I found myself in Fiji a week or so ago, to attend a family wedding (and sit around reading books in the sun at every opportunity).
I took the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and spent a great deal of my time going “what?” “what is happening?” “I’m sorry, what?”. Good times.
I did enjoy it, actually. I like weird and unexpected.
In a world first for me, I dropped the girls off at school and headed to the airport after leaving hte house in a very respectable state. I always have lofty expectations and then end up rushed, leaving the place looking like a tip.
I also kicked many goals with my in-flight dining – my ticket came with sweet FA so I packed for King and country. I had so much food I wouldn’t need to buy a thing for about a week.
I had a dream run to Fiji – at the airport in time, legendary stranger seat mates, shuttle to resort with a jolly driver, and (for anyone who has been to Fiji they’ll know – ) very enthusiastic welcomes at each resort drop off on the way, including my own. Also: it was warm! Coming from Melbourne where winter has well and truly entrenched itself, the warmth was very pleasantly accepted by your humble narrator.
It was a bit of a culture shock flying overseas through automated ports (I didn’t speak to a single human through security or customs, my passport was checked via machine, a machine took my photo, it was all very high tech 2018) only to get to Fiji and have to sign carbon-based receipts in books I haven’t seen since the 80s. I love things like this, it really gives you a different perspective from one’s usual ethnocentric bubble.
I got to the resort quite late, enough for a bath, to connect to the wifi to message my family already in Fiji to co-ordinate our schedules for the next day, and to message my home family to let them know I’d arrived.
First things first, I must have a cup of tea, only the milk on offer is powdered and as adventurous as I am, I just cannot.
I decide the view is more important and I can deal with tea later. I arrived under the cover of darkness and therefore have no idea what anything looks like or even where I am. Outside my door I find:
- Mountains: check,
- palm trees: check,
- blue water: check,
- reef: check.
Buffet breakfast: check! An interesting mix of cuisines at the buffet (I didn’t realise the huge Indian contingent of Fiji, represented at breakfast with plenty of curries and spicy food), and I am first in line for the eggs.
I haven’t yet seen a single person of ethnicity other than Australian at this resort, excepting the employees. This was to be a common thread throughout the whole resort stay.
First port of call is to head over to another resort to to catch up with the family around the pool, drink much rum in the sun, watch the wedding rehearsal, and celebrate our bride with a girl’s night dinner. The beautiful Fijians who work at the restaurant sang a traditional song and made us all cry (another common thread to be repeated throughout our resort stay, tribal drumming and harmonies leave me a weeping mess), and it was home to my new roomie, a bath, and a precautionary bedtime Berocca.
Nobody gets out of a wedding of my family’s sober, and I’m going in fully armed.
My roomie Sunny and I attack the breakfast buffet like a seasoned team: I tackle the toast, while she mouths to me from the egg station “what do you want in your omelette?”. I just say “cheese” because all the other options would take to long to say, and when I see her tomato-onion-cheese situation later, I am full of regret. Onion! I wish I’d mentioned it.
I spent the day leisurely pottering around, reading on the sunbed, and ironing my dry-clean-only dress (didn’t check that when I left!) which ended up taking an entire hour because I had to have the iron so low and a pillowcase over the delicate fabric.
It is later crushed irretrievably by the car’s seat belt in 5 minutes flat.
I make my way over to the wedding resort for a celebratory champagne, and then it’s showtime.
I cry, everyone cries, everyone looks beautiful, the page boys and flower girl are ADORABLE, our bride has hilarious vows, and then it’s everyone’s favourite bit: the food and dancing. Of which I indulge to the depths of human ability.
True, there was karaoke at the nightclub afterparty, but I ran out of time trying to decide whether to lead the post-midnight stalwarts in a rousing rendition of Wonderwall or Baby Got Back, and therefore no songs were audibly sung by me. Tears for Fears, however, sees me take the stage in my own non-singing solo interpretive dance performance, because OF COURSE everybody wants to rule the world after one’s glass has been topped up with Chardonnay god knows how many times over the course of an evening.
Home at a respectable 12.30am but unfortunately too late for the room service fries Sunny and I had been talking up since lunchtime the day before. We made do with foraged pretzels from my onboard backpack, and a second Bedtime Berocca.
As we’re drifiting off, I give Sunny my omelette request so she’s fully briefed for the morning onslaught.
“Mushroom and cheese,” I say. “If you get there first”.
“You want onion?” she murmurs, half asleep.
Emotional at her thoughtfulness: “Yeah”
I have slept badly, and things are not good.
