Kia Ora Kiwis

Sunday 25 December 2016

Its Christmas Day and we are off to New Zealand.  Avoiding our Christmas Day obligations perhaps? The day starts with an early morning alarm, as I have water all the newly planted seedlings in our garden (with a bit of luck they won’t die while we are away) and finish packing.  At 6:15, bang on schedule we call an Uber and although he is “8 mins away”, 20 mins later we are still waiting.

Although I’m getting nervous, in all reality it’s fine as we have ample of time.  The thing is that I get very anxious about getting to the airport on time, once I’m there I’m fine, that’s when H starts getting antsy.  I have this repetitive bad dream about having to get to the airport in a ridiculous timeframe, frantically packing and running around in mad circles, it never ends well.

I have surprised H by getting an upgrade to business class for our Virgin 8:45 am flight to Wellington.  Virgin emailed me an offer to bid on an upgrade.  I put in the minimum offer (rated – very weak on the website) and, bobs your uncle, yesterday I was informed the bid was successful.   Benefits – no lining up with “the poor people” to check in, express x-ray and passport processing and pre-flight drinks (yes a Bloody Mary and champagne and it’s not even 8:30 yet – happy holidays) and snacks in the Air New Zealand lounge. And that’s before you even get on the plane!

The 3 or so hour flight pass pleasantly with a silver service breakfast and a hand-held entertainment device.  Also, getting off the plane first, through passport control first, luggage first and customs first (Wellington airport is practically empty) is also to be recommended.

We pick up our Hertz hire car and fine ourselves very quickly on the road.  It’s an easy and scenic 1½ hour drive to our rural destination.  Easy except for the bit up and over Rimutaka Hill (Kiwis have an odd sense of humour calling this a “hill”, its more like the mountain pass in Lord of the Rings), to Peppers Parehua in Martinborough, our home for the next 4 nights.

Our lovely cottage (# 15) is wonderful and being at the back of the property, very quiet. The cottage is beautifully presented and has a roomy kitchen, lounge area with a comfy sofa and automatic fireplace (real fire at the push of a button), separate bedroom with king size bed and large bathroom with a spa bath.  Out the back is a small private terrace, a soft green lawn, a massive old pine tree and views of the surrounding dairy fields.  Alas, being at the back of property also means dodgy internet.

#15 Peppers Parehua


And a cosy fire

Villa #15

Bucolic vista from our little deck

Cause its Christmas Day the restaurant isn’t open for dinner and I have pre-organised (how extremely efficient of me) dinner and wine for our room.  It’s a Christmas banquet! A seafood platter complete with prawns, mussels, smoked salmon and soft shell crab, also a cold platter of pork roast, duck confit, grilled fish, roast potatoes and vegies.  And to top it off steamed plum pudding with custard.  A veritable Christmas feast.

The rest of the night is spent lazing in front of the fire, watching Christmas Carols on TV, opening our Christmas presents and knocking off the bottle of Palliser Chardonnay and a bottle of duty free Louis Roederer champagne.  Merry Christmas to one and all!

Moce Mada Fiji

Monday 24 October 2016

Today with mixed feeling we have to leave our little bit of paradise.  LikuLiku is amazing – the accommodation simple but luxurious, the food fabulous, the service amazing.  Everyone has been so relaxed, friendly and yet efficient at the same time. On the other hand I’m keen to get back to civilization and get some drugs to combat my bronchial sinus infection (as diagonosed by my doctors back in Brisbane).

So after a early morning walk along the beach, a quick snorkel and another fabulous breakfast we pack up, say moce mada (goodbye in Fijian) and wait for the 11:00 ferry back to the main island.  Then a taxi to the airport and flight home.

Waiting for the ferry

We have vowed to ourselves to come back and do it “properly next time”

  1. Arrive together (no passport issues)
  2. Helicopter or seaplane direct to Likuliku
  3. Stay for a week
  4. Don’t be sick and enjoy a few day outings (fishing or diving or hiking or sunset cruise)

The whole trip home via ferry, taxi, plane and taxi is rather eventful but for two things.

Firstly we run into the couple Howard met on his flight to Fiji – a lovely couple from the Sunshine Coast.  They have spent the whole time getting into the kava and by the sound of it having a blast.

Secondly I suffered from the most horrendous ear ache on the decent into Brisbane which lasted an agonizing ½ hour.  I could not hear anything for quite awhile after we landed and I thought I had ruptured my ear-drums.

