Monday, May 7, 2018

Nadi and Suva, Fiji (April 2018)

Fiji or Republic of Fiji officially is a South Pacific island. It is located approximately 2,000 north of New Zealand's North Island. It consists of 330 islands, not counting 500 islets, of which 110 are permanently inhabited. Its population is approximately 900,000.

Fiji is one of the better developed nations thanks to its abundant forest, minerals and fish resources. Fiji water is known to be actually imported from Fiji.

Between our New Zealand trip and Australia trip, we had a five-day gap. I struggled a bit among options, but we decided to take a relaxing time in Fiji.

After we arrived in Nadi (pronounced as Nandi), the western city of the main island, we rented a car and drove to Doubletree Resort by Hilton. The road condition was not great but manageable. The real killer was traffic jam. At every roundabout, there was a heavy traffic jam that was slowing down the movement.

After all, however, we managed to arrive at the parking lot of the resort. Then, we realized that we had to take a boat to go to the resort. There was no land connection. I felt confined. But, no other choice.

The greater concern was yet to be discovered. As soon as we arrived at the resort, the management issued a warning that a tropical storm is brewing in the north west direction of Fiji and is expected to develop into tropical cyclone. Fiji was hit with another cyclone only a week ago and some people died in the flood under a heavy rain.

The facility was good with nice ocean views and garden views. The restaurant served good foods and the staff was friendly. Fiji-friendly. Bula means Welcome in Fiji and we could hear "Bula" everywhere we went.

The following day, we drove out to check out the supermarket that we saw at the junction as turned from the main road into a small road to the resort. There was nothing much at the supermarket.

Then, the weather looked fine and we decided to drive to Suva, approximately 3 and 1/2 hours away. On the way, we could not see much of the ocean, only once in a while, until we reached the capital city of Suva. Suva has a big port that is able to dock cruise ships. Other than that, we could not find anything interesting.

On the way back, we made a comfort stop at Novotel located at Suva Lami Bay. It was raining and the islets in front of the hotel in the sea looked mysterious.

Also on the way back, we made anther photo stop and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This resting area had a stretched wharf at Maui Bay and we walked all the way to the end. There was a lot of colorful tropical fish and even a small octopus. The water was turquoise green and we could see the barrier reef in a distance. Along with blue sky and white cloud, the scenery was perfect. We were glad that we made a stop and we found that Fiji after all could be a beautiful island.

But, that was about it. From then on, we could not do much. We planned to join a cultural tour, but all tours were getting cancelled due to the tropical cycloe Keni. Initially it was category 1 with the wind speed up to 90 km per hour but quickly developed into category 3 with the wind speed up to 140 km.

By the time Keni was passing close by Fiji, the resort facilities were boarded up and staff was sent home. All the guests were advised to stay inside the rooms. Sandbags and flash lights were distributed. And many people purchased their meals in advance.

On April 8 and 9, we could not do anything, but watch TV.s I ended up watching several Rugby games. Apparently, Fiji has a fairly strong Rugby team. They won South Africa at the Common Wealth Games. South Africa has a population of 56 million. So technically, Fiji of 900,000 people beat South Africa of 56 million. Wow...

Outside, the wind was strong and the water was rough. We were glad that we moved our room to the second floor.

Finally, Tropical Cyclone Keni passed by Fiji and the resort turned out to be just fine. My rent car remained intact and we thought we would be just fine. One remaining concern was the road condition to the airport, which could be closed because of flooding. It was also cleared.

But, the flight from Nadi to Auckland was delayed for four hours. With this delay, we would be missing the flight from Auckland to Sydney. So we ended up buying another ticket from Nadi to Sydney. We hope that the travel insurance will cover this unexpected cost.

Our trip to the supposed paradise island Fiji turned out to be a disaster story, but nonetheless, we made a trip to this South Pacific island and came out of it without much damage or loss.  For that, I felt grateful. But, it is true that my previous desire to live in Fiji for a few months has been substantially diminished, if not completely abandoned. - Jeffrey 

Auckland, New Zealand (April 2018)

After we left Rotorua, our first comfort stop was at Matamata. This town was the closest to the Hobiton Movie Set, only 20 km away. That is why the information center was built like a Hobiton House. This Hobbiton Movie set was used heavily for the The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and the Hobbiton series. Their unearthly design and look are sufficient to attract the attention and visit of the tourists. It was too bad that we would not be able to visit it this time.

We made a morning tea stop at Huntly. I bought a New Zealand cap. And we took a photo with Brian and his wife from Australia. They were nice people.

We passed through a battle field between English settlers and Mauri people. They eventually signed a treaty. In Maori language, "wh" is pronounced as "f."

