Friday, 26 April, Arrival in
As the 767 slowly descended towards the
above Fiji, we viewed flat fields of sugar cane along the coast and a
mountainous interior inland. We smoothly touched down at Nadi, a small airport,
which had air bridges, to my surprise. We had arrived in
My first impression of
Turning on the Echo radio, I found about
half the stations broadcasted in English. We heard the Fijian announcer in English
read an ad that praised a three-burner gas stove top. “It’s only $50.00, $10.00 down and $2.95 a
month.” I thought, “We wouldn’t
advertise something essential so cheaply, much less on a plan. This is a poor country.” A fifteen minute
drive on narrow badly maintained tarmac roads took us to our resort, the First
Landing, selected for its price $150.00 per night compared to other resort
prices ranging into thousands of dollars.
I felt disconcerted from my first experience with
Driving past a Mobil and Shell sprawling
industrial oil tank farm, I raised some of my reservations with Richard, my
thoughts fuelling my anxiety like petrol on a fire, “What have I gotten
into? Should I have selected a higher
price? Will we be safe?” I recalled
booking the resort eight months ago, six days accommodation for $900.00 with
breakfast included. I didn’t know until my checkout that the posted rate for my
room was $325.00 nightly. “Why does this
resort have no address, only
This was my initial introduction to
We stopped at a small
general store to buy coke. A hefty
five-metre fence topped with five strands of very mean looking barbwire
protected the store. The store itself
possessed heavy bars and mesh. “This is
a nation under siege,” I told Richard.
“The violence and crime here are epidemic.” Nearing the resort we followed a narrow muddy
road riddled with potholes. The entrance was worse, crawling at five kilometres
an hour around muddy chasms. I reassured
myself thinking, “You’ve been up since and you’re tired and stressed.
Tomorrow, you will see
When we soon reached the resort, directly on the ocean, I was overwhelmed, firstly by the immense out-of-this-world hospitality of the people. All the staff introduced themselves by name, and came over to talk. They offered to push the wheelchair, show us around, and outline activities. They speak Fijian but everyone speaks perfect English. Then we reached our cabin, about . “This is great, Richard,” I boomed, enumerating my list of desired features. “We’re directly overlooking the ocean, and we have a new spacious cottage of wooden construction with large balcony, thatched roof, and polished floor boards. There’s a fridge, ice, air conditioning and firm new king size bed standing at wheelchair hight for easy transfers. The huge bathroom is totally equipped for quadriplegics, and there’s a large modern spa for you, Richard.” A small courtyard outside the toilets allowed large bathroom windows to be left open in privacy. All access was suitable for wheelchairs with a flat wide wooden walkway outside the room near the sea. I looked forward to a relaxing six-day visit, so Richard and I celebrated success by wrestling polar bears with shots of Bundy and coke.
Leaving for dinner at we followed well lite groomed trails
illuminated by powerful gas flares which flicker yellow light surreally. We reach open dining areas under palm
trees. These overlook sand beaches,
being only five metres from the sea. “With a high tide, water would wash under
the dining area,” I commented. We
ordered local South Pacific fish in Cajun sauce, and a
Saturday, 26 April Exploration of Lautoka and Nadi
Richard and I got up late and enjoyed a
comprehensive tasty breakfast, in the open sided dining area near the sea. We listened to a Dean Martin CD while dining,
then relaxed all morning. At we walked towards the car to
explore the island. We talked with an
elderly German couple from
We offered Maroona, a woman employee with a
large pizza, a lift to Lautoka, and gained a guided tour of her town. “
[Speight was not supposed to lead the coup: according to hostage Poseci Bune, "There was someone else coming [to take charge], but he didn't turn up." But the voluble former insurance salesman proved an eager substitute. In rambling interviews, he cast captive Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his fellow ethnic Indians as exploiters and himself as a bald Moses. "I am the repository of the will of the Fijian people," he said. Inspired, young women wrote songs for him ("George Speight, I'm behind you all the way," ran one paean), grandmothers cooked special dishes for him, and unemployed youths rushed to serve in his private army.]
