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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fiji Trip: Getting to Fiji

View from our cottage
Welcome to my Fiji trip report :)  We spent a week at Koro Sun Resort near Savusavu.  The trip was organized by Anywater Sports, and was our first ever shop trip (I don't think Channel Islands trips count).  We ended up going on this trip because we were thinking about a trip, and had a short list, which included the Philippines.  Since Anywater frequently runs trips there, I inquired with them about a trip this year, and Ginny said she wasn't sure since they had a bunch of other trips planned, and mentioned that they had just announced a Fiji trip.  Since that was on the short list, and the idea of not having to research and arrange the trip myself seemed great, we decided to go for it.  We booked our own flights, since we were using miles, but other than that, the planning was all Ginny.  Apparently there had been a lot of back and forth about whether we would fly to Savusavu, which has a small airstrip that only handles small planes (carrying 12 or 13 people), or Labasa, which can handle a larger aircraft (which would hold the entire group of 36 or so people).  In the end, we were to fly into Savusavu on 3 separate flights, and out of Labasa.

Boat dock at Koro Sun Dive
We had an afternoon flight down to LA with a several hour layover before our night-time Air Pacific flight to Fiji.  When we checked in at the AA counter in San Francisco, we were given boarding passes for both legs.  So when we got to LAX, after schlepping to the international terminal, and presenting ourselves at the security line, we were told that we couldn't use these boarding passes (WTF) and had to go wait in line at the Air Pacific counter for new boarding passes.  The line wasn't too terribly long, but it was a pretty annoying experience, if you aren't used to having to wait in line with the hoi polloi :P  Apparently the AA-Air Pacific partnership does not extend to use of the Business Class line.  When we finally got to the counter, we had a very friendly agent, who, when we inquired about exit row seats, happily reported that there were some available.  We got through security quickly and found a pretty ghetto terminal, with basically nothing to eat except a greasy snack bar and, most importantly, a bar.  This is when I realized... I've never flown an international flight from LAX.  I've always thought that LAX is basically the armpit of the universe, and the international terminal is no exception.  I guess some sort of big reconstruction project is underway, and it looks like it is about time.  We headed to the bar forthwith and passed the time there.  While we were waiting in the departure lounge, I for some reason was doodling around on the Air Pacific website on my phone, and happened to look at an aircraft map; this is when I discovered that our seats were on the upper deck.  I'd never been on the upper deck of a 747 before -- yippy!  I guess the seats up there are considered a minor "upgrade" though I didn't know this at the time, and didn't particularly notice it.

The Rainforest Spa
The nice thing about exit row seats on a 747 is that the door is so freakin' big, you have a million miles of legroom.  I slept surprisingly well, and for surprisingly long, on the flight.  When we got into Fiji, we were luckily some of the first people in line for immigration and got through fairly quickly.  As we were in line there, we noticed that all of the flights to Savusavu had been cancelled, but there was a flight to Labasa at 11.  I assumed this would be our flight, and this was indeed the case.  We made our way through customs and over to the domestic terminal, and waited around while they got everything together and gave us our boarding passes.  There had been warnings that Air Pacific would be very strict on luggage weight (including for carry-ons).  Rob's camera backpack was definitely overweight, but we had a contingency plan wherein his lenses and maybe some strobes would be moved to my "purse" (which is a re-purposed REI day-pack).  Luckily no such shuffling was required, since they did not weigh any of our carry-ons.  We had several hours to kill before our flight, so we went across the street to Raffles hotel and had breakfast there, which was reasonably tasty.  After playing some penny poker with Sergio and Brian, it was finally time to head to the gate, where we waited some more (because our flight was not exactly on time) and then finally headed to Labasa.  I guess the little planes could not fly to Savusavu because of wind.  But the flight to Labasa was perfectly calm.  When we arrived there, we were met by a bus driver, who was to take us to the resort.  We had been previously led to believe that the ride was about an hour (since we'd have to go back to Labasa at the end of the trip), but the driver told us two and a half hours.  It was actually a bit less, but still over two.  The bus was not air conditioned, but once it was going, with the windows open, it was not bad.  But then it started to rain and then it started to pour, so then we had to choose between being drenched with rain or hot and steamy.  Or both, since even with the windows closed, rain was leaking in all over the seats and floor.

Our room
We finally got to the resort and all of the staff was waiting by the roadside to sing and greet us, and there was some sort of welcome meeting (and coconut waters, mmm) in the lobby.  When that was finally complete, we headed to our room, and I finally got to take a shower :)  The room, which was actually a cottage, was cute, but nothing extraordinary.  My only significant complaint about it is that aside from a one-person seat (and some chairs outside), there was no place to sit but the bed.  The room had an outdoor shower, which is cool in principle, but in practice, I think it is a source of mosquitoes (though it is all screened in, I don't think the screens are 100% effective).  After that, we headed to lunch, and then went to poke around by the dive shop, to see if there was any possibility of diving today.  The dive shop was deserted, so we just hung around that afternoon, then went to happy hour and attended a dive briefing before dinner.  During the dive briefing, Colin (owner of the dive op) laid out to us what days we would do local diving and what days we would go to Namena and Somosomo.  There was no mention of the possibility of dives in the afternoon, which we had been told leading up to the trip could be "arranged after we arrived".  Rob harassed Colin about this a bit after the meeting, and he said he would see what he could do.

The Bligh Explorer
After this, we headed to dinner.  I had a fish curry, which was very nicely presented in a half coconut shell.  I think this was one of the tastiest dishes that I had all week.  And while we are on the topic of meals, here's how that worked.  Everyday at dinner, we were given a menu for the next day, and we were to select our meals for the next day.  For each meal, there were usually two starter options and two or three entree options, and dessert (yes, dessert with lunch and dinner, everyday!).  I had heard from people on a prior trip that there was not much variety, but I thought it was fine.  I think that I had fish about a third of the time, chicken about a third of the time, and beef about a third of the time (actually there was a vegetarian meal or two in there as well).  I thought that the fish dishes were generally quite tasty.  For breakfast, there was a "continental" buffet, with cereal, muffins, and fruit, plus a menu to order off of.  I don't generally like to eat very heavy foods before diving, so I felt like I sort of missed out on the breakfast options on the menu.  I liked the cereal very much though :)  On the final day, I got the "wavos" which was roti with eggs and way too much cheese (which I just picked off of it) and that super tasty sweet chili sauce.  I think anything tastes good with that chili sauce on it.

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