Fijian Highlands

What does a Pineapple Tart have to do with Fiji?

Fiji and a pineapple tartIn a word lots! We all have our triggers, they can be a smell, a taste or perhaps a scene that takes you back years to an event.
In my case it’s a ‘pineapple tart’.

A sweet Pineapple Tart takes me back to the Fijian Highlands

During a business visit a few years back, I arrived in Nadi a day early and decided to take a four wheel drive tour into the mountains overlooking Nadi Bay

The weather had been wet for a few days and there had been some local flooding, however the tour operator decided to risk one more trip.

While on route he informed all of us of his morning adventure with his brand new vehicle having tangled with a tree!

Well I was up for an adventure and being the last to be picked up, was put in what felt like the kids seat at the back of the vehicle, because I was the smallest and most agile of the group – that was my fate.

Fijian Highlands

I was unfamiliar with Fiji so I’ll not sure where we turned off, however I believe it was the road leading to Mt Batilamu or ‘Sleeping Giant’ and through the fertile Sabeto Valley.

The dirt track quickly turned to mud and we started climbing, or should I say slipping and sliding.

I was sure I was in the worst seat in the vehicle and my occasional glance out of the back window confirmed it.

The cloudbank was heavy and obscured the view, which was such a shame, nonetheless it was beautiful; the tour operator stopped and we all climbed out of the vehicle for a break.

We stopped to take in the view

We eventually arrived at a local village for a quick tour. The ground was a quagmire and I wondered how the local villagers coped with these wet conditions.

One couple refused to leave the vehicle, the wet muddy ground was just too much for them.

Mud from recent rains

We arrived at the end of the track to a waterfall which was the villager’s clean water source and the location where the driver had slid into a tree.

Back to the point of the story and the Pineapple Tart

While pointing it out and communicating the details of the morning’s event he starts to move off slowly. However the vehicle combined with the muddy ground had a mind of its own and started sliding towards this same tree he was pointing out and hits it again!

Well I’m having a ball, but some of the passengers weren’t happy, it is Fiji after all one of the last frontiers.

On the way down the rain soaked track we reached a small plateau to stop for afternoon tea, the air was damp and cool, the cloud bank had lifted revealing a breathtaking view and the Pineapple Tart was exquisite.

The view eating a Pineapple Tart.

Whenever I eat a Pineapple Tart I’m back in Fiji having a hot cup of tea, a Pineapple Tart on a high plateau overlooking Nadi Bay, it may not sound like much but that scene is etched in my brain.
Leave a comment and tell me about your Fiji moments?

Garden of the Sleeping Giant – Nadi Fiji My Second Visit

Garden of the Sleeping Giant Visit

A couple of years ago I took a bus tour around Nadi and one of the places we visited was the Garden of the Sleeping Giant.

This garden displays Fiji’s largest orchid collection, unfortunately we had less than 30 minutes which wasn’t enough time to soak up the unique atmosphere of this beautiful location so I vowed to visit this lovely garden in Fiji again…

Second Visit to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Recently we stayed at the Novotel Nadi a few kilometres down the road from the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, what’s special about this accommodation is the view.

The first time I stayed at the Novotel Nadi I arrived on a hot, humid and dark night. Tired and a bit over it all after a busy day I went straight to bed wishing I was back home.

First light reveals paradise in Fiji

Nausori Highlands view from the Novotel

Opening the curtains and balcony window to get some fresh morning air, I was astounded by what I saw. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park and any moment a T Rex would emerge from the tree line.

The Nausori Highlands were laid out before me in all their splendor, mysterious and veiled in low cloud. When the cloud eventually lifted the mountain range resembled a sleeping giant, you can come to your own conclusions about what body part it features.

It’s like interpreting clouds, different shapes and images revealed with the changing light.  This is where the Garden of the Sleeping Giant is in these majestic highlands nestled in the Sabeto Valley around 6.5 km/4miles north of Nadi Airport.

Signage Wailoko RoadWatch out for the sign Wailoko Road

While travelling along the Queens Hwy heading towards Lautoka you could easily miss this sign. You can be distracted avoiding the potholes, although during my last visit they were upgrading the road.

Turn into Wailoko Road which is a dirt track; however take it easy the road is rough and sections are honeycombed with large holes. It’s very picturesque a photographer’s delight every turn reveals an interesting scene;

 

  • Local Fijians
  • Mountain cliffs
  • Buildings new and in disrepair
  • Animals – goat herders

You never know what might appear, I just loved the place.

