Opinion

Family Road Trips And COVID-19

Whilst packing for the road trip, we were reminded to pack hand sanitizers, wipes, facemasks and boiled water.
03 Aug 2020 14:55
Family Road Trips And COVID-19
Photo time during our road trip.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we had planned to take scenic drives around Viti Levu and to try out Fiji’s country living – our take on the age old fantasy of swapping semi-urban living for fresh air and the rural outskirts or the countryside for a weekend.

We imagined the eco friendlier, unplugged retreats that would connect us to the environment or the ocean and so started the plans for a family retreat with our master itinerary planner getting us a big size map of Viti Levu and the many sleepless nights filled with excitement. My sister Faith shares my love for watching family travel blogs – these family travel bloggers inspire us with their favourite family road trip ideas from around the world.

Viti Levu

Viti Levu is home to many of Fiji’s wonderful touristic spots with super beautiful beaches, reefs, old stories and tales of ancient forts and trails, mountain peaks, sparkling rivers, the sand dunes and scenic country road for the family photo album. But, if you want a less cosmopolitan influence, Fiji’s other big island, Vanua Levu and the rest of the islands that make up Fiji’s archipelago are destinations to explore.

A map of Viti Levu

A map of Viti Levu

These plans were shelved for a couple of months because of COVID-19 and before we realised it, half of 2020 was gone and we were still in our “planning stages”. We chose the self-drive adventure because it was a better way of seeing more of Viti Levu at our own pace.

Taking the road less travelled is so spontaneous! We could travel for hours and just be in awe of the sweeping landscapes of rolling hills, lagoons, waterfalls and mountain ranges that stretches far and wide when we were least expecting them and we could make pit stops whenever we liked with no hassle. Along the Coral Coast and the less travelled King’s Road, we could pull up for bathroom breaks, water breaks and stop at the towns along the way.

Precautionary measures

We recently did a Viti Levu road drive for both leisure and education. Whilst packing for the road trip, we were reminded to pack hand sanitizers, wipes, facemasks and boiled water. Despite many places opening for business, we were still being careful with our trip – we had a checklist and did all the precautionary measures before we left home – practising good hygiene and frequent hand washing stops were also in the itinerary.

Our road trip this time is a little bit different – we have our two-year-old sister with us at the backseat. At her age, fun options are very limited and sleep was her only option to beat the backseat boredom or blues. On the road, we found a way to entertain her by singing the alphabet song on repeat, teaching her to count and the numerous nursery rhymes we had to sing with her – a good way to bond too! This was our baby Eunice’s first road trip around Viti Levu and we loved her facial expressions along the way.

We are not a rich family to take road trips or fly to new places for vacation often, but when we plan for a road trip, we take our planning very serious. We always start the journey with a prayer and then dad would give us a rundown of his version of road rules and “the what and what not” to do in the car or on the road. For example, no littering, do not play with the interior door handle or the window switch or crank (for mannual windows) and the beverages in the car. My dad would first parade the car and check for every small detail before we leave. He would even store extra water bottles for emergencies like an overheated radiator or so. He teaches us to respect things that do not belong to us even if it is a rented car for a weekend – the responsibility and onus for the vehicle’s cleanliness was on us.

My mom was in charge of packing everything needed on the trip – we like to travel light but for this journey, we have got an extra carry-on bag for our toddler. Mom also knows the stopovers, petrol stations and landmarks for us to pull over for photos and leg stretches.

The Queen’s Road is jotted with numerous hotels ranging from budget to five-star, the eye catching Hare Krishna temple on the hill slope just behind Sigatoka Town, Kula Eco Park and coastal villagers that greet travellers on the road side or on horsebacks. The infectious bula smile are some of the many rewarding features along the way. We had visited the Kula Eco Park a few years back and had thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife and have planned to revisit the park with our younger sister sometime later and we hope to feed some green sea turtles when we are there next.

Fiji’s touristic assets

A short drive to the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa and the Yatule Resort offers a bit of luxury and glamour of tourism in the country. Forty-one kilometers away from the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa is the recently opened Fiji Marriott Resort at Momi Bay in Nadi. We kept ourselves occupied in the back seat of our rented car and attempted to name and tag all the resorts and hotels along the way – a good way to explore and learn about Fiji’s touristic assets.

The scenic drive continues beyond Sigatoka’s rolling sand dunes, the Nabou forest hills and the sugarcane farms at Nawaicoba, the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple boasting as the largest Hindu temple in Fiji on the road to Nadi Town signals the end of a two and half hour drive. Whilst in Nadi we explored the local market for some fresh fruits and water before we headed to our weekend home away from home at Vuda’s First Landing Resort. The Nadi Garden of the Sleeping Giant and Sabeto mud pools were on our itinerary and we were very eager to get off the highway and experience the Nadi countryside for a while.

We ended up at Vuda’s First Landing Resort by chance and fell in love with the resort the minute we stepped out of the car. The Vuda Beach Market flyers on social media led us to this gem of a place and hats off to Aggie at reception for helping us sort our overnight stay at the resort’s one-bedroom apartments. The long drive from Suva and the many potholes on the road did not tire us down after we checked in. It is truly a home away from home for us and we did not waste time to explore our new place for the night.

The apartment had a private pool and all the necessities needed for a comfortable stay. We took a stroll on the white sand beach and found a healthy looking mangrove patch at the end of the beach.

My sisters and I collected seashells and waded on the low tide while mom and dad watched on us from a safe distance on the beach.

On the premises and the Foot Island, the Vuda Beach Market did not disappoint! The local vendors have a taste for chic, simplicity and flavour. We bought a couple of pearl earrings from vendors and made our way to the snake show where we paid the owner of the snakes $5 to hold three snakes – I had three snakes coiled around my neck and shoulders and my sister Faith had three to herself as well. It was scary but rewarding, especially the photos!

Vuda’s First Landing Resort.

Vuda’s First Landing Resort.

We took the Kings Road returning to Suva and to fully complete our Viti Levu trip – this time, our parents joined us with sing-alongs and short quizzes on the Biblical characters, geography and every other topic we could think of.

We took short stops in Ba Town, Tavua Town, Rakiraki Town and Korovou Town and bought authentic Indian sweets from the roadside bean carts while we made our way home. The East Coast dirt road that branches off the King’s Road is a beautiful and alternative route to take if one is driving a four-wheel vehicle. There are no wrong turns on a Fiji road trip!

Takalana retreat overlooking Moon Reef is the East Coast’s hidden paradise and another favourite place of ours. We have gone on a day trip to watch dolphins and have snorkeled at Moon Reef when I was a little younger and have always looked forward to a Takalana visit. Many of the stops along the East Coast road are reminiscent of Tropical Cyclone Winston’s footprints and stories of resilience and trails of climate change related narratives.

At the end of our weekend road trip, I argue you will find no grander adventure than our own backyard setting!

The less travelled road

We are planning on another road trip but travelling the road less travelled – Queens Road to Lautoka, Kings Road to Ba and then back roads to Navala, Bukuya and Sigatoka and then back to Suva through hidden scenic views in the mountains and the valleys, passing through villages where time stands still and the infectious Bula salutation reflects the real Bula bubble! ‘Till next week – I hope to write more about domestic tourism.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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