Monday, October 11, 2010

Fiji


Oct 11, 2010 – Monday - Suva, Fiji Islands – I set the alarm this morning in order to see our arrival in Suva. It brought back memories of sailing the SV Sequoia through the same channel in 2004, when I crewed the open ocean segment from New Zealand to Fiji with the Johnstons. This time my mode of transportation is a bit more luxurious!

Our arrival at King's Wharf is heralded by the Suva Police Band – they march up and down the wharf playing some very catchy tunes. It is overcast today, so it is not as hot as Pago Pago was (our previous port of call in American Samoa). I call my Fijiian friends several times this morning, but there is no answer, so I find my onboard friends and we go ashore together.


Ceremonial guard at Governor General's Mansion in Suva
We walk along the waterfront to catch some views of the harbour. It is Independence Day in Fiji, so most shops and offices are closed. We meet several Fijiian families who are enjoying the day off. We walk past the derelict Grand Pacific Hotel and take the obligatory photo of the guard dressed in a ceremonial uniform (including a sulu) who is posted at the Governor General's mansion. We then wander through Thurstun Gardens and see the Fiji Museum. The last time I toured this museum was in 1975. At that time, cannibalism was prominently displayed, but there wasn't a sign of it during this visit. When I pay for the admission to the museum for myself and my friends, the guy at the desk notices my "old" bills. I had saved them from my last trip six years ago, so I guess they have updated their currency since then.

Despite the cloudy weather, we still find the walk to be hot and exhausting. We stop in town to poke around the few shops that are open. A friendly Fijiian "sweeper" directs us to the shops that sell t-shirts, jewellery, and other tourist stuff. I buy a Fiji Bitter beer t-shirt for FJ$22 (CD$12). We also walk through Prouds, a high end department store, but buy nothing. After returning to the comfort of the ship, I head for the Sea View pool to cool off, and then grab some lunch in the Lido.


Fiji Police Band - bandleader waving goodbye
The Suva Police Band is once again there to serenade us before our 5pm departure. They have an incredible repertoire…not just marching tunes, but also pop and rock and roll! Their performance has to be one of the highlights of this trip. What a change from the last time I saw the band in 1975, when it was pretty ordinary marching band. I shot some high definition video, but I can't post it until I get to a high speed Internet connection in New Zealand.

Oct 12, 2010 – Tuesday – Dravuni Island, Fiji Islands – I was awoken by the anchor chain being released this morning around 7am. This is a built in alarm clock for our arrival at an anchorage since I have a cabin in the bow! I went up for a quick breakfast in the Lido, and they we took a tender ashore to Dravuni Island. This island is really idyllic: the broad sandy beach is several kilometres long, there are palm trees along the shore, and the villagers have their houses just set back from the beach under the palm trees. There is a walking trail between the houses and the beach, which is a common setup I remember from other tropical countries I've visited.


Brain coral & fish at Dravuni Island, Fiji
I snorkelled out about 50 metres and found a large brain coral that had grown to within a meter of the surface. There were lots of small fish swimming around it, however the water was a big cloudy, since there were some ocean swells this morning. I took some underwater photos of the coral. The Dravuni villagers offered all sorts of goods and services, including sweet (green) coconut milk, snacks, cold drinks, massage, boat rides around the island, and of course t-shirts, wraps, and other clothing. Holland America operated a tent serving ice water and lemonade, hand wipes and fresh towels.

I called home this afternoon as we departed Dravuni since this is my last opportunity to use reasonably priced shore-based cellphone coverage until we arrive in New Zealand a week from now.

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