Roadtrip Nadi Suva Nadi

As a kind of Hail Mary, I decided a drive around the main island, Viti Levu, was in order.

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But not before dealing with every shyster rental agency I could find by phone. I was quoted prices mostly around $120 – $130 a day, with one comedian asking for a $1000 bond.

They turned out to be tourist prices, as I discovered when Jone – the AirBnB host – started ringing around, and finally got a $70 / day deal.

However, the strings attached were that young Jone was along for the ride. Which suited me fine – it meant another driver on the 500km jaunt, all packaged with a local guide.

Nadi to Ba

We left on time at 7.30 a.m., and the spirits were high up to Ba, where a quick coffee set the mood for the morning nicely [ all trip videos ]

Then the sailing started becoming slightly less easy at Rakiraki, with the first of Jone’s stops. He’s a bailiff, and this was a work trip for him. On the upside, I did score some huge papaya ( mangoes ) for $3, but waited 30 minutes or so while Jone hunted down some unfortunate with bad debts.

The next target was near Volivoli peninsula, at the northern tip of the island, where I was plotting a refreshing dip in the briny. But the tides were against me, and the dip turned into a cold salt-water bath instead.

Namuamada, near Volivoli

Abuzz from the dip, I scoffed down a lunch of three boiled eggs, before we hit a spate of super-cheap roadside stalls. Jone picked and chose carefully, while I grabbed a delicious tuna roti for later.

South East

The came the long haul down to Suva. This is the greener side of the island, where rainfall is high, and the bananas and other fruit are plentiful.

Further down we passed through Fiji’s dairy country, Rewa, north of Suva.

But not before a brush with the law.

The road is dotted with speed cameras. Except in Fiji, they actually forewarn you with prominent signs.

That, and the car’s digital speedo, meant that I got through them all with an intact wallet. Despite the fact that our rental car had yellow LR plates, alerting the cops to a potential victim, I managed to drive unmolested through a manned checkpoint.

Not so Jone. He’d either ignored or not heard my bleated warnings, and got pinged with a $60 fine at a manned speed-check. Muttering about the injustice of it all, he didn’t say so much as we neared Suva to the south.

Rougher Sailing

From there, the mood and the car went south. First, there was a stop of almost an hour in Nausori, a satellite town of Suva, while Jone did his business.

I wandered around for a while trying not to get lost, before taking an awkward refuge in an air-conditioned department store across the road from our meeting point. Barefoot, I feigned interest in the wares and made small-talk with the salesman.

I’ll avoid Nausori in future – true, it was a Friday afternoon, but heat, noise ( taxis ), and dust give it that Mad Max feeling.


We hit the capital around 4pm, where I got more practice in the arts of waiting while Jone did this & that. A little detour to shore up my vape supplies followed. Suva central city is a pleasant and pretty place, without the dust and noise of its outskirts. I just wish it rained less there.

Then it was the homeward leg to Nadi, with the aim of meeting the 7pm deadline for the return of the 24-hour rental.

…and North

Not so fast, it turned out. There was, says Jone, a short stop in Navua. Yes.

That turned into an expedition 5kms or so off the main road into Sandro , on the tail of a bad debtor. The dirt and gravel road, late on Friday afternoon, was scattered with people, many possibly returning from work at Grace Road Food Company, a major player in Fiji’s produce sector.

We stopped and talked into most of the local population, probably getting the Fijian version of “the first house on the left after the green barn”.

An hour or so later, papers served, we were back on the main road, and up against the clock.

As it darkened, I discovered that no-one here bothers to dip their lights. Blinded and tired on the unfamiliar roads, I gave the wheel back to Jone on the winding roads south of Sigatoka.

By then I was over the trip, but there was still more 90 minutes left.

Late anyway, Jone talked me into going halves in renting the car for an extra day, rather than futzing around in Nadi returning it in the dark.

What did I learn?

  • road trips are best done on your own agenda
  • driving is the dark is no fun
  • as in many places, there are tourist prices, and local price
  • the roads in Fiji aren’t so good for fast travelling




Eat, Drink and Be Merry

A regular student remarked recently how resilient I was to travel to parts lesser known. I smiled and said ‘thanks’.

He was wrong.

Comfort has gotten the better part of valour, and I’ve escaped the “hardships” of inland Nadi to more habitable parts. At least for a couple of days’ trial.

