Category Archives: 2016 – New Zealand and Fiji

Flying High…

June 19, 2016

We started the last day of our trip with a 3 hour jet-ski tour in the morning. Having never been on a jet-ski for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, we were certainly excited about the opportunity to jet-ski for almost 2+ hours (remainder time reserved for snorkeling). After breakfast at our hotel, we made our way to the Sheraton Resort for the tour. As we walked over to the resort, we noticed the dark clouds and started to wonder if the tour would be canceled. To our surprise, it was not, despite the rough seas and the weather conditions. Our instructor and tour guide provided us a little more detail about the trip (location, duration, etc.) and we were on our way to a nearby island. Now, Akshita and I like to think that we are are pretty adventurous but this jet-ski tour was something else. We had never been in waters this choppy and a tour of this nature would never be allowed in the US in such conditions. Regardless, this is Fiji and we were soon following our guide and “cruising” at speeds of 50-60 miles/hour. We had to stop on couple occasions because of the choppy waters but enjoyed the whole experience nonetheless. I even had to borrow glasses from our guide as I was barely able to see in the rough conditions.

We finally reached the shores of the island and gathered our gear for snorkeling. As we were about to jump in the water, our guide instructed us to stay on the jet-skis as the water was too choppy for snorkeling. He told us about another location that could potentially have calmer waters and we were soon on our way. Once at the new location, we put on our snorkeling gear and jumped into the water. The water was still pretty choppy but certainly better than the previous location. Unfortunately, the snorkeling itself wasn’t comparable to the snorkeling we did in the Mamanuca Islands. The water wasn’t as clear due to the weather and we were therefore unable to see much marine life. We told our instructor about the starfish we had seen in the Mamanuca Islands and he was kind enough to dive about 20 feet to the sea floor and find a starfish for us. That certainly was one of the highlights of our jet-skiing tour.

After a fun-filled 3 hours we were back on Denarau Island and made our way to the room. We quickly showered, packed our bags, and walked over to the front desk area for our next activity of the day. While relaxing at the resort yesterday, we had the great idea of signing up for skydiving. After a lot of discussion, we decided what better location than Fiji for an experience of a lifetime. We were both quite nervous as we waited for the tour company to pick us up. Thousands of thoughts were going through our mind – what will it be like to jump from a plane?, are we stupid for doing this?, will we survive?? Akshita even recommended that we record “our last” video in case we didn’t make it haha. Guess what? We actually recorded one and it is still funny to go back and watch the video.

Once at “Skydiving Fiji”, we signed several waiver forms and met our tandem instructors. Both our instructors were European and essentially travel around the world for skydiving jobs (typically signing a 6 month contract in each city/country). This was jump number 4760 for Akshita’s instructor. Sounds ridiculously high right? Our instructors actually told us that they were jumping on average 5-6 times a day here in Fiji. You do the Math – even 4 times a week for 6 months (assuming a 6 month contract in Fiji) amounts to about 500 jumps. After harnessing us, the instructors went over the instructions and we drove over to a small airport nearby. Next thing you know, we were all cramped up in a small plane and about to take off. We witnessed the beautiful Mamanuca Islands in the distance as we gained elevation and made our way to almost 10,000 feet. My instructor tapped my shoulder and asked if I was ready to jump (as if I had a choice at that point). The moment when he opened the door and I looked down was still the most surreal part of the whole experience. There I was just hanging from the plane harnessed to my instructor who was sitting on the edge of the plane. What I felt for the next few seconds cannot be put into words. The free fall was amazing and definitely the most adrenaline-filled activity I had ever done. After safely landing on the ground, we were both ready to do it another time lol.

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With the local kids

We were greeted by a bunch of local kids at the landing spot who were fascinated by the parachute. After talking to them for a bit, we headed back to the hotel and spent the next few hours by the pool before heading to the airport for our flight back to Los Angeles. We weren’t ready to go back home but all vacations must come to an end. We are very happy with the decision to spend our honeymoon in New Zealand and Fiji and wouldn’t have done it any other way. Until next time, Vinaka and see you soon on our next adventure.

