No trip is complete without a little unplanned adventure. After a few days in Fiji we'd heard about the Kings Road that loops around the North end of the island. The road is longer than the Queens Road to the South and until it's completion a few years ago (paved roads and bridges) was a difficult drive, even with a 4WD. Obviously we decided it was for us. The roads everywhere else we'd been had seemed quite good and we had no issues with road signs and directions so we loaded up the Camry with snacks and surfboards and set off North from Suva to see what we could see, feeling grateful that the road was now available to tourist with 2 wheel drive vehicles.
The road is stunning. Steep, lush green mountainsides running down towards blue water. Villages every few miles full of colorful houses, a gentle breeze blowing laundry on the lines, and kids running around doing whatever kids everywhere do all day. We couldn't have been more happy. About an hour in the road forked and we opted for the right turn that led to the coastline instead of the interior passage. It looked a bit longer, but otherwise we couldn't tell any differences in the roads on the map - both looked like major highways. A third of the way in the road became a well-maintained dirt road, not unusual, but we kept on as it was driving just as well as the paved highway had been.
Gorgeous scenery on the drive
A few villages, bridges, and curves later we came down a mountain that was as rough as anything I've seen still labeled a "road". No huge potholes, no mudslide, all in all way easier to travel than many roads in many other countries, except for the grapefruit and soccer ball sized rocks that appeared out of nowhere. A few banged the underside of the car and we quickly decided forward was the way because we didn't think the little car would love sliding back up the hill. Three more hills and it was clear that was the wrong choice. Nearly 3/4 of the way to our destination we came to a steep mountain pass covered in loose gravel and much larger rocks and made it only a few feet up before the wheels spun out and the car stopped. We backed her down the hill and got up speed, turning the wheels steadily until they finally bit in halfway up and the car flew forwards. We had to slingshot around a corner, racecar style to not get stuck near the top but the ol gal did fine. A few bangs to the bottom but a quick check showed nothing wrong.
The road got worse. And more narrow.
We finally peaked the mountain where the road turns in to meet up with the first main highway and pulled over. The back left tire was flat, the inside wall completely shredded. While pulling out the spare I notice a smell that hadn't faded and went to the front to see oil rapidly spilling down the slope. Not good. We changed that tire faster than you can say Bula! and flew down the road to get as close to town as possible before the oil was gone and we could go no further. This was marginally successful. The tow truck should be here in 4 hours, then it's a 3ish hour tow back to Sigatoka where hopefully a bus will still be operating to haul us back to a hotel. For now, time to eat a pinapple.
Home for the afternoon
Today I've eaten:
Banana & peanut butter: 1
Breakfast crackers: a lot (not just for breakfast anymore!)
Pinapple: Most of it
Fast Forward 24 Hours
A lovely man drove by after a few hours and took us to the nearest town (convenient store) to meet tow truck driver Raj. By 10 pm we were back at the car hooking her up in the dark and moving towards town. Raj didn't know this half of the island and took the long way back around. Seriously, long. At 2 am we begged out of the towtruck in Nadi (he still had to drive 2 hours to Sigatoka. No clue why he didn't take the direct road) and I must have looked pretty beat up because the guy at the hotel gave me ½ price and checkout at 3pm the next day! Unbelievably thankful for the friendly, kind Fijians we met this day. Two of the guys who worked at the Rendezvous Surf Camp came to scoop us up and after a pit stop for fried rice we were at the surf camp staring over the great blue towards Cloudbreak.
I know what you're thinking. Silly American Tourists having not checking out the roads beforehand and going where you shouldn't go. Right and wrong. We asked many many people for directions and found out later that roads can be subject to rapid change. Moral of this story: Don't always believe what you hear and always turn around!