Photo Friday: Time machine – Childhood holiday to Fiji

Fiji; 1987

I think that’s where I’m going to.
If I ever get out of here,
I’m going to Katmandu.

When I was five years old, I heard this Bob Seger song and I took it into my head that I’d like to go to Kathmandu. I begged my mum to take me to Kathmandu and she promised she would when I turned 10 years old.

Be wary what you promise your kids because five years went by and I didn’t let this promise go unforgotten! But I did let Mum talk me into going to Fiji instead. She told me she would take me to Kathmandu if I really wanted but it would be very cold and wouldn’t I rather go lie on a beach somewhere beautiful and warm?

I happily agreed. Nepal … Fiji … it was all much the same to a kid who hadn’t been overseas for as long as she could remember. I had left Australia only once before – on a three-month backpacking trip to South-East Asia when I was two – but because of my age this was more the stuff of family legend than happy memories.

So we went on a mother-daughter trip to Fiji. I remember that my airfare cost $10 – $1 for every year of my age – as part of a package deal as long as we stayed a week at Naviti Beach Resort, which thanks to Google I’ve just discovered still exists. I had actually turned 11 by the time the trip happened, but I don’t think we had to pay the extra $1.

I remember the mini-bus driver who picked us up from the airport pointing out some wrecks in a ravine below us and joking that this was the Women’ s Driving School – a comment that did NOT impress my mother! I remember the kids’ club at the resort, hanging out at the swimming pools, riding a donkey and becoming fast friends with girl called Sonja from Christchurch, New Zealand. Sonja became my penpal and we wrote to each other pretty much until the end of high school.

Mum and I were away four weeks in total and the other three weeks we travelled independently. We visited the capital Suva a couple of times on our way to and from places. In this Medium Smoke, we ate at the Hot Bread Shop for brunch almost every day and had Indian for dinner. We also used the Poste Restante service in Suva to receive letters from our friends and family in Australia. I wrote and received a lot of snail mail letters and postcards on that trip, which more than anything is what roots these memories firmly in another era. Who does this now? According to Wikipedia, Poste Restante still exists.

We visited some of the more remote islands and stayed in a variety of accommodation – youth hostels, lodges and traditional huts like this one. Somewhere in a storage box in Sydney there is a diary I kept of the trip so it would be theoretically possible for me to find out precisely where we went and when we did it. But I don’t really need to know – over two decades later there’s a few memories that still stick out like shiny coppers.

I remember one place where it rained and I went through nearly all my books, which we then donated to the local library. We took a hike up to a waterfall where I swam with the local kids. They were excited to see me and I was shy at first but warmed up to it. They all had woolly hair that was naturally dark or mid brown but many of them had bright yellow hair. Through hand gestures to my own blonde hair and back to theirs and their own broken English, I deduced that they used lemon juice to dye it.

I remember going to a village fair called the Hibiscus Festival and riding on a spinning swing ride – but only after my mistrustful mother had checked it out and determined that the engineering was Australian! This confused me because she had always taught me that other people were just as good as we were, regardless of skin colour or nationality, and to an 11-year-old it seemed like a double standard.

This particular photo was taken at a tiny island called something like Thagelu or Cagelu. (Again, the real name of the island is in my travel journal but I don’t have this to hand right now!). The island was so small I could walk around it in 20 minutes and it had a few traditional huts like this one for accommodation. All there was to do on the island was go to the beach and laze around in hammocks and read books and go for walks but I thought it was Paradise.

I think we did go out on a snorkel boat one day but the tour operator not letting me go in the water because of the risk of the coral cutting my feet and the fact they didn’t have flippers small enough to fit me. I was perfectly happy hanging out in the boat and everyone thought I was being really mature but it was really just because I had never been snorkelling before and was too clueless to know how awesome it is.

We took a light plane to get to the island, or maybe it was a light plane and then a boat. I do remember we all had to be weighed before they would let us board and my cold turned into an inner ear infection after the flight. The villagers cured me by pouring traditional medicine in my ear. I may be wrong but I have a feeling this happened while everyone else was doing the customary kava ceremony. That cured the inner ear infection, though I still had a head cold for a few days after that. We had to do our laundry by hand and I have a distinct memory of finding that in the 10 minutes since I’d gone to get soap, a troop of ants had started eating my snotty handkerchiefs. I threw them away after that!

I had a wonderful time on the trip and although I was not conscious of particular lessons at the time, I’m sure it was a fabulous learning experience. We had a fifth-grade school project on a foreign country of our choice and I did mine on Fiji. Mum helped me cut up a beach mat and stick straw on it to make a project book in the shape of a Fijian hut. I’m sure it was also the beginning of my wanderlust, unless that goes back even further to my trip to South-East Asia.

I’ve done a lot of travel since this trip but I’ve never been back to Fiji. I am reluctant to go now mainly because of the political situation, but maybe one day. After all, Fiji holidays are pretty cheap from Australia. Then again, I still haven’t been to Kathmandu either.

What’s the earliest overseas trip you recall? How old were you? Where did you go? Who were you with? How well do you remember it? Let me know in the comments.

This post is my submission to this week’s Photo Friday on Delicious Baby. The post was sponsored by Flight Centre.

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  1. I am weird according to my mum (yes I am a Brit) that I can remember my first trip ‘abroad’ as it was known. I was 3, so therefore it was 1980, I went with my parents and brother to Vancouver, Canada from the UK. I remember the flight first, being one of those kids that were running up and down the aisle from our seats up to the front to say hello to the FAs, and playing with other kids and my brother whilst my Dad sat upstairs in the bar smoking and drinking to stay sane (it was an old 747), whilst mum was left playing the gamekeeper role with us.

