A Short Ride in Real Fiji

Fiji’s coastline seems to be endlessly edged with beautiful palm trees, sandy white beaches, while the interior of the island is full of lush vegetation and little villages. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to attended my friend’s wedding in this picturesque island nation. I must admit that Fiji wasn’t really on my list of places to visit, even though it is relatively close to my home country, Australia. It was an exciting trip to plan as it was the first of my close friends to get married and my first destination wedding.

I know that a destination wedding isn’t everyone’s dream wedding but my friend is an ex-travel agent and getting married in Australia is quite expensive. Also I know some people wouldn’t want to spend the money to attend an overseas wedding. My friend was considerate and did notify everyone more than a year in advance to allow us to save for the trip, also most of her friends are travel agents!

I would describe myself as a budget traveller when it comes to accommodation. I like staying in hostels, especially when I travel solo as it is a great way to meet people and I like to spend my money on experiences such as cooking classes, outdoor activities, and cultural tours. The wedding was being held at the Outrigger Beach Resort, which is a stunning five star beach resort. I decided that because this was a special trip that I was going to book two nights at this beautiful resort.

In my wisdom I decided that ever though I had booked a five star hotel, that it didn’t mean I was going to pay the one-hundred dollar for a transfer from Nadi to the hotel. Oh no, I couldn’t justify that, after spending the equivalent of a week’s wage on three nights accommodation. I decided to do what every savvy traveller with a taste of adventure does. I took the local bus to a five star hotel.

I had convinced myself that taking the local bus would be an authentic Fijian experience, as being at a resort let’s be honest is not. I arrived twenty minutes early to purchase my ticket and find the right bus in Nadi’s busy bus terminal. There was heaps of people around the ticket booth with all these hands shoving money and tickets, back and forth. I was slightly concerned that there wouldn’t be any tickets left. As I walked forward the server motioned me to the side of the ticket booth, allowing me the cut the ten people deep line. I was extremely grateful.

I explained where I wanted to go and I paid my six Australian dollars for my ticket. He then pointed to the bus and told me to tell the bus driver where I was going so I didn’t miss my stop. The bus driver quickly stowed my bag under the bus and told me to sit near the front of the bus, to make sure he didn’t forget to stop at my stop.

The next moment is so vivid in my mind, I walk up the stair into the bus to be greeted to a completely full bus. I don’t mean all the seats were full. I literally mean the whole bus was full of people. There were people sitting in the almost non-existent walkway and nearly all passengers had a child on their lap. I was the only foreigner on the bus. My brain was overwhelmed and my mouth opened without my permission and I said ‘there is no space’ in a voice of complete disbelief.

A lady heard me and actually apoligised that the bus was so full. Fijian people really are extremely friendly and caring. I managed to find a tiny gap three rows back from the driver. I couldn’t believe it when four more adults and their luggage somehow managed to squeeze onto the bus. As I settled in for the one and a half hours drive it started to drizzle. Then it started to pour down. It was just coming to the end of the wet and cyclone season in Fiji.

Just to prove how lovely and friendly Fijian people are a lady heard me and apologised to me that the bus was so full. I told her it was fine and smiled, while on the inside I’m quietly reassuring myself that everything will be fine. Ten minutes down the main road to Suva travelling at 80km/h I realised that the bus was rocking side to side. It was especially bad when we went around a corner, moving at about a 45 degree sway. I must admit that I was slightly concerned but as I looked around everyone else was swaying contently back and forth. I reasoned that if the locals aren’t concern that the bus took topple over at any moment than I shouldn’t be either.

There was a tiny television playing a Malaysian animal documentary which help pass the time and distract me from the swaying of the bus. As people got off at their stop, I was slowly making my way forward to the front of the bus. The bus driver was nice enough to remember that I was there and dropped me off out front of the hotel. It was still raining as I waved back to the smiling children as the bus drove off. The porters at the Outrigger Reach Resort looked rater confused as I made my happy way into the reception to check-in.

Sound familiar? Let me know in the comments below if you have done something similar when travelling.