Nadi City Center

June 18, 2016

Having enjoyed the breathtaking Mamanuca Islands, we were looking forward to paying a visit to the Yasawa Islands as well. We decided against that as the one way trip to the Yasawas would take us 4 hours and the visit wouldn’t be worth it without an overnight stay. We therefore decided to take it easy and spend some time at enjoying the beautiful Westin Resort. We slept in and then enjoyed breakfast overlooking the pool. Enticed by the pool and wanting to cool off, we quickly stopped at our room to change and jumped in the pool. While we were in the pool, an older couple noticed that we were speaking in Hindi (well for me a few broken words) and said “namaste.” As we talked to the couple, the older man mentioned that he had lived in India for several years and had some business there. He then continued to say some more phrases he knew and we were impressed by his knowledge of the language.

After spending a good chunk of time lounging around the pool, we decided to make our way over to the port for some lunch and also to explore the port some. We decided to forgo an expensive cab and instead take the local bus towards the port. As neither of us were paying attention and no stops were being called out, our bus drove past the Denarau port and made its way to Nadi. As we were pretty hungry, we decided to stop in Nadi town center to grab a bite. Compared to other countries, finding vegetarian food was very easy. We stopped at a bustling joint for lunch and once again were amazed at the difference in prices when compared to the Denarau resorts. After enjoying lunch capped with a cold coffee, we strolled around Nadi city and browsed the many souvenir shops. At a nearby mall, we even saw sari’s on display and were immediately taken back to a street in India. 

We quickly catch the bus back to Denarau just in time to make it for the Fire dance show that occurs only 2 times per week. We see 4 talented locals dressed in the traditional garb dancing effortlessly while throwing batons lit with fire at the same time. Needless to day, we were impressed by the coordination and courage displayed by these dancers.

We head back to our room and get ready for dinner on our last night in Fiji. We make our way over to the Radisson resort for a Thai dinner. I ordered a Mai Tai and we had amazing Thai food. At the restaurant we notice a small but beautiful wedding reception taking place just below where we were seated. We enjoyed our dinner and watched the happy couple and their friends/family dance the night away.

After dinner, we decide to take the scenic beachside walk back to the Westin. On our way, we eye a relaxing spot on the beach and lay down to enjoy the sea breeze and listen to the waves crashing. I think we actually fall asleep as the next thing we know we hear some screaming which was our cue to head back. After a relaxing day, we make our way back to the Westin Resort just in time to hear our favorite live singer who sang acoustic versions of modern American music with a few classics thrown in the mix. Truly a great way to end the night, we walk sleepily back to our suite and call it a night.

Island Hopping

June 17, 2016

Geography check – North west of Viti Levu islands lie the Mamanuca (pronounced Mama-nuda) Islands and the Yasawa Islands. Each of these group of islands is comprised of hundreds of small islands which represent the lush white-sand and clear blue water islands you and I have come to recognize Fiji for. Mamanuca Islands are about a 2 hour boat ride north of Denarau port, whereas Yasawa Islands are about 4 hours north of Denarau. According to locals, the further north you go, the better the islands get.

Having returned our rental car, we reserved day 4 in Fiji to explore the renowned islands of Fiji. Prior to our arrival in Fiji, we were under the impression that the island of Viti Levu was home to all the Fijian beaches we typically see on TV. Turns out that Viti Levu/Nadi is truly an entrance point for most visitors to the country and Denarau is home to world class resorts. The white-sand beaches and exotic islands are off of the northern coast of Viti Levu in the islands of Mamanuca and Yasawa. Akshita and I decided to spend the day at Beachcomber Island, part of the Mamanuca Islands. 

