For a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of Suva, we headed to Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. The planned, pleasant drive from Labasa (Lambasa) to Savusavu in our cool little 4WD rental, turned into a much longer and adventurous trip. “Don’t worry you can’t get lost, there is only one road!”, the foreshadowing last words from the car rental company’s agent.
Happily we jumped into the Suzuki Jimny, a well- rated, small, affordable and fun 4WD. Sure, it was old (2007 with over 200,000km) and a complete rattle-
bucket, but we were excited to be the master’s of our own adventure, and this time, only one road to follow! My husband dozed peacefully as I happily bumped along the road through the rain, admiring the lush landscape, the truckloads of sugarcane enroute to the plant and responding enthusiastically to the friendly waves from the locals. I was looking forward to the 2 hour drive to Savusavu.
History has proven that I am not the strongest navigator. So, after an hour and a half of driving, when I caught a glimpse of the ocean to my right, it did seem a bit odd. We were meant to be driving through the middle of the island, south- east. I brushed it aside, thinking we were getting close to Savusavu and that I must have seen an inlet along the coast. Mark took over the drive as my foot had gone completely numb, stuck at the 45 degree angle in the rather small cabin space. Happy and joking we resumed our drive and I exclaimed, “we must be nearly there”!
As we hit dirt road we realized weren’t nearly there. In fact, I had driven us completely around the West side of the island to the Nabouwalu port. We were as far away from our destination as we could possibly be on the island. In fact, we were closer to Viti Levu, the island we had just flown from, than we were to Savusavu! Matter-of-factly, I read Lonely Planet’s description of the area, “Nabouwalu can only be reached by bus from Labasa, not from Savusavu. The ferry bus is much quicker than the local bus. The road from Nabouwalu around the southern coast to Savusavu (127km) is barely passable by 4WD or carrier.” Ah, onward then, on the southern coastal road-less-travelled, or back the way we came?!
Of course the answer was onward; there’s little joy in turning around! We decided to forge forward through tiny, rain soaked villages, through the roughest road on the island, in a questionable 4WD with bald tires, 2 1/2 hours of daylight left, one can of peanuts, 1L of water, half a tank of gas and loads of adventurous spirit!
We met many wonderful villagers along the way who were kind, happy, helpful, interested to know where we were from and excited that we had taken their seldom- travelled road. After one such stop to chat with a group of men on the road, we were asked, “May I ask just one more question?” “Uh, yes of course”, we answered warily. “Do you have…any…comments about the rugby?!” Ah, I love Fiji!
Buoyed by their friendliness and genuine interest, we continued on our way. Pulling into Savusavu just after dark, we were thankful we would sleep at our B&B that night, that we were just in time for dinner at the yacht club, and for the adventure we had just experienced.
It was then time to relax…and enjoy…and breath!