Having missed out totally on Friday January 6th we arrive in the early hours of Saturday 7th on the lovely islands of Fiji. We have gone from being nine hours behind the UK to thirteen hours in front and it has scrambled my brain. Fortunately I have been told that my seven year old neighbour George will explain it all to me when I get home. Apparently Samoa lost a day over the New Year so that they could comply with Australian time. I wonder how that will effect their pensions in years to come and whether, when I’m gasping for my last breath on my death bed, I will feel cheated and demand my lost day back.
We will skip over the time spent at Los Angeles airport or the mad drive to get there and to return the car on time. Let’s just say it was not my most favourite of Californian experiences. But we are here now and I have grabbed a short moment to try to express the wow factor that greeted us as the sun came out and we explored the immediate surrounds of our hotel – ‘The Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa’.
The weather has been rainy for the past few days and we are driven to the hotel through rain as daybreaks but having got the formalities at reception over with the sun comes out. The view from the room is over a pool and the palm trees out to the lagoon and reef. A hundred yards out waves lap over the edges of the lagoon.
The hotel is built right onto the beach. In fact the fish restaurant that we will be eating in tonight is a little island just off shore that is reached by a short stroll. The palms literally come down to the coral beach of white sand just like in all the iconic pictures one associates with tropical islands. We see a dead water-snake which causes a little stir but the beach guy tells us they are harmless. There are birds shrieking and whistling and the constant swish of the sea. The lagoon water is very clear and we can see a variety of coral fish of many different colours including a small one that is a startling electric blue. Crabs scuttle around and a large toad hops into the shade of a small palm. Another zoological experience.
And everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. At first it is a little disconcerting as we are met at the airport with a cheery ‘Bula’ and a necklace gift. Our driver for the two hour drive is softly spoken for a guy who would make most of the English rugby pack look like small people. He gives us the line ‘our home is your home’…. and I think he means it.
It is only later as I do a little research about the area that I learn that there is a serious political undercurrent and a certain unrest in the Islands. I won’t go over all that now and leave it to the reader to research if they wish but I kick myself that I did not know the recent political history. Would it have made a difference to us coming here? Apparently the military rulers are making concessions to return the islands to democracy and elections are planned for 2014. We will see.
Certainly the juxtaposition of this luxury Spa Hotel with the ramshackle homesteads that we pass on the way here offers food for thought as it does to any traveller who leaves the comparative wealth of the West to visit a developing country and is faced with the obvious contrasts between those that enjoy certain comforts and those that don’t. I would certainly want a political system in place that promised to use my dollar to better the conditions for the majority and this is apparently what the current Junta promises in its response to what it perceives as a previously corrupt ruling elite.
I don’t know….the reef plays its music, the pool bar plays its Fijian tunes, the birds contribute to the orchestra and there are children laughing as they splash about in the pool. It could be very easy to ignore what goes on under the surface and simply indulge in the idyll.
‘Ni Sa Bula Vinaka’ means ‘Welcome and thank you’ and we certainly have been made to feel welcome.