We headed off to the Denarau port early in the morning only to find out that Akshita had forgotten our tickets in the hotel room. Though the tour company had our names on the list, the physical tickets with the bar codes needed to be presented. Thanks to the brown connection (at least what we think), the lady of Indian origin allowed us to board the boat and requested that we present the actual tickets upon our return in the evening. Finally out of panic mode, we were on the boat and on our  way to Mamanuca Islands. The boat stopped at various Mamanuca Islands including Mana Island and Treasure Islands. We saw multiple helicopters hovering over Mana Island and soon learned that the island was the current season’s location for the hit TV series, Survivor. We even saw what appeared to be contestants practicing/competing in one of the many obstacle courses. 

Words can’t explain the beauty of the islands and the crystal clear blue water that we witnessed as our boat cruised around the Mamanuca islands. After about 2 hours on the boat, we finally reached Beachcomber island. The small island  (barely the size of a football field) was unlike anything we had seen before. Though the sand was a little rough, the water was crystal clear.

We put on our life jackets and hopped on a small boat for some snorkeling. The crystal clear water meant amazing views of the marine life including schools of fish, jelly fish, sting rays, baby sharks, and turtles. We managed to take a couple pictures and videos of the ocean creatures using our GoPro. 

After snorkeling, we spent some time kayaking around the island. The water was so clear that we were easily able to see the ocean floor/coral reefs 10 feet under us. We even managed to see a lot of vividly blue/purple color star fish. Akshita was super excited to see the star fish and made sure to point out every one she saw while kayaking. Poor planning on my end resulted in the GoPro dying and we were unable to capture our time on the kayak. Nonetheless, we had a great time and wished we had more time in the water. After a quick shower, we enjoyed some local lunch organized by the tour and the few people who lived on the island. The habitants of the island also performed a dance for the visitors and posed for some pictures.

Back on the boat, we were off to Denarau via other islands in the Mamanuca. We went past Castaway Island, named after the movie Castaway which was shot on the island. The small island is home to a hotel with 8 rooms today and offers its guests the perfect feeling of being on a private island. Next, we drove past the Likuliku Lagoon Resort, which happens to be the only accommodation with over-water bungalows in all of Fiji.

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The trip today was a good learning lesson – one should plan a stay at either one of the Mamanuca or Yasawa Islands instead of Denarau. The islands offer a true Fijian experience whereas Nadi/Denarau are more of a spot for tourists (mostly Australians and New Zealanders) to relax and party in the many resorts. Think of Cancun, Mexico as the party spot for American/Canadian tourists and Tulum, Mexico as the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands of Fiji. After docking at Denarau, we walked to the hotel and grabbed our tour tickets. As promised to the tour lady, we walked back to the port and presented our tickets. We ended the action filled day with dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Sigatoka Sand Dunes

June 16, 2016

Geography check: Viti Levu island is home to Nadi and Denarau island is just off of Viti Levu connected by a short bridge. The beaches on Denarau island are sub-par by Fijian standards.

With the rental car at our disposal for another day, we decided to drive south to explore some of the known beaches on the island of Viti Levu. In addition to the beaches, we also planned a visit to the town of Sigatoka to explore the renowned sand dunes by the ocean. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we started the 2 hour drive to Sigatoka. We were soon away from the tourist hotspots in Viti Levu and into the Fijian countryside. The drive exposed us to the life of a common man in Fiji and reminded us a lot of India (small huts, roadside restaurants/vendors, etc.). An hour and a half into our ride, we exited the highway for a first sight of Natadola beach (pronounced as Natan-dola). As we proceeded to drive through the local village towards the viewpoint, we were stopped by a gentleman who politely asked us to return as the village was preparing for a funeral celebration. He also told us that we were on the wrong exit and that the beach is 2-3 miles further south by the Intercontinental Hotel. We were shortly back on the highway and took the exit for the Intercontinental Hotel. The hotel is situated on Natadola beach and offers great views of the beach. We were not aware of a hotel this big outside of Denarau Island and almost wished we had spent some time away from Denarau at this hotel.

