Raffles Gateway Hotel, Nadi – waiting to fly

Nadi, Nadi, Nadi – not the nicest town, I’m afraid, but here we are in any case, for our last few days in Fiji. For the remainder of our time at the Beachouse, Ty and I walked for miles along the coast road looking for a change of scenery and finding it in  the Warwick Fiji resort five kilometers west of the Beachouse.

After a hot and sweaty walk, with no respite in sight, the “Approaching Hotel” sign was a beacon in the wilderness for Ty, dying of thirst.

Much more grand than our humble abode, the Warwick is huge, cavernous, and not unlike the gigantic hotels we wandered through in Waikiki. We made our way to the pool-view deck bar, sampled a couple of beverages, and then headed down along the beach to the souvenir stands run by the Korolevu villagers.

This day, being overcast and humid, the resort’s patrons were not interested in these goodies, preferring instead to consume vast quantities of chips and burgers (that quintessential Fijian dish) and the stands were bereft of customers. After perusing the jewellery and carvings, we strolled back through the village and were lucky enough to get a lift from one of the fishermen back to the ranch.

The last couple of days on the Coral Coast were rainy and we decided that we’d had enough of this particular venue, opting instead to jump in Hari’s van for a lift to Nadi, the site of Fiji’s international airport, and the Raffles Gateway hotel, conveniently located right across the street, literally, from the airport out of which we’ll fly to Sydney on Wednesday. Raffles has two pools, one quite large with a big slide, large enough to do some serious lap swimming which I proceeded to do.

The food, judging from our lunch, is decent and the place is pleasant enough; our room has a great shower with strong pressure and hot water, both of which we missed at the ol’ Beachouse. For dinner we headed into Nadi Town by local bus, about nine kilometers from the hotel. We walked along the few rather decrepit blocks of the downtown area, asked for a restaurant recommendation, and were directed to a curry and seafood restaurant which, unfortunately, had bad food. The downtown area was pretty much deserted on a Friday night, which I found somewhat surprising, but the whole place seems depressed, desperate, and depressing – we won’t miss it when we leave.

Today, while overcast, was not raining and the sky seemed lighter so we elected to head out to the beach by cab. The driver dropped us off at the “New Town” beach – no new town was in evidence, nor was any beach – but the Nadi Airport Golf Club, of which the great Vijay Singh was a member and the club’s sole claim to fame, was there so Ty had a beer while we contemplated Vijay’s name on the members’ board as directed by the proprietor.

From there we walked back along the road and noticed a path heading off towards the ocean through a muddy field. We followed the path and – voila – the beach, along which we found, after walking a bit, a few small resorts, including the Smuggler’s Cove, in front of which we plopped ourselves in plastic loungers. Eureka – Nadi paradise found.

The few people on the beach were staying at Smugglers; along with them, the resort boasts three mangy dogs and a guy riding a horse accompanied by a lively cantering foal. As we enjoyed our coronas with lime, we watched two separate speedboats from the small islands offshore come in to the beach and disgorge their passengers; to me, being paranoid, it looked as though they were overloaded, but what do I know …

See a few more pics here.

Sigatoka Sand Dunes (and crazy rides)

We’re back on Viti Levu at the Beachouse for a bit longer before heading off to Nadi for three days and our flight to Sydney. We dithered and dathered about whether to go to the Yasawa Islands but decided it was too expensive for us this trip. And the Beachouse suits us well – decent food, a nice beach and enough pleasant people to spend time with. This time around a Canadian family of six from Calgary, Wiebo and Ann Marie and their four kids (!), are here for a stop on their year-long round the world trip. In between swimming, lying on the beach, hiking and making shell necklaces, they also manage to get some home schooling done – I salute their initiative!

The weather has been better here than during our previous stay – fewer clouds and rain squalls and some nice clear days. Yesterday looked a bit iffy, so we decided to check out one of the local attractions, the Sigatoka Sand Dune National Park. We hopped on a minibus and chugged west to Sigatoka, stopping for a cappuccino at the upscale Fiji Market riverfront souvenir and attire barn, where a pair of flip-flops Ty tried on cost $90 (!). He didn’t purchase them, choosing instead to go next door to the “Pot Luck” store and get a pair not significantly different for $8. After an early lunch at the Blue Fiji riverfront restaurant (where we were the only people in the place), we waited for quite a long time at the bus stop for a bus that didn’t come, finally opting to take a taxi out of town in the direction of Kulu Kulu to the sand dunes.

The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are Fiji’s first national park, established in 1989, and they cover 650 beachfront hectares.  It’s an important archeological site and remains of Fiji’s first people, the Lapita originally from New Caledonia arrived in Fiji 2600 years ago, have been found here, including skeletons and pottery; SFU students were here in 1994 compiling and arranging the material for study.

We elected to do the medium length tour which took us up to the top of the grass covered dunes, from where we had a panoramic view across the rolling hills to the towns and sea beyond. Coming down again towards the ocean, the sand was very hot against my feet, it being a warm and muggy day.

Along the beach was strewn an abundance of driftwood, some pieces enormous. There is no reef in this area, so the waves here come straight in from the open ocean; they’re large and powerful, with a very strong undertow – no swimming here (a pity since it was so beautiful and we were really hot).

We spent quite a bit of time sitting on the beach watching the waves before heading back inland and through the mahogany forest to the Tree of Lost Soles, where we both added a couple of shoes to the collection already gathered in the tree there.

After we’d finished, Ty stuck his thumb out and a minibus stopped for us, dropping us back at the Sigitoka minibus station, where we got on another minibus bound for Suva. This vehicle, a bit newer than the others we’ve ridden in, was driven by a maniac – he booted it down the highway, screaming around corners at warp speed and passing everything in his way (the people here drive like maniacs, tailgating like mad, then passing at high speed on blind corners). When it started to rain, I’d had enough; with visions of fiery crashes dancing in my mind, I demanded to get off at the next stop and we were deposited at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. Not long thereafter, we flagged down a Pacific Transport bus which disgorged a flock of about 50 school kids before letting us board. This bus, about 50 years old and not in good shape, couldn’t speed down the highway if Satan himself were chasing it.

Not an express, it stopped every fifty feet to let on and off more school children, and pulled in to one school to pick up such a load of kids that every possible seat and space in the bus was full of children laughing and screaming and even hanging out the front door. The bus driver was a miserable sod and kept telling them to “move back”, pulling away from the stop with about 5 people still clinging to the front door. From one crazy extreme to another …

See more pictures here.

Read more about the Sigatoka Sand Dunes here.