Driving along the narrow, bumpy highway, we
saw lots of large noxious black smoke belching from the backs of poorly
maintained diesel engines powering open windowed buses, the principal means of
Leaving the industrial
Leaving at , we saw that night had fallen and larger stores had posted all night security guards standing outside their doors. Our car was parked on a dark stretch of road, near a bus stop with two large Fijians. “Buela, can we help. This is very bad place. Many bad people found here. You get robbed quickly. We are villagers planting cassava.” I was nervous, thinking, “Are you the bad people intending to rob us?” As always happens when rushed and stressed, I got stuck trying to transfer from the wheelchair to the car. At last, we got away safely, thanking our unwelcome help.
Reaching the resort, Richard chatted with Saki, a policeman assigned to resort protection. He carried a heavy steel truncheon. “Only soldiers, special police have guns. Bad people use knives and machetes. I have a very dangerous job. I caught three young men breaking into a villa two months ago. Hit them hard with club, called for more police.” It became apparent that Saki was a little drunk. “Ok, grog not spirits. Don’t tell boss or girls.” As if it mattered since many of the other staff were drinking too. “Heart of darkness,” I commented thinking of Joseph Conrad. “The veneer of civilization is thin.” Saki told us being a policeman was a good job. “We sit in post and play guitar and sing. Singers make $7.00 per hour in the big resorts and all police wish to be singers. We wait for call about burglary then go out. We test for drinking by having offender blow on wrist, and we smell breath.”
Saki invited Richard to a church service in
his nearby village at 10.30 Sunday mornings.
“Lots of food, drink, we have big party.
Bring your friend in a wheelchair.”
“Should we go?” Richard asked me.
Some bad experiences while travelling made me cautious. I remembered being conned of traveller checks
Sunday 27 April Visit to a Fijian Native Village
We enjoyed a Sunday buffet overlooking the sea. Dean Martin again crooned boringly in the background. “What about Fijian music,” I thought. Richard left at with Saki to visit his village. The villagers are all huge muscular men and Richard felt nervous eying cane machetes against Saki’s small simple cottage, which was the size of our hotel room. Richard was introduced to the family in a simple one-room hut divided into function areas but lacking furniture other than bunk beds. Saki lived with his wife, son, his son’s wife and two grandchildren. “We have 500 people in this village, and have a church but not a school. If we sent a local member to be a politician, we would get a school. We pool all our money and the village provides food, houses and possessions. If we want something we request it from the village council. I earn $1.00 per hour as a security guard, $2.50 as a policeman. Money all goes to the village and an increase in wages helps the village, not me. Money is not important to us and we don’t need it to live. We grow and catch all our food. We don’t rush and we don’t worry about time or money here.”
Listening to this report, I later thought cynically, “Sure, money doesn’t matter. That’s why you asked Richard for Kava then later requested $5.00 for cigarettes and asked Richard to come back to visit and to eat again the following day. I suspect that Richard’s money doesn’t go to the village. This is a little example of Fijian entrepreneurship, a small tourist business and a classic illustration of Leon Festinger’s (1954) theory of cognitive dissonance. Money is so important that you cognitively reduce the real anguish of not having it by convincing yourself that it is unnecessary. Fijians are performing their own cognitive therapy here.”
Richard sat on the floor eating a special
meal of the best the village could offer. The food was served on the floor
using hands to eat, traditionally Fijian style, a small piece of steamed fish
and large serve of a locally grown soft white vegetable. Only salt and vinegar had been purchased.
They served kava juice, a special
head is affected most pleasantly. Thoughts come cleanly.
You feel friendly...never cross...You cannot hate with kava in you."
-Tom Harrison, Savage Civilization, 1937]
Villagers spoke good English due to a special government-retaining programme. “We are forbidden to drink on Sunday, “but since you bought kava, we drink to relax and dream.”
