Limited number of ports of call on this cruise…Long way yet to sail…9368 km, 5817 miles (5055 nautical miles)…

Isle of Pines coral reef is stunning.

The ship docked at the Port of Suva, Fiji, early this morning for an overnight stay. Why they chose this port for the extended stay baffled us until yesterday when the captain explained in a seminar held midday in the Palace Theatre.

Passengers seemed to enjoy the white sand beach and crystal clear sea.

The ship needed to refuel and gather provisions for the upcoming journey consisting of 9368 km, 5817 miles, 5055 nautical miles to sail to Seattle by May 15. We boarded the ship one week ago today, and the time is flying by more quickly than we’d expected.

These types of garments are not for me, but it’s fun to check them out.

The ease of life aboard a ship, along with a pleasant routine we tend to embrace within the first few days, days almost pass in a blur. We probably don’t spend more than nine hours a day in our cabin, sleeping, showering, dressing for the day, and then for the evening.

There were lots of trinkets for sale in New Caledonia.

Tom and I have managed the small space in the cabin of 164 square feet down to a science. We maneuver around one another with a flow comparable to a well-practiced dance where we seldom bump into one another.

After 18 cruises in similarly sized cabins (this is the smallest to date), we’ve managed to make the most of it in keeping the space tidy, organized, and free of clutter. In addition, we have a phenomenal cabin steward on this particular cruise whose efforts include consistency and organizational skills similar to our own. 

Green-themed sarongs.

Each morning as soon as we depart for breakfast, she cleans our cabin to perfection. Then, when we return to get our laptops to head to the Diamond Lounge to prepare the day’s post, every last item is completed with nary a wrinkle or item out of order.

Tourists typically purchase tee-shirts and beach towels.

Today, we arrived a little later than usual when we lingered at the breakfast table chatting with other passengers, all of whom were about to explore Suva for the day. We didn’t arrive in the Diamond Lounge until 10 am, when in most cases, we’ll be done preparing the post by 11. This accounts for today’s slightly later posting.

A tiny rowboat at the ready.

As we’ve recounted the details of our four-month stay in Fiji on two islands, from September 8, 2015, to January 4, 2016, we giggled over our varied experiences during that period.

Ship passengers peruse the many shops in Isle of Pines, New Caledonia.

Whether it was the ants that filled the mattress and pillows on the bed on our first night in Savusavu; buying Kava for the chief when we visited the Vuodomo waterfall; the nightly visits by our neighbor Sewak’s adorable dog Badal who happened to arrive while we were dining, hoping for morsels of meat which we always provided; or the trips to the outdoor markets for food and supplies, we continue to relish the experiences, good and not-so-good yet today.

Two sleeping dogs seemed unfazed about the stream of visitors.

Unfortunately, on the second island in Fiji, I contracted this lingering intestinal bacteria I’m continuing to purge from my system with carefully selected foods, supplements, and portion control. 

A rusted outboard motor fashioned into a work of art?

Regardless of the ups and downs, we continue to feel a powerful sense of joy wash over us every day.  From the couples with who we’ve become friends aboard this ship; to the many email messages we continue to receive from readers and friends we’ve made along the way; to the anticipation of the upcoming Alaskan cruise and, of course, seeing family and friends in less than a month.

Clouds above the pretty beach in the Isle of Pines.

Today, at 1:30 pm, the newer movie, Lion, filmed in Tasmania, is playing at the Palace Theatre. We’re certainly looking forward to this movie when our recent stay in Tasmania left us with an appreciation and gratefulness for the three months we spent on the exquisite island.

I haven’t owned a muumuu since I was pregnant in 1966.  (That certainly “dates” me!)

Every day as time marches on, we’re reminded of our growing past experiences in one way or another. And yet, there’s so much we’ve yet to see. The future looks bright and filled with wonder.  May good health keep us on track for that which is yet to come.

We offer the same wishes for all of you; good health and well-being.

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2016:

Sunset on the last night of our cruise to Singapore one year ago today. For more details, please click here.

Part 2…Road trip…Tour of Suva, the capital city…

TappooCity, the four story mall in Suva surprised us with its familiar brands.

Suva, the capital city of Fiji with its over 330 islands has population stats as follows:

  • Capital City: Suva (88,271 pop.)
    (175,399 metro)
  • Fiji Population: 849,000 (2010 est.)

