night at LAX together with other backpackers and crazy people.

The last picture of 2 backpackers at Fiji airport in full regalia with wooden mask safely wrapped in cardboard.
Tanja

10 January 1998, London Heathrow, British Airways flight, London
Ready for take-off to Fornebu, Oslo. Finally – the last flight on this journey, and it’s taking us home to Oslo, feels almost surreal. Feel worn out after two (or is it three) hard days of travelling. Getting a bit confused from crossing these date lines too… Between Fiji and LA there was a 20-hour time difference, and we landed the day before we left… Between LA and London there’s an 8-hour time difference, but the other way… Anyway, when we get home the day will be turned around for us, we’ll be around 11 hours behind what we’ve been for a long time now, wonder how we’ll feel Monday morning at work. A lot of hassle at the airport, were 20 minutes delayed due to having to remove the luggage of someone who’d checked in, but not boarded the flight. Then we had to wait on the runway for almost 45 minutes after landing – probably because we didn’t get a gate. We landed on terminal 4 and had to get to terminal 1 which is a long way away. So, we had to run past a lot of people to reach the airport shuttle bus. Then some shopping in the tax-free shop, before finally boarding the plane, at least we’re here now. Someone at Kilroy has obviously had some fun, both at the flight from LA and now we were asked if we were newlywed and on honeymoon as it said in their passenger lists. We said no at first, didn’t understand it was a joke, then the flight attendants asked many others too, but no one confirmed they were newlyweds. Just before we landed, they announced over the speaker system that Mrs. Eriksen should let herself be known to the personnel. Told them I was Ms. Eriksen, they were still looking for newlyweds, and the other name was unpronounceable they said, so we understood they were actually looking for us and Ørjan told them there were probably some colleagues of his doing a prank. A supervisor then came over and said Ørjan should tell Kilroy to stop that sort of bad behaviour, the cake we should have got, but never got, “cost us money” he said. We’ll see if we’ll get any cake now. Am so tired, my eyes are hurting, haven’t slept properly for more than 48 hours. When landing in LA we decided to stay overnight at the airport together with Pernilla and Anders, so we were slumbering all night, but not getting any sleep. Met three other Norwegians to keep us company. P & A left around 6 a.m., whilst our flight didn’t leave until 5 p.m. Had planned to go into Venice Beach or Santa Monica, but we were exhausted, and it was pouring down too, so we just stayed at the airport. Boring to stay there for such a long time, but the thought of getting home soon kept our spirits up. Quite exhausting with two 10-hour flights after one another too, a long time to stay on a plane, but luckily both felt like they were over pretty fast. Watched some movies, had something to eat and slept for a while to make time pass. The last day in Fiji was a nightmare. P&A came over at about 11 a.m., then we had some toast in the restaurant before taking a taxi into town. Went into a souvenir shop where we were denied to go into the part where they sold jewellery at 50 % discount, since the man who run the shop thought we didn’t look as though we had the money to buy anything… Then we went to get a refund for the ferry tickets we never used, around USD 60, but they were closed of course. Went to the market, and then back to the hotel before meeting up with P & A to play cards – really nice people. Looking forward to arriving in Oslo, see mum, go to our flat, buy some good food and sleep! Mum will pick us up and said she’d bring some lapskaus (Norwegian stew) for us so we can have that for dinner – sounds so good with some proper Norwegian food after pancakes, rice and food on flights!

It may seem like we were a bit ungrateful at the end of our trip. A major case of home sickness we think we can call it, for the both of us. In hindsight the time on Mana Island was a nice one but we were a bit disappointed that we could not get the resort we wanted in the first place. We still laugh about our “private” dorm, and we still laugh about the “little” ferry and the near death experience on the larger ferry in the storm.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Up next: highlights!

Categories:Around The World 1997, TravelTags: , , , , , , , ,

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