The downsides of inland Nadi are

  • the lack of air-conditioning, the biggest problem, although mostly only at nights. But a few nights of little sleep, and murderous black clouds are hovering overhead.
  • the crawling internet speeds. Almost Ok for watching youtube. But not good enough to earn even a meagre crust online video teaching, where I’m at the mercy of unforgiving Japanese students.
  • the environs. There’s nowhere to stroll without fear of being mown down by Mad Max trucks.
  • the difficulty of getting anywhere fast.

All of this dawned on me when the student kindly wished I was enjoying my “holiday”. Hah!

American physicist Richard Feynman said “… you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

And I got to thinking why I’m here. Not to explore the hinterland, or in the cause of anthropology. Not on a hunt for rare butterflies, or to sip pink cocktails poolside, or for geological surveys. Not at all.

Intermittent doses of physical stress are fine, but prolonged mental stress will have me nearing 80 shortly.

I’m here to sit out the winter, do some work and some swimming, meet some locals, see some sights, and soak up some vitamin D and local food.

Which is all by way of justifying a weekend in Martintar on the main Nadi thoroughfare. It’s got

  • air-conditioning
  • decent internet
  • proximity to the Beach. Today it took me $5 FJD and ‘only’ 90 minutes to travel to the beach and back, go for a swim, and catch up the staff at the Ideal Bed & Breakfast, my last lodgings.
  • shops etc within quick walking distance

I’ve booked a weekend, but I may well extend it. I’ll fret about the budget later.

As the infamous Donald Kessel ( classmate 1974 – 1976, now inventor ) said “eat, drink, and be merry, and tomorrow we starve”.

UPDATE: The place has worked out better than expected! It even has internet speeds passable enough to teach some Japanese students. BUT I’ve just found out I can’t extend my stay because someone had already booked it.

On The Bus

I’m slowly figuring out how to get around in Nadi.

First, it was negotiating with taxi drivers. That doesn’t work. A 10km round trip to Wailoaloa beach set me back $35 FJD.

Second, it was using taxis, but insisting on them using flag fall and a meter. Better, but unsustainable. A 10km round trip to Nadi township cost me about $19.

Lastly, as above it is the bus. Duh. A 10km round trip to Nadi township and back cost me exactly $3.


A Fool and his Money

A trip to Nadi township today left me lighter in the pocket, but in good spirits.

A novice tourist such as myself has no show against these smooth operators.

I’d been in the township less than 5 minutes before a friendly character lurking in a shop doorway greeted me with “Bula” and a wide Fijian smile.

He asked what I now realise are the standard questions to size up my spending power – “where you from”,”how long you been here”,”how long you staying”,”where are you staying”.


And I was invited in for a cup of kava.  The sun was nowhere near the yard-arm, but a refusal would have been rude, so….

I sat on a mat near the back of the shop opposite a guy who mumbled a quick prayer, clapped his hands three times, and told me to down the small cup in one.

I used to be a high-achiever in such behaviour, so this bit was easy. And a better taste than the kava I’d bought in years gone by at an Indian dairy at home.


And then it came, after I made the mistake of admiring out loud the beautiful hand-made Fijian clubs on display. These things are works of art. And useful for cannibals too, noted my guide with a straight face.

Amid talk of a souvenir of my Fiji visit there were several mentions of “supporting the local indigenous community”.

So after a lot of hemming and hawing and choosing this and that, I came away with a small knife / club similar to a Maori mere.  But wooden.

So there’s that bit of gift shopping done.

Next the original lurker insisted on escorting me up the road to the local travel shop, where I got some advice and brochures and such from the budget travel agent. Which to be fair, possibly saved me a hundred dollars at least versus booking these things online.


Once I got out of there, the midday heat ( it’s 27 ° C at 7.30 pm ) reminded me that I’d made another young player’s mistake in not bringing light shirts.

After walking in and out of five shops, I found the silk shirt at left. It was marked for $69, I think.

Then the conversation went something like this. Me: “Too much.” Her: “Discount, sir”. Me: “How much?” Her: $42. Me:”Too much”. Him:”What is your budget?”.Me:”These were $25 down the road” ( true ). Her:” You can have any of these for $25″. Me:”Ok, er, which one do you think is the best color for me”…..

Apart from the jandals, that completes the Fijian uniform.

