The Final Countdown: Europe, North America travel blog

Smugglers Cove Backpackers, Fiji. Hope digby remembered his sunscreen

Chuck is still with us

Preparing our fresh coconuts

Fresh coconut drinks...

... and then we get to eat the slimy flesh using a...

Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove

Max at Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove

Taking Digby for a swim

Sunset at Smuggler's Cove

Sunrise at Smuggler's Cove

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

(MP4 - 3.56 MB)

Firedancing at Smuggler's Cove

(MP4 - 3.22 MB)

Firedancing at Smuggler's Cove

(MP4 - 1.57 MB)

Firedancing at Smuggler's Cove


Friday 30th November

We are up early, check out and are at breakfast soon after 6am. We are offered a wonderful full buffet breakfast. We recognise a few faces from last night, but there is no sign of Adam and Nicole yet. We wonder where they have got to, but have not got their room number, we just know they are on the 13th floor (and at that time didn’t know what their last name was). We are taking our time with breakfast until we look up and see a huge queue for the airport shuttle bus. We hadn’t thought about the delay getting back there at the same time as a plane of people. We quickly finish and join the queue, still no sign of Adam and Nicole.

One bus turns up and hardly makes a dent in the queue. Cynthea goes to ask when the next one will be here, and is told the shuttle is every twenty minutes (we had been told every fifteen minutes last night). Cynthea starts to worry and wants to get a taxi, but Tony figures that somewhere along the line someone will have realised a whole plane load of people are trying to get to the airport at once, and extra buses must surely be on the way. He does a quick head count, and we will have to wait for the third shuttle before we will get on. A couple of other hotel guests are wanting to catch the shuttle too, and are obviously “disappointed” at the long queue, they go out to hail a taxi.

There is still no sign of Adam and Nicole when the next shuttle arrives, and we are wondering how to get hold of them. Someone had mentioned to the staff at the hotel about the situation, and we are told extra shuttles are coming. About ten minutes later two more shuttles arrive, just as Adam and Nicole come rushing in. They go to the restaurant and grab a couple of muffins for breakfast, and catch our shuttle. They had slept in.

At the airport we check the departure board for the flight details, there is yet another delay of two hours, departure is now 10.45. We are not impressed, the useless sods knew where we spent the night and could have sent a message. We could have had a more sleep, or more breakfast!

We decide to go through security checks now as there is no point in sticking around out here. The weather is no better, it is pouring down.

We go through the security checks, and as usual Cynthea is pulled aside because her hip set off the alarm. Tony is getting his gear and is missing his belt, apparently he didn’t put it in the tray and it was found on the floor.

Cynthea is cleared after getting frisked and is getting everything when she discovers her credit cards are missing. She definitely had them before the security check, and we wonder if someone lifted them from the tray as they walked past. We have to empty everything out and double check just in case the wallet is there somewhere, but it is gone. The Police are helpful and go to get the TSA security footage, if someone has them they will still be in the area. It is a still a worry, and Tony starts getting the details to call and get the cards stopped. A few minutes later the Police come back to us with the wallet, it had “fallen on the floor”, they say. We have to wonder… it was in the bottom of the tray. But we are very relieved that the cards have been found and head to the departure gate.

We catch up with Adam and Nicole and they are pleased everything turned out ok. We are thankful that we were not cutting it close for the flight. We still have a couple of hours to wait for boarding so we fill in time writing and chatting. There is hardly anything open airside, we would have thought there would have been more. Our gate is at the far end of the terminal, so a wander anywhere is more of a hike. Shops start opening up later, but Tony really only wants a coffee.

A couple of passengers comment that there have been flight delays with Air Pacific for two days now. One guy was going on a dive cruise, he is unsure what will happen now, as the boat will be long gone by the time he gets there. There are few staff to be seen around, and there is nothing up on the information board despite it being near departure time.

Yes, there was yet another delay, and we are finally away 11.45am, over 14 hours late. Our flight time is estimated at 10 hours and 10 minutes, it is going to be a long day! Clocks go forward 21 hours, and we lose a day crossing the international date line. We are due to arrive around 7pm on Saturday, the 1st of December. Our flights cost US$554 each (about NZ$700), including a luggage allowance.

Our aircraft is a rather old feeling 747-400. The entertainment system is rubbish. All the movies start at the same time, and you cannot pause or rewind. Annoying Japanese subtitles are on our screens and cannot be removed. There is an “elapsed time” in the middle of screen, the time does not change much, so what is it there for? If you want to switch movies you have to wait for the longest running programme to finish, then everything is “rewound” to the start. There is no in flight information at the seats either. There will be a carefully worded letter about this experience. Meals and snacks are included in our tickets, so that is something.