Richard was told that men provide food, meat and fish and plant vegetables. Land is shared in common. Saki told Richard, “Women care for children and tidy house. The old are respected, sweep outside and care for flowers. Grand children must respect the old. We don’t own a boat. The village has a net and all villagers tie it to their waist and swim in the sea for twelve hours. The net is designed so we don’t get pulled under and drown.” Kids giggled seeing the digital camera. They had never seen a digital camera or computer before. They shouted and touched Richard and seemed to him to be undisciplined. Larger bosomed older girls stayed outside the house and were not introduced. They asked, “Are you married? How many wives do you have?” Richard said, “Girls are beautiful. Could I make love to one?” This strange request was ignored. Asking about education, Richard learned that primary school commenced at seven years of age and was free. High schools charged, so villages selected only their brightest most motivated youth to continue their schooling. .
At , Richard returned from the village disappointed at his failure
to meet eligible young women. “I won’t
go back there, not unless I could talk to the girls. The kids are feral. I felt uncomfortable and
when Saki asked for gifts I was afraid to refuse. The adults drink non-stop.” Ironically, after Richard’s criticism of
their drinking habits, we enjoyed a beer at the bar. Ralph introduced himself. “I’m from
“How’s tourism?” I asked. Ralph replied “Speight’s 59 days of terror
killed the economy for years. The
clothing industry never recovered as people fled the country and employment is
still down. We delayed our resort
expansion plans due to start the day of the coup until now. The bank understood. Then, the American tourism business was
hamstrung by the September 11th terrorist
attack on the World Trade Centre, and crippled by the Iraqi war. We’ve been hit hard. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is
hurting us badly now and the resort is only 20% full. Americans aren’t flying and Air
“Why the crime?” I asked. “When people are poor they steal,” Ralph
replied presciently. “Seven years ago,
there was no crime. Chiefs ran strong
benevolent socialist dictatorships.
Teenagers were kept in the villages.
Now there’s no jobs, no money, no hope for the young to gain a
career. They sneak out and steal what
they want at night with their machetes.
Penalties are relatively light, robbery with violence that would fetch
ten years in
I asked about expansion. “We’re planning a series of villas directly on the shore backed by a second series of two story villas. We’ll add numerous private swimming pools, lawns, fences and BBQs making villas into luxury private homes on the sea front.”
Leaving the bar and Ralph, I then talked to
a friendly young biochemist with his wife and two charming young children at
the pool. “You’re legs broke?” Ben, the
five-year-old boy asked, eyes glistening from his pool swim. “Yes,” I lied. “I’ll be better soon. Where are you from?” “Lautoka,” came the Australian accented boy.
I then spoke to the dad, originally from
We wandered the grounds checking out other accommodation, cabins and villa, noting that most cabins were new and empty. Next, we attended the hotel supper under the clouds, a tender very tasty South Pacific fish. At dinner, Richard confined his sadness to me. “No women here, only tourist couples and all the hotel staff leave by bus at night. This place is dead and I’m bored and ready to move on right now.” “Not having much excitement, Richard,” I active listened, but, irritated, thought analytical assessments to myself, “This resort seems fine to me but I’m not intent on hustling women. When would Richard get another chance to stay in a tropical paradise? Here’s an example of someone unable to internalise a truly positive event and make themselves happy with positive thoughts by focussing on advantages instead of disadvantages. They see fortunate events as once off and temporary.” I ruminated on to myself, “I know Richard has a history of depression in his background and what I’m seeing is how it stems from a learned cognitive style of pessimistic beliefs, not from some chemical imbalance”. We both had an early night.
Monday 28 April A Day at First Landing
Dreaded two hour BT procedures commenced at 6.00 but went smoothly in the spacious well-equipped room, fine powerful shower jets were tingling my skin. Breakfast buffet was tasty, the breakfast setting placid, the sea millpond quiet, the sky leaden, air still and birds chirping from the trees. Mercifully, Dean Martin had left.
