Thursday, January 31, 2008

BULA from Fiji!

It's Friday, February 1 and it's a beautiful day in paradise today!

No rain and a wonderful chance to explore Yanuca Island, which is where the Fijian Shangri-La is located. We walked towards the west end of the island where the Shell Market is located, visited the PADI dive shop on the premises and looked at the listing of tours available and decided, nah, we're just going to relax today!

We spent our morning around the largest of their three pools, it's the "family" pool and we had lots of Australian families enjoying the end of their summer in life vests, swimmer arm bands and float rings were totally enjoying the water with their moms & dads! They do have an "adults only" pool a short distance away, but after all the quiet down at the Pearl, it was nice to be around happy families!

Epi, one of the staff, met us after lunch as we were walking around looking lost and when we asked him where the wedding chapel was he said, "Wait here, I'll get the golf cart and take you's a very long walk!" Well, he was's at the far eastern end of the island, past the 9-hole golf course and it's absolutely breathtaking. What a beautiful place for a romantic wedding or vow renewal....

This has been a most interesting week, needless to say! We're anxious to get on our way tomorrow morning and board the Nai'a for our week's diving. We both really missed not being able to dive this week, but I was able to check out quite a few properties and just enjoy forced relaxation!

Wish you were here with us!

Moce (good-bye).....until we leave the Nai'a on the 9th!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday, January 31......Vinaka vaka levu! Thank you very much! Our Wednesday was spent much like our Tuesday...sitting under the canopy outside the restaurant watching the rain! We did manage to get out for a bit on Tuesday afternoon and headed east towards Suva to survey the terrain. Lots and lots of trees down and vegetation strewn all over. 80% of Viti Levu was without power and late Wednesday we heard the road out of Nadi was flooded so no one could get in or out of the city!

We managed to get all the way to Suva on Wednesday and found a gas station that had generator power so we could fill up our gas lines at the service station! The two Aggressor boats were moored next to the Tradewinds Hotel just outside of Suva so we knew those guests/crew were safe. We hadn't yet been able to connect with the Nai'a staff because of the power outages, but later in the day I reached Rob, one of the Nai'a owners.

The Nai'a has been out of service for several weeks getting her "annual refit" so she was safe in port in Lautoka when the storm guests were onboard and the crew was all safe. With the road to Nadi and therefore, Lautoka, blocked, right now Rob is trying to get his crew to the boat so they can finish all the last-minute tasks that have to take place at the end of a refit....but she'll be ready to sail on Saturday afternoon, on schedule!

As of Wednesday evening, still no power in Pacific Harbour, nor any water! Baths were still being taken in the ocean, but the staff at the Pearl was awesome, to say the least. Every few hours they'd have to shut down the generator so it could cool off, but in between food was being cooked, rooms were being cleaned and everyone had an upbeat attitude! We learned that the storm was to the West over Vanuata but the front was still affecting Fiji to a certain degree and it was raining hard most of the day....

This morning when we woke we still had no power..until about 9:00 a.m. when the power was restored, but still no word on water. We tried to reach our next destination, Wananavu Beach Resort up on the north shore, but from what we read in the papers, they were still having flooding issues and no one was answering the phones there.

We headed west along the Coral Coast knowing we'd be able to find a hotel with electricity, water & INTERNET! We stopped at Waidroka Bay Beach Resort and did a lovely tour's a modest resort deep in the rainforest that caters to divers and surfers...small and compact, a great place for a group of serious divers or surfers to spend some time! We then continued west on Queens Highway and stopped at the Outrigger on the Lagoon and did a short tour and had a lovely lunch there. About 30 kilometers west was our ultimate destination....The Fijian Shangri-La and "Shangri-La" it is! It's a beautiful hotel, on absolutely gorgeous grounds on a small private island just across a man-made bridge from the mainland.

The first thing we did was jump into the glorious shower! It's still a little overcast but I'm in heaven and planning on staying here until Saturday when we head for the Nai'a. The front desk here at the hotel told us that traffic is now crossing the bridge into/out of Nadi so barring any more heavy rains, we should be all set when we're ready to head into Nadi on Saturday!

It's been an adventure so far, for sure, but everyone is so friendly and always smiling. Their villages may be flooded, their crops have been essentially destroyed by the floods but you'd never know it from talking with them...the Fijians are truly a caring, smiling culture!

Now it's time to look at all the e-mails! I'll update again soon....