Note to self NEVER EVER fly again with a head cold / bronchial sinus infection.

Lazing in paradise

Monday 24 October 2016

We wake up early by don’t venture out to breakfast until nearly 10:00 in an attempt to digest the excesses from last nights dinner.

My head cold is worse and without any ready medication I feel like a leaking tap.  However, I put on a brave face.

Breakfast is amazing – there is a fabulous array of cold items to choose from.  I choose burcher muesli supplemented with seeds, nuts, yogurt and honey (harvested from the beehives in the kitchen garden).  There is a self service juicer with about a dozen fruits and vegetables to choose from – I have a beetroot, orange, pineapple and celery mix.  There is also breads, pastries, breakfast cereals, cold meats, cheeses and much more.

And then there is the al la carte hot dishes to choose from – oh my god!  I can’t resist.


The rest of the day is spent lazing in our kabana the serenity only broken the comings of going of helicopters and sea planes.  When we get hot there is the calm lagoon or the plunge pool to cool us off, when we get thirsty we enjoy a vodka and pineapple juice, when we get sleepy we just doze off.

Across the lagoon

Seaplane taking off in lagoon

H having a dip

At 1:30 we get a polite phone call from the restaurant asking if we are going to have lunch – no, we will save ourselves for dinner.

Once again at sunset we make ourselves presentable and head to the main resort for a sunset drink.  But first we walk to the other end of the resort to inspect the overwater bure’s (the only ones in Fiji).

Overwater bures

For once we don’t have accommodation envy – our bure is just perfect.  A cocktail at the other bar – Dua Tale Bar to enjoy the sunset and then Fijiana for another delicious meal tonight we feast on grilled wagyu flank, smoked bone marrow, island greens and steamed coral cod, soba noodles, enoki mushroom, ponzu.

Wagyu steal with marrow bone

The Good, The Bad and The Rattler

Sunday 23 October 2016

The good is our destination today, the bad is the early start and the rattler is the torturous bus trip to the marina.

Its an early start we have to be down in the lobby, paid up and checked out for our 6:15 coach pick up “be ready 10 mins prior to pick up”. I of course get the time wrong and hussle us down to reception at 5:45. At this time of morning the resort is deserted, only the staff and desperate parents with young children are up.

Our “coach”is a run down mini bus that is as ancient as its driver.  Its faded and uncomfortable, the engine whines at every slope and the doors and windows vibrate as if subjected to a category 4 cyclone.  Nadi is a sold 2 hour trip away in a private sedan, but in this old rattler, that is stopping a every major resort along Coral Coast I fear the marina is an eternity away.  There are also unwelcome delays at two stops where we have to wait 10 minutes for a couple that have slept in and where there is a no show.

Nearly 3 hours later we arrive at the Denarau Marina just in time to grab our tickets and board the ferry to Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Malolo Island in the Mamanuca Islands chain.  Denaru Marina is bussling, 9:00 am is the standard departure time for dozens of boats ferrying tourists and locals alike around the numerous islands off the west coast.  Day and half day trippers from the main island, people coming and going from resorts, resort staff all jumbled in together.  Strangely enough its very well organised!

Our luggage makes it to the boat before us and once reassured of its location we find a seat in the main cabin with a window view.    Already seated is a lovely German lass named Anika? from ???.  She is only 18 and has spent the last 3 months doing voluntary work at a school in Nadi. What an adventurer!

It’s a two hour trip to Likuliku and I find it ironic that Warwick Resort was the first pickup in the rattler and Likuliku is the last dropoff from the ferry!  Planning!

From the ferry we transfer to a large covered tinnie and speed over the perfect aqua water to the resorts jetty.  The two attendants politely introduce themselves and advise us of the island tradition that when welcomed at the jetty with a big “Bula” we must reply in kind.

A musical welcome to Likuliku Resort

There is a small welcoming committee at the jetty, cheerfully singing a welcome song.  The jetty leads to a small island that houses a bar and entertainment area.  We are provided a welcome drink and given a introduction to the Resort.  The jetty then continues to the island straight into the airy reception.  Our rooms are not ready yet so we are encouraged to view the iguana breeding cages.  The resort is part of a breeding program of a type of endangered iguana that is only found on the island. They are pretty hard to spot – until you know what you are looking for.