Driving through the countryside as we made our way to Suva in an hour (each way) reminded us of many tropical climate countries we visited over these past years with an abundance of banana, palm, and coconut trees, the lush green hills, fields, and mountains with one pasture after another of cows and horses grazing off the land. Beautifully familiar, but always pleasant to see.

Driving in hired car with vehicles behind us, with no shoulder or spot to stop for photos, I’ve given up attempting to take good photos from the moving vehicle. It just doesn’t work. 

Many popular brands of flat-screen TVs. Many residents, including many in the lower-income ranges, have TVs and satellite dishes.

When we have a rental car, Tom is masterful at anticipating when to stop before the words, even leave my lips when we spot a good photo op. He manages to find an appropriate stopping point and turns around if necessary to ensure I’m able to take the shot.  He never ceases to amaze me.

A hired driver? Not so much the case when they don’t know our preferences for photos. Well, perhaps Okee Dokee in South Africa knew, who stopped at each photo-worthy scenes long before we even spotted them. 

How many times I’ve wished we could have packed her up and taken her with us. We’re happy for her when last Saturday she was a beautiful bride marrying the man of her dreams. Thank goodness for Facebook and email for keeping us informed about special people we’ve come to adore in our travels.

Furnishings and housewares of every type is available.

Once we entered the city limits of Suva, the city streets were jammed with cars honking as they maneuvered a mishmash bottleneck of many streets joining at most intersections. Jaywalkers were everywhere making a driver’s attention intense in an attempt to avoid hitting a pedestrian. There was hardly an opportunity to stop for photos.

An occasional crosswalk brought fewer walkers across the road than other non-marked areas. It could have been a busy intersection anywhere in the world. Our eyes dashed back and forth at the endless shops, office buildings (not skyscrapers), restaurants and markets and numerous cell/data stores each packed with many locals and tourists seeking the best possible deals of the day.

There are rows upon rows of exquisite colorful Hindu gowns worn by Indo-Fijian women on special occasions. 

Our goal while downtown was simple; visit the Suva Municipal Market (a huge farmers market) and drive-by various points of interest to take photos of the more popular tourist attractions in the center of the city. 

Keeping in mind, I was feeling awful from a poor prior night’s sleep with hardly enough energy to open the heavy door of the SUV, I knew getting out of the vehicle more often than we had to, was not on the agenda.

Typical kitchen appliances in familiar brands were offered for sale. Pricing on these items was a bit higher than in larger countries. The tea pots listed at FJD $119, are USD $55.

Tom, who’s interest in big cities has waned more than mine over time, was content to do only as much as I felt up to. In all of our travels, he has never insisted we see anymore than is on my radar on any sightseeing tour.  Overall sightseeing is not necessarily on Tom’s radar, unless its something really big like safari, historic and military sites and outrageous scenery. I get this and we adjust accordingly. 

Busy cities and shops are definitely outside his realm of interest, although he’ll always come along if its of interest to me. Fodder for posting each day falls into my wheelhouse leaving me open to seeing anything of interest locally that may inspire a story.

I was fascinated with the gorgeous women’s Indo-Fijian gowns.  Surprisingly reasonably prices they were elaborate costumes with many layers of colorful silky fabrics. 

After the awe-inspiring trip to the farmers market, where for awhile I almost forgot feeling tired, our driver was waiting for us outside the parking ramp.  With a need for a quick restroom break, Alfaan directed us to the fourth floor of the building in front of us, the popular giant, multilevel mall, TappooCity which attracts tourists and locals alike.

It was surprising that a trip to the restroom necessitated making our way through this enormous mall, searching for escalators on each level. (The few elevators were jammed). This allowed us to see how many foreign brands monopolized each level of the mall with familiar brand merchandise we haven’t seen since Hawaii. 

Had I felt better, I’d have enjoyed perusing the racks.

Even while in Australia for three months, we never recognized as many brand names of clothing, shoes, appliances, housewares with an endless array of cosmetics and accessories, a shopping enthusiast paradise. 

Prices were reasonable for the merchandise when on several occasions I stopped to peruse price tags, my mind performing quick calculations from FJD to USD. I’ll still hold firm to my assessment that its cheap to live in Fiji, as long as one knows where to go to shop.  Suva definitely fulfills the needs and expectations of any buyer from around the globe. 

The food court appeared typical for malls although we didn’t recognize many of the vendors.

Finally, we were back in the car, ready to move along. At that point, I advised Alfaan and Tom I was  fast running out of steam and asked if we could head toward the area of the grocery stores.  I was determined I could eek out a little energy to shop and be done for the day. In any case, we didn’t return home until almost 4 pm ample time to wash the produce, put away the groceries and prepare what I hadn’t yet prepped for dinner.

