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My Fiji Experience

This page created April 2003
By Paula Rountree

The date was Saturday 12 April and there I was sitting on a plane on the tarmac at Christchurch International Airport, awaiting take-off. I can’t say the lead up to this holiday had been smooth sailing (or should that be ‘flying’???).

My partner and I had been throwing promises to each other for months of a holiday in Fiji. Earlier in the year I had booked holidays from work for the week leading up to Easter with the intention of heading away for a few days holiday – possibly on the much-awaited trip to Fiji. We had even gone as far as going to the Travel Expo held in February so that we could collect all the lovely brochures to plan our holiday. Unfortunately time had been against us and we hadn’t made the time to sit down together and look through the information we had, and plan the holiday.

Suddenly the date was Thursday 3 April and we realised that if the trip was to happen, we needed to act fast – so off to the Travel Agent we went. The original plan had been to go for about six days, flying out on Saturday 12 April and returning to Auckland on Thursday 17 April which would allow us time to spend a night in Auckland on the way back.

Sitting there in the Travel Agency our plans turned to custard, and my anxiety appeared!! The travel agent told us that yes, we could fly out on the Saturday, but flying back on the Thursday was not an option as Air New Zealand don’t fly from Fiji on Thursdays. I could feel my anxiety increasing as my mind tried to come to terms with our plans changing – and suddenly feeling very pressured, I made the decision that I wanted to shorten the holiday and return on the Wednesday, much to the horror of my partner and the travel agent. I must say at this point, that my partner was a lot more supportive than the travel agent. Christian, while disappointed that the holiday would be shortened, conceded that a four day holiday was better than a no-day holiday, while the travel agent continued to put the pressure on us to extend our holiday.

The days leading up to the trip away were full of stress for me, and my body and mind were really starting to struggle with the anxiety I was feeling. Probably on reflection, I was not really in the right space to be travelling with a lot of intense demands on me around that time with various commitments I had, being extremely tired and having just got over a physical illness a matter of weeks before. By the Monday prior to departing I decided that I needed to put some steps in place to ensure I made it on the trip successfully.

Step one was going to see my doctor. While I have never had to take medication for my anxiety in the past, I felt it was time to admit that maybe on this occasion I needed some, so I asked my doctor to prescribe some Atavan for the flying, which she did. I have to admit to feeling relieved that she only gave me a few tablets – not enough to get addicted to if I chose to take them. While I was asking for the medication, deep down I didn’t want to take them, but just needed the reassurance that if things got unmanageable I had a way of dealing with the anxiety.

Step two was to ring Rachael, who is the physiotherapist at the Anxiety Disorders Unit. The tension had got so bad in my body that I could feel the knots of tension constantly around my neck, shoulders and upper back. Rachael runs her own private practice of therapeutic massage from home part-time, so I booked an appointment for the Thursday evening to see her for an upper back, shoulders and neck massage. This proved to be a very worthwhile step!!!

Step three was to pack my walkman and a relaxation tape in my hand luggage (thanks to Rachael for supplying me with her latest relaxation tape!).

Anyway back to my story …. On ‘the’ Saturday morning, I was rushing around picking up last minute items and packing my suitcase, and yet I felt surprisingly relaxed that day after all the tension I’d felt leading up to that day.

By mid afternoon, there I was sitting on the plane, having made it that far. The first flight was to Auckland, where we were to have a two hour stopover. We were sitting right at the front of the plane (business class – well, we would have been if such a thing still existed on domestic flights) and I was absolutely fine until I overheard a member of the ground crew telling the pilot how to fly a plane – very reassuring – NOT!!!! Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the flight to Auckland was very smooth (yes, the pilot did know how to fly the plane after all!) and we were there before I knew it – 1 hour and 20 minutes later.

We had over two hours to fill in before boarding our flight to Fiji. We decided to do the exercise thing and walk from the domestic terminal over to the international terminal (and guess what … we bet the shuttle!), then to play a game of mini-golf which is located upstairs in the international terminal. It was only a nine hole course, so pretty quick and easy really. We also grabbed a bite to eat before heading through to the departure lounge.

The plane to Fiji was one of those big planes that normally fly to the large countries on the other side of the world (sorry, I’m not up with the different types of planes), and we learnt that the plane was heading on to L.A. after dropping off passengers in Fiji. Being the beginning of the school holidays, the plane was fully booked.

The flight to Nadi was excellent – a great movie helped fill in the time, and the fact that I’d asked for an aisle seat helped too – as it meant that I could get up and walk around and stretch my legs when I needed to. I confided in the flight attendant that I have experience of agoraphobia and she offered to move us up to business class if seats were available, as she thought I’d find it more comfortable having a bit more space, but unfortunately with the plane being fully booked, this wasn’t possible. Nice thought though!

We arrived in Nadi at 10.30pm at night to a very humid 27° degree evening – it was actually very uncomfortable – and made more unbearable by the long queues we had to endure to get through customs. (Somehow we didn’t think the customs staff were feeling very comfortable either – not once did we see one of them smile).

