Category: Fiji

Travel Insurance and not so natural disasters

I renewed our annual travel insurance policy today.

As we went abroad three times and had three breaks in the UK in 2013 an annual policy makes financial sense to us.

This time I was offered ‘additional cover’ for unknown or unpredictable occurrences.

I asked the agent, does that cover stuff like getting stranded in Majorca when a volcano erupts in Iceland.? Yes he said, that is what we usually give as an example. And being evacuated from an island in Fiji because of a cyclone? Er yes. And what if there is a civil uprising in the country you plan to visit and you can’t go? Um, yes. Ok then, I will take that extra cover as all of those have happened to us.

I am not sure he believed me. And I never told him about the two earthquakes in Turkey or nearly getting struck by lightning. Also in Turkey.

And still we got insurance cover.

Lots of reasons not to travel (see reasons not to travel). Many more to Go travelling while you can.

Not buying it – a winter coat

If I had been in need of a winter coat there are some fantastic bargains out there. Not in the sales but in my local charity shops.

Last week I spotted what appeared to be a brand new beautiful camel wool and cashmere Mark and Spencers coat at £15 and an Eastex coat, probably last season, for a tenner. Both of these coats would retail at well over £100 if not more.  I nearly faint at the price of clothes when I go into Birmingham as it has been such a long time that I have bought anything new or not on sale. I cannot understand how people can afford to buy a new winter coat every year or why they would need to.

If I were not, not buying it I would have been tempted by the camel coat as it was such a bargain. But I don’t need one. I have plenty of coats. One for every imaginable occasion.

And for unimaginable ones too. A cyclone in Fiji? No problem, I have my trusty £5 bargain kag in a bag. The most useful item of clothing on my world trip. More about this here.IMG_7742

And I already have one camel coat I never wear as I am afraid it will get dirty. That was my TK Maxx bargain 6 years ago and based on a cost per wear ratio the most expensive at £50. It is a good coat for interviews though, I feel very grown up and sensible in it.

My oldest coat is 21 years old, and is now showing signs of wear. I call it my Scottish Widow coat as it is black wool and cashmere, almost ankle length and has a big hood. I was a pram pusher with another child at primary school when I bought it so needed a coat that would keep me warm and dry as we walked to school. It has now been relegated to being worn only in extreme weather conditions, yet this may be its last year (especially if I move to a warmer country). On the cost per wear ratios a bargain at £30, less than a quid a year.

I inherited a Gloverall Duffle Coat. Warm, practical, and who knew, Duffle Coats are back in fashion this year. Thanks mom, your overspending on and hoarding of high quality clothes will benefit me this winter. However the four Burberry Macs you left me are destined for another home via Vestaire.

I have the more glamourous Chamonix faux fur evening coat, for when I attend red carpet events or a spring lunch in the snow. (The second one has happened last March). This was also a charity shop bargain, £30, for a coat that retails at about £300. Cost per wear ratio not brilliant but it has been loaned out to friends and family. I may also be destined for Vestaire.

For days at antique markets I have the wool Cotswold Collection jacket, again from a charity shop. £10. DSCF1408

I also have one ski type jacket that I bought in a discount store in Cornwall as we were camping and it was raining. And a Jaeger dog-tooth coat, charity shop, not worn for over 8 years, maybe it needs to go?

I make that 7 coats and jackets. Is that too many? I would love to know what you think and share the secrets of your coat closet? And, have I, like mom, got the hoarding habit?

I really this not buying it year will be good for me, my purse and my wardrobe. What are you not buying this year?

Bula! Fleeced in Fiji

Have just been looking back through the notebook I took on my RTW trip for some writing inspiration. What jumped out of the pages were the words ‘I never expected to feel “ripped off” in Fiji by friendly people who cry Bula! everywhere’.IMG_7827 IMG_7980 I had forgotten that. Fiji is sold to you as the ultimate laid back experience. Which it is. The beaches, the sea, the islands are stunning. And most of the people we met were lovely. I had also noted ‘I have been told that Papanigi is Fijian for white tourist, I think it means cash cow!’