As I typed sitting under a shady tree near
the pool in the humid
On hearing Richard’s story, I wondered, “How would I feel as a Fijian earning $1.00 an hour towards the wealthy new Indian interlopers with their Hindu or Moslem religion, Hindi language, Indian food and education, who own the neighbouring fortified stores? Would I harbour a grudge having to pay them Western prices for essential products while I earned a miniscule Fijian salary?” No wonder Indian shops were fortresses and were looted during the coup, as were private homes of anyone with wealth.”
On his drive, Richard noticed that houses at the roadside burnt rubbish, as there was no garbage collection. He saw many Fijian men walking, sleeping or chatting aimlessly in the country. People seemed to have nothing to do. Employment was an issue here.
I read Wilbur Smith and slept away the afternoon. Richard wasn’t back at 5.30 when I awakened. I felt pleased being able to sit myself upright in the bed without a gooseneck with twenty minutes of flinging, rolling and effort. “Don’t go down that path of thinking what things were like before the accident,” I warned myself. “Focus on your success right now and praise yourself.” I placed the transfer board correctly between bed and wheelchair. The incline from the bed to the wheel chair cushion was too steep for my limited strength and I couldn’t push myself up it to the wheelchair. “Trapped on the bed,” I thought, “There may be a fire and this hut is all wooden. None know I’m here and I can’t get into the wheelchair to get out. This is a catastrophe. Richard might have an accident in the car and not return.” I felt a little uneasy as a product of these classical anxiety-provoking thoughts, but I recognised these beliefs for what they are, unhelpful. Now was the time for disputing erroneous thoughts based on factual evidence. “Be calm,” I counselled myself. “Relax. Go back to sleep. Richard’s got a good track record in driving and will return soon, safely and this place is highly unlikely to catch fire. Anyways, there’s scores of staff and other guests who would hear you call out and quickly help you.” My new belief was, “I’m fine.” I relaxed and rested 100% confident in my safety.
Richard, restless, had driven ten kilometres to Lautoka and was back at with his news. He quickly pulled me into my wheelchair, and we had a bout with a polar bear. He drank and said, “There’s loads of private fee-paying vocational schools advertised there, programmes for security guard, waitress, receptionist, computing, hospitality, accountancy courses and so on. I saw hundreds of the high school kids that were walking home in groups with packsacks at 3.45 pm, all wearing white uniforms. I felt uncomfortable in Lautoka. Everyone stared at me as I wandered through city stores for an hour. I passed a few thousand Fijians after struggling for parking and paying my parking meter 40 cents for an hour. There were rafts of parking agents looking for violations.”
Richard thought, drank and then continued. “Everything was available for purchase, in Lautoka, mostly Australian products such as TVs, and vacuum cleaners but at high prices. There are no whites around at all. I hate the way they hassled me to buy. The markets were huge, filled with vegetables at below Australian prices. The supermarkets were very small and simple. I found diet coke at last, two litres for two dollars but chicken was costly. Shops may be closed afternoons and open in the evenings. That’s when shopping occurs.”
Richard poured another polar bear and added, “I looked for service industries, beauticians, exercise clubs, nightlife, nothing, no massage parlours, brothels, social clubs, night clubs, nothing at all to be spotted. I was really disappointed. Maybe the wealthy use the resorts. I got hot looking at a beautiful Indian girl but there was no action. I bought Indian take-away for tea from a large Indian restaurant. Everyone is crowded and rushes in the city, unlike the slow country pace yesterday at the village. People are taught to work hard and be efficient. I noticed that it took hours for the shopkeepers to close all their screens and locks. I enjoyed a beautiful promenade along the beach before my drive back.”
We enjoyed two more sessions wrestling
polar bears, consumed Richard’s spicy tasty Indian takeaway and I was pleased
to avoid the one-hour wait and $70.00 combined fee, for the resort meal. We’d found service snail slow between orders
to the waitress, and the meal arriving, characteristic of the hotel restaurant.
