Family time in Fiji

IMG_9117If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that recently my feed was filled with all things sunshine, palm trees and beaches. For our family fled the cold Canberra winter, and took a holiday to Fiji. Our first time to this amazing country, and one that we will no doubt return to again.IMG_9088 I managed to fill a whole memory card with photos, but here’s my best attempt at keeping our story ‘condensed’.
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The girls travelled really well – even when we discovered that the Virgin flight over offered no in-flight entertainment (?!) and the hostess would not even give me a pillow when Little J fell asleep on my lap (and therefore and so did my arm!). Thankfully the flight back with Fiji Airways was far more pleasant – with lots of entertainment to keep us occupied during the 4 hours flight.

After arriving in Fiji, we took a private transfer to what would become our home away from home – The Warwick Resort. Located on the Coral Coast, and a 2 hour drive from the Nadi airport.

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We were given a warm welcome, and the generous and kind hospitality only grew from there. I’d heard that the Fijians love kids, and this proved so true. Every staff member we passed greeted us with an energetic ‘Bula’, but the real warmth came when they interacted with the kids. For most often they scooped Charlotte and Josie up for cuddles or gave them a high five as we passed. Needless to say, the girls loved the attention!

IMG_9375 IMG_9156 IMG_8962It didn’t take us long to settle into a holiday routine. Generally I would get up before the kids, and take a walk along the beach. Most mornings I had company in the form of a dog (or dogs) from a nearby village, who were quite happy to trot along beside me as I explored the area.

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From there – we headed off to breakfast at the Buffet. A decent selection of all the usual breakfast items – with hot and cold selections on offer. Perfect energy for the morning ahead, which usually consisted of swimming and exploring.

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The Resort also offered a Kids program (for ages 2 and up) – which Charlotte LOVED. Filled with lots of activities – including fish feeding, arts and crafts, cooking classes, games, face painting and the like.

IMG_9085 IMG_9090 We usually ate lunch by the pool, where a Bar and Grill offered a variety of meal options. From burgers, to salads, or heartier meals for bigger appetites – there seemed to be something for everyone.  Washed down with a cocktail, or two.

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The Grill also had ‘kids meals’ – a lunch box including a hot treat (toasted sandwich, fish, chicken etc), plus fruit, vegetables, crackers and cheese.

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IMG_8992As Josie still has a lunch nap, we used the middle part of the day to rest and relax. Most days Charlotte fell asleep too, and we savoured the quiet time.

After lunch, however, the adventures continued.  We spent time at the beach, paddling in the water and building sand castles.

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Although Josie was too young to go to the Kids Club, the Resort has a Nanny service (for a modest fee) which we took advantage of most afternoons for a few hours. During this time Mr BBB and I headed off for a game of tennis or squash,  or out kayaking, and indulged in another cocktail in the lounges overlooking the beach.
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And while we certainly loved the resort-life, I couldn’t help but book a few extra things for us to do during our stay. The first was a horseride with Charlotte – something I had been promising her since her last birthday. A hut next to the resort had beach rides on offer, so one morning we did just that. An hour spent riding along the beach together, chatting with our local guide about all things Fiji. (ps. he was horrified to learn that we live 2 hours from the beach!)

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Another nearby business also offered a ‘Waterfall tour’ and a visit to the nearby Biausevu village. We booked this for our final day – and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We were collected from the Resort in the morning, and driven to the village, where we were met with big smiles, participated in a kava ceremony and language lesson.

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From there, we hiked up to the Waterfall (about a 30-40 minute walk), making 9 shallow river crossings along the way. Realising that the walk was probably a little far for Charlotte, we accepted the offer of a horse ride, and she rode the entire way up and back with a young villager – smiling the whole time!

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The waterfall was gorgeous, as promised, and we wasted no time in cooling off with a swim. We also feasted on freshly picked wild grapefruit and coconut.

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After our afternoon adventures, we usually freshened up and headed to the pool-side for a pre-dinner drink and to watch the beating of the ‘Lali’ as well as the torch lighting. This was definitely a highlight for the girls, who got to have a go at beating the drum.

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Then it was off to dinner. Some evenings we dined at the Buffet – which usually had a theme (Fijian, Tex Mex, Indian etc). One night we went to the on-site pizza restaurant, which was rather delicious, while another night we indulged in an enormous seafood platter at another restaurant on site – the Wicked Walu.

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Most evenings had some sort of entertainment on offer too. Be it dance and song demonstrations, or games on the beach, lots to fill in our time before we fell into bed to get some rest before doing it all again the next day.

Some other highlights from our trip?

* Watching the Fiji Sevens take Gold at the Olympics – particularly as many of the players were from a nearby village.

* Being disconnected from the pressures of work and home life, and spending some great quality time together as a family…
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* Managing to somehow miss the heavy rain from the week before, and be blessed with gorgeous sunsets over the water every evening.

IMG_9261 IMG_9217 IMG_9089 But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And it was definitely with a touch of sadness that we said goodbye to this beautiful country and made our way back home. Bringing with us, though, so many memories and a yearning for more overseas travel.

I’d certainly say that Fiji is a “family friendly” holiday destination, with lots on offer for all ages.

But a few tips we picked up along the way:

* Fiji time is definitely a thing. There is no sense of urgency, so be prepared to wait a while for meals and drinks etc.

* Reef shoes were really handy – as the beach was quite studded with rocks and dried coral.