As mentioned yesterday, Cost-U-Less was comparable to a less well-stocked Sam’s Club or Costco, carrying many of the same brands in bulk sizes. None of this worked for us with our short remaining time in Pacific Harbour. After an exhaustive search through the big warehouse, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. 

We found three escalators are various areas in the mall to get us to the fourth floor for the restrooms.

Oddly, Tom lingered in Cost-U-Less, curious to the items they carried particularly the candy and snacks, none of which he’s had in many months.  Although he was tempted he didn’t purchase anything as I kept my mouth shut. From there we headed to IGA New World market where we found some, not all, of the items remaining on our list.

Over these past few years he’d gained back 25 of the 40 pounds, 11 of the 18 kg, he’d originally lost in 2011 when he joined me in this way of eating.  It wasn’t necessarily from eating junk food which he only does on cruises and when dining in restaurants, but more due to eating too much low carb food having breakfast and a lunch snack day after day. There’s no way of eating that one can consume vast amounts of food and never gain an ounce.

Many departments in the massive store consisted of a wide array of merchandise.

Over the past few months, he’s cut back on the number of meals per day and is now back to his original weight loss of 40 pounds, 18 kg, easily fitting into all of his pants and shirts minus the big belly pulling tight on the buttons. I’m thrilled for the improvement in his health having rid himself of the dangerous disease producing belly fat. (Link is to the Mayo Clinic on the dangers of belly fat).

Sure, in a little over two weeks we’ll be on a 14 night cruise. Once we settle in New Zealand for three months after the cruise with more readily available food products, in no time at all, he’ll drop whatever 10 pounds, 4.5 kg he may gain on the cruise, typical for most cruise passengers. We don’t eat lunch or snacks on cruises which if we indulged further he may gain 15 pounds, 6.8 kg, or more.

Speaking of food, last night we had dinner with Samantha and Danny at Oasis in the Arts Village. In tomorrow’s post we’ll share a photo taken of the four of us by the taxi driver, food photos and some of the remaining photos from the visit to Suva. Plus, we’ll be sharing a cultural story of life for locals in Fiji.

A less busy side street in downtown Suva.

Paeta is here today cleaning the house.  Another glorious sunny day will take us out to the pool for a cooling swim in this heat as soon as the pool guy, her brother, is done cleaning the pool. 

Tomorrow evening, Saturday, we’ll be heading back to the Arts Village to try yet another restaurant. Gee…this dining out thing is fun, affordable and easy here!

For those preparing for the busy holiday season, we wish every one of our readers safe and meaningful experiences. We continue to treasure your readership which for us, that along with good health are the greatest gifts we can possibly receive. A heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for being beside us during this unusual life we live.

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2014:

Tom got a kick out of the fact that we visited the Lyman Museum with the family one year ago in Hilo on the Big Island. For more photos, please click here.

Good thing we verified our information…

There are numerous creeks and rivers on the island.

There’s no doubt we’d have looked at our flight reservations at some point before departing Savusavu in 27 days. Usually, our flight information is online, making it easy to check details as time nears.

While living in Trinity Beach, Australia, with several flights necessary between leaving there and arriving in Sydney on January 4, 2016, we’d used a travel agent for the first time in our travels with paper copies as opposed to our easy- to-review online bookings in our account at Expedia. 

We found the agency at the local mall in Trinity Beach many months ago and thought how easy it would be to have someone else book the five flights we needed starting with the departure from Trinity Beach, Australia on September 7, 2015. Overall, it was easier. Booking multiple flights with an erratic Internet connection is frustrating and time-consuming.

When we weren’t responsible for booking the flights we didn’t have the ingrained knowledge of the details we’d have had if we’d booked the five flights on our own.

A cloudy day view across Savusavu Bay.

Arriving to Nadi Airport on September 8th, after an overnight stay in a hotel in Sydney, once we arrived in Savusavu we gave little thought to future flights until it was nearing time to book an airport transfer in Nadi (so we thought) to our next vacation home in Pacific Harbour on December 6th.

We originally arrived in Nadi, Viti Levi, the largest of the Fijian islands and then took the small prop plane to Savusavu, the smallest airport we’ve experienced to date. 

In our minds, we’d fly out through the same airport and perhaps a similar flight and the plane we’d used for our arrival. Few flights arrive and depart this small island each day, most flying in and out of Labasa, a village larger than Savusavu, a two hour drive from here. 

