October 12 – Suva, Fiji

Internet time’s running out. Haven’t had a chance to check e-mails. Much love to all of you. I’ll finish uploading photos somewhere else, when I find the next Internet cafe.

Oct 16 – trying again from Noumea, New Caledonia. Frustrating Internet slowdowns. Will have to try again from New Zealand in a few days.

October 12 – Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji

As our huge ship maneuvered past tricky reefs and sailed into port, the Suva Royal Police Band prepared to greet us with a musical welcome. Pretty much everyone else on the Fijian island of Viti Levu was in church or celebrating a holiday weekend.

We had breakfast with Fiona and Gordon, a couple from Scotland, and agreed to go in search of a van with them. The nine of us who negotiated with one of the local drivers did not repeat the homespun adventure of our visit to Apia, but we did spend the day in good company.

Thatching is a disappearing skill so this kind of home is no longer common
Thatching is a disappearing skill so this kind of home is no longer common

The thatched huts in the Fijian village of this photograph have pretty much been replaced by corrugated metal and wood siding in the other pictures. These photographs are from Fijian villages we passed on our coastal drive to Pacific Harbor.

Along the way we passed impressive banyan trees and lush bush where philodendron appear to be as successful at choking out other vegetation as kudzu in the southern US. Farm stands we passed had much more variety than the stalls we saw in the Apia market.

Road-side farm stands are common along the main country road
One of many enormous banyan trees that dot the landscape
One of many enormous banyan trees that dot the landscape

This cassava field is both a familiar crop and a sign of things to come. The Chinese government is building a biofuels plant in Fiji. When it opens in 2010, it will turn cassava into an energy source. I don’t know the ratio of energy inputs to energy potential with cassava so can’t comment.

Common look of a modern Fijian village
Common look of a modern Fijian village

Many villages are segregated along racial lines, but others are mixed, including the one where our taxi driver lives. He assured us people get along well in those mixed communities. (The same thing does not always hold true for government, and coups have rocked the island in recent years.)
Indian villages appeared more prosperous. They are inhabited by descendants of people brought to the island by the British to work in the sugar plantations.. Trying to avoid the abuse of indigenous peoples they’d witnessed elsewhere in the world, the colonizers imported Indian labour.

When the indentured servants completed three years of plantation work, they were unable to buy land or find good jobs. They had drive and ambition and eventually became the entrepreneurial class.

The western end of our drive was The Pearl South Pacific Resort. After passing through so many villages where people clearly use a lot less of the world’s resources than any of us foreign visitors, coming into the five-star setting of The Pearl was jarring.

The Pearl South Pacific Resort in Fiji
The Pearl South Pacific Resort in Fiji

Seini, the woman who kindly showed us around, was so welcoming we figured we needed to buy something while we were there. So we gathered around a sea-view table and enjoyed a local beer.

When the bill came, it was only 28 Fijian dollars for the five of us. The waitress translated that to $23 US. Considering that the day’s exchange rate was $1 US to $1.75 Fijian, the built-in tip was on the order of 75%.

On the way out we stopped to take a photo of the sign we’d spotted on the way in.

Coconuts are a serious cause of death on Pacific islands
Coconuts are a serious cause of death on Pacific islands

Our first stop on the return trip was the Pacific Harbor Arts Village. Mostly an outlet for crafts, as well as a restaurant stop, the village also offers glimpses into Fijian culture.

We were not there for a performance, but we did see fine examples of carved poles and roof thatching. We also saw a village-sized kava bowl. Robin has sampled the anesthetic drink. He didn’t care for the taste, but he attested to the tongue-numbing property of it. Drink enough kava and nothing much matters until it wears off.

Walkway in the Pacific Arts Village
Walkway in the Pacific Arts Village

What we experienced of Fiji’s Viti Levu island would not bring me back, but I’m well aware that we saw was a tiny glimpse of what the island has to offer.

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