* Snacks and drinks are available were available for purchase at the Resort – however they were quite expensive. Next time we would probably stock up with water, snacks, beer etc from a supermarket on the way.

Walk Canberra – Kambah Pool to Pine Island

IMG_0234Growing up, my family spent many weekends camping and exploring. My Dad would arrange various hikes and bushwalks, with every detail meticulously planned and mapped out. We’d often camp out overnight, carrying all the essentials for the few days on our back.

I don’t really remember what we talked about on those long hikes, or whether we even talked at all. Although knowing Dad, he would have been full of groan-worthy ‘dad-jokes’ and probably broken into song as we marched along.

I do, however, remember loving the fresh air. The trees, the wildlife, the peacefulness.

And while my girls are still quite young (and longer hikes are not on the cards just yet), our little family has really embraced living in the Bush Capital and its abundance of local trails.

Some of our favourite trails are quite popular (Mt Ainslie, Mr Taylor..) while others are a little more hidden.  Some are definitely kid-friendly, others not so.  And then there are some whose online information is quite out of date, or just plain wrong.

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So as a reference tool for myself, and also for any like-minded wanderers out there, I’d love to cover some of my favourite trails as we continue to explore this gorgeous Canberra region.

A “Walk Canberra” series.

Starting with – Kambah Pool to Pine Island

This walk is part of the larger Murrumbidgee Discovery Track – a 27km trail between Casurina Sands and Point Hut Crossing that runs alongside the Murrumbidgee River.  I tackled it last weekend by myself – as a bit of a reconnaissance mission to see whether it would be suitable to bring the kids along (my thoughts on that later).

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The skies were grey, but the threatened rain held off. And, on reflection, the overcast weather was actually rather perfect for this relatively ‘exposed’ trail.

I parked my car at Kambah Pool, with a view to being collected by Mr BBB at the other end at Pine Island. However, the walk took far less time than I had expected so I ended up doing an out-and-back walk / trail run combination.

Distance / timings

I should start by saying that the  TAMS website information for this walk  is rather inaccurate. It indicated the walk was 7km one way, when signage at the start of the trail (more accurately) confirmed it was 9.2km.

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The suggested timing of 3 to 4 hours (one-way) is probably too conservative and I think you could quite comfortably complete the one-way trip in around 2 hours (although I guess it depends on how fit you are feeling and how many stops you wish to take along the way.)

All in all, I covered around 8km out, and 8km back, walking some – running some – in around 2.5 hours.

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The trail

The trail itself was quite varied, changing between grassy paddock paths and rocky bushland sections. It was quite exposed in parts, which I imagine would get quite hot in the warmer months, so BYO water, sunscreen and a hat!

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For the most part, the trail was quite well sign-posted – with lots of the Centenary trail markers guiding the way. There were a few points of confusion closer to Pine Island, but it was more a case of needing to be vigilant so as to not miss the next marker.

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Another thing that confused me was the listed gradient, with signs suggesting the trail had a moderate to steep gradient. Perhaps I am more used to mountain climbing as I found the trail to be quite flat with only a couple small hilly sections along the way. Certainly nothing I would describe as steep!

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In fact, I saw more mountain-bikers than walkers – and quickly promised myself that I would return to also explore the trail by bike soon!

Highlights

A big highlight was definitely Red Rock Gorge – with a look-out a short distance off the trail about 2kms in.

 

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And the view when approaching the gorge from the other direction was pretty spectacular too – with the red-rocked cliffs seeming to pop into view out of nowhere!

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I also loved the old stone wall – which was apparently built in the 1860s to mark the boundary between two early rural properties.

 

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Another big highlight was how quiet it was. I crossed paths with a few walkers, a few more mountain bikers and one other trail runner. And aside from the hundreds of kangaroos I encountered, I had the trail pretty much to myself most of the time.

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Kid Friendly?

Normally when we take hikes as a family, I carry Miss 1 In the Ergo, and Mr BBB carries Miss 4 in a hiking backpack (for around half the walk, or until she decides she’s had enough). While I think this would be a suitable walk in terms of gradient / terrain to take the girls, I suspect they would lose patience pretty quickly given how long it is (an hour being their general tolerance limit). In saying that, I’m really keen to take them for a walk to the lookout (about 4kms return from Kambah Pool) and I am pretty confident that Miss 4 could probably walk at least half of it.

IMG_0263And, if all else fails, I think the abundance of kangaroos we will inevitably spot along the way should keep her entertained!

All in all, I really enjoyed this walk. It was quiet, well sign-posted and covered a lot of terrain variety. I’ll definitely be back – and hope to perhaps bike an extended version of the route too.

Kambah Pool to Pine Island – in Summary

  • Start? Kambah Pool Road, Tuggeranong (the trail is well sign posted as you enter the carpark,  on the left)
  • Distance? 9.2km one-way (18.4km return)
  • Time? Allow 4 hours return (moderate pace)
  • Terrain? Mixed dirt paths, bushland, exposed paddocks
  • Gradient? Some rolling hills, but nothing too steep
  • Difficulty? Easy / moderate
  • Mobile reception? I had mobile coverage the whole way (Telstra)
  • Water? BYO
  • Toilets ? At Kambah Pool and Pine Island. None along the trail itself (aside from the ‘bush’ toilet)
  • Bike friendly? Yes
  • Run friendly? Yes
  • Kid-friendly? In parts, yes. The walk from Kambah Pool to the lookout would definitely be do-able.