“It’s their technique to sell more drinks,” I concluded to myself. Bedtime was early in preparation for
tomorrow’s eight-hour return trip to
I awoke at when a violent leg spasm upset my urine bottle and wet my sheet. This is a frequent occurrence in any quadriplegic’s life and the life of their carers. I’ve found it important to avoid thinking anger and anxiety provoking thoughts, “This is a catastrophe. I can’t stand it. I must be changed now.” These beliefs are a quick formula for a divorce. Instead, I try to minimize adversity by ignoring the bad event, saying, “it doesn’t matter, it’s inevitable.” I don’t relax and think, “Not a good thought, Don. Making bad events permanent makes one depressed. Make the adversity small, specific and temporary. As Edward DeBono advocates, think laterally of a solution.” I think, “Well, the accident might never reoccur if I use a longer towel to tie down the bottle.” Suddenly an inspiration hits. “Why don’t I strap the bottle with Velcro to my more stable right leg. Then when I spasm and move the bottle is still secure. I’ve never tried that. What a brilliant idea. I’ll try that tomorrow.” I sleep on wet sheets feeling happy and excited, reminding myself of the positives, “At least I can’t feel them due to my paralysis,” and thinking, “I’m so clever. This spillage won’t happen again.” [Richard and I used this idea for the remainder of the trip with a nearly hundred percent success rate, no more accidents. The downside towards the end of the trip was a badly swollen leg which I now know was caused by phlebitis from the tightly secured night strap.]
Tuesday, 29 April Lautoka to Suva Return by Car
We were both up after a poor night’s sleep
at . BTs consumed two hours, and then we finished
the buffet breakfast alone in the open-air restaurant, listening to natural
tropical birdcalls, much preferred to resort CDs. I transferred into the car for the 200
kilometres, four-hour drive to
There are areas of danger. The highway is the main pedestrian way in the villages not only for adults, teenagers, and unsupervised toddlers, but also for herds of unfenced horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and mongrel dogs. In the villages, roadside stalls sell fresh fish, tropical fruit, vegetable produce, and seashells and buyers back onto the road. Fijians all see empty cars as fair game for lifts and everyone in the villages runs out on the road to flag you and beg you to stop. “Hitch hiking is a way of life here,” I commented. Fijian drivers ignore rules, speed and frequently overtake in blind corners, ignoring double white lines. You may find a vehicle in your lane as you round a corner, but slower speeds allow some element of avoidance. Alcohol ads are prevalent as are signs urging drivers to drink responsibly. Alcohol abuse and unregulated consumption of the cheap Kava relaxant are road threats in a country without machines for breath testing. White crosses warn drivers of the locations of tragic accidents.
The drive is scenic from the hills, with
sweeping views of pine plantation, sugar cane and farm country, and with
numerous vistas of the widespread ocean, the white surf roaring and pounding
sand beaches and palm trees bending like accordions in ocean winds. There is an anthropological curiosity
attached to the villages some with thatch constructed buildings, carved posts,
children running unchecked and primitive farming methods such as oxen pulling
the plough. There are numerous luxury
tourist resorts sprinkled like oases along the road, monuments to western
wealth with immaculate lawns, tennis courts, and stately buildings. I said, “My
agent warned me that most
Listening to a religious broadcast station,
Heavy tropical rain drenched the car throughout our trip back to the resort limiting photo opportunities. Richard drove non-stop from to in heavy rain, with me cautioning him to slow down occasionally. After dusk at we trailed a large timber truck overflowing with logs. I worried that one might fall off and hit the car and didn’t try to refute my belief with evidence that this was unlikely to occur. I was too spent to play mind games. To my relief we reached the resort safely, fought polar bears, consumed our takeaway luncheon meal for evening tea, and went to bed exhausted. We did strap my troublesome leg and we did try out the new bottle idea. I slept soundly, and awoke dry in the morning. The new technique had worked.
