Thursday, November 22, 2012
November 20, 2012 – Tuesday – disembark the Paul Gauguin in Lautoka, Fiji; travel to Blue Lagoon Resort, Nacula Island, Yasawa Group, Fiji
I have my last breakfast aboard ship at 6:45AM: my usual cappuccino, yogurt, and French pastry for breakfast at La Palette. The ship is still underway to Lautoka as I sit on the stern deck watching the Fijian coastline go by. The Sleeping Giant is part of the rugged mountains found in the Lautoka area. As we get closer to port, I spot the Rotterdam docked, and take a photo for old time’s sake.
I check my cabin for anything I haven’t packed, and then roll my bags to the lobby area of Deck 4, which is just a short way from my cabin. There are surprisingly few people waiting here, so I’m encouraged that those of us who have to disembark early will actually be able to do so. The ship is running late, but docks at 8AM and is cleared a few minutes later. The holdup is the ship’s crew attempting to assemble the gangway stairs. It takes then a full 20 minutes more, which brings us to 8:30AM.
The couple sitting beside me are pretty anxious, since they have to catch a ferry boat which leaves at 8:45AM, giving them a mere 15 minutes to get there. While waiting, I call Turtle Airways to check with them about my reservation. It takes two callbacks, but they finally confirm my flight is leaving at 11AM, so that gives me more time to spare than I originally thought I had.
I am one of the first to disembark the ship, find a taxi, and we drive out of the port gates. The taxi driver isn’t entirely sure where Turtle Airways is located in Nadi, but he manages to take the correct roads based on the directions I have from Turtle Airways. Once we are approaching the little terminal building, he says he has been here once before. I pay him FJ$40, and thank him very much. I am nice and early, and the staff are waiting to check me in. My bags are overweight (which I expected), and they want to charge me FJ$90, but after I complain a bit, they agree to a FJ$70 charge.
The plane we are taking is a Canadian DeHavilland Beaver seaplane. The maintenance crew were running aircraft’s engine up outside in the adjacent field, and towing it with a tractor. They eventually satisfy themselves it will run. The young, barefoot, South American pilot gets in and they ease it into the nearby water. An Australian couple and I are the only passengers for this first leg. The crew briefs us on safety procedures; we put on a compact life preserver, and climb aboard. I sit in the co-pilot’s seat, so I have an open window beside me, and get a great view all around.
We take off a few minutes before 11AM, and set down at Plantation Island Resort 20 minutes later to pick up two more passengers. We then fly direct to Turtle Island, arriving at 12 Noon. There are some terrific views of the Yasawa Group of islands along the way, and I take lots of photos out of my open cockpit window. Our bags and us are transferred to a Blue Lagoon Resort boat and 30 minutes later we arrive at our destination!
It is a wet landing on the resort’s beach, since there is no wharf, so I take off my socks and shoes, roll up my jeans and jump ashore. The Fijian guys take care of our bags, and we are checked in in quick order. My big bag is waiting for me at Villa 2 – my beachfront home for the next week. We arrive in time for lunch, which is a fixed menu as well as a special board. I have the Nasi Goreng special with a sunny side egg on top, which is very tasty and filling. I unpack and get settled this afternoon.
Dinner this evening is roasted chicken with a sweet chili sauce and vegetables with an appetizer and chocolate pie for dessert. This evening’s menu is nothing too inspiring, but it is tasty and nutritious. I sit at a table with two young German guys and a newly wed couple from Brisbane, Australia. The couple are Chinese, but I assume they are naturalized Australians. He works for a Chinese commercial bank in Sydney. One of the young Germans has just finished studying law in Hamilton, New Zealand for the better part of a year. The other German guy is looking for work with his business degree, but obviously he isn’t looking too hard while they do the beach here in Fiji before returning home to Germany.