Ni sa yadra (good morning)! It was windy and rainy all night long. Our gardens are covered in downed vegetation and the hotel has gone on their own private generator. No water throughout the hotel, almost the whole island has lost power and along with it, their community water supply! Right after we woke up, everything in the hotel went dark. Reception told us that they shut their generator down for an hour to let it cool down….breakfast would be delayed and please let them know if we needed buckets of water so we could flush our toilet!

Apparently Cyclone Gene made landfall early this morning on the north side of Viti Levu, not too far from Nadi. The morning paper tells us Vanua Levu (just to the northeast of Viti Levu) suffered the brunt of the storm with many trees down, homes & plantations damaged, but that the storm should be to the west of us by mid-day today. Trees and power lines are down all over the island. Our chef is having his staff use water from the swimming pool to wash dishes and breakfast was everything “cold-style”. They did find some gallons of bottled water to use to heat for tea and instant coffee. They are providing all guests with bottled Fiji Water for drinking.

The weather is still cloudy but warm and a bit breezy, with some drizzling mist, nothing like the sheets of rain from last evening. It looks like our day today will be spent under the covered verandahs reading our books! Needless to say, no dive boats are venturing out today even though the ocean looks almost calm….can you imagine what that storm must have churned up down there???? And our beach has had sand thrown every which way!

The major concerns here are the Fijian villages. Traditionally, the villages are built along the many rivers that flow down from the mountains into the ocean. With all the rain that the storm brought, rivers are cresting and threatening to flood. I heard over the radio this morning that they don’t expect the rivers to start receding until maybe Saturday. One of our waitresses told me that if the villages threaten to flood, the villagers will take shelter in either their community buildings or in local churches.

We’ll wait a while today, to let them get some tree clearing done, but we’ll venture out to see what it looks like out there….more later!

Monday, January 28….It was a little bit bumpy all the way from Los Angeles, and the flight took longer than usual, but early Monday morning when we dropped below the clouds for our arrival into Nadi, Fiji, the sight was amazing! Flat, calm blue water….well, aqua, turquoise, all shades of blue imaginable greeted us, with dots of islands poking up from the bottom of the ocean, bits of sand with just a palm tree, reefs just barely submerged under the clear ocean surface….glorious to say the least!

It was an uneventful arrival into the Nadi Airport and the lines snaked around and around to clear Immigration. The one thing the Nadi Airport could use in their receiving area is fans! 6:30 a.m., hot and humid with over 400 people clearing Immigration, moving ventilation would be most helpful!

Baggage claimed and dollars exchanged into Fijian dollars, our car rental already pulled up to the curb awaiting our luggage….once loaded, we were off to Pacific Harbour!

The road from the Nadi Airport along the southeast coast of Viti Levu is two lanes and winding. Local transport buses pick up passengers every few miles, traffic slows around winding curves. Dotted along the road are many, many Fijian villages, all of which greet you with a “hump” in the road so you slow down! Hearty BULAS are heard all along the road, from the bus stops to the folks walking along the side of the roadway.

It was sunny, mild & breezy for our three-hour drive along the Coral Coast. Everything from backpacker hotels to Five Star hotel/resort properties are tucked into the flower-filled, tree lined driveways. Always in our vision were a couple of 3,000’ high mountains that were becoming increasingly cloud-covered.

The closer we got to our destination, Pacific Harbour, the cloudier it got. Just as we pulled under the veranda of the Pearl South Pacific Resort the heavens opened! After unloading our car and checking into the hotel we headed towards the ocean…..what a sight greeted us! Crashing waves and half bent over palm trees! The gigantic pool in the center of the gardens was developing whitecaps! The hotel was in the process of putting up hurricane shutters and “battening down the hatches”! Guess what…..a tropical low had almost instantly developed into a cyclone and was bearing down on Viti Levu! WHERE WERE THE CALM SEAS AND BLUE SKIES OF THIS MORNING???

I know we’ve heard this before, but all the guests were saying “It’s been glorious right up until a couple of hours ago!”

By the time dinnertime arrived, it had become increasingly apparent that something major was going to happen! We ate our dinner with other guests from the U.S. and Australia out on a covered patio on the hotel’s lower level watching the huge waves roll in and palm branches come crashing down. Local TV news forecast Tropical Cyclone Gene was expected to make landfall near Nadi around 4:00 a.m. local time.

Our room faced the gardens and our sliding glass doors had inside wooden shutters as well. Since we were still reeling from our overnight flight, we barely made it until 7:30 p.m. when we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer! We closed our shutters, shut our eyes and prayed that no one would awaken us during the night with evacuation plans……………..

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fabulous Fiji

We're off to Fiji the blog the week of January 28 to see our shark dive & other sights along the Coral Coast!