09 April 2012

Fiji is a four letter word

We had always planned to go south of the equator for our tenth anniversary.  It seemed somewhat fitting that our tenth anniversary trip would occur after our 16th anniversary since our honeymoon didn't happen until after our 5th anniversary.
We planned this last summer when I got an unheard of deal from the tour company we used to go to the UK and Ireland a couple of summers ago.  We had booked and paid for the trip all through the fall.  Timing has not been our strong suit this year, however.
Our trip was planned for just over a week after Mom passed.  I really thought about not going.  No one wanted us to cancel though.  If we did we would not likely ever get the chance again.  So we went.
Getting there was not as tough as I had anticipated.  We had a six hour flight from Boston to LA first.  Then we left at 11pm on Tuesday night from LA into Nadi Fiji arriving at ~6am on Thursday.  The flight was not quite 11 hours.  I slept most of the way and Art slept some.
It was raining lightly when we arrived.  So we headed to the hotel and then off to a factory tour of Ugg footwear.  Good rainy day activity.  We'd hit the beach hard the next day!  We walked down to the Ugg factory which was pretty small really.  We got to watch them make my boots after I picked out the style I liked.  The cost was not quite half what I see at home but almost, plus I got to watch them being made.
They said that the Asian tourists liked to mix and match the colors on the boots.  I wasn't so bold and opted for the chocolate brown I have been looking at for years.  The girl who gave us the tour was very friendly and talked about a flood in January that had devastated the economy and that they were trying to repair from still.
When we were on our way out we were lucky enough to meet one of the Aussie owners.  We had a good conversation with him about why they were in Fiji and how hard and expensive it had become to do business in Australia.  Most of their boots were made in China now, but they had a few smaller shops still in the area including Fiji.  He dropped us off at a great local place for lunch.  Some of the best ceviche I have ever had and some interesting veggies.  We enjoyed our walk back planning our trip to come.
By the late evening the rain had really started to come down.  When we woke up it was pouring buckets.  We went to the tour desk and she said that no one would be operating that day, come back tomorrow.  Not really pleased as we were only there for four days we headed off to breakfast.  We decided to go out and walk around to see the town ourselves.  We got about a kilometer up the road when we noticed the waters rising in the road.  The people walking along were shocked by the rain and how part of the road was under water.  They turned around.  So did we.  We were looking for the beach.  We went down another road on the advice of a local.  We came to a couple of resorts.  My feet were getting a little chewed up from walking in the heavy rain and pooled water on the streets and walkways.  We waded in looking for the beach.  Waist high wading.  We never found the beach but our feet were pretty raw so we retreated to the hotel.
We picked up a bottle of Bounty Fijian Rum, fun in a bottle, and headed back to the room to play cards.  We saw a weather report saying it had rained 330 mm in the last twelve hours.  Around four that afternoon the power went out.
We had no idea what time it was for most of our trip.  While the hotel had a generator so the main lobby and restaurant had power we did not in the room.

The next day it rained even harder.  We went for a swim in the flooded pool.  We heard the road was washed out in both directions and Suva was under water.  Both the Ba and Nadi rivers had broken their banks and flooding was underway.  Tropical depression 17L had been sitting on us for over a day and a half.
The locals said they had never seen anything like this.  People were losing their houses, didn't have power, and were worried for their families.
The next day we finally got power back.  I am guessing they wired the generator through to the rest of the hotel because we didn't see many places with power outside the hotel.  No roads were open, flights had been cancelled for the second day in a row and the water was flowing brown out of our faucet at times.  We had one tv channel, no radio, no internet, no newspaper, no phone...  We went to the hotel mini-mart and got a six pack of liters of water and another bottle of Bounty fun.
We played cards and we ended up cutting my book in two because Art's kindle had no more power.
Then we saw that a tropical Cyclone Daphne was due to arrive the next night.  We were supposed to fly out in the morning but so many flights had been cancelled and even those that hadn't been cancelled didn't always get out.   

Oh, and I had to get payroll done by the end of the day we were due to fly out.  If we didn't get out I couldn't even get ahold of anyone to do it for me...

We got up early and headed to the airport with our fingers crossed.  By the luck of the rain gods we made it out!
We didn't get a total for rainfall, but going off of the initial 330mm in the first twelve hours we are guessing that over a meter and up to two meters fell during our four day stay.  Daphne arrived the night after we got out but most of the damage had already been done.  It will be a long recovery for this poor country in the middle of political transition.
We were so happy to see and be in Auckland!

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