“Bula,” shout workers on the tarmac, as you leave the airplane.
“Bula,” smile the tropically-dressed musicians playing welcoming music as you walk inside the terminal.
Photo by Harmonie
The customs staff, fittingly, are efficient rather than friendly, and we are processed and picking up our bags with a speed that astounds me.
We pile our waiting Pacific Destinationz car for our transfer to the Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa.
Ready to go. Miss 8 is sulking because her big brother got the front seat. (Only because he called 'first dibs'. She got it next time though...)
Our driver Moses, makes sure we know it’s at least a 90 minute a drive and checks if we need to go to the toilet or have a drink first. (So important if you have kids, or, ahem, a Mummy Bladder.)
Then he suggests a quick trip to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water and snacks, which will be much more expensive at the resort. And the stop will be at no extra charge to us.
I don't have to even ask the kids. "Shopping!" they say happily, thoughts of snacks and soft drink dancing in their heads.
We are thrilled to discover it’s a New World, which was our local supermarket when we lived in New Zealand.
Of course, the Fijian New World is not much like an Auckland New World which makes it far more interesting.
Oh the delights we find on the shelves!
Shasta softdrink – the kids’ favourite ‘artificially-flavoured’ soft drink of choice when we holidayed in Samoa.
UFO chips – my favourite salty snack when I was a kid, no longer available in Australia.
Fijian water – goes without saying.
Moses appears, and pushes our trolley, unloads and packs up again, and loads our purchases into the car again. Oh, I could get used to this!
Finally, we are on the road to the resort.
Snapshots of Fijian life flash by.
Crops of cassava and sugar cane. People walking home along sugarcane rail tracks, with fishing rods on their backs. Groups of youths playing rugby on dusty fields with makeshift goal posts. Homes made out of iron and timber with washing blowing in the breeze, line the side of the road.
We all desperately try to stay awake to take it all in, but lulled by the motion of the car, Moses’s CD of seventies hits, and our own exhaustion, we all doze a little.
Only Harmonie is still sleeping as we drive into the Warwick, and it takes quite a while to wake her.
“Missy, we’re here,” says Chase, speaking in his loving big brother voice. “We’re in Fiji.” Her head jolts up and she clutches her kitty toy and looks around her with wide-eyed interest.
"Bula," says our porter, Vasahalia, warmly shaking the kids' hands as they scramble out of the car.
He instantly makes friends with them by making a fuss of Harmonie's stuffed animals, and calling them 'sir' and 'madam'.
While I’m taking care of check-in, he takes the kids to look at the koi fish and carp and promises the children and their toys a ride on the baggage trolley if they are good while Mummy is busy. They are.
He has three children at home, he tells me, and making guests' kids happy is the best part of his job.
I’ve just completed the paperwork, when we’re presented with three very welcome glasses of juice.
The kids love this treat. Oh, and of course, Kitty has some too.
Then we’re taken to our room, the kids via their promised baggage trolley ride.
For me, the room itself is a disappointment. It's terribly small for three people, and there is practically no view.
I don't know how families of four or more manage, and the deal we booked was a room for four, not three, so I'd expected some extra space.
Chatting to others as the days pass, I find out that families of five often squeeze into these rooms as well! And of course, we also find that it doesn't really matter in the end, because we are only ever in our rooms to sleep after all.
Plus, the room is air-conditioned, and clean, and when our housekeeper arrives and sees we are short of towels and pillows etc, she's quick to remedy the situation. She also tells us to get to dinner promptly - the only restaurant included in our all-inclusive deal shuts at 10 pm local time and it's just after 9 pm now. So off we go.
Unfortunately, it's a buffet and all the best food is gone. Nothing has been replaced. It's roast night, which the kids would normally love, but there are only a few lonely pieces of rejected meat, overdone veggies, stale bread, and picked-over salads left. The gravy pot is empty.
Miss 8 bravely asks for fresh replacements and are told they coming. They never arrive.
There is nothing tempting left for dessert so we leave feeling still a little hungry. I would have thought there might have been at least ice-cream for the kids, and the fruit looked dried out and unappetising. (Note: Luckily this was our worst meal experience at the Warwick, and we certainly found with buffets the trick was to get there early).
If I'd had to pay full-price (the kids ate free) I would have been really peeved. But instead, we walked back to our room along a coconut palm-lined beach, enjoying the sea-breeze and the sound of the waves. We had nothing to complain about really. We were in Fiji after all!
The kids made friends with some cats and kittens (who made short work of the meat they were unable to eat), and all was well.
Back in our room, the kids tore into the snacks and drinks we'd bought earlier. (Thank you Moses.)
Just like her Mum!
The kids watched a little Cartoon Network while I read, and when I said it was bedtime, they happily turned out the light, and were snoring gently within minutes.
And I let them sleep in for as long as I dared before waking them for the first real day of our Fijian holiday.
After all, we didn't want to miss breakfast!
Maid In Australia travelled to Fiji with the assistance of Tourism Fiji and Air Pacific Fiji