In­stant re­lax­ation

Short break of­fers es­cape from mod­ern-day stress

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - BY Shirley Sin­clair

IN THE fre­netic pace of life in the 21st cen­tury, some­times we even for­get how to slow down on hol­i­days. We think we need to cover sev­eral coun­tries, fly to the other side of the globe, then par­tic­i­pate in ev­ery ac­tiv­ity un­der the sun to be armed with plenty of va­ca­tion anec­dotes for Face­book and pic­tures for In­sta­gram.

Let’s take it down a notch, shall we? Some­times one des­ti­na­tion, one week or long week­end of re­lax­ing and soak­ing up the seren­ity is what we re­ally need.

Ev­ery­one has their ‘happy place’ – the place where they feel most calm, the place that never fails to put a smile on their face, the place where the house­work that needs do­ing, the bills that need pay­ing and any thoughts of work com­mit­ments no longer cloud your wak­ing mo­ments.

For me, that place is Fiji. A three-hour plane flight from Bris­bane and I’m a world away from the ev­ery­day. The ‘real me’ – not the crabby work col­league, the stern mother or dis­agree­able wife – re­turns soon af­ter be­ing hit with the trop­i­cal heat on dis­em­bark­ing the air­craft and walk across the ter­mi­nal ve­randa into the Nadi ar­rivals area.

Per­haps it’s the ‘bula wel­come’ from just about ev­ery air­port worker I pass or be­ing ser­e­naded in­side by a Fi­jian mu­si­cal group as I stand in the im­mi­gra­tion queue.

Per­haps it’s the fa­mil­iar face of our driver, year af­ter year, his ea­ger­ness to take our bags and his po­lite con­ver­sa­tion in the mini-bus.

The 90-minute trans­fer to the Coral Coast, 70km away, is like step­ping back in time to a child­hood where fruit and vegie stands still line ma­jor roads, cows graze on the grassy verges and lush fields of sugar cane stretch as far as the eye can see.

Fi­jian friends and neigh­bours will still gather to­gether in the after­noons un­der the cool of a makeshift per­gola or sprawl­ing tree. Teth­ered goats munch on bushes, while kids, dogs and chick­ens roam free and adults walk be­side busy road shoul­ders (ex­cept now they carry mo­bile phones to their ear).

Palm trees and colour­ful bougainvil­lea dress up mod­est hous­ing on stumps or small stilts, and bright-coloured ‘bula shirts’ and su­lus (sarongs) hang from clothes­lines held up to the sun by old, wooden poles.

Life is sim­pler and na­ture grows wild, as was in­tended. Banana fronds reach for the sky – the ‘odd man out’ in a rain­for­est set­ting. The or­angey-red flow­ers of a ran­dom royal poin­ciana gives re­spite from the green of the un­du­lat­ing hills. Yes, I love this drive: so lit­tle to see but so much to see.

Take the ride year af­ter year and you’ll no­tice such sub­tle changes – maybe the grass is a lit­tle greener af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing cy­clone months ear­lier.

Maybe a dis­tant burn-off aims to ward off bush­fires af­ter a long, dry spell.

Maybe a few more build­ings have be­gun con­struc­tion or last year’s roadworks have fi­nally been com­pleted.

But some things never change: the happy chat­ter of school­child­ren in a bus with no win­dows. The utes filled with labour­ers hold­ing on for dear life in the back. The bustling mar­kets in Si­ga­toka Town.

Life in this part of the world goes by ‘bula time’ – a mys­ti­cal time zone only Fi­jians un­der­stand.

And even three nights worth of ‘bula time’ can recharge the bat­ter­ies enough to face the real world back home.


Even a few days in Fiji pro­vides an es­cape from the daily grind.

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