As we parked at the beach, we were soon approached by vendors offering the catch of the day, beer, and massages. One of the massage ladies spent a good 15 minutes trying to sell her massaging skills and making sure we remembered her name for when we were ready for the massage. Finally past the vendors, we were welcomed by the beautiful Natadola beach. The beach is relatively remote, clean, and not a well-known destination among tourists (except the ones staying at the Intercontinental Hotel), making it a perfect location to relax and enjoy the beautiful ocean. Due to absence of public restrooms and showers, we decided to walk in the shallow waters. We came up with all sorts of strategies to somehow blend in with other guests and use the facilities at the Intercontinental Hotel but soon realized neither of us had the guts to actually do anything. After spending a solid hour at the beach, we were back in our car and on our way to Sigatoka. 

Surprisingly, we did not see a lot of signs for the Sigatoka sand dunes. Thanks to google maps, we had a general sense of the location of the sand dunes and decided to take a random exit. After asking several passerby and driving through multiple villages, we finally arrived at what appeared to be a potential entry point to the sand dunes. Given that the entry point was right next to a local villager’s house, we were quite convinced that this was not the official entrance to the sand dunes (though we are not even sure if there was one to begin with). Regardless, we changed into hiking shoes as the sand was melting hot and we were about to hike more than a 100 feet in elevation. Now, a 100 feet elevation hike (regardless of how steep it is) in general is doable but trust me this was no joke. With every 2 steps forward, the sand amusingly brought us 1 step backward. Not to forget, the scorching heat from the sun and hot sands in our shoes, only added to the misery. After a long fought battle with the sand, we finally made it to the flatter surface on the top and instantly forgot about the previous 20 minutes. Pictures don’t do justice but what we witnessed was magical. The sand dunes overlooked the pacific ocean and not a soul to be seen as far as our eyes could see. The sound of the waves and the wind provided a perfect setting for a date with nature (oh and your wife as well I guess). 

After spending some time at the dunes, we rolled down the hill (sort of) and were back on the highway in search of lunch. We drove to the town center and came across a small Indian restaurant. The restaurant serboth Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisines. Akshita opted for the chowmein whereas I went for the good old yellow dal (no surprises there). Yet again, the home cooked food was much better than what we had been eating in the resort and only costed $7 (US) in total. We made a quick pit-stop at another beach close by before heading back to the hotel. We also grabbed some local beers on our way for the days to come. After a much needed shower, we ended the day with dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant.

A muddy day in paradise

June 15, 2016

After a night of good sleep, we were welcomed by the beautiful Fijian sunrise in the morning. After a quick shower, we headed to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. The restaurant located adjacent to the hotel pool offered beautiful views of the pacific ocean. The buffet style breakfast had a plethora of food options including some Indian cuisine. What made my day?? The amazing ‘Help yourself juice bar’. Yes, I am weird and get excited by juice but trust me, there is nothing better than a glass of fresh fruit juice. 

After a successful breakfast, we walked down to the Wyndham vacation resort to rent a scooter for the day and explore the island. Turns out we were a little late in picking up our scooter and the lady stepped out for lunch and wouldn’t be back for 2 hours. In the interest of time, we decided to rent a car instead. After the long process of filling out paperwork, we were on our way to the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple. After a quick 20 minute drive, we were at the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere. We soon realized that we may not be allowed in the temple as we were both wearing shorts. Luckily the temple offered coverups and we were back in action. The temple is no match to some of the majestic temples you see in India and other parts of the world but was charming in its own way nonetheless. The setting was very peaceful and we spent a good 30 minutes worshipping all the shrines and taking pictures. The visit was another reminder of how good the temple food truly is. On our way out, we noticed a small family run restaurant in the temple. It was run by the priest’s wife and we couldn’t resist trying out some home cooked south Indian food. The menu was pretty simple — idli, rice, and sambhar. For only $2 (US), we enjoyed some amazing temple food that was much better and economical than food at the resort infested Denarau island. To put things into perspective, a meal at Denarau island typically cost us about $90 for 2 (including 1 alcoholic drink each). The difference in prices between Denarau Island and the local parts of Fiji is astronomical.