We were dropped off at a hotel in Auckland. Auckland has a population of 2 million. The city is surrounded by 38 volcanoes. All are extinct and they build the houses right at the craters. But to me it was quite scary. They are indeed a Ring of Fire.

We were given a day pass for Hop On Hop Off bus. We had only the afternoon to explore the city.

We walked from the hotel to the Harbor where we got on the bus. We stayed on the bus for the entire route, both red and blue routes. It was a bit boring, but Hop on Hop off bus is the best way to experience a city or a place in a short period of time.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum had a big scale. In front of the building, there was a sign that says "Lest We Forget." It was impressive.

We passed by Art Gallery and walked through Albert Park, a city part close to the down town.

The Queens Street is the main commercial street and nearby was Sky City Tower with an outstanding presence. The air was clear and the sky was clean. It was a fine day, good for wrapping up our tour to New Zealand. - Jeffrey

Taihape, Haku Falls, Rotorua, New Zealand (April 2018)

After we left Wellington, we passed through several retiree communities, such a Tawa. Throughout the day, the cloud was cast low and the day was gloomy.

Galloway cows are one of the longest established breeds of beef castle, from Galloway, Scotland. They have white belt in the body, unlike Black Angus.

We made a comfort stop at Levin and lunch stop at Taihape, Palmerston North, the gumboot capital. There was a gumboot throwing place. I was able to throw 20 meters and the winner at Taihape's throw day was 34 meter. The world record is known to be 49 meter. Wow...! This town have a giant statue of gumboot.

We visited Haku Falls. It was almost horizontal falls which resulted from the water that branches out from the main river and gush into a gorge. The sound and the scene were quite unearthly.

Wairaki Golf Club is now owned by Koreans. The round of game is said to be quite expensive. We passed through a thermal steam power plant.

We stopped over at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. Mud pools were fuming out the steams.

Rotorua means Lake No. 2. Probably it was discovered as the second lake among 18 lakes in the area.

Now Rotorua is nicknamed Rotovegas, obviously like Las Vegas. Not because Roturua has a lot of casinos but because it has a lot of accommodations based on hot springs on the main street, like Las Vegas. The most famous of all is Polynesian Spa. We peeked in and saw a lot of Korean tourists. Given that Korean love hot bath, no wonder. Overall, Rotorua is called the Geothermal Wonderland.

We had dinner with soup, seafood salad including prawns and mussels. Fabulous desert bar was quite enticing and satisfying.

The following day, we woke up early to take a Gondola to have breakfast at the top of the Gondola. The view was panoramic!

After the breakfast, we were given one tick for riding Luse, actually a go-cart on the hill. One of the travel mates gave her ticket so I had two. I rode twice and it was fun.

We then went to Agrodome to watch a farm show. All breeds of sheep were placed on the show and they looked so big because their wool were uncut. The show host demonstrated how to shear the sheep and also how to use sheep dog to tender sheep and even ducks.

We visited Te Puia Arts and Culture Center. We watched boiling mud pools and also shooting geysers. We had a chance to watch the Kiwi birds, but they are nocturnal and I could not see anything because it was so dark.

After a Tiki tour of Roturua, we had a free time in the afternoon. I signed up for the Duck Boat ride. The Duck Boat we rode was 74 years old dating back to the World War II. It was designed and made over only 38 days. It did not draw interest initially but after it successfully rescued people on a stormy day, it received support and because part of the battle vehicles. We were told that there are only 1,000 Duck Boats left in the world. This company owned two. It was going at about 40 km per hour on the land, but it was able to go only 5 knots on the water. Far too slow for doing anything meaningful.

We visited the Lake Rotorua, a shallow 4-5 meter deep withing entering because it is too shallow. But we entered into Blue Lake and Lake Okareka. It was raining and the Duck Boat ride was lacking excitement.

On the way, we visited a museum that used to be a jazz club. The building was quite interesting in architecture.

Also, we passed by Devil's Smell Hot Spring Place where sulfur smell was really bad. The water temperature is 100 degrees C and could not enter. It was called Rachel's Spring.

In the afternoon, we went to Polynesian Spa. We went into the open air pools with the panoramic view of the lake where all kinds of birds were gathering. It was a bird sanctuary. We were sitting in a shaded pool all to ourselves only until when a group of Korean tourists poured in. But we were about to leave anyway after enjoying relaxing moments.

The dinner was with Hangi food and Maori Pui Ball Dance for women and Haka Dance for men. After we watching their show, we were invited to learn and practice their dances. I participated in it and they said I was funny. I meant to be funny.

Rotorua is a popular destination for not only tourists but also the Kiwis when they go on holidays. Now I know why. - Jeffrey