Friday, December 21, 2012

In Fiji, Not Quite "Home" Yet

Short Story: We made it to Fiji yesterday.

Long Story: When we realized that we were waitlisted on the absolute last flight we could take and make it to Savusavu before Christmas (and maybe even New Years), we decided to try again and "take the first flight out".

Tuesday morning (America time) we finally managed to get through on the phone to Air Pacific and secure the LAST TWO SEATS on Tuesday night's flight from LAX. So we apologised to Evan (our current host) about changing our plans yet again, and hustled in our rental car headed back to LA. We managed to get away with enough time go part of the way on Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful day and a nice trip--wish we could have stopped and explored more.

However, halfway to LA, we got a text message that said our flight had been delayed until Weds morning. But we were committed at that point and carried on to LA. Worst case scenario, we spend the night in the USO at the airport and best case, we get a room at the Hilton on Air Pacific. I checked our status and the flight status on the computer, and the results were confusing and conflicting.

What ended up happening was that the flight that was ORIGINALLY was supposed to go out Tuesday evening had been bumped to Weds morning, but WE were actually booked on the flight that was supposed to have gone on Monday evening, but was actually flying on Tuesday evening. You can imagine the line and the confusion at the Air Pacific counter when we got there. It took us an hour and half to reach the counter!

However, once we did, we found we were confirmed on that flight, AND they hadn't lost the 3 bags we had checked on Saturday. The flight ended up being delayed about 2 hours, but did finally get off the ground late on Tuesday night. It turned out that Air Pacific, trying to recover from the Cyclone Evan debacle in the week before Christmas, had chartered an Atlas Air plane and crew to try to catch up.

We landed in Nadi, Fiji after an 11-hour overnight flight. We got about 6 hours of sleep--not too bad for a crowded airplane. All our luggage (4 big bags) arrived with us, and we had no Immigration or Customs hassles at the airport. All in all, a very successful flight.

A friend at Vuda Point Marina (near Nadi) had encouraged us to come visit her for a couple of days before going on to Savusavu, but we were on a mission to get home. We were worried about not getting on the last ferry going to Savusavu before Christmas. We had done a little investigating while in LA and found out that the ferries shut down between Christmas and New Years, and also that the short-hop airplanes were all fully booked.

So we took the Express Bus down to Suva right from the airport. This is a 4-5 hour bus ride. The Express Bus isn't supposed to stop anywhere, but it does at a few places. But it is air-conditioned and we saw 2 movies on the way!! All for about $10 US.

We also had to make contact with our friends from Fulaga's family in Suva. We brought back a laptop (a nice new/refurbed HP laptop on for only $256) for Sera, the nurse at Fulaga. After a few phone calls to arrange things, Sera's sister met us at our hostel and paid us for the laptop. Unfortunately Sera and Sikeli haven't made it (by ferry) from Fulaga yet--they also got delayed by the cyclone, and aren't due for another couple of days.

Fortunately, we had made reservations on the Lomaiviti Princess ferry, by phone, with Kong, the agent in Savusavu, while still in LA (thank god for Skype!). When we got to the ferry office today to pick up our pre-paid ticket, they had a big sign on the door "No more space on today's ferry". But we have a confirmed ticket for a sleeper cabin. Thanks, Kong (he told us to just stop by his office and Savusavu and pay him when we get there)!

So, tonight, off we go on our last leg "home"--an overnight ferry to Savusavu.

Next problem: Getting food aboard before everything shuts down for Christmas!

P.S. For a first-hand account of Tropical Storm Evan at Vuda Point Marina in Fiji, see Island Bound's blog.

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