Family take their chances and head into storm

GETTING CLOSER: Cyclone Evan nears Fiji as seen in this latest photo from Samoa Met Service.
GETTING CLOSER: Cyclone Evan nears Fiji as seen in this latest photo from Samoa Met Service.

Cyclone Evan bent palm trees like they were twigs, ripped off roofs like they were made of cardboard, and sent furniture, barbecues and even the odd car whistling around like they were feathers in a zephyr.

It also put the frighteners on a normally happy-go-lucky collection of mainly Australasian holidaymakers in Fiji to enjoy a spot of pre-Christmas sun and fun.

Don't call me Fiji bitter, but this wasn't what I signed up for.

When we left Auckland for the idyllic peninsula of Denarau, just out of Nadi, on Saturday morning we knew well enough we were flying, quite literally, into a cyclone.

But what are you going to do? The airlines do not tell you not to go, the hotels don't offer to refund your hefty, pre-paid accounts and your holiday time is already booked.

So being the intrepid types - well, myself and my 5-year-old are, the wife is just easily led - we said to heck with it, we're going anyway.

When we landed, optimistic Fijians told us it would pass to the north, and all we'd have was a strong breeze and a bit of rain to contend with.

"Not like Samoa," they said with knowing looks.

Then as the hours ticked by, it became apparent that Evan had a mind of his own and was headed a lot closer than had been expected. When they started taping up all the windows in the resort, we had an idea that this could be big.

Then emergency procedures were put in place. A curfew declared. Instructions were delivered to stock up on essentials.

The resort was put in shutdown from 9am yesterday and we were told to sit tight and brace ourselves. We were on our own.

Then it came. It started with a strong wind and wisps of rain.

Sort of like Wellington when the sou'wester is coming in.

But minute by minute the wind picked up, until it was something truly scary. The coconut palms were barely able to resist, bending, straining as they were stripped of foliage.

The rain picked up. The wind grew in strength, up around the 100kmh mark, and beyond. Metal and outdoor furniture started flying round outside.

Our sturdy resort was barely able to cope. Our room sprang leaks, the ceiling strained and when the gusts came, you could feel the building groaning under the pressure. We could only imagine how the villages were coping. At least we still had water, and limited power.

Worse was to come as the cyclone moved to its nearest point about 8pm.

All we could do was wait. And hope.

Maybe I should have known not to tempt fate so. My wife and I had spent our honeymoon in Thailand just six weeks before the tsunami struck. Then we holidayed on the Caribbean coast of Mexico just a fortnight after Wilma had wreaked her havoc.

Third time unlucky? Or lucky, when you think about how things could have turned out.

Fairfax Media