Circumnavigating Viti Levu, Fiji, by local bus.

Gotta love Facebook: it keeps me in touch with my nearest and dearest where ever they are in the world. And this week it took me down memory lane with a sweet reminder that it’s three years since I visited Fiji: the main island, Viti Levu, to be precise. It was my first ever trip to the Pacific Islands, hopefully it won’t be my last.

Some people sail around Fiji for weeks or months on end. It’s easy to see why.

Sunset at Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji

Sunset at Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji

Others spend their entire time in a resort. That’s not the way I like to travel although, based on my two nights in a resort during our trip to Viti Levu, I can see the attraction.

A beach all to ourselves, Coral Coast, Viti Levu, Fiji

A beach all to ourselves, Coral Coast, Viti Levu, Fiji

John and I did it differently. Yep, we circumnavigated this beautiful island, not by sea, but by bus. Local bus.

Bone shakers, Lautoka bus station, Viti Levu, Fiji

Bone shakers, Lautoka bus station, Viti Levu, Fiji

The Queens Road, around the Coral Coast is a famous scenic drive. But the highlight for us was the Kings Road, from Lautoka to Suva. Some might say this road is infamous. But that’s undeserved. It’s a spectacular drive, along the coastline to the small towns of Ba and  Raki Raki and then on through the jungle of the interior, to Suva.

Typical housing, along the Kings Road

Typical housing, along the Kings Road

There’d been severe flooding six months earlier and much of the road was badly potholed. In places bridges had been washed away. At one ravine, in particular, the approach to the bridge was steep and muddy.  Somehow, the driver lined the bus up to, what seemed to me, little more than large planks of wood. I must have been feeling brave that day—I remember looking out the window, okay maybe it was more of a glance followed by resolute staring at my hands, while I told myself that if we toppled into the ravine, which at that moment seemed perfectly probable, I’d die happy. It was that kind of journey.

A few seconds later we were inching our way out of the ravine and I’d forgotten my fears.

The bus was a bone shaker, the seats were hard, the only air-conditioning, and really all that was needed, was the breeze coming through the open windows. The radio was tuned to a local station and the music added a jaunty atmosphere.

It’s a long trip, seven hours from Lautoka to Suva, with a brief stop at the small town of Ba and a lunch stop at RakiRaki where we followed everyone else and queued at the shop for a snack.

RakiRaki bust staion, Kings Road, Viti Levu, Fiji

RakiRaki bus station, Kings Road, Viti Levu, Fiji

When we were on the road again, John and I both kept a careful eye out. We were looking for Naiyala. The small community, a school, in Northern Viti Levu was the subject of a lot of talk in our family that year. Our niece was volunteering there. Before that none of us had ever been to Fiji, or any of the Pacific islands.

Now, as we approached Naiyala, time slowed. I thought perhaps we had missed the school. I asked the conductor, who spent most of the trip sitting over the bulkhead, or occasionally wandering along the aisle, collecting  tickets, if he knew Naiyala. Yes, he said, and he  wanted to know more. So I told him about our niece. He was impressed. Naiyala is isolated and, as is the case in much of rural Fiji, life in the community has real hardships.

I’ll tell you, he said.

I waited and I waited. Eventually, I was sure he had forgotten. Then he pointed to our left and called out: “Naiyala”. There it was, at last, a large clearing surrounded by coconut palms, banana trees, a cluster of small houses and, in the front of the school buildings, a rugby field. And there, I was certain, was our niece, L,  in one of the classrooms, standing in front of students seated at their desks.

The bus slowed, the driver tooted, John and I, each with an arm out a window, waved like crazy. L told us later she’d glanced out to the road and seen the bus filled with the usual Fijian faces and two white arms flapping wildly! Us.

Our destination that night was Suva but two days later we returned to Naiyala. It was an eventful trip. The police were out in force, searching for escaped prisoners. Our trip was delayed by multiple road blocks.

At last we were on our way, but then the engine began to over-heat. The driver was determined to continue. While the bus trundled along the road, the conductor leaned precariously from the footboard and topped up the radiator with bottled water. As long as he did this at regular intervals the motor kept running.

This time the driver was primed to stop at Naiyala but, making some progress at last and jiving along to the radio, he forgot. All was not lost. He pulled up within 500metres, at the bottom of a hill. Walking distance, I assumed, grabbing my belongings but, with a sudden lurch and much to the amusement of our fellow travellers, we reversed up the hill and around the blind corner.

Niayla, Northern Viti Levu, Fiji

Naiyala, Northern Viti Levu, Fiji

At last we had arrived.

Tell me about your most memorable bus trip.

As for Facebook, has it taken you down memory lane recently?

Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge:Travel

49 replies »

  1. Ah, you show us all a little slice of heaven with these Pacific island shots ~ and to show us the adventures to be had, makes me smile. Life has so much to offer 🙂


    • Thanks Randall, my adventures do seem to take me off the beaten trck and outside my comfort zone – a long way outside it. That trip to Fiji was the first time I’d spent a reasonable length of time in the tropics. It was unforgettable, from the people, who were all very keen to make sure we enbjoyed their beautiful country, to the warm water, to the simple physical sensation of warm bones – that was quite something after a wet and cold Kiwi winter.


  2. My most memorable bus ride was a trip from Adelaide to Perth. 36 hours, 2 nights. It was by far the cheapest way to travel that long stretch, but I won’t ever do it again. On the second night a woman sat next to me and she kept falling asleep on my shoulder. We crossed the Nullarbor plain, encountered bushfires, stopped in the middle of nowhere, where I wondered how people could live so isolated. There was a man with tattoos on his feet; one foottattoo said ‘I’m tired’, the other said ‘me too’. It was surely a very memorable bus trip! 😉


    • That sounds like a truly incredible bus trip, San. Thirty-six hours and across the Nullarbor! I think that’s a very brave thing to do, and something that required a lot of grit!


      • Thank you! 🙂 What can I say, I was 22 and tight on money 😛 Not sure I’d do it again sometime soon though! I thought an overnight bus trip from Auckland to the Kapiti Coast last February was about as adventurous as I’d have my bus trips these days 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Local bus trips are most definitely the best and cheapest way to travel. Can be slow and you never know what will happen next, but that enhances the experience. Possibly my most memorable bus trip was when I went on my own on a 4 month Greyhound bus trip right round Australia


  4. Sounds like a great trip. My most memorable bus trip was when I wasn’t very old and my brother and I took the bus (by ourselves!) about 80 miles to visit my grandparents on the farm. What an adventure!



  5. That was a very interesting view of Fiji – well away from the tourist traps. An insightful account of the what it must be like to live there.


  6. Wonderful sunset picture, Jill. Yes, I’m always up for a bit of adventure too. Just to make you smile, my most memorable bus trip was when i was a child coming home on the bus from school. We’d made baked apples in our cookery class, and the sticky syrup from mine leaked out through the bottom of the basket all over the seat next to me. I hope no-one sat there after I got off. I’ll never forget how worried I was.


  7. I have done this one! Not quite as exciting as your trip but the same type of bus. My mother and father did the same bus trip in 1949. If you read my mother’s diary entry on the trip you would almost think you were reading about your own trip. 😉 The first photo took me back to my childhood and the many beautiful sunsets we saw in Lautoka.


    • Lautoka is a fascinating town. Not really a tourist desitnation, despite the beauty. I was surprised to discover ash falling from the sky on the Monday morning. I wondered where it was coming from, I thought a fire, perhaps. It was from the sugar cane factory. I imagine it wouyld be very challenging to put up with that day after day. Nevertheless, I did love it there. We had a marvellous time wondering around the fresh market and thre shops.


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