We are warmly welcomed to Nadi, and we are not just talking about the weather. It is hot and humid as we expected, and it is not helping that we are wearing our heavier clothing to keep the luggage weight down. It has been raining, but we expected that too, it often rains in the afternoons. Locals are singing and playing ukuleles for us in arrivals, before we have even been through immigration. That would have to be a first, perhaps they are more relaxed about that in Fiji. Immigration is a slow process, they are probably running on island time. We fill in an immigration form, and are given a small tear off piece from the bottom of the form. They slip them inside our passports and ask us to present them when we leave, but they are loose, not stapled to the page (as they did when we entered the US).

We collect our luggage and change our currency, we thought we would get a better rate here changing US and Canadian dollars, rather than trying to get Fiji dollars over there. USD$130 gets us FJD$213, and CAD$15 gets us FJD$25, after the $5 fee is taken out.

We are waiting for our shuttle to Smugglers Cove, and meet up with Adam and Nicole again. Our shuttle arrives, and the driver asks where they are staying. They tell him Aquarius, and he tells them their bus will be here soon, their hotel is next to ours. An American from our flight is also on our bus, Cathy is from Dallas and is here to meet up with her son who lives in Australia. The trip takes about 15 minutes, we travel almost in a full circle around the airport. If there had been a road across the short runway the trip would have taken a lot less. We are close to the airport runway but we notice few flights during our stay.

It is very obvious that there is not a lot of money to spare around here. There are few late model cars, houses are in need of a good spruce up, and many properties generally look untidy and overgrown. There is a lot of litter on the side of the road.

We check in around 8pm, we feel a bit tired, but then realise the body clock is at 11pm. We must have crossed the Equator too, it is still light in this neck of the woods (back in the States it was dark by 5pm). We are annoyed to be asked for a FJ$20 deposit for each key card. There had been no mention of this when we booked. This means we will have Fiji dollars when we leave and will have to change them. We only get one key, and one towel. Apparently you are only issued a towel if you get a key. They didn’t say about that when booking either. We have our own towels, so it won’t be a problem. The tour desk is not staffed at this hour, and there are few brochures about. A porter takes both our backpacks, Tony tells him he doesn’t have to carry both and tries to get one to carry him, but the guy carries on. He is only wearing jandals on his feet and the poor bugger goes for a skate on wet tiles. Luckily he is fine, probably highly embarrassed though.

The room costs FJ$110 (NZ$78) for two nights, there are four beds (two sets of bunks) and an ensuite, two others are already in our room. We are in the new part of the hostel, apparently much better than what is on the other side. Strangely there are only bottom sheets on the bed, and a blanket is provided. The sea view is there, but only if you are right up against the window and twist your head to see down the side. There is a café along the corridor, but there is a private party happening tonight, so we have to go to the restaurant for tea. We just hope they keep the racket down when we are ready for bed.

There is a small pool at the bar, but that is only open between 6am and 6pm, and the rooftop bar is open between 5 and 7pm. There are a couple of hammocks on the beach, and a good number of sun loungers are available free to guests. Kayaks are also available, free to guests for an hour at a time. Internet is available, but it is expensive, around $5 an hour, so we won’t be bothering with that.

At the bar Cathy Wade (from Dallas, TX) and her son Max (from Melbourne, Australia) are having a meal, and invite us to join their table. We order pizza, soda water and a beer (FJ$31, NZ$22). Cathy says not to bother ordering any salad as she will not be able to eat all hers. We spend the evening chatting but we are fairly tired, it is after 1am by the body clock, even though it has not long gone 10pm here. Tony calls in at reception to ask about another sheet, and they promise to send someone along. He cannot get a straight answer out of them when he asks how many sheets they usually put on a bed.

He spends some more time at the tour desk, but with no one about he gets no further than when he was there before. It is clear that few of the tours are running tomorrow, with it being Sunday. Tony asks what time the tour desk opens and is told it would be around 9am because it is Sunday. They also tell him that buses will not be running either. A taxi to Nadi will cost around FJ$20 to get there, and FJ$50 to bring you back. We get the feeling that the taxi service is not that well regulated here. Tony asks about the shuttle service to the airport, and they advise they do not have one, it is pick up only (sigh). We just go outside and pick up a taxi, there is always one there, and they charge $12 a trip.

We wait in vain for about an hour in the room for someone to come and sort out the sheets, in the end we can’t be bothered going back to reception again and turn in for the night. The blanket is not that comfortable, it is too cool not to have a cover, and too hot with the blanket. We turn the aircon off, but it soon becomes stifling hot even with the ceiling fan, we can’t win. As we are finally getting off to sleep the geckos start yapping, but we are so tired they don’t keep us awake for long.

