Though one of our goals is to not tourist, our flights went through Suva and Nadi, and gave us a lot of time to kill in each city. We had about 8 hours in Suva and 23 hours in Nadi! We did not want to hang out in the airports all day for two days so we went out to see what we could find.
After landing in Suva and taking a break to recharge phones and look up what we could do in our window of time and playing card games to corral the kids, we went out to see what there was to see. We hired a taxi van because a family of 6 can’t fit in anything smaller. We had looked up a couple things, and rather than go to the touristy markets, we went to a rainforest park. There was a little hike down to the river with a waterfall and a swimming hole. It was awesome! Not only a swimming hole but a rope to swing off the top of the falls and drop into the water hole at the bottom. We tried our hand and enjoyed the swing, but also enjoyed watching some locals doing incredible flips and tricks. There were a couple of friends that were olympic material. One would swing out and swing back and pick up the friend and swing together, then they’d jump off while pushing off each other and spiral twist back flips all the way down into the hole! Another guy climbed the tree, up above the rope knot and just jump into the water, it had to be 50-70 feet tall! We really enjoyed the cool water and playing in the creek above the falls. It was a great break between airplane flights, it was nice to see another part of Fiji as well. Talking with our taxi driver was humbling as well. His small wages and the house he pointed out and the nicer if hours he drives. 60+ hours per week and earning the equivalent of $20 a day. We got back to the airport when we wanted to, but I’m reality we had a couple hours to spare. It took all of 10 minutes to get through security and check in for the flight, so we played cards for a couple hours and made friends with the security and airport staff.
We arrived in Nadi and headed to the hotel we had booked. We’d heard and read that it was very family friendly, and it was. But it also felt a bit fake to me. After being in Vorovoro and seeing real Fiji life, the ironed shirts and matching sulus, drinks delivered on platters by smiling but silent servers felt detached. It felt like a production or presentation at Disney world. Don’t get me wrong, Disney world has its place, but it’s certainly not a place where you get an authentic experience with real people and real culture. It’s all pretend, and that’s the point there… Disney isn’t real. It was great to have a pool and to relax most of the day in it and reconnect with friends and family. It was also an awkward and stark difference after the cultural experience on the island. Having Fijians serving us and drive us around when we didn’t know them or share kava or live with them was hard. It felt like a sterilization to placate the wealthy tourist who doesn’t want to be aware of the culture or the people, who doesn’t want authenticity, who is not comfortable with seeing the economic divide in their face. Fiji is a beautiful country though, I hope people learn too that Fiji is a beautiful people as well.
Not being good at touristing, making friends with taxi drivers and security officers and not wanting to be served drinks on platters as we sit by the pool is a sign that we are doing something right, right? Maybe we were just missing our new island family.
We did have a little scare at Nadi airport checking in to head to Australia. All our boarding passes printed fine at the kiosk but one kept giving an error, so we had to go to the counter to figure that out. It turned out that even though our electronic visa application had been approved, it had since changed! One of our six visas to get into Australia was revoked… How exciting! Then they said it was only because the birthdate was wrong on the application compared to the passport. So, we had to reapply before we would be allowed to enter the country. This significantly added to the stress of the day. (After spending hours at the airport and not seeing any of our last 4 flights in Fiji board until flight time, we didn’t feel pressed for time, so we were a bit later than the recommended 2 hours for international flights.) Reapply for a visa to entry the country which you are currently about to board a flight for, no big deal. Luckily Australia has a fast and electronic application process, so they let me use their computer to get on and reapply really fast, and it actually worked! I just had to correctly enter the birthday and pay another application fee (luckily it’s only $20 Australian). My best guess, since I honestly do a decent job remembering my kids birthdays, is that I entered the date American-style (month, day) whereas it’s required to enter in like-literally-the-rest-of-the-world-style (day, month). Luckily they approved us with enough time to run to the gate and board the flight! If it hadn’t worked, we had already decided to leave 1 kid behind, I’ll let you think on who it was… (feel free to guess in the comments!)