Back in October, I went to Fiji for 5 days and stayed at The Outrigger on the Lagoon resort, situated on the Coral Coast. The resort had everything a stressed holidayer wants: BULA bellowed ecstatically from the strapping gatekeeper once you arrive, service with warmth, reef walking, fire and kava ceremonies, crab racing, coconut palms and golden palms and palms that turn you into the person you always wish you were, memorable international cuisine, traditional dances, Indian music, bar crooners, splendid lagoon and ocean vistas, resplendent gardens etc. I felt utterly spoilt and blessed to be there.
Several of the staff at the resort had lost their homes and farms during a 2009 flood that devastated the local area of Sigatoka; they were trying to rebuild their livelihoods and dignity, as well as provide for their families. Most staff walked or hitched to work as they couldn't afford cars. I tried to help out where I could with tips, but this seemed a token act. I felt, as a privileged westerner, with two cars, I was exploiting people. Then again, without me, these people wouldn't have jobs.
I greatly enjoyed speaking with the local people and hearing their stories. I made a friend in a gardener who sported stacked frangipanis behind his ear and a real passion for flora - he turned the resort into the slice of Eden it is today. I have his address: I must send him a letter inc. photo's of my local Highland flowers.
Fiji is more than just endless sunshine and poolside luxuriance... I get the sense that there are thousands over there struggling under military rule - there is no real sense of democracy - people felt nervy speaking out against the government. The land has been plagued by drought for years. Most of the geography between Nadi and the Coral Coast is a tattered patchwork of sugar cane fields, paw paw groves, fiery hills, goat-flecked waste and odd riparian scrub. Everywhere you drive there are poor peddling paw paws and polychromatic fish. The country seems heavy, groggy, foggy... yet surviving.
Touristy photographs from the resort are in my next couple of posts. These shots reflect the Fiji Aussies want to see and the Fiji most Fijians, I guess, want us to see.
LJ, December 26 2010.