The Ultimate Lei or would you prefer a Lazy Threesome? IMG_7695We had booked a Full Monty package with  Awesome Adventures, to include transport, accommodation and all meals while we island hopped via the Yasawa Flyer. There were a number of packages available such as Tropical Awegasm and Ultimate Lei which I would like to think were thought up by an adolescent spotty boy smoking behind the cycle shed, but more likely to have been dreamed up by guys similar to the Aussie public school boys Jeremy and Josh who we met on a Hunter Valley Wine tour, in some trendy agency in Sydney. From memory we were on the Ultimate Lei as it fitted around our flights.  Having checked the Awesome Adventures web site now it seems some of the schedules of the packages have changed as our first accommodation was Nubua Lodge on Nacula Island which is the last stop for the Yasawa Flyer.

Wow, look at that, and that and that. IMG_7672 IMG_7670 IMG_7636 The journey there was wonderful, we went on the open deck and drank in the scenery. The flier drops off and picks up backpackers, locals and resort workers, stopping at almost every island along the way. There is nothing else to do but sit back and relax. And be entertained by the people jumping onto smaller boats with no seats to be whisked away to an island while the rucksacks are flung over the sea from the flyer to the waiting boats. I never saw one land in the sea but I do wonder if it has happened.IMG_7643 IMG_7644 Too old to be awesome?

Our arrival at Nubua Lodge was not the best, as apparently we were not expected. Lunch was to be served and there were no places for us, so we the old couple, were seated separately from the young backpackers and were made to feel excluded. The average age on this trip was late 20’s to early 30’s and on more than one occasion we were treated differently, as if we shouldn’t be on an Awesome Adventure. We did meet one other couple older than us at the awful non eco Korovou Eco Resort and they too remarked that at times they had experienced similar treatment. There are other more upmarket packages that I guess are deemed ‘more suitable’ for 50 somethings, and Awesome Adventures screams YOLO and young! Yet we were on a backpacking RTW trip and on a budget so 5 star resorts and dressing for dinner were not on our list. The not joining in table Our stay at Nabua got better when we met Christine (not her real name but what she introduced herself as) at one of the get to know everyone type activities that apparently we were going to have to endure at every resort. The need to entertain us at every resort with holiday Club type activities I thought only happened at Butlins never ceased to amaze me, yet we managed to cope with escape most of them. It is what the Papanigi wants from a holiday in a tropical paradise apparently. IMG_7755 Christine Chantelle, Phil and I very soon established ourselves as the rebels on the first night and later on a few other fellow travellers gravitated to our ‘not joining in table’ to escape the hokey cokey or conga dance being organised. And a good time was had by all.IMG_7743 Fleecing the Papanigi

As part of the package we had booked there were a number of activities such as snorkelling included. Off we go in the motor boat with a pile of snorkels and mask to explore the underwater cave. As we arrive the once charming Joe le Taxi boat man tells us it will be $5 for a mask and snorkel. No snorkel no diving so what to do? You cough up the cash. The day before I had struggle to get my bag off the boat without dropping it in the sea, carried it up to the main hut, and after lunch picked it up to take to the Bure we were staying in. A member of the island staff practically snatched it off me and offered to carry it all of 20 metres for me for a tip. WTF?  I had carted that backpack around California, New Zealand and Australia and I wasn’t about to find a tip now in a backpackers resort. On every island there was always an essential extra at $5 but the worst case of trying to exploit  the tourists was in the middle of a Tropical Cyclone.

Phil and I have had a faire share of holiday disasters, but this experience has been the worse so far.

