HIDE AND SLEEK
A holiday house on the Fijian Coral Coast is the ideal place for a thorough rest, says Susan Kurosawa
THE first day is spent considering increasingly fascinating places to lie down. By the second day, favourite spots have been bagged: on the Balinese-style day bed by the plunge pool and, in the garden, recliner chairs by the main infinity-edge pool with its filtered views through feathery tamarind trees to the ocean.
Waves constantly break on the reef and this susurration provides the soundtrack for a stay at Myola Plantation’s self-contained villa on the Fijian Coral Coast. This location — off the Queens Road, about 45 minutes from Nadi airport and towards the capital, Suva — is nicely hidden yet close to the sizeable town of Sigatoka, with its markets, jetboat river tours and some good Indian restaurants.
Not that eating out proves to be a distraction, as we soon discover. Stay at Myola and forget about lifting as much as a finger, let alone working out how to use the gas range or toaster. The tariff is inclusive of all meals but what the glossy promotional material can’t capture is the level of care and service that comes with Sheila’s delicious curries and Sala’s lamb roasts and tropical fruit platters the size of racing carnival hats.
Karen and Ian Hoskison opened Myola in 2005. Karen says she found the vacant site after a tip-off from her son in 2002 and it was a case of hacking through overgrown trees and vines to get to the clifftop and fabulous views beyond. Karen, a third-generation Fijian, lived on site through the long clearing and construction process while Ian, a Britishborn marine salvage expert, worked in Australia and the Pacific.
Two residences were built: the main house and the nearby two-suite guest villa, a main pool for each and a pair of plunge pools for the villa, plus an orchard of limes and lemons planted in orderly rows. These citrus trees are now so abundant and thriving that fruit is sold to the nearby Shangri-La Fijian Resort. Myola’s guests are served such treats as ice-cream made from the estate’s limes and spinach tossed in tangy lemon butter.
The plantation is lush, threaded with vines and set well back from the road. A roundabout near the main gate is a botanical astonishment: rows of plants winding in a circular formation that could be passed off as an installation in a posh gallery. In front of the villa, terraced plantings spill down the cliffside and tiny yellow butterflies flit about ginger bushes and papaya trees heavy with fruit.
Karen has furnished the villa in a vein similar to the main house: it’s a mix of Asian and local style, what could be dubbed a Fijinesian hybrid of Javanese teak doors and giant four-poster beds, Balinese artefacts, local artwork, Chinese cabinets, and silk curtains and cushions. With cool marble floors, high vaulted ceilings and pale colour scheme, the feel is very contemporary, with everything angled towards lofty views of the sea.
Just staying here and existing on holiday barbecues would be splendid but that would make Sala and Sheila sulky indeed. The former, Myola’s resident chef and wife of Save, the driver and star ukelele player, is in charge of breakfasts and Fijian and Western dishes for other meals. Her kokoda — chunks of Spanish mackerel marinated in lime juice, with coconut milk, onion and coriander — is the best we have tasted during many trips to Fiji. It arrives in a half-coconut shell set atop a base of melon, a frangipani at a rakish angle, almost behind its ear.
Sheila, who lives nearby, is the Indian cookery specialist; according to guests’ requests, she creates the most delicious curries and teaches us how to make beef pilau and spiced prawns. She scours the garden for tamarind pods and creates sour-salty relishes that are perfect accompaniments for fresh roti rolls stuffed with okra and chilli-salted snake beans.
We do nothing much except eat and when we are not eating we are looking at the daily menu and awaiting the next meal. Rosi, Sala’s sister, also lives on the Myola estate with her three sons, and she serves our food, all artistically garnished with frangipani, sprigs of springy mint, orchids and spider lilies. In the bedrooms and bathrooms, further floral action is in regular progress as housekeeper Sashi strews yet more blooms, popping petals on the soap dishes, the toilet-roll holders, pillows and rolled towels. If we stand still long enough, we expect we will be similarly ornamented.
It takes a day to work out all the interconnections of the Myola family and then we feel as if we, too, are part of this cheery clan. Reality recedes and it seems perfectly normal to waft to breakfast in sarongs and eat finely sliced rosy-red parrot mangoes drizzled with honey and dotted with star anise, to devour eggs benedict perched atop peppery local spinach, the plate fringed with flowers.
A sugar train runs along a single track at the bottom of Myola’s garden, metres from the beach, and passengers can hop on and off, bound for Sigatoka or lovely Natadola beach.
Save drives us to Sigatoka’s covered market where stallholders arrange their farm-fresh produce with seemingly casual artistry: wobbly pyramids of pale tomatoes, fat stalks of pinkish-white taro tied with blue bows, plates stacked with eggplants and bunches of beans and wild ota fern, chillis scattered on trestle-tops in a riot of red and green. The Sigatoka Valley is known for its rich alluvial soil and Sala and Sheila tell us that all their cooking ingredients can be found at the markets, off local fishing boats or in Myola’s organic gardens.
There seems little reason to leave the neighbourhood; even one of Fiji’s best spas, the Outrigger on the Lagoon’s Bebe Spa, is less than a half-hour’s drive away. My facial appointment runs late and Save waits in the car for me, listening to a tape of his gospel group. He has toured widely with his musical colleagues. ‘‘ Even to Woy Woy, NSW,’’ he tells me.
I have emerged from Bebe Spa smelling of Pure Fiji’s coconut and star fruitscented unguents and Save and I hum along together as we head back along the coast road to Myola in time for canapes, cocktails and the prospect of another of Sala’s banquet-worthy spreads. No wonder I have to be pulled away kicking and protesting on departure day.
A taste of heaven: The villa at Myola, main picture and bottom right; Sheila (left) and Rosi, top right; Fijian kokoda, middle right