After collecting our snorkeling gear we are escorted to our bure #36, past the restaurant, past the pool and kitchen garden and along the palm lined pathway, through the tropical garden.

Likuliku path to bure

Likuliku pool

In our room all the amenities are highlighted. There is out door shower, an indoor shower large enough to hold a party, local beauty products, king size bead, sound system, fresh baked cookies (oh they are good), complementary sarongs, sitting room and on the deck a private kabana just meters from the beach and a tiny plunge pool.

Bure #36

Our beach bure


Outdoor shower

Outdoor pavilion

Deck, pavilion, pool

View from the deck

Then it’s back to Fijiana, the open air restaurant for an early lunch (we haven’t had breakfast – well apart from a beer and packet of chips we shared on the ferry).  The menu is simple – a three course meal with two entrees, two mains and two deserts to choose from.  As we relax and enjoy the quiet ambience and spectacular views, I think to myself “Now this is living”.

Fijiana Restaurant



Lunch is exceptional – small delicious servings full of flavor and beautifully presented.

After lunch back at our bure we spend the afternoon in our little piece of paradise – snorkeling, snoozing and sniffling (my sore throat of yesterday has developed into a full blown head cold).

Just before sunset we make ourselves presentable and go to Masima Bar on the little island to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sun slowly sink over the horizon.  I have a delicious coconut milk based drink named loloma which means love in Fijian.

Sunset drinkies on Sunset Island


Sunset cocktail

Torch lighting at Likuliku

We are seated under the stars on the candle light deck, cooled by the ocean breeze and lulled by the softly playing traditional music.    Our dinner tonight is an Indian feast – dish after delicious dish is brought to our table and quickly demolished. Dhal, samosas, fish, crab, chicken, lamb and vege curries, chutneys, riata, and naan.  There is so much there we have to decline desert!

Indian banquet – part 1

Indian banquet – part 2

Curry feast

Later back at our bure we sit in the dark on our little deck and gaze up into the star bedazzled sky.  I once again think to myself “Now this is living”.

Lobster & Crab

Saturday 22 October 2016

The morning unfolds much the same as previous mornings – drizzly early morning clearing mid morning, breakfast and then snorkelling in the lagoon at high tide. H has remembered to bring our reef shoes and my snorkel mask which makes snorkelling better.  I’m very eager to show H the variety of sea life in the lagoon – he even sees a little Clown Fish.  Its just been discovered that the Fiji Barberi Clown Fish is a different species to the Australian Clown Fish made famous in Nemo.  He is also amazed with the large schools that hover so close to the shore.

I also take him on a mini version of the orientation tour in the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon as the sun starts to slowly sink over the open sea we go down to the beach and enjoy the complementary bottle of bubbles that I have been hanging onto since I got here.  What bliss.

In the gardens as the sound goes down

Afternoon drinkies by the beach

Low tide

I have been saving the seafood restaurant for our last night  – Wicked Walu Restaurant is on a little island that is joined to the resort by a short causeway / walkway.

Wicked Wahu Island

At night it is lit by torches.  When we get to the restaurant there is a big table celebrating a 40th birthday party they are pretty loud and obviously having a wonderful time with all the shrieks and laughter coming from them.

Our table is outside under the stars near the water – it’s such a lovely spot.  H is stoked to learn that local lobster (served with truffle potato puree, seasonal vegetables and garlic herb butter) is on the menu, boy does he love lobster.  I’m also very happy that chilli pepper crab is one of the specials.  No hard choices here.

Wicked Wahu at sunset

Wicked Wahu Interior

For entrée we decide to share a delicious dish of marinated raw fish in coconut milk and tomato and cucumber salsa with cassava chips.  Delicious.

And the mains do not disappoint either – the lobster is beautifully cooked and the garlic butter devine.  And the crab is outstanding and the serving huge.  The pepper chilli sauce is the best I’ve ever had.  It an incredible messy meal – well it is when I eat it.  There is so much there I can’t finish it and by the time I admit my defeat I feel like I need a shower. OMG soooo good!

Happy Howie

Pepper Chilli Crab


Friday 21 October 2016

Yes! H has his new passport, has a flight booked and will be joining me this afternoon!  I’m estatic.  As much as I have enjoyed living my own agenda the last couple of days, having someone special by your side to enjoy the small things is much, much better.