Garden of the Sleeping Giant on your left

White high back cane chairs in the reception areaIt’s only a couple kilometres along a dirt track to the entrance. After entering the gates of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant the driveway to the garden wets your appetite for things to come.

Upon arrival you will see the reception area which features dozens of high backed white cane chairs with dark red and green cushions, for a moment you might think you have drifted back in time.

My thoughts turned to Raymond Bur that large man wandering around admiring his beautiful garden full of orchids.

The garden beckons you forward

The humid warm air signals you to start walking, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining it adds to the mystic of this location a garden nestled in the beautiful Sabeto Valley.

There is a shade cloth covered walkway, heavy with leafage from the rainforest. On both side of the walkway are beautiful orchids perched on shelves in every colour shape and size a must for orchid lovers.
The boardwalk meanders up through tropical rainforest, there are lily ponds and benches where you can sit and enjoy the surrounding gardens, birdlife is prolific.Covered walkway where the orchids are housed
After you have completed your walk, return to the reception area and enjoy a complimentary refreshing fruit drink.

If you are visiting Nadi the Garden of the Sleeping Giant should be on your to do list. We did travel further along this dirt track past the garden and the scenery was captivating; however time, weather and the condition of the road didn’t permit us to continue.

Entrance to Wailoko RoadHope you get an opportunity let me know!

 

 

Kings Hwy Fiji – a Road Less Travelled

For sometime I have wanted to travel to Suva from Nadi via the Kings Highway. Unfortunately the opportunity hasn’t presented itself. However circumstances can change and before you know it you are travelling along the Kings Hwy to Suva.

Decision was made to take the road less travelledNadi Service Station the decision was made

Gary was getting petrol and checking the tyres for our journey to Suva via the Coral Coast (Queens’s Hwy) and just as we were ready to turn right along the Queens Hwy, he asked me if I would you like to take the Kings Hwy instead?

(Silly question) “Well this is the deal”, he said “If all goes well and we have a great trip it’s my idea but if things turn pear-shaped it’s your fault”! ….I can live with that.So we turned left on the road less travelled. We were driving on familiar road till we reached Ba we had been there the week before looking at the beautiful gold jewellery.

Rakiraki here we come

The rain started in earnest now pelting on the windscreen, nothing was said but perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea. Then the rain dissipated and a silent sigh of relief was felt. The road was honey-combed in some sections with potholes which is part of living in Fiji.

After you get over the initial shock of the state of the roads in Fiji you just get on with it. It was Sunday and there was very little traffic on the Kings Highway, most Fijians were at church listening to their Sunday sermon.

We virtually had the road to ourselves.Bad weather on the Kings Road Fiji
The coastline was spectacular despite the dreary conditions; imagine what it would be like with sunshine and clear skies.

The vegetation was lush and a vibrate green, sugarcane came right up to the roadside and gently swayed on the hillside it is stunning country.

Missed the turn for the coast route

Our intention was to stay on the coast road and turn off around Matawailevu Village, it would have been advantageous if we had a “proper road map” instead of a tourist map with limited detail.

Before we knew it we were heading inland and passing through Rokovuaka Village it was too late to turn back. It had taken us 3 hours to get this far with the inclement weather conditions, so we kept going.
Beautiful coastline, now we started moving inlandThe country was now becoming mountainous and to our right was a fast flowing muddy swollen river that appeared through the vegetation.

Looking at our limited map reference it indicated that there were sections where the road and river met.

Up to this point the road had been a hard tarred surface with just a couple of areas of gravel. All this was about to change.

Dirt track – road deteriorates

The nice hard surface quickly evaporates and we are down to dirt track! With still a considerable distance to go suddenly everything turns pear-shaped. The road abruptly narrows now it’s only one lane, with a deep ravine to the right and muddy brown water flowing rapidly below.

The dirt track which is the King Hwy takes a sharp right and stretched before us is a long narrow one lane timber bridge; resembling something you might see on the Discovery Channel in the Amazon crossing some raging river with impenetrable jungle straggling the sides.

  1. No guard rails
  2. Perched high above a fast moving body of water
  3. Crosses nailed to the side where someone had come to a sticky end!

Gary negotiated the bridge… we had no choice it was too late to turn back. Two long continuous raised timber tracks the width of a car’s wheel base ran parallel to guide your wheels across.

The only problem was the timber bridge was muddy and slippery. The van couldn’t getThis crossing had a damage rail enough traction on the timber track and kept slipping off.