After that it was into the Indian eatery which had been recommended by the lurker, where I spent $16 FJD on curried lamb & roti.

The taxi back ( maybe 5km down Queen’s highway ) was about the same as the outward trip, $9 FJD. That’s compared with $35 FJD on the last trip, of roughly the same distance, when I “negotiated” a price with “how much to Wailoaloa?”.

But not before spotting these mammoth coconuts on the side of the road. The same kind I gorged myself on in Vietnam.

Once home, an hour or so of air-conditioning myself, and some coconut juice, and I was again a functioning unit.

Bula from Fiji

It looks like I’ve tricked myself into arriving in Nadi.

Knowing that I’d get cold feet, I booked a non-refundable plane ticket, and AirBnB accommodation. Sure enough, my feet became very cold early in May.

But the Miser won out over the Laggard, and here I am. Warm. In shorts. In winter.


But not before I fretted for more than a week about vapes, which cannot be bought legally in Fiji. I pestered a Fiji Facebook group, before finally asking the horse ( baggage check-in at the airport ).

Which told me to put everything vape-related in my carry-on baggage. I did that, with the result that I dribbled through customs like a normal person, without the normal Aussie grilling.

The Flight

I decided not to stand on ceremony, and insist on taking my allocated window seat from what turned out to be a surly old man next to me.

He told me – I think – that it’s unusual for Fiji Airways to be nearly two hours late taking off. As I write, the same flight was only 36 minutes late today.

Plus it took more than an hour to get through luggage drop-off. And the plane’s narrow aisles meant I spent three hours in the path of pedestrians.

Nadi, and My Digs

The “studio apartment” is a two-room affair – the bathroom / toilet, and everything else. I’m used to that from my time in Thailand and Vietnam. Good enough.

There’s a decent yard too, and coconuts galore – as soon as I figure out how to climb 20 feet up the trunk without doing a Keith Richards.

On the downside – after only 24 hours here, mind – it looks like it might be difficult getting around.

Nadi is sparsely-populated, and affordable transport options seem to be limited. Taxis aren’t much cheaper than NZ, and renting a motorbike is $80 FJD / day ( compare that with less than $2 / day in Thailand ), the same cost as renting a bicycle!

A taxi ride to Wailoaloa beach and back ( about 4 – 5 km ) cost $35 FJD.

Even though the beach was nearly empty, the driver was adamant that leaving gear on the beach while swimming was inviting theft. The beach itself was disappointing – black sand, and even though I turned up at low tide, nothing better really than a fair to middling NZ harbour beach.

Also possibly on the downside – everything’s locked, which probably means there’s a fair bit of theft. A guy loitering beside the money asked me for change. I gave him $3, hoping that I won’t see him every day.

On the Upside – I got chased up the road by a young woman. I’d left a bottle of water I bought at the counter of the supermarket.

I wanderplantained up the road early this evening to discover that Namaka – the little centre 5 minutes’ walk away – abuzz. Some street vendors with some interesting offerings – Cassava for example, and plantains ( left ) the size of marrows – and some affordable-looking Indian restaurants.


Whereupon it dawned on me that the Natives disappear during the sweltering midday heat, leaving it to Mad Dogs and Kiwis.

Stranded in Paradise

Paradise might be stretching it, but stranded is not.

The NZ Government, bless them, have changed the rules again to make MIQ compulsory for travelers from Oz.

I’ve done MIQ once, and that was enough. A second stint would cost me four figures, and that’s after going through the lolly-scramble to get an MIQ booking.

So, Adelaide it is, until the end of February, when the borders reopen without the need for MIQ.

It could be worse. I could have a terminal illness. I could ( still ) be a vegan. I could be living under a bridge. Or in Invercargill.

It could be better. I could be living in an apartment over-looking the beach, being entertained by dancing girls, and served by a private chef.

Or, it could be just as it is, which is fine with me, for the moment.


OK, forget what I said , let’s talk about the war.

I moved into new digs Tuesday, as you know. It’s as good as can be expected, in many ways;

  • It’s 5 minutes on a bike to the Esplanade
  • It’s good temperature-wise. It’s got good aircon, and the bedroom ceiling fan is effective, even if sounds like a blender on slow. The patio is under a shelter, out of the direct sunlight, and gets a cool afternoon breeze
  • It’s secure.
  • One of the other flatmates, Hamish, is an escapee from Gore. But he’s overcome that, and he’s been friendly , generous, and accommodating. He’s been in Aussie for many years, and works night-shifts on the Stop / Go roadsigns for $30 / hour.