    Anyway I also remember seeing what were probably touristy Native American reservation-type areas, but I was very young so apologies if I couldn’t tell the difference. I remember the times with a lot of fondness, seeing some family for the first time, and in some cases I have never seen them since. Another thing I remember is eating what I was assured was the holes from the middle of ring donuts, little balls with jam in them, and seeing the future, this huge microwave, so consequently we had one at home in the end.

    I never lost the travelling bug, however I have never been back, yet!! But I will do, and soon.
    .-= Phil Hawley´s last blog ..Moscow photo exhibition: Icons =-.

    Great story – thanks for sharing! I think I remember parts of the trip when I was two/three but I am not 100% what are memories, what are memories of memories and what are memories of things I was told about after the fact. It’s great you can remember so much. – Caitlin.

  2. My first trip overseas was the semester I spent in Dublin, which also happened to be my first time on a plane. Talk about diving into things haha. I was 20 and when I got to the airport, there was supposed to be someone waiting for me but there wasn’t. Turns out they had told the guy they were paying to pick up students that I may or may not be arriving that day (they were confused because I flew over night) so he didn’t have my name on the list. Thankfully he realized the girl pacing back and forth for 45 minutes looking somewhat upset (didn’t have the schools number, or even a phone to call them with) was probably one of his fares.

    It was only 2 years ago so I remember it very well, best time of my life to date. Going back this Fall and cannot wait. I went not knowing a soul and met a few people I hope to know and travel with for the rest of my life. Can’t wait until I can do more traveling.

    Welcome to the world of travel! – Caitlin.

  3. Lovely memories. I grew up overseas, as an American army brat in Germany, and can remember traveling to other countries from earliest childhood. What stands out is coming to the U.S. as a (semi) adult, with a backpack, landing in LAX and calling my brother, living at Lake Arrowhead at the time. He said, “I’ll be there in a couple of hours.”

    That gave me my first inkling of the size of LA. I had no idea. I wanted to go for a walk and stumbled, jet-lagged, around the airport grounds, looking for a place to walk to.

    In the distance, I could see something that looked like non-airport civilization, so I headed that way. I had to cross a bridge over a freeway where there was no sidewalk, so I edged my way sideways, sort of crab-walking with my toes on the curb, my hands hanging on to a fence, to try and escape LAX.
    .-= Bob Berwyn´s last blog ..Hurlbert doesn’t make State Senate primary ballot =-.

    Great story! I’ve been to LAX so I can imagine what it must have been like. Not really somewhere that you can walk away from, even though I can understand why you’d want to! – Caitlin.

  4. My first overseas trip was to the USA with my family when I was 6 years old. We accompanied my dad on a work trip. We did some touristy stuff in San Francisco, we went to Disneyland and we spent some time in Dallas. I was very lucky to experience a Halloween while I was there and I went trick-or-treating. So much fun! I still envy children growing up in the USA for their Halloween fun.

    I have very vivid memories from the trip. Riding on the teacups at Disneyland. Counting our candy stash after trick-o-treating. Some of them are totally random though. Our hotel room in San Francisco. Eating frozen oranges at a soccer game. Buying cookies from McDonalds. It’s funny what your 6-year old mind considers important.
    .-= jess (fushmush)´s last blog ..Travel Pensieve: Aeroplanes in the night sky =-.

    It was a childhood dream to go to Disneyland. I’ve still never been. One day! – Caitlin.

  5. Satyagandhi says:

    well you have a pretty good memory! I think the time I freaked out the most was at a tourist place where you insisted on having a big green snake wrapped around your neck for a photo – i couldn’t get that photo taken and that snake off you fast enough! I was trying to be brave on that 8 seater plane as well,- never been weighed to get on a plane before. Do you remember there was this loud argument because they were insisting a very large woman pay for 2 seats! We also used to go to the Hotel Suva every day when we were in Suva. We would order a lemonade each and it would come with slices of fruit and a cocktail umbrella, and because we were customers we could then hang out in the swimming pool, which we usually had to ourselves. We were staying in a very run-down backpackers so it was a taste of the high life. I think there is a photo of you being an elegant sunbather reclining with your drink at the pool edge.

    I remember the place with the snake and I remember the hotel swimming pool in Suva – I’m sure I still have both photos. I don’t remember the argument on the plane – or I might have heard raised voices and missed what it was about. – Caitlin.

  6. That sounds like an amazing trip. I’ve never been to Fiji and would love to. We are kind of flying over it in December when we go from Hawaii to New Zealand, but we’ve decided not to stop as we’ll have plenty to do in those other two places. My earliest memories are of a trip to Venice when I was two and a half. I’ve recently written a post about it, hope you don’t mind me just posting the link instead of writing it all out again…
    .-= Victoria´s last blog ..9 years =-.

    Great minds think alike! Thanks for the link. – Caitlin.

  7. I’m amazed that you remember so much about your trips – most of my childhood travel memories involve being cramped in a car with my 3 sisters and the smell of boiled eggs.
    .-= Heather on her travels´s last blog ..Tiny Campsites guide of Great Britain by Dixe Wills – review and giveaway =-.

  8. This makes me wish my family traveled more when I was younger. I don’t think we went more than 200 miles from home except for once. The first time I went overseas was when I was 23.

  9. @20sTravel The pic isn’t from Naviti but this is a post about my Fiji trip. So long ago now!


  1. [...] last week’s trip down memory lane to a childhood holiday in Fiji, here is another time travel edition of Photo [...]