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Harry’s kept the air conditioning off and the windows rolled down. I sometimes feel a breeze as the car pushes through the heavy humid air, but it is mostly lost on me. Cross-traffic on the road has raised a heck of a dust storm and my once white and blue outfit is brown. I’m filthy. I start looking around at the inside of the car – it’s not that bad. “Do you wash the car Harry?”

“Yes, everyday.”

“Oh. I was wondering how you could drive these roads and have a car look this good.”

He laughs. “Well, here we are at Paradise Taveuni”.

I see the turn-off and the road sign that reads “Paradise Taveuni”. A sentry/guard walks out of the guard house and asks who I am. I give my name. He looks at a list on his clipboard, he nods, and I’m cleared through to Langley.

The grounds are somewhat in disarray. There are large piles of cyclone-vegetative rubbish along the driveway, waiting for transport or burning. I scan the surroundings and, well, the grounds look O.K. Sort of dumpy looking, but then again this is post-Cyclone Tomas, what should I really expect?

The car stops and a little reception committee issues forth, with a flower Fijian-lei and a coconut drink. “Bula Scott! Welcome to Paradise!” I smile, step out of the car and am immediately bedecked with the lei and drink. I take a sip and, after the long hot ride, relish the cold coconut milk.

“My name’s Star and I’ll be showing you around the grounds, taking your food order, and introducing you to Alan. Just follow me.”

“Great”, I say with a big smile. I love enthusiastic, happy greetings. I reach around to grab my stuff, but it’s already been transported away. “Ready to go!” I say (outloud to myself) as I catch up with my hostess.

Ten meters in, we leave the front yard and enter the backyard: the transformation is dramatic - from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. I spin a 360. The resort is on a small cliff, right over the placid ocean. There’s an infinity pool right at the edge, a restaurant/bar next to the pool, and beautifully landscaped grounds surrounding traditional, but modern thatched bures. Each bure faces the ocean. It’s stunning and not what I was expecting after seeing the “front”.

So, for those travelling here, do not be anxious about your choice of Paradise upon seeing the entrance. Just take a few steps into the inner enclave and be prepared for paradise.

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