After a late night of thank-you writing and last minute packing (and no sleep), we left Iowa City just a little after 4 am on Sunday August 16th. Just a 4-hour drive to Chicago later and we were boarding the first leg of the many flights leading to our big Fiji/New Zealand adventure. Anxious albeit exhausted, it wasn’t until after we had landed in Los Angeles that we realized we were in for a 12-hour layover. So we set up camp in the food court, had some lunch and took turns napping/watching our luggage. After about 6 hours in the international terminal of LAX we had grown a little restless and decided to find out if we could check in to our flight to Fiji. We reached the counter only to find out that the flight had be cancelled and wouldn’t leave until the following afternoon. Naturally. Fortunately the airline transported us to a hotel and paid for our room and meals. Nearly 24 hours after the original departure time, we left LA and began the 11-hour flight to Nadi, Fiji. Waiting for us at the Nadi Airport was a 3-hour bus ride in the dark with a driver with fantastic aim for potholes. But by midnight of Tuesday August 18th, we had made it to our destination: the Mango Bay Resort on the Coral Coast of Fiji.
After checking in, we were escorted to our private beachfront cottage (or “bure” in Fijian) where we found the champagne bottle we’d ordered floating in a bucket of melted ice (we’d arrived about 14 hours later than planned). And although we were both aching with exhaustion, we were determined to start our honeymoon off right. We might have had about 3 or 4 sips of the champagne before passing out.
Despite the less-than-glamorous beginning of our adventure, we awoke to find that paradise was waiting for us just outside the door to our cottage. The view was incredible.
We spent the next 5 days lounging in hammocks and reading in the sun, walking along the white sandy beaches, and kayaking in the crystal clear waters. One day the resort hosted a hike through the rainforest up to a waterfall. It was a really cool experience. A few nights a week there were bonfires on the beach and traditional musical performances by members of the nearby village. Other than the mediocre food and a few bug bites (or 34 in Jeni’s case), we really had a wonderful time.
On Monday we left Mango Bay resort and made the 3-hour trip back to Nadi. We spent the remaining days relaxing by the pool of our hostel and exploring the city of Nadi. We both agreed, however, that the best day of the whole trip by far, was the last day in which we took a cruise around the Mamanuca Islands. It was the perfect day. Clear skies, sunshine and beautiful blue water as far as the eye could see.
We cruised around the islands (including the island where they filmed “Castaway” with Tom Hanks) for a few hours and then stopped at Treasure Island for lunch and a dip in the water. Our favorite part of the whole trip was snorkeling. We were so amazed at how close the fish would swim up next to us! At one point we were surrounded by a school of bright blue fish! (Naturally, we left the underwater camera back at the hostel this day.) It was the perfect ending to a perfect honeymoon. We agreed to come back to see all the islands for our 25th (or 10th?) anniversary.
Next stop: Auckland, New Zealand