Instead of the 20-minute Fiji Airways, we decided it would be far more interesting to drive from Suva to Nadi. I mean, by the time you get to the airport 2 hours before take-off, get rid of your liquids and stash all your Pure Fiji products in your cargo, we might as well drive.
Well it’s not really as simple as that!
Firstly to rent a car one-way for one day was ridiculously expensive – NZ$210. (As a comparison, I’m renting one for 5 days in California to drive from LA to San Fran and that will cost $420). I have a sneaky feeling, however, that the ‘excursions’ desk didn’t bother ringing round but chose to call only one company and I stupidly took the first rate offered.
(Have now Googled and the same car picked up at Suva Airport and dropped off at Nadi Airport would start at $92). But that’s the price of fun, so cancelling our domestic flights (but making sure we were still good to fly Air Pacific to LA the next night) we had the car delivered to the Novotel in Suva and pulled tentatively out onto the highway.
As long as we keep the ocean on our left, we’re heading in the right direction.
With a few pointers on Fijian drivers; ‘indicating is a sign of weakness’, ‘if you want to stop and take photos, just put your hazard lights on and no one will get annoyed’, and ‘watch for drivers overtaking on blind corners’, we were set.
We’d also solicited tips from the manager at the Novotel over dinner the night before on where to stop for best views, shopping, lunch. But in reality we poodled along, stopping for photos (no not in the middle of the road with hazard lights on) and deciding to eat when we got peckish (as opposed to hungry, note).
Pacific Harbor was our first stop, about an hour and a half down the road, for a browse around the shops selling locally made souvenirs, jewellery and tribal antiques. It also has a supermarket so we stocked up on snacks to tide us over until lunch.
Baravi Beach came highly recommended for the view and for its souvenir and craft shop. Instead we were more taken with the sexy legs outside the toilets than actually purchasing Pure Fiji products or T-shirts.
Where not to stop for lunch
We decided to stop at Sigatoka for lunch instead of taking the advice we had from the Novotel and calling in at one of the resorts dotted along the beach, and especially Natadola (the best beach on the island, I’m told). Big mistake. Choosing this restaurant (below), True Blue, on the roundabout at the end of the bridge as you enter the city, was our downfall. It looked great but apart from the lentil soup with roti, it was awful. I chose the tuna toasted sandwich – thinking stupidly it might even have fresh tuna, but at the very least Sealord out of a can for the resort price of $12.95 plus VAT.
Instead it was 2 pieces of white bread squishing together the brown pieces of fish that most of us cut off and throw to the cats. In fact the 2 kittens down below would probably have turned up their noses. Finding it inedible, I mentioned that it was not what I was expecting. But when they insisted that I pay the full amount I couldn’t help insisting back that they take it off the menu – and forked over $15.
What is the speed limit in Fiji?
The maximum speed is 80kph and the road was surprisingly empty. We hardly hit that speed most of the time, preferring to poodle along and gaze at the spectacular views. We passed small villages with car wash businesses under huts, fresh melons and pineapple stands dotting the roadside, kids wandering in mini gangs.
The 180km trip took us nearly 6 hours, but as we had nothing better to do, it was a kind of magic.