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Bula Vinaka! – A warm hello to you!
From my perch in the shade of the poolside bar canopy I realize I made the right decision. Plow through to Fiji. An archipelago of 330 islands, the backdrop of many a Hollywood film, Fiji’s exotic reputation was enough to interest me in paying a visit. Tourism and sugar exports number as the main source of income but Fiji’s forest, mineral and marine resources contribute to the strength of the economy.
With limited time to fly all the way around the world, I decided that stopping in California wouldn’t have helped to make the long ride across the Pacific much more pleasant. And so, after the 5 hour flight to LAX from IAD, we boarded our flight to Nadi at 11:30pm (2:30am EST). At that hour almost nothing could keep me awake on that airplane. The eye mask came out, the shoes came off, as snugged as a bug can be with a blanket and a pillow in coach class, I willed myself to sleep.
Nearly 7 hours later, I awoke to watch a movie, eat breakfast, fill out immigration forms and prepare for landing. The kids did their own version of the same. My prophetic words rang true, “Sleep on the plane and when you wake up you will be in Fiji!”
During the last couple hours of the flight my daughter, seated next to me, and I were both watching different movies, headphones on. She nudged me in the arm. “Mom, did you hear that?”
“Did you hear what the pilot said?”
“No, what did he say?”
“He said we have to make an emergency landing in Texas because there are too many chinchillas on the airplane!”
[The next part goes through my mind in a matter of nanoseconds.]
Maybe we have a funny pilot who enjoys crazy jokes. A brief déjà vu of a flight I was on years ago from Argentina to the USA, which did in fact make an emergency middle of the night landing in Paraguay, flashes through my mind. I knew we were somewhere over the Pacific 40,000 feet up, so Texas didn’t sound logical AT ALL. I happened to glance down at the screen she was watching in the seat-back in front of her. An animated film, one of the Rio movies I think. The characters were on a flight, the scene mayhem, small creatures scampering about an aircraft cabin.
“Ainsley, that wasn’t our pilot talking. It’s the character in movie the you’re watching!”
She looks at the screen. She looks at me. “Ohhhhhhhhh, right!” We both started cracking up.
Fast forward eight hours. A slight breezed envelopes me. Daytime temps hover in the mid-80s, evening mid-70s. Sunny skies, warm ocean, cool pool, happy kids, friendly folks. Who could ask for more?
Diagnosis: Jetlag. Remedy: Fiji.
I had no plan for Fiji other than getting to Paradise Cove Resort. Turns out getting there isn’t so bad even if I’s not quick. We made it through customs and immigration by the hair on our chinny chin chin to catch the airport pickup to the marina for the three-hour catamaran ride up the Yasawa Island chain to get to Paradise Cove. If you’ve seen Brooke Shields’ film The Blue Lagoon you’ve seen some of the Yasawas, 20 volcanic islands reached only by boat, seaplane or helicopter. I arranged our transfer online with Awesome Adventures Fiji when I booked our accommodations.
I’d never been to Fiji an didn’t know much, but from my research I knew I didn’t want to stay on the mainland. Yet, I didn’t have time to get too far. I knew my kids would be content with a beach and a pool so I was sure to check that box. I wanted a place small enough to feel comfortable and homey but large enough to have other guests around, hopefully some other kids. Reading online reviews can be tedious and time-consuming as you try to spend your money wisely based on the advice of strangers. Usually, however, it pays off.
Paradise Cove ended up being more than I’d hoped for. We’ve enjoyed walks on the beach, snorkeling, a cooking class, relaxing in hammocks, boating to the local village church service, sunset hikes, kayaking, paddle boarding, diving, voi voi weaving and swimming in the pool (only the diving cost extra).
We needed to spend our last night in Fiji on the mainland near the airport since our flight departed first thing the following morning. I opted to stay in the small, simple sister hotel the Oasis Palms. Not fancy, but comfortable, inexpensive, with a pool and a killer sushi restaurant, plus breakfast and an airport shuttle. Sadly we said our goodbyes to everyone we’d met at Paradise Cove and boarded the catamaran in the late afternoon for the same trip back to the marina at Port Denarau. [Hot Tip: I recommend a cheap dinner at Mama’s Pizza at the Port; it hit the spot.]
Before you get the impression I’m one of those glossy bloggers who only mentions the fun stuff, please know I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant jobs on this trip already. Take referee, for example. Several times I’ve had to reluctantly coax my verbal boxing kids into their corners. Truce broker, law enforcement officer, killer of soda pop and candy dreams, all roles I’ve played while invoking God’s power in prayer. The hats we wear as parents are the same regardless of the geography.
I won’t lie. A couple of beers helps too.