It’s another drizzly morning and it has rained for most of the night.  Down at breakfast the adult only section is closed and so I’m given table in the middle of the restaurant teaming with lively, boisterous families.

One of the charming features of the Warwick Hotel is the live music.  Yesterday a small band played by the pool for an hour and today a group of employees – waiters, cooks, pool and reception staff gather together and sing a lovely traditional song, accompanied only by a guitar.  You can tell that they really enjoy singing and entertaining the diners by their huge grins.

Most of the morning is drizzly but it clears by late morning, I slaver myself in sunscreen a go for a long snorkel.  As it is high tide I can expand my range and see an even greater variety of sea life than previously.  I wish I had a waterproof camera!  Just as I’m heading in a large school of near transparent fish (about a foot in length) calmly allow me to swim along the beach with them.  Fabulous.

I still have a few hours until I expect Howard but I head to the foyer anyway and wait.  I’ve arranged for Junior to also transport H to the resort.  Junior lucks out today when he gets H to pay him in cash and I pay through the hotel as well.  Ripped off!  But I’m so happy to see my darling that I just don’t care.

I give Howard a brief tour of the hotel grounds, have a drink at the Club Lounge and then go to dinner.  Tonight they have the special lovo buffet.  Lovo is the traditional feast cooked in the earth, in a lovo pit (Kiwi’s call it a ‘hangi’). Very yummy.

Together again – happy Janet.

A Day to Recharge

Thursday 20 October 2016

Its rained very heavily overnight and the morning is gray and dreary, but definitely sleeping in weather, so I take advantage.  Luckily the clouds clear and a beautiful day presents itself.  I grab a lounge in a nice shady spot by the pool and settle in with a variety of digital devices to while the morning away.  Very nice ….


I have resolved that I must get some exercise.  I don’t want to snorkel (don’t want my sunburn to get sunburnt) so I hit the gym.  Well I make a valiant effort to do so, anyway.  Alas the only way to access the gym is to be let in by staff at the leisure centre and there is no-one in sight.  Oh well I’ll go for a walk.  Beyond the limits of the resort beach there is very little signs of modern life.  Palm trees and thick bushes line the rough rocky beach and the rock pools are teaming with life.  But boy is it hot!

Later towards sunset I go to the pool which is now deserted and do a few laps to work up an appetite for dinner.

The sunset tonight is amazing and there is the ritual beating of the Lali.

Late afternoon on the beach

Coral Coast sunset

A few drinks at the Club Lounge and then its down to the Italian Pappagallo Restaurant for dinner.  Pizza, salad and a cocktail – nothing special.

The Wickham Resort, Coral Coast

Wednesday 19 October 2016

The Warwick Resort

There is a small village just beyond the resorts boundaries and has a rooster that likes to make its presence felt, very vocally, at 3:30 in the morning, and at 4:30 and at 5:30.  Its like a snooze button that just won’t stop.

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant, Bula Brasserie, however there is an adult only section for those seeking a peaceful breakfast option.  There is a large, but rather uninspired selection of food – the highlight for me is a plate of sautéed local greens with two poached eggs. Healthy right?

View at breakfast

Each day there is a jam packed agenda of free activities from early morning to late at night.  This morning I am doing the orientation tour which covers the whole resort pointing out all its features and facilities including four restaurants, 2 pools, gym, tennis courts, squash courts, games area (ping pong and snooker tables), kids club, kitchen garden, nursery and an area for traditional activates such as fire walking and lovu pit.  The tour is quiet extensive and hot in the sun.

Sunset Bar

Fire walking pit

The rest of the morning and early I spend lounging in a lounge under a palm tree on the gardens edge with the beach and snorkling.  I am amazed and totally delighted with the prolific range of fish and other marine life in the coraled lagoon.  Within metres of the waters edge there is a mass of sealife.  I stay in water for as long as I can with the recedeing tide and end up having to swim back to the beach in about 1 ½ foot water over rough coral.  Note to self – make sure Howard bring our reef shoes when he comes.  Back on dry land on my lounge I fall asleep on my stomach and get a rather nasty sunburn on my shoulders and legs.  Great!

Beach looking west

Beach looking east

Looking out over the lagoon at low tide

Retreating from the sun and heat, back to my balcony I while the afternoon away reading and sipping a vodka or two.

At 6:30 each night as the sun goes down they have the beating of the Lali and torch firelighting.  Its lovely to see the children have a go on the drums and following the grass skirt clad Fijian warrior light the touches out to Wahu Island and have a bula yelling competition with their families back on the beach.

