Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flat out in Fiji

Vuda Point, Fiji Islands July 2012
So....other than analysing the political and economic climate of Fiji here's what we did.
Boat parking Fijian style

Vuda Point marina is a strange looking place. It's basically a big concrete lined bowl full of yachts. There are no pontoons between the boats and to get in and tie up you need to wedge your boat tightly between 2 other ones. Fenders are a must and everyone on the adjacent boats looks on nervously, fearing for the paintwork on their hulls as you squeeze on in. You then leap from your bowsprit on to a rickety wooden platform attached to the seawall and attach two lines to the wall. Your stern line is grabbed by a big guy in a small dingy who then runs it out to a mooring buoy in the middle of the bowl. This place is supposed to be a "hurricane hole", a safe place to park your boat when a tropical cyclone blows in. Looking at the tall seawalls, the narrow channel at the entrance and the chains lying all along the dock I can believe it. We arrived here in the evening and after stowing our gear onboard we headed for the marina bar. The great thing about Fiji right now is that their currency is low against just about everybody Else's  and things like a beer at a marina are not that expensive. There are 2 types of beer made here. Fiji Bitter, which we knew from experience is fucking horrible, and Fiji Gold which is actually not bad and in this heat very drinkable. It's 9PM and 27 degrees which was a welcome change from Auckland's winter weather. The problem with this place, we found out a bit later that night, is that there is no breeze to keep the temperature down and the mosquito's away. Our cabin is fitted with a fan which was a good thing. Once switched on it sounded only slightly less noisy than a helicopter taking off which was a bad thing. So you are faced with a choice of sweating like a pig in silence or listening to that racket but at a comfortable temperature. In the end earplugs came to the rescue....thanks Air NZ!

Vuda point Marina
Morning brought clear blue skies and hot sunshine. Looking round at the flags hanging off the yachts I can see that Kiwis are well represented here. Lots of Aussies and Americans too with a handful of Europeans, Canadians and the odd South African thrown in. And then, right at the opposite end of the marina I notice a tiny yacht named "Dolce" with the home port of Shizuoka on the stern. "Look" I said to Shizuka, "some of your crowd have made it here all the way from Japan!"

We headed to the nearest town for some supplies.  The marina has 3 taxis that are approved for the use of the visitors and they have standard fees so nobody gets ripped off. Our taxi driver was a friendly young fellow called Abdul who told us that he was trained as a plumber but makes better money driving the yachties around. Lautoka is Western Fiji's main commercial port and is dominated by the Sugar Mill with it's plume of smoke. There are large numbers of decrepit trucks piled high with sugar cane from the plantations of the interior. The whole town smells of sugar and diesel fumes and the air is thick with dust. It's a scruffy town but it's a lively place. The Supermarket was packed full of people dressed in very colourful clothes. After a few minutes cruising the aisles I noticed a curious thing. I'm used to supermarkets being packed full of stuff and for that stuff to be arranged logically in various departments. Not so here. I had grabbed some bottled water from the water department but 3 aisles over I came across another water department and then closer to the checkouts yet another water department. It was the same story with instant noodles....the same packets of noodles but displayed in 3 different locations. I guess they are trying to hide the fact that all they have to sell is water and noodles. If they put them all in the same place, it would be obvious but the way they are scattered throughout the store give people the impression of variety and choice. Next stop was the liquor store for some beer. While queuing up to pay for it, an old man very politely asked me for a dollar. Without really thinking about it I handed him a dollar coin. He thanked me and then left quickly. Right then I felt someone tapping my shoulder and turned around to find a Fijian woman behind me. "Don't give people money like that" she said. "That guy has big land in Nadi...he doesn't need money". The Indian liquor shop assistant agreed with her telling me that tourist's giving money encouraged people who are not poor to try their luck. I said that I thought he was very polite....unlike the beggars I have encountered in America. They were both rather startled by this statement. "There are beggars in America?" asked the Indian guy. I told them of my days in Tucson, Arizona where just about every convenience store car park has a panhandler with a hardluck story. They were both amazed to hear this information. As we were paying for our groceries, Abdul, who had been waiting outside in the car, came into the supermarket and started packing our stuff into bags and carrying it out to the car. What service! 
Lautoka Sugar Mill...smoggy but sweet!
Lautoka traffic jam
We then went to the Vodafone shop to buy a SIM card for my iPhone. The last time I tried to do this was in Osaka a couple of years ago and which lead to me wasting half a day getting nowhere with that simple task. Fiji is a third world country but it blows first world Japan away when it comes to being integrated with the rest of the world. We stood in a line for quite some time as everybody in that town had decided to buy a new phone or buy some credit for their old phone that morning. When we eventually got to the counter, it took less than 5 minutes to get hooked up with a new SIM and phone number. No stupid inkans and forms to be stamped. Just show your passport, pay the money and you're good to go.

By the time we got back to Vuda point it was early afternoon and stupidly hot in the marina. We decided that even though there was no sailing wind we were heading out to the islands. We loaded up the supplies and fired up the engine. Our destination was to be Mololo island and the cruiser's hangout of Musket Cove.

No comments:

Post a Comment