Next stop – the garden of the sleeping giant. We had come across this garden during our planning prior to the trip and were very much looking forward to the visit. The beautiful garden was full of all sorts of flora and surprisingly not swarmed by tourists (probably just the time and day of our visit). The experience was very peaceful and we even managed to sneak in a short nap on one of the many hammocks in the garden. Our poor research had indicated a structure in the garden that resembled a giant man in a sleeping position (thus the name ‘garden of the sleeping giant’). We walked all parts of the garden but failed to come across a structure that resembled what we saw on the internet. We finally approached an employee of the garden to ask him about the mysterious structure. He soon realized that we too (like other tourists) were deceived by the fake pictures online. He was quick to clarify that the name of the garden comes from the structure of the mountains behind it. The mountain range in the vicinity of the gardens when seen from a distance resemble the structure of a sleeping person. We were a little disappointed to hear that but were soon on a mission to see the true “sleeping giant”.

We ended the day on a bizarre note by visiting the Fijian mud pools. To take full advantage of the therapeutic value of the mud pools you first coat yourself in mud then bake in the sun until it drys. The next step is to wash off in the first hot sprint pool and then walk over to the next clear water pool for another cleansing. Fijians in the local village claim that the sulphur in the mud pools has age-defying benefits and healing properties. For someone who hates the idea of dirt on their skin, this was a torturous experience at first but somehow turned out to be fun and interesting. The owner of the pools told us about the history of Fiji and how his ancestors lived in the surrounding mountains (the sleeping giant) to protect themselves from the enemies. He also told us about the different types of schools in Fiji (Christian schools, Hindu schools, etc..) and the difference in the quality of education. After having baked in the mud pools, we jumped into the hot pools. We were told that the warmth of the geothermal springs can be credited to a volcanic source with the unmistakable odor of sulphur. The hot pool felt amazing as we finally managed to rub off all the mud and relax for a bit. The tour ended with a half hour massage by the local village women. We thanked the hosts for their remarkable hospitality and made our way to the car. A group of village kids joined us for a few pictures before we headed back to the hotel. 

We ended the action packed day with dinner at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Denarau. The hotel had a Bollywood themed buffet dinner which was unfortunately miserable to say the least. We then made our way poolside back to our resort stopping at some of the other resorts on our way briefly to listen to some live music.

Bula, Vinaka

June 14, 2016

Although our time in Auckland was short and we are sad to leave this beautiful country, we are excited to be headed to Fiji. As we had a few hours before our flight to Fiji, we decided to do some last minute exploring of Auckland. We headed over to grab some breakfast at Waffle Supreme which we read about in a pamphlet given to us at the airport. Expecting to find a sit down restaurant, you can imagine our surprise as google maps leads us to this small red food truck. If not for the small yellow writing on the right side, we may have missed this “restaurant.” As we get closer to the stall, we see several waffle machines and interesting waffle recipes. We decide to try one called citron which is a waffle filled with lemon creme topped with poppy seeds. Needless to say this was probably the best waffle we’ve ever had. Next, we headed over to Queen street which seems like Auckland’s version of Chicago’s magnificent mile with several popular department stores and shops. As we are still hungry from our waffle, we head over to this Parisian looking shop for some crepes. The savory vegetarian crepe we choose is delicious and definitely hits the spot.

We quickly make our way over to the sofitel to grab our bags and get on our SuperShuttle to take us to the airport. We arrive at the hotel about 2-3 hours before our flight which is unusual for Sanchit and we peruse the duty free shops for some souvenirs and talk to Tanvi who is only a 3 hour flight from us in Australia. After a quick 2.5 hour flight, we land in Fiji and feel the heat that we were missing in Auckland. We immediately notice how many Indians are working at the airport and hear different versions of Hindi being spoken. Indo-Fijians are Fijian citizens who trace their heritage from various parts of the Indian subcontinent. They were brought to the Fiji islands by Fiji’s British colonial rulers in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work on sugar cane plantations as indentured laborers.