The torch lighting parade


Tonight I have booked a table at the Bula Brasserie for the Indian buffet.   So after a couple of freebies at the Club Lounge I head down.  As there is quite a large Indian population in Fiji I figure the buffet should be good.  I have even forgone lunch in anticipation  – and I’m right.  There is a great selection of curries (each one has a unique flavour), breads and condiments and course I eat too much!


Tuesday 18 October 2016

H and I have visited a fair number of countries together but we have never travelled to the South Pacific, we have plans to rectify this.  Fiji, the much loved holiday destination for hundreds of thousands of Australians each year, is todays goal.  Unfortunately only one of us will get there today.

With an early start, I’m super excited as we Uber to the airport for out 9:25 am Virgin flight to Nadi.  Excitement soon turns to devastation when we are told that H does not have 6 months on his passport and can’t get on the plane today.  Turns out that pretty much every country has the requirement there be at least 6 months left on a passport to allow entry.  Howard’s passport is short by about 10 days.  WTF!  What is the point of having a valid passport if you can’t use it for the last 6 months.  By the way, we knew this requirement but one of us had miscalculated the time remaining on H’s passport!

This is not news that we take well!  In the end we agree that I fly as planned to Fiji and Howard will join me as soon as he can get a new passport.  We bid a teary goodbye and I head off through immigration alone.

It’s a perfect flight and as I have booked exit row seats, a comfortable one as well.  At Nadi airport processing is relatively quick considering the extensive renovations.

Junior, my driver is a nice young man, takes me to the supermarket in Nadi to stock up on a few provisions water, mixers for my duty free vodka, a bottle of wine (Australian) and a beer for the road – lord knows I need a drink after my trying morning.  I also buy Junior a packet of cigarettes to sweeten the deal.

The Warwick Resort is on the Coral Coast of the main island of Viti Levu and much further from the airport than I had anticipated – my research had indicated 1 hour drive not 2.  Thank goodness I didn’t book a standard bus transfer.

At The Warwick I am greeted with beating of drums and a resounding “BULA”.  It’s a word that will be repeated again and again over the next 10 days.

Room 398 the Abel Tasman Suite is the best room in the resort.  On the third floor, right at the end of the Suva Wing (adult only wing) overlooking the beach it is open room with a sitting area and small balcony with great views of both the gardens and coral lagoon.

Able Tasman Suite – Bedroom



View from Balcony – sunset

As a guest in a suite I have access to the Club Lounge for afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks each day. So after I unpack our luggage (H and I shared a bag so I have all his gear as well) I head to the Club for a drink and snack.  I awkwardly sit by myself and check my messages – Howard has applied for his passport and hopes to have it by Thursday and fly to Fiji on Friday – fingers crossed.

Fortified with alcohol I explore the resort and end up drinking a lonely cocktail on Wahu Island, a small island joined to the resort by a narrow causeway.  On the causeway I’m surprised to see a couple of poisonous sea snakes climbing the rocks.  A little girl is crouched over, fascinated by the snake, with her mother hovering close by, while her father bravely stands back and boasts that the snake it totally safe and he will pick it up if she wants.  Stupid man!

Sea Snake

The resort must be close to full as I have been unable to book a table at my preferred restaurant so I head back to my room for room service (a chicken club sandwich) in front of the TV.

Heading Home

Sunday 17 – Monday 18 January 2016

Our little sojourn in Malaysia has come to an end.  This afternoon we are on an Air Asia flight 16:15 from Penang to Kuala Lumpur (1 hour flight) and then continuing on at 21:40 getting into Gold Coast at 07:50 (8 hour flight).  Its going to be a long night.

After a hearty breakfast we check out of our rooms and head to the gardens to spend our last hours relaxing under the palm trees.

Lazing in the garden

Shangri La gardens

The journey is unexceptional and everything goes as one expects from Air Asia, as far as budget carriers go they are pretty good.

Back in Australia and through customs and quarantine we debate how to return to Brisbane.  We are pretty tired after the overnight flight so decide to Uber back to Brisbane.  Luckily we get a roomy Chrysler 300, the driver is quite surprised when we tell her our destination.  After a brief pause she happily says “Oh I’ll have to call my husband and tell him that I’m going to be a while and he will have to catch an Uber to his meeting.”