17th December, Nadi, Fiji
It was a long night. We left on the 15th December at 7:15pm and arrived on the 17th of December at 3:30am, and the flight only took 11 and a half hours. Eh? If you're getting confused doing the maths, don't worry, the answer's quite simple - we flew over the international date line and went from being 8 hours behind UK time to being 12 hours ahead.
The arrival in Fiji was quite something. Leaving Los Angeles was an amazing sight - looking back over LA, you could see the most amazing display of lights. I immediately thought of The Matrix and the way that Neo sees the real world - an outline in fluorescent green code. LA looked just like that - the lights suggesting the shape of something real. If it took a supercomputer to present LA in the Matrix, it would probably only require an old Sinclair ZX81 to render Nadi, Fiji at night. Lights? What lights?! There were just a handful of lights on at this early hour.
When we got off the plane, we were treated to another surprise (aside from the sheer humidity and heat) - our Air New Zealand plane was decorated with Lord Of The Rings art. To be precise, it had Aragorn and Arwen on it, and we were probably looking through his nostril on the way in!
Surprises over? Not yet - we were greeted at the airport by a three-piece Fijian band singing what I presume were traditional Fijian songs, wearing colourful shirts and and sulus (sarongs, whatever you know them as - basically skirts for men!). It was a welcome diversion from the long queues waiting to be seen by the immigration people.
Naturally, we went straight to bed when we got to our hotel - the Nadi Bay Hotel. Next morning, I had one of those strange feelings, a bit like when you've had a heavy night out on the sauce and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings (only without the headache and mysterious greasy foodstains and/or bruises). Through the window I could see the sky brightening up with palm trees in the foreground, and behind me a selection of very musical birdcalls announcing the new day.
We did very little during the day - a definite lazy day. We didn't set foot outside the resort, but really had no need as it had two pools, a nice restaurant and bar area and there were plenty of other people milling about to chat with (including Toby, a guy who had come in on the shuttle bus with us last night and Dharma, an Aussie just back from a 5-week stint working in LA's Inglewood area - "Two weeks too many", he told us).
The afternoon slowly drifted by while the rains came down - it was not a problem really. There was plenty of cover, it wasn't cold and, by my reckonings, it was better if it rained today and got it out of the way leaving us with clear skies for the days ahead - if the weather could be so kind to us. We stayed chatting with Toby, Dharma and a girl from Preston called Jeanette until about 6pm, then went back to the room, our lovely air-conditioned room, to take a break. Take a break from what? We hadn't done anything! Truth be known, the heat, the change in time zone and the turbulent flight of the previous evening must have combined to wear us out - we had a lie down to have a cat nap and ended up sleeping through the rest of the evening. I remember waking up briefly at 9pm and trying to wake Manda up ("We should be downstairs - we said we'd see the others down there later") but realised it was a lost cause - for both of us! [I would learn the next day that Dharma and Toby had also done precisely the same thing and crashed out early, missing the rest of the evening, so we hadn't let anyone down!]