We quickly make it through immigration and customs and grab a cab. On the way, the cabbie, Chetty, tells us a bit about Fiji and that about 40% of the population is of Indian origin. They all speak Fijian Hindi which appears to be (in our opinion) similar to Hindi from the Uttar Pradesh region of present-day India. They have adapted to the Fijian way of life but maintained their distinct culture, language, culinary habits, and physical appearance surprisingly. Apparently Bollywood is very well known in Fiji and Sanchit even shares his love for Katrina Kaif with the driver. We drive through Nadi (pronounced Nandi in Fijian) and are soon reminded of rural India. At first glance we see Indians and Africans seemingly commingling however we later learn they are actually very segregated. As we approach the Denarau (pronounced Den-a-rao) Island, we can see a significant change in that now we see golf courses and nice resorts. The Denarau Island is home to seven 5-star resorts(Hilton, Sofitel, Westin, Sheraton, Sheraton Villas, Radisson Blu, and Wyndham), Denarau Port, Denarau Golf-course, and private residences (owned by rich oversees investors).

We finally make it to the Westin and are greeted by several staff with a big Fiji Bula Welcome. As we check in, I make sure to mention we are on our Honeymoon and Sanchit’s membership status with the hotel chain on top of that guaranteed an upgrade to the Honeymoon suite which they only have 7 of. We get to our room and are introduced to our private porch with private pool. The hotel even provided us with Champagne. We can already tell, Fiji is going to be amazing.

 

Boats, Bikes and Buses

June 13th, 2016

Uncharacteristically, we woke up early to “hike” mount Eden (I use quotations as locals considered this a stroll up the hill). After a quick Uber ride, we reached the base of mount Eden. Children in uniforms quickly walk past us on their way to school and point us in the right direction. Right away we notice that the hill sides are very green, something we are not used to living in Southern California for the past year. Runners zoom past us as we walk up the hill, clearly we were not in shape for this. After a couple breaks, we reach the top of mount Eden and are graced with the beautiful Auckland skyline with the Skytower and harbour in sight. We didn’t know what to expect but Mount Eden turned out to be a gem.

After working up quite an appetite, we made a quick descent and find an Uber. As we talk to our driver, we learn that she is of Maori origin (Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand). She surprises us by saying “Mera naam hai Mabel” which means my name is Mabel in Hindi, which she states perfectly. We convince her to teach us a Maori phrase “Ko insert name Toku Ingoa” which we were definitely butchering. After an interesting uber ride learning about the Maori people, we head down to the Viaduct Harbour for some brunch. We made our way over to a collection of restaurants/bars that are in the shape of a boat. Of course I need my morning coffee to fuel me for the rest of the day.

With not much going on in the city during winters, we decided to explore the nearby islands. We headed to the Quay Wharf for a ferry ride to Waiheke Island, the highly regarded island off the coast of Auckland. Aboard the ferry, we try local beer which goes perfectly with our boat ride.

We arrive at the dock in Waiheke in 30 minutes and realize why locals consider the island worth visiting. The emerald hills and sapphire blue water make Waiheke the perfect getaway, not to mention the vineyards and cozy coastal towns. As we had limited time on the island we decided to rent bikes in order to get around the island quickly. The lady at the counter warned us of the hilly countryside but clearly we were swept up in the beauty of the island and didn’t realize what we were getting ourselves into. About 5 minutes into the bike ride, I need to stop as we are riding uphill and I am very much out of shape. Sanchit rides up the hill like a champ, as I slowly walk my bike up the first of many uphill stretches to come.

We arrive at the first beach and stop for some pictures. Breathtaking views remind us of the paradise to come and we are excited all over again. After a grueling ride with a couple of wrong turns, we finally make it to palm beach which again is absolutely gorgeous. At this point we are very hungry and tired but we hold out for this tapas restaurant in the vineyards that the bike rental lady tells us about.