I wake at 6am for a good long while and believe the world is ending. After another short nap, I realise we have 20 minutes to make it to breakfast. We stumble out, bleary-eyed and struggling despite going to bed fairly sober.
The omelette dance is fulfilled spectacularly and then we lay around all morning trying to pull ourselves together. We sit on sun recliners reading our books side by side until I can’t take it any more and we go for a swim in the pool and order icy cold soda water with lime. We are reborn.
We make it over to the wedding resort to see what’s happening with the rest of the family, only to find some folks have not yet made it out of bed. I have a recovery gin and tonic in the sunshine but it’s a recovery gin in name only, as I’m feeling a hell of a lot better than I did this morning.
A very quiet day topped off with a swim out to the pontoon as the sun goes down to debrief the wedding with our bride, and a discussion about where we should all go for dinner.
In Fiji, as in life, my conversations revolve mainly around food.
The breakfast buffet is again dominated by the Room 102 crew, and we decide to catch the local bus into town, even though most things are closed on Sundays. We run into some family who’ve come over to our resort for golf, and I sweat through most of my clothes. It’s humid and rains sporadically.
We never do find the local bus, so get a taxi into Sigatoka to see what we can see. We have lunch at one of the two tourist shops (extra-spicy burrito for both of us, this should be interesting later sharing a bathroom), discuss Indian curries, purchase souvenirs for the fam, and take a quick walk around town.
I refuse to leave without eating the biggest Tip Top Ice Cream I can manage, which I haven’t had since our trip to NZ when the kids were babies.
We check out the bridge that was ruined in the floods a few years ago, left there in its disarray as nobody knows what to do with it.
It is very quiet in town, with only locals out and about and even then there are very few.
Sunny and I catch a local taxi back to the resort where none of the seat belts work, the driver goes 20k above the speed limit, and spends half the journey looking down at his phone. Nothing like a bit of adrenaline to bump us out of a sleepy Sunday, amirite?
We get home for an al-fresco glass of wine at this table, and this sunset.
Before heading back over to the wedding resort for teppanyaki and more wedding debrief.
Sunny is off home today so we part ways after breakfast and I head into town with my cousin and her fiance. We check out the Sigatoka market, get taken to local Indian restaurant (which is seriously damn delicious and at locals’ prices too which is even better) and then head to Singatoka Spa for a last-minute massage in tranquil surrounds. I read my book in a hammock as the happy couple gets a massage, and it’s one of the highlights of my trip.
Back at the wedding resort I kayak out to the reef (but not past!) and I try my hand at snorkelling. See a starfish and plenty of neon-coloured fish and weird eel thingoes and god knows what else (marine biology was never my thing) and feel v. smug about co-ordinating my snorkel breathing underwater on my first try.
I head off to my last night dinner, where I proceed to eat enough blue cheese butter on Fijian bread for several families.
Back at my resort I watch the Polynesian culture display and take part in a kava ceremony, before spending a few minutes on a hammock in the dark, looking at the stars and listening to the waves crash gently against the retaining wall.
I intend to go back to my room for a bath and early bed before finding myself inexplicably hooked on watching an episode of Forged in Fire on the History Channel, where bladesmiths fight it out to be champion weapon makers. I am genuinely concerned when a contenstant’s blade detaches from its hilt, and another’s Katzbalger is not sufficiently sharp and is therefore disqualified.
On my last morning I order an omelette with onion to honour my Fiji roomie and and I kayak out to the reef again one last time.
I also go snorkelling, this time with the Go Pro, but unfortunately there’s not the same sea life as at the other resort so all I have is a fantastic video of brown water and what could possibly be some sort of tea-coloured seaweed. I hope the video has no sound attached, cos all you would have heard is suddenly not-so-smug me now struggling to master snorkel breathing and giving up entirely before I choke.
The bus comes to get me at 10.25a, and we stop in at a few other resorts on the way to the airport. It’s my first view of the Fiji to be seen between the Coral Coast and Nadi, and my flight home is uneventful, I sleep (sleep! unheard of!), read my book, do crosswords and listen to an audiobook.
Just my luck, I’ve been dreaming of a Sydney Airport laksa (I’m easy pleased) for at least half a day but my transfer window to Melbourne allows me just enough time to order it, wait for it to be ready, and then throw it in the bin as my plane had already boarded. Yay!
I buy a red wine on board to soothe the pain, but anyone who’s had a cold airline shiraz will know that cures absolutely nothing.
Home to a warm house and a happy family, whom I’ve missed dearly.