So we ended driving over on a slight angle the passenger side seeing more of the water then I would have liked.

I forgot to push record on the video camera, but I did get the next bridge. The next couple of bridges didn’t seem so frightening, it’s amazing how quickly you can adjust, but then I wasn’t driving thank goodness!

The rest of the journey to Suva was uneventful

After our tangle with the timber bridges the rest of the journey was uneventful. There is upgrading taking place with overseas loans.

Further along the road large sections of rainforest and hillside had been removed to make way for a significant upgrade of the Kings Hwy with a couple of large bridges already constructed.

If you intend to travel the Kings Highway to Suva I would check before hand to verify the road status.
We travelled on a Sunday and all roadwork were halted, however if this had been a Saturday or weekday there would have been extensive delays.

It took us over 5 hours to reach Suva; speed was down to 60km and below in some sections of the Kings Hwy.

If you intend to drive to Suva via the Kings Hwy check before hand with the local authorities. (This road is now upgraded)

Talking to some residents who had negotiated the coast road to Suva, they said the views were breathtaking but the road was atrocious it was 4×4 drive the dirt track was narrow and muddy, but what an adventure was the comment!

Check out the video below to see for yourself…

Catch you later…

A Trip to Ba Fiji– local Bargain Gold Jewellery

We had arranged a trip to Ba about one hour drive west from Lautoka, rumour has it that Ba is known by the local Fijians as the place to go if you are looking for gold jewellery much cheaper then Lautoka or Nadi.

Unfortunately it was only going to be a quick trip because our local guide Renee was flying to Melbourne Australia that afternoon.

We left our accommodation in Nadi and commenced our journey along the Queens Hwy, we headed for Lautoka where we picked up Renee from her comfortable suburban home.

The entertainment begins…Suren sitting in the front seat with Gary

When we arrived instead of Renee joining us for this quick trip alone, we had her father Suren and a young boy who was a friend of the family, this addition of Renee’s father quickly changed the whole dynamics of the day as we were soon to find out.

Suren wanted to sit in the front seat and started coughing; Renee scolded him reminding him how he wanted to sit in the front like the Prime Minister!

The views are breathtaking

Beautiful views - Kings Road

The trip along the Kings Hwy is very scenic the rolling green hills down to the sea are spectacular, and the Yasawa Islands off shore breathtaking.

There were a few spots where we could have pull off the road and take photos, however time was limited on this trip to Ba.

The van was alive with incessant chatter and smiling faces, at this moment I really felt I was in Fiji, we were one of the noisy vans racing down the Kings Highway with heads and arms moving with festive joy.

Nothing like local knowledge…while visiting in Fiji

Renee is a hive of information, knowing every building and seemingly everything about the area and it soon became apparent she knew more than most because she was born in Ba and her family had a farm in the area for decades.

Suren constantly continued to amuse us and the wonderful relationship between father and daughter obvious. Whenever she felt he was getting out of control with his high-pitched chatter in Hindi she would pinch his ear lope and he would immediately stop as if she had pulled the key out of a robot.

However this chatter was virtually impossible to control once we arrived in Ba, he called out the window at his old friends that he hadn’t seen for a couple of years.

Ba a hive of activity

Saturday morning and the town of Ba is alive with activity, it seems like the whole town is out to shop at the markets, music blasted from the shop fronts and drifted across the street producing that familiar carnival atmosphere which seems to be the custom here and there was Suren calling out from the van to his old friends.

Ba Town the place for gold jewelleryBeautiful gold jewellery

We all bundled out of the van and headed for the jewellers, the variety is amazing and the range and price met our expectations.

If you are looking for beautiful gold jewellery I recommend Ba.

Shopping where the locals shop for gold jewellery is always good advice, there didn’t seem to be any tourist around and judging by the way they kept staring at my blonde hair, this may indicate that not many make their way here. Renee and her father Suren

 

The retailers are polite and helpful, not pushy which can be common in the bigger towns.

Unfortunately we were unable to stay too long; we finished our visit at the Ba Markets where Suren insisted on leaving the van despite his daughter’s protest to visit an old girl friend at the local supermarket.

After everyone returned to the van we were on our way back to Lautoka, but not before Suren did a little more greeting from the front seat. The trip back was hot, no air-con means windows all open, it’s always a bad hair day in Fiji with the humidity.

Fijian experience..

'Fijian experience’ Bu a young coconut

‘Fijian experience’ Bu a young coconut

Time to stop at one of the roadside stalls and enjoy a drink, Suren was out of the front seat running across the road for a bu.