Finally, we made it out of the Nadi terminal and were greeted by a Coral Sun representative who put a shell lei on each of us, and directed us to our driver who was to take us to our accommodation. We can’t honestly say we had a smooth ride to our accommodation – the car was a little on the ancient side, and with dark roads with many pot holes and some surface flooding, I admit we were rather glad to see the entrance to the resort some twenty minutes or so later – with our relief turning to generosity in that we tipped the driver FJD$5.00. The driver looked absolutely delighted – was $5.00 really such a big deal? Apparently it was – the next day we found out from a fellow kiwi who lives in Fiji that $5.00 was probably about half a day’s wages to the driver. Hearing that really brought it home to us just how much poverty is experienced there.

The staff at the resort were just leaving for the night as we arrived, so we were shown to our bure by the security guard. The grounds were lovely – lots of native plants and greenery and lit up with cute little garden path lights. The bure was very comfortable, and with pleasant décor – and a very inviting looking spa bath!!

The next morning we headed for breakfast, then a short time later made our way armed with towels and magazines, to the swimming pool. We spent several hours there enjoying the peace and quiet, under the shade cloths, taking occasional dips in the water, before enjoying lunch by the poolside. Time for a rest after all this activity … so we headed back to our bure. We arrived to find a bottle of water on our doorstep – why, we were not sure, but it soon became very apparent – no water!!! Seems the water supply to the whole of the Lautoka area had been cut due to some plumbing problem, and so no running water at the resort. This disruption to the water supply lasted over 24 hours – and was still an issue at the time we left the following day. What a waste of a spa bath!!! We were very glad we had purchased some extra bottles of New Zealand bottled water at Duty Free as we entered Fiji.

That evening we dined in the award winning restaurant at the resort, where I must say there were more mosquitoes than guests! We were eaten alive!!! If you could have seen our legs after that “award-winning” experience, you would have thought we were ideal candidates to play dot-to-dot on! And boy, did they itch!!!! Even heavy duty repellent doesn’t keep those vultures away!!

We were very pleased the next morning to be leaving that particular resort, and moving on to a five star resort – Sonaisali Island Resort. Our driver collected us from our accommodation and took us on a detour (at our request) through Nadi where we got to see the real picture of life in Fiji. The driver was excellent, answering our questions and giving us good insight into the lifestyles of Fijians and the levels of poverty.

Finally, we made it to the boat ramp where we were to catch our three minute ride to Sonaisali Resort (mmm … I bet you know who chose this resort over some of the further away ones, don’t you? Yes me … the one with agoraphobia who doesn’t like to leave her comfort zones too far away). Must admit the ride was very short and very pleasant, and we were greeted by staff with another shell lei each, and shown to reception. Upon entering reception, we were given a very yummy fruit cocktail drink and serenaded by some of the staff. We decided that we would upgrade to a beachfront bure with spa – as we had felt cheated not having had the use of the last spa. The bure was absolutely beautiful – very spacious, lovely marble furniture, with views to die for from our verandah which was right on the beach. The spa bath was on the verandah overlooking the beach. The only downside to our bure was the distance from reception and activities – a good kilometre walk I’m guessing, but on the plus side – we got plenty of exercise walking!

Our stay at Sonaisali was very relaxing and pleasant – and we met some interesting people from other countries. The staff were more cheerful and we loved their impromptu entertainment sessions – some very talented staff there. On the final night we had dinner at the restaurant and found ourselves sitting next to a wedding party who’d just had a wedding on the island.

We were rather sad to leave Sonaisali Island in many ways, but I must admit to being glad to return to good old New Zealand and my familiar comfort zones. The flight to Auckland went well, and we arrived back in Auckland around 5pm on the Wednesday night – just in time to see peak time traffic in Auckland. Must admit the $60 taxi fare to the central city shocked me a little!

Auckland was great – we caught up with my brother on the Wednesday evening – ate McDonalds (really enjoyed that after the interesting food we ate in Fiji) and hiked up to his apartment in Newton (up hill … arrghh!!!!). The next morning we were up bright and early, and raced down to the Sky Tower for a quick trip up to view the sights of Auckland. Well worth the time and effort to do! I made a five minute stop in the Casino, purely so I could say “been there, done that”, and won myself $42 in the process – yeah! We grabbed breakfast on the way back to our hotel, then it was time to call a cab and head for the airport. I think our travel agent erred a bit with the time she told us to report, but we had it all in hand – I’d organised for an old school friend of mine and her seven week old baby to meet us out at the airport for a drink before we flew home.

Weather in Auckland was impressive – blue skies and not a cloud in sight, but reality hit home fast as we touched down in Christchurch – very wet, very grey and very cold, but on the positive side I arrived home safely and feeling very proud of myself, because … I had not had to open the bottle of “rescue me” pills that the Doctor had prescribed, and I hadn’t had to use my relaxation or breathing techniques tape, and better still … no panic attacks, and my anxiety levels had diminished significantly over what they’d been a week earlier.

The holiday certainly had its highs and lows (I’m a creature who likes her home comforts such as running water!) but in the end I must admit that the trip did me a lot of good – I hadn’t travelled overseas in two years, and so having coped so well on this trip, my confidence was boosted. I believe that part of my increase in anxiety was that I was travelling to new and unknown territory for me, but I must say it feels great to say that “I DID IT!!” Now to start planning our next trip …. I suspect it will be Rarotonga, given that I’ve told Christian that going to Finland and Sweden in August with him is just a little bit too ambitious for me right now, but I’m certainly not ruling them out for the future.

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