Around 5 pm we finally make it to the tapas restaurant only to find it closed. At this point the sun is starting to set (it is winter in New Zealand) and we start to get nervous as we are in the middle of Waiheke island with our bikes and night quickly approaching. We are thinking of all the possible ways we could make it back to the ferry port before the last ferry departs the island. Luckily we are able to find a taxi driver that tells us a bus will be able to attach our bikes and take us back to the port and that the bus would be arriving in the next 5-10 minutes. I have never run as fast with my bike in tow to make it to the bus. We meet a rude bus driver that is extremely annoyed that we don’t know how to use the strange yellow contraption at the front of the bus to secure our bikes. After 5 minutes of struggle, we attach our bikes and are on our way. Lesson learned, when the bike rental lady tells you the journey is difficult, definitely listen to her.

A tiring day but highly recommend a day trip to Waiheke Island for anyone visiting Auckland. Oh and get a day bus pass instead of renting bikes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cold welcome in Auckland, New Zealand

June 12th, 2016

Having crossed the international date line on our way to Fiji, we reach Nadi on Sunday morning. The weather was amazing but we were quite surprised by the condition of the Nadi airport. The airport is small (only 8 gates), quite old, and tasks are non-automated (e.g. each transit passenger’s ticket was verified in-person prior to security…therefore slowing the transit process). On a good note, the country is spending about $100 million on the airport renovation. We rested for 2 hours and enjoyed some coffee before boarding our flight for Auckland, New Zealand.

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Layover in Nadi airport in Fiji

The 3 hour flight to Auckland went by quickly especially having witnessed some magnificent views of the pacific. As soon as we landed in Auckland, we sprinted our way to the immigrations in hopes of making it quickly to the city. New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere and we were therefore welcomed by some cold weather (50-60 degrees Fahrenheit) in the month of June. Yes we have been spoiled by the California weather now.

We opted for SuperShuttle (shared cab) instead of local transport or taxi. The ride to the hotel took about 30-40 minutes and we soon realized how small the country is. The roads were not too busy and you don’t see too many people (though we were told that was most likely due to the cold weather). Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city is home to about 1.5 million people and accounts for about 30% of the country’s total population. We stayed at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbour hotel in Auckland and highly recommend the hotel for anyone planning a visit to Auckland. The modern and vibrant hotel is located right next to the Viaduct Harbour in the heart of the city with a plethora of restaurants and bars.

After a quick shower, we made our way to the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower, a telecom tower stands at 1076 ft. and offers magnificent views of the city from the observation deck. The tower also features the “SkyJump”, a guide-cable controlled jump from the observation deck. As much as we wanted to do the jump, we decided against it for reasons to be revealed later. We grabbed some local ice cream (Black Doris Plum & Creme Fraiche) from the Sky Lounge and enjoyed the views of the city from the deck. Few minutes after sunset, we headed back to the hotel. We ended the day with dinner at a Thai restaurant in the Viaduct Harbour. Auckland is very diverse and people from the Indian sub-continent region account for a little more than 10% of the city’s population. It is therefore not surprising to see an Indian restaurant in every other block.

And finally time for the much awaited vacation

June 10th, 2016

The day we had been anxiously waiting for some time finally arrived. As expected, we were scrambling until the last minute to pack and get on our way to the Los Angeles airport. We finally managed to leave and reached the airport well in advance (very unusual for Sanchit). We started things out in the right manner with some wine tasting at the airport before boarding for our 11 year flight to Nadi (pronounced Nandi), Fiji. 

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Wine tasting at the Los Angeles airport prior to boarding

As we make our way over to the gate, we are immediately greeted in true Fijian fashion with smiling faces and a greeting of Bula, which we later learn means welcome. The flight hostesses are dressed in colorful dresses, the seats have pretty coral pillows and blankets and we already feel like we are in Fiji. We get to our seats and take an obligatory selfie on the plane and that marks the start of our long awaited vacation.

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Flight Path –> Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji

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Time to Check-in…

June 9th, 2016

As always, Google has been kind enough to remind us of the upcoming trip. It is hard to believe that we have already been married for 6 months and it is finally time for the much awaited trip. With me traveling back home from Charlotte on Thursday night and Akshita working long hours on the rotation, packing on Friday after work will be fun right before our flight Friday night!!

Check-in