Sunday 2nd December

We are up early for breakfast at around 7am. The others in the room last night have left already, they didn’t use their towels so we grab them. We thought we would have slept longer but the heat made it difficult to get back to sleep. Breakfast is simple, a choice of cornflakes, porridge, fresh pineapple and fresh (green) banana, toast, jam, fruit juice, tea and coffee. We sit outside and enjoy the view. It is quite some time before anyone arrives at the tourist desk, and when we finally do get to talk to someone the few tours available for the day have left.

We can hire a taxi to drive us around, but that was a bit beyond the budget. We decide we will just walk around the Nadi Bay area here, and relax on the beach. Tony is sitting at table by the bar waiting for Cynthea to return from booking the kayaks when a local approaches him and there is a bit of small talk, and after asking Tony where he is from, tells him that he is a coconut gatherer. Tony suspects something is up, and before long he is asking Tony if he has ever had fresh coconut juice, and Tony tells him yes. Tony is asked to come along to try some of his because he has just been up the tree to get some. There is no mention of money, yet. Cynthea joins them and is keen to have a go. As he gets the coconut ready he tells us that coconut milk is good for the skin. Tony is tempted to ask if you have to drink it or wear it. We finish our drinks and the coconut is cut open to get at the flesh. A piece of the shell is used as a spoon. The flesh was “different”, is very soft and feels slimy in the mouth. The taste is ok, but it was not the hard solid flesh we had expected. The coconuts we get at home are more mature, and so the flesh has had time to thicken and harden. While we are eating we are told that an American gave him a US$10 “donation” for his coconut yesterday. We don’t have a lot of cash on us, he gets FJ$10.

We are getting ready for the kayaks when Nicole and Adam turn up. They are heading out for a walk, calling in at the different resorts to see what is on offer. Their hotel is nice, but the restaurant does not offer much, so they are on the hunt for better food options. They got caught by the coconut man too, haha.

We take the kayak out, we have a choice of a double seater or a single each, we choose the double seater but it is hard going and difficult to navigate because we are not paddling in sync. Cynthea is not too happy about it and doesn’t want to go out too far, even though it is not deep out in the bay. She also accuses Tony of trying to tip her out. As if? We get back to the beach and Cynthea leaves Tony to paddle on his own. He gets some good speed up, but there is no back support, so he gives it up after about half an hour.

Tony heads along the Wailoaloa beach for a long walk, and Cynthea stays at he bar where she is eying up the menu for a feed of lobster. There are not too many people about on the beach, but there are lots of family groups having picnics in the shade. There is a lot of rubbish left around. Further along the bay horses are being taken for a swim. A group of locals has a long net out and bring it in as Tony approaches. They have got a good catch.

Back at the hotel we relax in the sun, we have used sunscreen but we have forgotten how fierce the sun is around here and it is not long before we have to get under cover. Later we take a walk along beach past the Aquarius, Nicole and Adam are out reading by the pool and call us over. We ask if they found anywhere to eat, and they tell us there are a couple of places about, but there was not a lot open until later. We tell them that there is a fire dance on later by the pool if they are interested. We talk about their trip to NZ, they arrive in Nelson a couple of days before we leave there. They are doing some Helpx work on a place just out of Nelson, but are not quite sure exactly where it is. We just may be able to catch up with them while we are there.

We head off in search of somewhere to eat. There is a café across the road, but they only have one meal on the menu, so we give it a miss. We don’t find anything else, and Cynthea goes back to the hotel while Tony goes for a walk along the main road. He finds a supermarket (with cheap beer!), but there is no fast food, and nowhere to cook anything back at the hotel. Cynthea is in the café watching a movie, but the cafe is closed for another private function. Tony goes out to the bar and Nicole and Adam are just finishing a meal. We join them, and order our meals. Max and Cathy arrive to see the fire dancing show and they order a meal as well.

It is a great show, but from where are sitting the performers have their backs to us most of the time. They get a few from the audience up to learn some of the dances, some are very good, and we wonder if they are “planted” or are they really that good. One of the performances involves juggling a sharp machete, and to show just how sharp it is he cuts up the stems from some palm fronds. That thing is lethal. There are a couple of near misses, and you can tell from the look on his face that they were not intentional. The show moves to the beach where they can do a lot more, and they are facing us. With more room the fire dancers are working in twos and threes. One of the guys gets kerosene in his eye, he heads for the water and is there quite some time. We all enjoy the show, they perform for around an hour.

We don’t have too late a night, Max and Tony are planning to be up at sunrise to see if they can get some good shots, weather permitting. We are just not sure what time we need to be up and about, and the staff at the hotel haven’t got a clue. We figure 6am should do.

Tomorrow we leave for NZ, we will be home after 21 months away.

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