Wednesday 30 April. A Rest Day
Richard expertly managed two hours of BTs. Bad back or not; Richard knows the routine and does it smoothly. The procedure was in our wonderfully equipped bathroom, and a tingly hot shower followed. It allowed us a late breakfast, followed by a morning for me at the resort pool. Richard slept on a hammock. “First time in my life,” he told me at lunch. He asked me, “Did you really sleep in hammocks as an officer cadet on board ship in the Canadian Naval Reserve?” “Yes, Richard,” I’d recalled, “in the mess hall. We’d roll them up and make the room useful for dining and recreation in the day. We couldn’t sleep in daytime, but stood four-hour navigational watches at night. I’ve never been so tired. I hated the sea and puked incessantly. What an irony, Richard,” I added. “I’d joined the navy to learn the skills to sail a yacht around the world. That’s a goal which I didn’t mind losing when I became a quadriplegic.”
I continued to meditate to myself silently, thinking, “What I really got from the navy was succeeding in the face of physical and academic challenge. Many cadets quit, having a low tolerance for frustration, unable to handle the unending discipline, the sleep deprivation, exams, long enforced runs, and being continually hazed by the officers. Graduating as a commissioned officer was like leaping a hurdle in a race, just one of many in my life, not as important as graduating from university, or succeeding as a high school teacher. Yet meeting challenges and beating them helped to build my esteem and confidence to clear the highest hurdle in the race, the hurdle of quadriplegia.”
I then gazed at a calm sea that wouldn’t
upset any stomach. I felt appreciation for being on terra firma, I watched the
boats on the horizon, but did not wish to be there. I absorbed a satisfying awareness of being,
of the present, of being at peace. I felt
and loved the caress of a gentle tropical breeze, heard the gentle lap of waves
and melodious twits of birds and felt excited at the prospect of writing on my
laptop all afternoon. This, for me, was
A visit by an Indian accountant interrupted
my reveries and made me wonder to myself, “Why do Indians here have the
privileged positions?” She asked me a
question, “Do you want to check out at tomorrow or extend until , at $167.50, half the room
rate posted for 302, of $325.00.” I promised an answer tomorrow morning but
negotiated $75.00 for a room extension.
I contemplated on having paid $900.00 for our lovely six-day
sojourn. I’d booked in September 2002
and 302, our room and the others with ocean frontage, were built in early 2003,
this year. The other room for
handicapped clients, 207, was older, with access ramps, and was well away from
the water, hidden at the back of the resort.
It was far from the dining rooms, in insect filled thickets. I told Richard excitedly, “They’ve upgraded
our accommodation, free, to the ocean view of room 302, probably because of low
numbers and the need to renovate 207.
What incredibly good luck. I remember when I paid $2000.00 to stay at
the Radisson Hotel for a week in a small room, lacking a disabled equipped
As I closed my laptop, Richard returned at , wearing a lugubeous expression. He had bought large servings of Indian curried food and king brown Fiji Export for $7.50 each. We eat and drank our fill of the spicy food, throwing much away. Refreshed, I asked him to tell me about his trip.
“It took me forty minutes driving back
streets to find the laundry,” Richard said, “a laundry, not coin wash
Laundromat, and they wanted $25.00. I
suggested twenty dollars and they ignored me.
I fought to get a
completion date.” Richard drank beer and
added, “I filled in three hours
wandering the city looking for take-away.
The rain poured down in buckets for an hour. There’s no restaurants,
coffee or cake shops. Everything is small, ugly, covered with flies, and filled
with cigarette smoke. I found the humidity, pollution and smog from diesels
intolerable. Everyone greets me and tries to talk. One guy wanted my shoes.
It’s draining. I met only one white
couple.” I empathised and recalled a
similar experience during my circumnavigation of
Richard continued his story as we switched to bourbon and coke. “There’s rusty fenced off engineering works everywhere and no place nice to go. On the beachfront, homeless vagrants, drinking Kava, accosted me. I talked to a few people and took photographs in the largest market. It sold only fish and vegetables. I was warned not to give my camera to any one, as they would run off with it. As I drove, I learned that Fijian drivers all proceeded through red lights when the way was clear. They blew their horns cacophonously and continuously, when I stopped and waited for a green light. I wished I were back at the resort and I couldn’t wait to get the laundry and return here.”