There are only two flights out of Savusavu on Sundays, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. We see and hear those prop planes twice a day, assuming those are the only two flights when in fact, on certain days of the week there are a few more flights. 

These cloths are hung at a cemetery, a tradition in some Fijian cultures.  Having asked several locals as to their purpose without a specific answer, we’re still uncertain if there is a distinct purpose other than decoration on burial grounds.

Yesterday, we decided it was time to remind ourselves of the upcoming flight particulars to Viti Levu, especially when we were attempting to book airport transfers to and from Nadi to Pacific Harbour which required the inclusion of dates, times and flight numbers.

When reviewing the several page flight itinerary, we’d kept tucked away in the leather computer bag, we were shocked to see we weren’t flying to Nadi as a layover, when we originally arrived.

Instead, in checking our paperwork, we discovered we’re flying to Nausori Airport in Suva (Savusavu and Suva can be confusing. These are two distinct villages at each of the two main islands in Fiji).

There’s no way we would have missed this when it’s necessary to check our flights in more detail before booking an airport transfer to drive the 2.5 hours from Nadi to Pacific Harbour.

When the documents clearly stated we’d arrive in Nausori Airport instead of Nadi, reducing the drive time by over an hour, we were thrilled. At that point, we began the process of finding a company that could handle our round trip airport transfer both into and out of Nausori. 

Junior stopped by offering us these two papayas.  Unfortunately, we had to decline when papayas although possessing many nutrients are loaded with sugar and carbs as are most other tropical fruits, restricted in my way of eating.  Tom doesn’t care for fruit.

After finding a few options, I proceeded to make online inquiries. In both cases, the website inquiry pages didn’t work. This wasn’t a good sign deterring us from phoning or researching their options further. In this day and age, if a “company” doesn’t have a working website, we’d question the condition and quality of their vehicles.

Our options were becoming more clear. Either grab a taxi at the airport or rent a car at the last minute. We decided to try one more thing…contact Susan, the property owner and see if she knows someone who’ll collect us at the airport.

Most of her vacation home renters/tourists fly into Nadi which would have made booking a professional transfer a breeze. To fly into Nausori, a much smaller airport in Suva is not as easy. Susan was more than happy to assist and is checking for us today. We’ll see how that rolls out.

The cost of renting a car in Suva is outrageous. With taxes and fees for the 29 days, we’d pay around FJD $4209, US $2000, more than we’re willing to pay for a rental car. Generally, in most locations, we pay less than half that amount. A taxi might have been our only option.

We realize that our desire to live in many remote areas puts us in this position. Yet, we’d trade this minor challenge for gridlock traffic, lengthy queues wherever we go, increased crime rates, and higher prices on vacation homes one finds in large cities.

Badal visits us almost every day checking out what may be on the menu. We never fail to give him a plate of something delicious. After he does, he sits on the veranda looking at me with his legs crossed, hoping for second helpings. He looks fit and healthy compared to many dogs we’ve seen in the village.

As we’re writing here today, we received an email from a transfer company Susan found for us. The rates are as follows:

Suva Airport to Pacific Harbour
Private Car – FJD $231, USD $107.21 per vehicle (seats 1-4 passengers)
Pacific Harbour to Suva Airport


·     Private Car – FJD $231, USD 107.21 per vehicle (seats 1-4 passengers)

Since receiving this above information moment ago, we’ve already confirmed we’d like to book this reservation, including all of our flight information and will pay in advance today for the round trip as required. At FJD $462, USD $214.42 for the round trip, this is fine. Renting a car in Suva averages at FJD $148.69, USD $69, per day.  In only three days we’ll recover this entire cost, as opposed to renting a vehicle.

A great solution, a helpful property owner and an apparently well respected company will handle our transfer needs. Its these aspects of our travels, that inspire us to push ourselves (and others at times) for resolutions.  Many come quickly and easily and others may be more time-consuming and tricky to accomplish.

Today, another dark, dreary day and rainy day, we’re staying in. As I write, Tom is watching the Minnesota Vikings football game on his laptop using his headset. He’ll be busy for the next few hours while I make every effort to avoid disturbing him with comments or questions. 

Sometimes, that’s challenging in itself.

Have a beautiful day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 9, 2014:

Moonlight over Maalea Bay in Maui as we enjoyed each and everyday of our six weeks on the island. For more details, please click here.

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