Bula Fiji – Hello Fiji
Even before the passport control at Nadi airport (pronounced Nanji), the arriving passengers were greeted by a local music group. Already here I noticed: Music and singing are an important part of life in the South Pacific area. And in Fiji, of course, the word ‘Bula’. That means something like ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’. It greets you in the morning after getting up, at noon, in the afternoon and also in the evening. And by the way, the third meaning of ‘Bula’ is also ‘cheers’. Goes well with the evening 😉
I had exchanged some money in the airport. And, among other bank notes, got a 7 (Fiji) Dollar note. At first I thought they wanted to sell counterfeit money to me. Until the exchange office explained to me that this is an official bank note. Printed after Fiji’s gold medal in rugby at the 2016 Olympics.
My accommodation was a small middle class hotel complex. The First Landing Beach Resort was about 40 km from the airport, near the city of Lautoka. I specifically decided to go for beach resorts on the first islands in the Pacific. On the hotel beach I wanted to test my drone. And without a car, I didn’t have to start looking for breakfast at such an accommodation.
Traveling in Lautoka and on the farmers market
The morning after I arrived I took a taxi to Lautoka. I actually wanted to take the bus, but it was not clear if and when it would depart.In Lautoka I wanted to buy some supplies for my dinner. Because I didn’t want to depend solely on the hotel kitchen.
The taxi driver gave me detailed information about the country and its people on the way. Fiji consists of 330 islands, 110 of which are inhabited. Overall, the island nation has approx. 900,000 inhabitants. Many of them Indians, Chinese and other nationalities – and accordingly many religions. But living together is probably going quite well here, though.
I was particularly surprised that there is a high mountain range on the island, see title picture. The highest mountain is 1,300 m high after all. Somehow I had imagined a South Sea island differently. Flat, with palm trees and a wide sandy beach. Maybe there are other Pacific Islands like that. At least that’s not the case here.
Lautoka is the third largest city in Fiji with 50,000 inhabitants. But there wasn’t really much to see here. So I strolled through the streets and through a few shops. And actually I wanted to take the bus back to the hotel in the afternoon. However, it did not depart after 90 minutes. I had searched in vain for timetables. But right at the bus station is the central farmers market hall located.
And such markets are always exciting. I definitely spent two hours there and also took a lot of photos. Everyone at the market seemed excited that I was so interested in all the different produce that was available there. And by the way, photos are no problem here at all. The people were happy when I asked them if I could take pictures. And sometimes they asked me actively to take a picture of them.
Relaxing days on Fiji
There was a small artificial island in front of the hotel complex. It was accessible via a jetty and it was an ideal spot to start the drone from.
It wasn’t that easy to fly and take pictures at the same time. Most of the time I didn’t get exactly that what I wanted on the picture… And I also had to learn to turn and to tilt the drone camera slowly enough while taking pictures. I guess I need to practice a little more 🙂 You can watch my first flight attempts here in the video (1m 10s) … And at the end of the video you will watch my departure from Fiji.
The beach is not very wide, but it is already what you would imagine on a Pacific island. With palm trees almost to the water. But unfortunately I couldn’t take long walks there because it was repeatedly interrupted by mangrove forests. They reached up to the sea and were under water at high tide.
When I walked along there a sweet fluffy dog often accompanied me on my beach tours. I think it belonged to the neighborhood of the hotel somewhere. In the early evening there was happy hour in the hotel. Half price drinks. And you could have a good conversation with other hotel guests – mostly Australians and New Zealanders. New friendships were made, email addresses and business cards were exchanged.
Those who really want to relax and be pampered are in good hands in such a beach resort.
It was particularly interesting to have a long conversation with a very religious Samoan; he was freezing in 27 degrees warm Fiji by the way. He and his wife from New Zealand were firm in the Bible and we discussed about Christianity and its opening to the modern world. And I noticed that there are not just thousands of kilometers between the west and the island states here. But also still a very different set of values. Despite modern means of communication. At the farewell, he put his hand on my shoulder and spoke a blessing for my long drive. But that fitted into the setting, the day, the nature, the mood and didn’t seem a bit artificial here.
On one of my last nights in Fiji I made a sunset cruise. Two hours at sunset with a small boat out on the water. The anchor was dropped two miles off the coast. Besides me there was only one other couple on board, Rose and Peter from Melbourne. Plus the captain, a boatswain and the inevitable guitar player and singer. For dinner we had snacks, wine and beer. And we also tried to catch fish by our hands. But unfortunately, none of us succeeded. Apart from Donkey, our boatswain…
Fiji-Time and Bye Bye
The four days in the resort passed in no time. With relaxing on the beach, drone flights and visiting the neighboring marina. Here were lots of fancy million-dollar yachts, even some of them German ones.
On the day of departure I learned another ‘Fiji wisdom’ from a taxi driver in front of the hotel: ‘We don’t follow time. Time has to follow us’. The locals here often like to speak about ‘Fiji-Time’. So if you have an appointment, it can happen that you may have to wait 10 or 20 minutes for the person you you want to talk to. Because he has something else important to do just before.
That got me a little worried, so I got my taxi to the airport with plenty of time to spare just to be on the safe side. Because the check-in counters close exactly one hour before departure. ‘Fidschi-Time’ does not apply at the airport. And the terminal was rather tiny, so there was not much to do.
Shortly before boarding I met the people from the dinner cruise, Rose and Peter, again. They were leaving for Melbourne an hour after me. There was a happy reunion and at the same saying goodbye was sort of sad.
Again I got to know a new country and and lots of fantastic people. But if I have to leave now, I made one promise to myself: I want to take a little bit of ‘Fiji-Time’ with me. On my journey and later on also back to Germany.
Cheers, Rüdiger 😎