IMG_7995 IMG_7993 IMG_7991 IMG_7987 IMG_7985 IMG_7984 We had earlier that day been evacuated from Bounty Island and experience that had resulted in a cut foot, severe sea sickness and a leaking boat with dubious sparkling electrics. To arrive safely at port was somewhat of a relief and all I wanted to do was check into my warm safe room at Smugglers Cove. The bus driver was not going to the resort, we were not meant to be on his bus that at that time, we were meant to arrive in the evening (hey mister we got no choice we were made to leave the island, there is a cyclone!). Except that I didn’t say that, I may have been a bit ranty and sweary. I was upset and had been really very scared for most of that day. To add insult to injury he said he would drop us off and his friend would take up to the resort for $5 each. I sort of exploded at that point and people moved away from me. Then I cried and got on the bus. Some lovely young Australian backpackers took me under their wings and kindly organised and to shared a taxi with us. I hadn’t until then realised how bad the storm was, Nadi was effectively under water, most places had no power so I guess the bus driver didn’t want to risk getting cut off and leaving the main roads. When I managed to check my email the FCOhad requested me to confirm we were safe. Yes, that bad. Reflections This is what I had written summing up Fiji. ‘Glad we had the two nights at Natural Resort, memories of that night on the beach with the bonfire with all the staff and tourists lying on the canvas and gazing at the stars blocks out all the horror of the last day and the downs of the extra $5 and fleecing the tourists’.

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9 reasons not to travel

Staff at the local travel agents will never recommend any where that they are going on holiday to me and my family. This is because they know about our track record for holiday disasters.

These are those I recall off the top of my head, in no particular order.

  1. Kalymynos: the sinking pedalo, when we are rescued by a speed boat
  2. Ibiza lilo adventure, when Tim floats out to sea and Phil has to scramble over a rough sea bed to save him
  3. Majorca: the Thomson Dream nightmare, planes are grounded because of a volcano and we endure a 48 hour journey home by boat and coach. The boat is over crowded and there are no cabins left, or so they tell us……
  4. Grand Canaria, thieves who stole a camera and cash from our coffee table, while we were in the same room
  5. The Hotel California experience, trapped in LA by Qantas grounding all planes in October 2011
  6. Florida, losing our 9 year old daughter in Church Street 
  7. Dalyan, an earthquake and a very near miss by a lightning strike
  8. Egypt Nile Cruise, the holiday that never was due to the coup and playing the waiting game to get a refund from the travel agent
  9. Fiji, evacuated from Bounty Island in a cyclone. This was the only time on our RTW trip that the FCO contacted us.

From: suvaconsular@fco.gov.uk

> To: coral
> Subject: Tropical Depression affecting Fiji

> Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 23:51:20 +0000

>
> Dear British Citizens,
>
> A severe flood warning remains in force for major rivers, streams and low lying areas of Western Viti Levu This has caused major flooding and has closed roads paticularly in Nadi Town and left both locals and tourists stranded.
>
> Should you wish to seek urgent consular assistance or know off any british nationals in need of urgent assitance please do not hestitate to contact us on the telephone number (679)3229100 or (679)3304746.
>
> In light of this adverse weather conditions, we will be grateful if you can confirm yuor safety and well being in Fiji. The Consular team would like you to monitor the latest situation on the Fiji Meteorological Service website: (www.met.gov.fj) or www.ukinfiji.fco.gov.uk for further update.
>
> Kind regards
> Consular Team.

Of course this won’t stop us travelling. Off to Dalyan again in 2 weeks time. The mission to take Mom to all the places she loved, begins.

PS just back from Dalyan. We had another earthquake. This prompted us to recall other holiday disasters….

10. The shoe bomber incident which meant we could not bring the wine we had bought in Kefalonia  back to the UK. We sold it around the pool and gave it to the reps.

11. The hurricane in Kefalonia that kept us in the hotel all day. I love storm watching so this was a treat for me but lots of moaning from others that they couldn’t sunbathe or use the pool.

Go travel. While you can.

DSCF2609

Last year (2011) I made a major decision to go travelling. I have wanted to travel to New Zealand for longer than I can remember. I had an old uni friend in Melbourne who I wanted to visit and wanted to see some kangaroos and koalas and Sydney Harbour.  My husband has always wanted to visit California and drive the Big Sur and slowly we built  a bucket list  round the world itinerary.

And we knew we had to do it sooner than later as we both had 79 year old moms who had had a few health scares. It was agreed that our children would update their grandmothers on our progress as we intended only to keep in touch on line. No phone calls. No post cards.

