Friday, November 4 (Day 65)
Levuka – Suva – Nadi International Airport
I’m in love again. I didn’t think it was possible after having my heart completely broken. How have I managed it and who is she? Well, it’s not a person but a place. I’m in love with Fiji. When I was en route here I was looking forward to it but I was wondering what the hell I’d do for 18 days. And now it is time to leave I’m gutted, absolutely gutted. I wouldn’t mind another month here, or maybe three.
I haven’t really slept a wink all night. Knowing I need to be on the 5am bus out of here lead to a restless night in paradise. I don’t suppose feasting on a gorgeous Indian curry (my second of the day), sipping rum&coke in the amazingly atmospheric hotel bar just before bed and then fighting a running battle with a battalion of mozzies really helped. If I missed this bus I’d be buggered for getting back to the airport for tonight’s flight to Samoa. Ok, secretly I’d be pleased if I had to spend another couple of weeks here, but I know when it is time to leave and I dearly want to see Samoa.
I make it with ten minutes to spare for my 5am bus. Dare I say it, but there’s almost an early morning nip in the air. I suspect though that it must be at least 20 degrees. Talk about assimilation.
On board the ferry, it’s banana cake and sugary coffee for breakfast and I’m back in Suva for nine.
There’re a few things I want to do in the capital so it’s ideal that I have a couple of hours before the lunchtime bus to the airport. I pay a visit to the Air Pacific office, still in search of a refund for my no show travel companions. We’ve been discussing this now for 14 weeks by email but at least it still isn’t a ‘no’ as was the case with the w###### at Polynesian Blue and Jet Star. Then it’s shopping for new T-shirts - very much the pastime of a single man rather than a man who is more used to cashing out for his other half’s latest attire. They have Rusty, Billabong, Boardman, O’Neil’s and several other of the surfer brands that deliver decent t-shirts. No, I’m not a brands man, as I’ve explained before, but after becoming a surfer in Raglan (wink, wink), it is important that I wear the correct clobber. In NZ these averaged out at about 30-40 quid each but here they are around 6 quid. Next it is the Reserve Bank of Fiji to check out their numismatist coins. I manage to pick up some nice uncirculated stuff, both notes and coins; although I have to laugh when they tell me they don’t accept credit cards for payments. Very much a case of new cash for old cash.
If I told you that within fifteen minutes of handing over the cash for my Fijian coins I should find myself sat in the back of a Fijian police car, surging through the streets of the Fijian capital, with two officers in the front, you might be a little taken aback. Likewise, if you’d told me that on my last day in Fiji I’d end up in the back of a police car it would have struck the fear of God into me. Well, it turns out that I left my rucksack and computer with the Fijian boys in blue at the main police station while I went off shopping. Upon my return, when it transpired that I was cutting it a bit fine to get to the bus station for my 5-hour bus to Nadi international airport, my police friends insisted that two of their officers gave me a lift to the bus station to ensure that I don’t miss my bus and, consequently, my 8pm flight out of paradise to… paradise.
Please make sure you tell all your friends that they are always welcome and safe in Fiji.
The Police officers tell me.
And please also tell them that we, the Fijian police, are here to ensure that their stay here passes without any problems at all.
The officers kindly drop me off right next to my departing bus with ten minutes to spare. There can’t be too many capital cities in the world where you’ll receive that kind of special and honoured treatment from the local bastions of law and order. I think of Poland where I’ve had at least three run-ins with the local corrupt police for all manner of non-sensical crimes that I’ve purportedly committed. And don’t even get me started about how the Polish police behave when England are playing Poland at football in that country. The 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine could get very, very messy.
The five-hour air con to Nadi International is comfy and costs just 16 Fijian right up to the front doors of the international departures. I must admit though, that I almost shed a tear as we pass Mango Bay midway through our journey. I bloody love that place.
I’m at Nadi international a good three hours before my flight to Samoa. I know they bang on about life working on Fiji Time here but, to be fair, I’ve almost always found that when it comes to things like arrival and departure times as well as meal times, there is a natural order here that is far more reliable than in many countries in the world. I think Fiji Time is just a state of mind; a declaration that there is no need to stress and be anxious about life. Here! Have another bowl of kava and your anxieties and worries will drift away. Fiji is a wonderful place. I dearly hope that I will get the chance to revisit here one day.
Awaiting the departure of my Air Pacific flight to Samoa, enjoying one last Fiji Gold, there’s a bloke nearby, aged around 60-65, I’d say, dressed in a soiled long white-sleeved shirt and Chinos, who has started randomly reading the bible to any locals who are foolish enough to entertain him. The Fijians are too polite to say no, while any foreigners he approaches swerve and leg it in the opposite direction. When the Fijians play all of us departing on the Apia/Honolulu bound flight a farewell song, Funny Boy, the old eccentric evangelist, begins to do a crazy sour-faced jig to the music, which prompts half of the terminal to clap and roar with laughter at him. I do wonder sometimes how punters like this manage to find their way from place to place, book flights, and get through airport security and on to aircraft without screwing up at some stage of their journey. This fellow is as mad as a box of frogs.
Once on board, and most of us are seated, Funny Boy peers suspiciously down the aisle of the plane. Once he finds his seat – two rows in front of mine and, praise be to Allah, not next to me - he refuses to put his satchel and bible in the overhead locker.
There be demons up there! He declares.
As we take off from Nadi and leave Fiji this event kind of sets the tone for the hours and days that follow. Mad as a box of frogs, mad as a box of frogs…