It’s very early days, but the other guy, by contrast, is a humorless German, Peter.

He’s having trouble adjusting to a third flatmate, and every time we’ve talked directly, he’s complained or given orders about something or other.

For example, there are two shared fridges in the flat. In his universe, three into two works like this – one for you two, and one for me. It sounds petty, but without fridge-space I’ll be eating junkier food. So sooner or later, there will need to be compromise.

Right now, though, I’m the New Guy – Poland if you will – to his Germany. If it comes to a scrap, I’m guessing the Landlord would give me the marching orders, so I’m being diplomatic.


Most residences here are behind at least one high locked gate, as if there’s a low-level siege mentality.

Not nearly at the same level as Vietnam, but it’s noticeable for a small-town lad.

Along with a wide range of foreigners, there also seems to be noticeably more Lost Souls here than back in Whangarei . People shouting at windmills and sucking on bags of dubious liquid, or just making the place look untidy.

I guess the Haves are barricading themselves against the Have-Nots.

When In Rome

The weather is even better than expected. It’s not rained once, during daylight, since I’ve been here.

Like most of the natives, I gad about in shorts and a t-shirt, and haven’t yet worn shoes.

All of that seems to be agreeing with me, and if this continues, I may be some time.

New bikes and …

While New Zealand is – again – pulling up the drawbridge, I’m cycling off in the other direction.

This morning, with news that the travel bubble with Australia has burst, I registered my tiny wee gesture of defiance by buying a bike. That above, $60 AUD with lock included.

It’s a commitment to cheap travel here for the next few weeks while the bubble is inspected, pending its possible re-inflation in September.

I’d planned to stay at least two months anyway, and I just couldn’t face myself in the morning if I crawled home now after arriving on July 14.

Of course I risk paying for the hubris. Either by having to cough up for quarantine if NZ stays closed, or by working long hours. Or by finding a real job here to support my feckless self.

So, what’ll it be, then? – chill-blains, rain for days on end, grey skies, freezing cold, or….

“I’ll take the bag, thanks.”

Finding my feet

Day six in Cairns, and what follows is the stew produced from throwing the spaghetti at the wall. A hodge-podge.

On that note, here are some random pictures taken since arriving.

Cycle City

There are bikes lanes, dedicated bike paths, centre-line cyclist stops, and even lanes for bikes on the major arterial routes.

Cairns is the purple spot , probably covering about 25 kms each side

Cairns is also pretty much flat for miles around , as you can see at left.   When there’s been a breeze, it’s pretty mild.

And lastly, the airBnB guest house I’m staying at includes free use of its three mountain bikes. One at a time.


The waterfront is spectacular. Ok, it’s not Nha Trang bay, but it is very nice.

How many words is a video worth?

This is looking out over the bay from The Esplanade, near the town centre;

And this is from a similar position looking more toward town;

The Briny

The tide was out, but even so, it looked inviting enough so that I was fixing to swim there one day soon. The host has told me, seriously, that this just isn’t done. People fish there, and eat the catch, but it’s considered unsafe for swimming. Go figure.

The Colourful Side

While I was near the town centre, I stumbled across the colourful side of town, notably four Vietnamese restaurants and an entire “night market” mainly dedicated to food.

Also from the “good news for gluttons” department comes the discovery that dairy here is good quality and cheap, including cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.

The Digs

The guest house has been blessedly quiet after Queensland started shutting out those scurvy southerners from Victoria and NSW. It’s bad news for the host, with a slew of cancellations. But good news for yours truly who, along with a quiet young couple, have the run of the place.

It has good cooking and bathroom facilities, and the bedrooms are ok. A minor annoyance is that its proximity to a well-trafficked road. The laptop mike picks it up, meaning I’m confined to barracks ( my room ) for online teaching.

But it is a little outside a budget I can manage longer-term. Accommodation is going to be the major challenge if I decide to stay on here. It’s the ‘High Season’ for tourists right now, and the best option for me appears to be finding a room in an established flat.

The Weather

Below is the view from outside at around 8.15 a.m., about 21 degrees celsius.