Despite having failing eyesight my mom was at the time relatively digitally engaged. She was on Facebook and used email regularly to keep in touch with friends she had made around the world on her own travels. So that she could still use her computer she had invested in all sorts of gadgets and software.

The mom in law, on the other hand thinks computers are the work of the devil. She also thought going off round the world at our age was a teeny bit selfish. It wasn’t. It was very selfish of us. That was the point. After 30 years of doing jobs that sometimes we loved, often hated, a combination of at least 7 redundancies between us (we stopped counting) living below the line when on benefits and bringing up two children, we decided that it was time to do something just for us. While we can.

So here’s the thing. If we had put off travelling when we did, because of all the excuses we had made for the past 26 years we may never have gone. So many travel bloggers say don’t put it off, because you have kids, you have a house, you have a good job, you don’t have a job, you are scared, you have a boy or girl friend who doesn’t want you to go, it’s not the right time, and they are right, none of these are good enough reasons not to go.

In July 2011 I was offered another 6 to 9 months contract in my job. If I had accepted I would have been unhappier than I could imagine, doing a job I no longer loved. I had achieved everything I had set out to do and needed a new challenge. I begged to be made redundant. I told my stunned boss that there was a plane ticket with my name on it and now was the time to use it.

The day I accepted my severance package everything else fell into place. The Melbourne visit became a house sit for 6 weeks, we found perfect tenants for the house, and the airfares were exactly the same amount as the enhanced part of my redundancy pay. So we booked our flights and did it, while we could.

Mom was delighted when I told her we were going. And actually she is the only person who, on our return, was genuinely interested in where we had been and what we had done.

In the past 3 months my mom has become more or less housebound as she has to have oxygen 24/7, can barely walk across a room without becoming breathless, has to have  a carer come in to get her out of bed and wash her and has had a stair lift installed. I could not go off on a 5 month round the world trip now as I want to be near to my mom.

Having a mom who is blind and wheelchair bound, is a reason not to go travel. Mom doesn’t want to be a virtual prisoner in her home she wants to be boarding a plane to go somewhere warm to escape the cold and rain in England. She wants to be in Luxor or Bangkok or Singapore or… well anywhere but home.  But that is unlikely to happen. So what she talks of now is a short stay in Switzerland.

So do it while you can.

This is my mom. As I know her. Not the frail woman I hardly recognise. Thank you mom for giving me the travel bug.

 

Round the world with my kagool

The one item of clothing I lugged around the world that I do not regret taking was my trusty kagool or kag in a bag. It was well used in New Zealand when we went on a wine tasting tour on Waiheke.  And whilst cyclone dodging in Fiji. We certainly got very wet on Kangaroo Island.

And here is the proof from the FCO that we were considered at risk in Fiji.

From: suvaconsular@fco.gov.uk
> To: coral
> Subject: Tropical Depression affecting Fiji
> Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 23:51:20 +0000
>
> Dear British Citizens,
>
> A severe flood warning remains in force for major rivers, streams and low lying areas of Western Viti Levu This has caused major flooding and has closed roads particularly in Nadi Town and left both locals and tourists stranded.
>
> Should you wish to seek urgent consular assistance or know off any british nationals in need of urgent assistance please do not hesitate to contact us on the telephone number (679)3229100 or (679)3304746.
>
> In light of this adverse weather conditions, we will be grateful if you can confirm your safety and well being in Fiji. The Consular team would like you to monitor the latest situation on the Fiji Meteorological Service website: (www.met.gov.fj) or www.ukinfiji.fco.gov.uk for further update.
>
> Kind regards
> Consular Team.

I actually don’t know how many cyclones we experienced while on our travels. We were warned about Melbourne and its reputation for Four Seasons in One Day. On Christmas day in Melbourne the hailstones damaged cars. Yet by the new year we were shutting down the house against the searing heat.

In Sydney Harbour and on the ferry to Manly it came in handy too. And in San Francisco, because when the mist rolls in, the temperature drops. I have of course needed it quite a bit since returning to England. It rained in every city we visited in Australia  even Perth, who had a cyclone on Australia Day. All good practice for this English summer.

Everywhere you go Always Take the Weather with You….

And a kagool kag in a bag.

 

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