I could tell you I had the most amazing holiday in Fiji.
And I have the gorgeous photos to prove it.
We watched the most incredible sunsets, swam in stunning turquoise water, lazed on sunbeds drinking cocktails, surfed in the middle of the ocean on a coral reef break (well, the youngest did, while I watched anxiously from a boat), snorkelled off a sandbar and saw the most beautiful coral and fishes and spent an afternoon partying at the coolest floating bar …
Looks fantastic, right? You’d totally believe we had the best getaway ever.
I could leave it at that and you’d be none the wiser.
But the reality of my trip is much more complicated. And I’m still a bit shellshocked by it.
OK, here goes … the unsanitised version …
Our Christmas Day flight to Nadi was delayed, so it was well into the night when we finally landed. We were driven to a pier in the driving rain, our luggage was wrapped in garbage bags and we clambered into a small boat. It only had a tiny canopy above the wheel and we spent the next hour or so getting drenched as we powered through the dark, torrential night to our accommodation.
I kept valiantly saying to the kids “well, this is an adventure!” as the waves crashed over us.
When we finally arrived on the island, we were led dripping to the hotel reception, where we were serenaded by the tired staff and served a reheated Christmas dinner at 11pm.
Then we retired to our bure, where I quickly realised that, at 53, I am no longer suited to backpacker-style accommodation. It was a bargain, but it was very, very basic. And mosquito infested. I looked like I had the measles after the first day and there wasn’t a can of insect repellent to be found. The resort could have made a motza selling the stuff, but it had none. The guests spent each day constantly slapping themselves instead.
The youngest was undeterred by the drawbacks and had an absolute ball snorkelling, swimming, paddle boarding, playing pool and surfing.
She also loved that the style of accommodation meant we met so many lovely people from around the world, while a big resort would have been more impersonal.
However, “Fiji time” was a major issue for me. I had to ask multiple times for everything, from getting the wifi rebooted to booking excursions and even then I still couldn’t be sure it would be done. Chasing the small stuff didn’t really matter, but it became a big problem when we almost missed getting our PCR tests done in time to fly home.
I spent days asking for a transfer to the mainland to go to a testing clinic. Every time I spoke to the manager, he’d evade giving me a direct answer. Finally I had a meltdown and refused to leave his office until he sorted it out. He insisted everything was fine because the clinics were open 24 hours a day and had a 6-hour turn around on results (spoiler: they don’t).
Time was fast running out and I begged for a transfer at 7am on the second last day, so we could get to the testing clinic with 24 hours to spare for our test results before departure.
He said that wasn’t possible and suggested we take the regular 3pm transfer, arriving at 5pm, which I knew from checking the websites was after clinic closing time. The alterative was to pay double – around $100 each – for a special transfer. I had no choice but to hand over the cash.
I woke up the next morning feeling slightly unwell, despite having a negative PCR test in Sydney and a negative rapid test on the island. I had a gritty throat and kept having to clear it. I hoped it was reflux from all the fried food we’d been served as part of our all-inclusive package, or a bug from the rainwater we were drinking. It’s not often you hope for a bug.
Our “special” transfer at 11am turned out to have about a dozen other people on it.
I figured we might still make it to the clinic in time, until the boat headed to Beachcomber Island and the driver announced we’d have to disembark and wait for another boat to the mainland.
After an hour passed, I started freaking out and begging the resort manager for help. Finally, another boat arrived and we clambered aboard with a couple who were terrified they were going to miss their flight to Australia.
The sea was rough, we were totally drenched from the waves and there was barely any cover from the blinding midday sun. Again, the youngest thought it was bulk fun. Mum, not so much.
When we landed on the mainland, we called the hotel to ask for a shuttle to reception. Half an hour passed, along with our 24-hour window for results. Finally, we managed to grab a cab and head to the testing clinic … which was closed and padlocked shut.
Our lovely cab driver called the nurse, who agreed to return and reopen it, but we had to pay her in cash. The cab driver whisked us to an ATM, then to the clinic for our tests. The nurse said she couldn’t guarantee we’d have our results in time, but she marked our paperwork “urgent”.
I was so fearful when we woke the next morning that we weren’t going to make it home, either because I had COVID or due to our results not arriving in time.
A cloud of dread settled over us.
There was no sign of our results, but we donned our masks, checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport, hoping for the best.
We sat outside in the sweltering heat and I started calling the testing centre every 15 minutes to check when our results were coming. Each time someone answered they would take my details, then the line would cut out, or someone would say they had the results right in front of them and not to worry. But still no email.
Finally, at around 11.30am, the email came through. We huddled around my phone and anxiously opened it.
We started crying and hugging each other with relief that we could go home instead of spending 10 days in Fiji hotel quarantine.
We checked in for our flight and headed to the departure lounge.
The plane took off on schedule and I felt sicker and sicker as we approached Sydney, which was weird considering my negative PCR test.
Something just didn’t feel right, so the moment we landed, we headed to the Arrivals PCR testing station.
And when we got home, we did rapid tests.
The next morning, the results were confirmed by the PCRs. We have COVID.
So, I don’t quite know what to say about my holiday. It’s been really stressful – and I’ve been really feverish – which means I haven’t really processed it yet.
Like I told the kids on that first torrential night, it was an adventure.
But I can’t say it’s one that I ever want to repeat.
Oh, and if you fancy reading a sanitised story about our floating bar experience, click here.
No song of the day, too dazed.