This is the ‘Fijian experience’ a young coconut (Bu in Fijian) cut in front of you with a straw inserted, the taste is refreshing! After drinking the juice you can eat the tender flesh.

We arrived safely back in Nadi, to our cool rooms with the mountains of the sleeping giant watching over us.

Thank you Renee and Suren again, for a wonderful morning in Ba Town one of the best places to visit for gold jewellery in Fiji.Suren wishing his daughter a safe journey home

 

 

 

See you next time…

Queens Hwy – Nadi to Suva – Fiji

Nadi Fiji

 Leaving Brisbane for Nadi Early..

it was best described as everyone has turned up let’s get this show on the road and we were flying out of Brisbane Airport!

The only downside was that we arrived in Nadi 45mins early and our ride wasn’t going to show until 6.00am after custom etc. The flight was around 3½ hours no real time to sleep!

We arrived at Nadi Airport in beautiful Fiji 45 minutes ahead of schedule….

After going through immigration we felt like a cup of tea, nothing like it to give you a lift in the morning. The only problem was it was prepared not with hot water but hot milk, not sure what they were thinking but the taste was ghastly.

Potholes Queens Hwy, Fiji
Our lift finally arrived it was a whirlwind of chatter, Fijian Indians associates and the next door neighbour excited at our arrival and quick to hand over the van for our working adventures.

Gary (my boss) takes the wheel cautiously and the rest of us pile into the back.

Stay away from ginger sweets in the morning!

First mistake… they hand him a sweet which he accepted eagerly without questions before I could say stop! You see Gary can’t take anything that remotely resembles any type of heat in food or drink form. These sweets were ginger and they were hot.

His mouth open trying to cool the flames of heat coating the back of his throat not a pretty sight first thing in the morning. After dropping off our passengers we were off to Suva.

The Queens Hwy – Travel advice

Horses on the Queens Hwy FijiDriving conditions in Fiji are quite a challenge the road changes at every turn from a nice smooth drivable surface to giant potholes where if they were any bigger you could disappear never to be seen again.

There are many spots where you have to circumnavigate these potholes by going on the wrong side of the road.

 

You have to keep your wits about you because overtaking is something accepted but not condoned on dangerous bends with double lines, over speed humps etc but many do it.

Beware approaching a village, these speed humps are not always well marked, if you hit one at 80km you know it!

 If you are approaching a village slow down to 50km.

Did I mention the animals?

  • DogsSlow down when approaching a village in Fiji
  • Horses
  • Pigs
  • Cows
  • Chickens

The list goes on; if they have legs there is a chance they will walk across the Queens Hwy all on Fiji time. (taking there time without a trouble in the world) So be careful and expect the unexpected.

Our transport in Fiji

Suva is around 200km from Nadi and we were starting our journey already tired so this isn’t a good combination. Gary did the driving, I don’t mine but I have a few stipulations, the car needs to be in good mechanical order… no strange noises coming from the steering and get over 80 kilometres an hour in an emergency.

The windscreen wipers shouldn’t fail every time you hit a speed bump especially when it’s raining, I would like air-con but if this isn’t possible the passenger side window should open.Queens Hwy, Fiji

Gary could be thought of as a bit of a legend he is the reverse of MacGyver

MacGyver would fix it with pantyhose or chewing gum, Gary just drives as is! 

I’ll watch carefully my choice of words here there is no way I getting behind the wheel of this van.

Van Fixed!

After going through a teething process with the van we discovered the following:

  • Wind screen wipers did work, a small adjustment required only
  • Child lock on the drivers’ door prevented opening the front seat passenger’s window
  • Unfortunately I will have to live with no air-con, bad hair visit!

Pool area Hideaway Resort

Stopped at the Coral Coast for coffee…

Travelling along the Coral Coast reminds me of the drive to Port Douglas in far north Queensland Australia, every time I travel this way I think of that winding road north of Cairns.
We were both tired after our red eye flight from Brisbane so we stopped at the Hideaway for coffee, I don’t know what the accommodation is like but the pool area is spectacular with iridescent blues rushing to meet your eyes. The gardens are beautifully laid out with comfortable looking bures nestled amongst the palms.

It seems to cater for families… with horse rides along the beach and a wealth of activities.

Lami Bay – SuvaLami Bay Fiji

After a long few hours driving along the Queens Hwy and some pit stops we arrived at the Novotel  Lami Bay, a unique location right on the bay and about 10mins out of Suva.

Catch you later….