Saturday, July 17, 2010

Suva has a huge seaport, here is the Japanese fishing fleet tied up together in port.
We took the bus to Suva, Fiji’s capital city. Suva is on the other side of the main island, Viti Levu, from where our boat is located. The main roads on this island run around the outside because the centre of the island is mountainous. On the way too Suva we took a mini-van. All the upholstery in the van is covered in plastic as well as the ceiling, it is pretty weird, but I guess it makes the upholstery last longer. We went to catch the bus at the station and you just wait until the mini-van has a full load and then you go, when I say full, I mean FULL. Every seat was taken and everyone’s belongings were stuffed in so any spot that was not taken The bus station in Suva up with bodies was piled with boxes, bags and produce, one guy had a huge bag of rice. We felt like sardines, and we did not have a window near us that we could open so when the other passengers chose to shut the window you just suffered with the smell of perspiring bodies and the heat. That ride was direct, only 2 stops and it took us 3 ½ hours. On the way back we wanted to see the other part of the island so went around the north side and we had to take a bus. Road repairs, the same in any country.

This bus stopped at every little village where someone wanted to get on and off. We had more leg room and a window that we could control but it took us 8 ½ hours to get back to the boat. That was a truly marathon bus ride, we did not get back until after dark and had to change buses 3 times ending up with another little mini-van ride at the end.
Suva was an interesting city of contrasts. It has a lot of government buildings, including embassies from a lot of the Pacific Rim countries; we did not see a Canadian embassy. There are modern office buildings as well as a large 3 story shopping mall much like any you might find in the downtown of a city in Canada.

Then there is the market, a huge open air affair that just absolutely teemed with people on a Saturday morning. Here fresh produce is sold as well as fish, clams and edible sea weed. There is the covered section where there are tables in a big square the merchant works in the middle as well as other vendors that set up on the ground outside in the sun and sell whatever they have. There is also a handicraft market that I managed to peruse, one vendor was particularly persuasive, and I think I have my Christmas gifts purchased for this year. We also managed a visit to the Cost U Less a large no frills grocery store. I stocked up on items I had not seen anywhere else in Fiji, such as dried apricots, pine nuts (only 100 grams) and pumpkin seeds as well as the all important zip lock bags.
The Fijian population is made up of native Fijians and the descendants of the East Indian indentured workers that were brought here in the late 1800’s to work the sugar cane fields. Many of the indentured workers chose to stay here when there time of service was finished, they had much more freedom here than in the strict caste system that existed in India. They became the merchant class so as a result most of the businesses in Fiji are owned by Indians. We got into one taxi and had a good chat with the driver; he was of Indian descent and he was a 6th generation Fijian. We visited the museum in Suva and learned all these facts as well as more of the history of Fiji. That alone was worth the long rattling bus ride.
We plan to head to the other large Fijian Island, Vanua Levu in a few days , we will visit Savu Savu and perhaps head to the island of Rabi which we have been told has some wonderful diving spots.
This fellow was running around from bus to bus transporting luggage from the bus to a taxi or car. He decided to have a rest!!

The typical outfit of a Fijian woman, shoulders are covered as are the legs in bright boldly printed fabrics. In a coffee shop in Suva we saw the modern woman wearing a tight skirt, just at the knees with a blouse and suit jacket and 3 inch heels. I don't think it was an improvement.