We landed at Fiji’s Nadi (pronounced “nahn-dee”) International Airport before sunrise. Mr. HalfFull booked the first week of our trip in the South Pacific, so I expected him to know every detail, or at least the next step that would get his booty from Air Pacific’s airplane to the beach hammock he’d been raving about during his last week at work. He was fairly certain that we could walk to the marina from the airport, but he grabbed a map at a rental car counter just to be sure.
I waited outside for Mr. HalfFull, who reported that the woman at the rental car desk said it was a half hour to the marina. I asked if he was sure she understood that we were walking and not driving, since she worked for a rental car company. He was convinced that she understood.
Mr. HalfFull also asked her if it was safe to walk along the main road. He meant safe for pedestrians, with a sidewalk or at least distance from traffic. Interestingly, she assured him it was safe due to the abundance of military personnel in town. Hmm…
We exited the airport on foot and saw a couple of the armed military men she mentioned. It felt great to walk after being on an airplane for so long, and Fiji’s lush mountainous landscape was gorgeous in the morning sun. We found ourselves in Nadi’s rush hour, with lots of decrepit vehicles and many pedestrians including children in school uniforms. Smiling people greeted us on the sidewalk with a cheerful “bula!”
After we passed our first traffic circle, a Fijian man started walking with us. We definitely stood out as pasty white people walking along the busy street lugging our backpacks. He asked us where we were going, telling us he was on his way to work as a local pilot who flew between Fijian islands. We told him a bit about our trip, and he replied that it was nice to see a father and daughter traveling together. Hello!?! I quickly responded that we were married and showed him my ring, and we soon parted ways. Mr. HalfFull must have been looking pretty haggard after 27 hours of flights and layovers!
We continued our walk and were soon joined by another Fijian man. This guy was much older with a full graying beard and gruff demeanor. I thought he wanted to pass us on the sidewalk, but he started walking in step with us and asked where we were going. I was a bit scared at this point because the new guy did not appear to be as friendly as the pilot. But we told him we were headed to Denarau Marina, which he said was a long way. We replied that it was okay because we needed a good walk after flying, and the woman at the airport said it was thirty minute walk. “Bullshit!” he exclaimed. According to him, it was a two hour walk from the airport. I knew she meant driving time, Mr. HalfFull!
We further explain our destination to John, the gruff man on the street, and he informed us that our boat doesn’t even leave from Denarau Marina! What? How could Mr. HalfFull be so utterly wrong? He claims that we need to drive an hour south to Likuri Harbor. (We later learn that our second accommodation was scheduled to leave from Denarau Marina, and Mr. HalfFull mistakenly thought that both left from the same harbor. This poses an even bigger issue because now we are not sure we will be able to catch our second early morning boat four days later, since we will be an hour away.)
John guides us to a taxi in front of a nearby hotel and instructs him to drive us to a hotel with bus transfers to Likuri Harbor. We are very uneasy at this point. Where are we going? Why did John help us? Did he have our interests in mind, or was he in cahoots with the taxi driver? How could we have gotten into this mess? What is it going to cost?
The taxi driver was very engaging and wanted to tell us all about Fiji and the sites we passed. He even played a burned Bob Marley Legend CD in the car, which he offered to us for FJ$2. Needless to say, we didn’t invest in dead pirated technology.
He said he could drive us directly to the harbor instead of the hotel. At that point, we had no idea what we were supposed to do, so we went all in and agreed to let him drive us directly to the jetty.
Along the drive, he stopped at a Hindu temple so we could take a photo. I did not get out of the car for fear that he would drive off with our luggage. He stopped again at his friend’s souvenir store so he could get coffee and we could spend money. This was rather awkward since we were at the start of our journey and traveling light, not wanting to carry extraneous items. He asked if I wanted coffee, so of course I said yes. After some commotion, the shop owner presented us with a glass of Coke, saying his coffee machine was broken, but this was just like coffee. Ha!
Finally, we arrived at a clearing next to a wooded river in the middle of nowhere. There was no town, no houses, no boats — just a small, rickety, wooden dock with an old shack nearby. There wasn’t even a sign to inform us that we were in the correct location. Suffice it to say, I was nervous and not happy with Mr. HalfFull.
There were a few sturdy Fijian ladies at the dock and we asked them if they were going to Likuri Island, but they were going fishing. They explained that the powdery black substance on their faces was natural sunscreen. I guess a mud mask can be sunscreen, but it looked reminiscent of blackface and made me uncomfortable until they explained the purpose. We bid the ladies farewell as they boarded their canoe and paddled away; we were left alone at the dock.
We still had no confirmation that we were in the correct location or if a boat was ever coming. Thankfully about fifteen minutes later, a van showed up with another passenger heading to Likuri Island. We had been in Fiji two hours and this was the first independent confirmation that we were in the right place!
The girl who arrived (dubbed Ms. Holland), was traveling the world alone after graduating from university. We were relieved to find her and became good friends on the island over the next few days. She was almost done with her five month trip, which included some of the same places we planned to visit, but in the opposite direction around the world. So we were able to glean a few tips and insights from her experience. We chatted for a long while before the boat arrived.
After another half hour, a car pulled in with an older Australian couple driving and a Fijian guy with a Robinson Crusoe Island t-shirt in the backseat. After a few hours lost in the fog of travel, things were finally starting to look promising! About fifteen minutes later, two boats pulled up to the wooden dock, and we grabbed our luggage in preparation to board. But the Aussies informed us that we were waiting for two more buses full of people. Apparently, there was a schedule, we just had none of the details, which drives me crazy. It’s not like I’m a control freak; I’m just a realist. After all, I had allowed Mr. HalfFull to plan this segment of the trip. (Note to self: always check fine print after he books anything!)
Eventually, we boarded the second boat and arrived on the island to singing and guitars. Of course, I did not arrive in a state of relaxation. That sneaked up on me the next day, when Mr. HalfFull was relieved of his travel implementation duties. More details of our (mis)adventures in Fiji and the start of our trip to New Zealand will be published on September 12th as a guest post on theprofessionalhobo.com.
- Have you experienced travel (mis)adventures?
- Have you ever departed an international airport on foot?
- How detailed are you when planning a trip? Is winging it part of the fun?
- Are you fearful of strangers in foreign countries?
- How long does it take you to relax on vacation?