For sometime I have wanted to travel to Suva from Nadi via the Kings Highway. Unfortunately the opportunity hasn't presented itself. However circumstances can change and before you know it you are travelling along the Kings Hwy to Suva.
Nadi Service Station the decision was made
We were checking the tyres for our journey to Suva via the Coral Coast (Queens's Hwy) and just as we were ready to turn right along the Queens Hwy, Gary (my boss) asked me if I would you like to go via the Kings Hwy instead? (Silly question) “Well this is the deal”, he said “If all goes well and we have a great trip it's my idea but if things turn pear-shaped it's your fault”!….I can live with that. So we turned left on the road less travelled. We were driving on familiar road till we reached Ba we had been there the week before looking at the beautiful gold jewellery.
Rakiraki here we come
The rain started in earnest now pelting on the windscreen, nothing was said but perhaps this wasn't such a great idea. Then the rain dissipated and a silent sigh of relief was felt. The road was honey-combed in some sections with potholes which is part of living in Fiji. After you get over the initial shock of the state of the roads in Fiji you just get on with it. It was Sunday and there was very little traffic on the Kings Hwy, most Fijians were at church listening to their Sunday sermon. We virtually had the roads to ourselves.The coastline was spectacular despite the dreary conditions; imagine what it would be like with sunshine and clear skies. The vegetation was lush and a vibrate green, sugarcane came right up to the roadside and gently swayed on the hillside it is stunning country.
Missed the turn for the coast route
Our intention was to stay on the coast road and turn off around Matawailevu Village, it would have been advantageous if we had a “proper road map” instead of a tourist map with limited detail. Before we knew it we were heading inland and passing through Rokovuaka Village it was too late to turn back. It had taken us 3 hours to get this far with the inclement weather conditions, so we kept going.The country was now becoming mountainous and to our right was a fast flowing and muddy swollen river that appeared through the vegetation. Looking at our limited map reference it indicated that there were sections where the road and river met. Up to this point the road had been a hard tarred surface with just a couple of areas of gravel. All this was about to change.
Dirt track – road deteriorates
The nice hard surface quickly evaporates and we are down to dirt track! With still a considerable distance to go suddenly everything turns pear-shaped. The road abruptly narrows now it's only one lane, with a deep ravine to the right and muddy brown water flowing rapidly below. The dirt track which is the King Hwy takes a sharp right and stretched before us is a long narrow one lane timber bridge; resembling something you might see on the Discovery Channel in the Amazon crossing some raging river with impenetrable jungle on both sides. The narrow timber bridge in front of us was frightening.
- No guard rails
- Perched high above a fast moving body of water
- Crosses nailed to the side where someone had come to a sticky end!
Gary negotiated the bridge… we had no choice it was too late to turn back. Two long continuous raised timber tracks the width of a car's wheel base ran parallel to guide your wheels across. The only problem was the timber bridge was muddy and slippery. The van couldn't get enough traction on the timber track and kept slipping off. So we ended driving over on a slight angle the passenger side seeing more of the water then I would have liked. I forgot to push record on the video camera, but I did get the next bridge. The next couple of bridges didn't seem so frightening, it's amazing how quickly you can adjust, but then I wasn't driving thank goodness!
The rest of the journey to Suva was uneventful
After our tangle with the timber bridges the rest of the journey was uneventful. There is upgrading taking place with overseas loans. Further along the road large sections of rainforest and hillside had been removed to make way for a significant upgrade of the Kings Hwy with a couple of large bridges already constructed. If you intend to drive to Suva via the Kings Hwy check before hand with the local authorities.
We travelled on a Sunday and all roadwork were halted, however if this had been a Saturday or weekday there would have been extensive delays. It took us over 5 hours to reach Suva; speed was down to 60km and below in some sections of the Kings Hwy.Talking to some residents who had negotiated the coast road to Suva, they said the views were breathtaking but the road was atrocious it was 4WD drive the dirt track was narrow and muddy, but what an adventure was the comment!
Catch you later…