We prepared for bed early, in preparation
for a thirteen-hour flight across the International Date Line to
Thursday 1 May Flight
The last day prior to leaving is a day of packing, planning and anticipation. After our morning buffet, I spent three hours near the pool. At 1.00, Richard and I decided to drive the highway east of Lautoka. The road is less well maintained than the Lautoka-Suva link and after thirty minutes of potholes, we turned back, and reached the hotel at 2.30. As we drove into the hotel, he grew angry because his friend Saki, the security guard, turned his back to Richard. This was odd behaviour in a luxury resort where staff is obsequious; Richard explained the behaviour in a vitriolic diatribe. “You can’t trust Asians. When they think they can’t use you up any more, they stab you in the back. They are the most racist people on earth.” I saw the irony of Richard’s explanation, and noted its fit into the pessimistic model of attribution by being both pervasive and permanent. Many of Richards’s explanations of adversities, I was finding, were pessimistic in nature. Apparently, Richard had encouraged Saki to bring some girls back to the resort and Saki had taken umbrage.
I rested two hours, settled by hotel bill,
and as sunset coloured the South Pacific waters, we headed off to Nadi airport. The rental car was refuelled at $1.30 a litre
and returned to Thrifty Rentals by . Baggage was checked and
we waited three hours in a crowded gate for the flight to
Friday 1 May
Having crossed the International Dateline,
we had added a day. Reaching the
I remembered my last experience getting a
Emerging, at last, from the airport, I
ordered a wheelchair cab, through the cab manager, which to our relief arrived
promptly, and within ten minutes we reached the Quality Hotel on Century Blvd. I had chosen this hotel for its low Internet
rate at $116.00 Australian per night, booked via Lastminute.com, a discount
hotel service. I was pleased that my
rate was $60.00 below the posted rate, but was sad to see an unusable
bathroom. We wandered near the hotel,
noting window bars and security cameras on some of these American homes. By I turned in, skipping supper, an early night to get up at tomorrow to catch the
Saturday 2 May
As Richard pessimistically commented,
“Airline flights are both boring and exhausting. I see why personalities quickly weary of air
travel.” BTs used two hours, from
to without the
benefit of a shower, since the bathroom only contained a tub, not wheel-in
shower. By we checked out, and caught a taxi to the airport.
After ticketing our bags, we experienced the American security check
The flight was packed. We noted the proximity of
I spoke to a bellhop, following a quick
registration, notable for a hotel with 4,000 rooms, the fifth largest ion the
world. “This hotel is the second largest
in Vegas,” he told me. “
Leaving the Adventure Dome, we walked for ten minutes to the free circus display offered by the hotel. It occurs for ten or fifteen minutes every hour and features some of the earth’s best and most skilled performers. We watched a skipping rope routine in which performers, balancing three high, on each other’s shoulders, were jumping a rope. In another balancing routine, an acrobat on a narrow board held by two muscular men on their shoulders, was thrown five metres into the air, completed numerous flips and landed again agilely on the board. We wandered through the immense casino, one of a number in the building. The buffet hall was immense, with colour coded waitresses and radios used to guide us to our section. Richard with his usual lack of directional sense lost the location of the table, after going to fetch food. “It’s over here, somewhere, I think.” The meal offered a large range of basic American foods, ham, beef, turkey, salads, large drinks counter and comprehensive sweets. Overwhelming really. Stuffed, I retired to our room to relax at .
Sunday 3 May
Our flight from
We waited two hours for the flight,
allowing time to pick up a bottle of duty free Canadian Club, purchase a
paperback, and lunch at Burger King. The
transfer from my wheelchair to the aisle chair was difficult, simply because
the male attendant was very weak and was unable to access any assistance. “There’s nobody but me,” he groaned. “I got to do this.” In the aircraft, a high lift over the airline
seat was required. The lift nearly
killed him, was uncomfortable and anxiety provoking for me, and required
Richard, for the first time on this trip, to risk his back and genuinely lift
my heavy legs. In most transfers, two
airport personnel lifted both my legs and under my arms. I slept the three-hour Air
As we flew into
Dr George Pugh, my brother and his wife Pat
and three children live in
End of Chapter 3