Our Bus Trip to Labasa
At a quarter to seven the rest of the Stealthy Six, to be called from here on in – the Stealthies, arrived at the side of Beez, dinghy tethered, we set about the ten minute walk to the bus station along the High Street. We were greeted by Arnand our driver, who after taking two pounds from each of us said all we had to do was pull on his frayed string attached to an old bicycle bell above his head, if we needed to stop to take pictures along the way. The locals concurred and all agreed they were in no rush and this was a very normal thing in their world. The half past seven bus pulled out at twenty to eight, air-conditioning was all the windows slid open.
We were heading over the mountains from middle south to middle north of the island, leaving Savusavu with a population of seven thousand and thirty four for the capital city of the island – Labasa, pronounced Lambasa with twenty eight thousand, the Bollywood of Venua Levu.
Soon after leaving we passed the Police Station and on past a couple of posh houses........
.............and traditional villages.......
Out onto the ‘motorway’ where we saw many groups of schoolchildren walking barefoot to the start of their new week. The bus began its first steep climb, toward the top we all involuntarily wafted front and back in a Fred Flinstone movement, at the top we were met with quite a view of lush forest cloaked in morning mist.
Over our right shoulder we had a view of the Bay.
A couple of workers stopped to discuss what they were going to hack this morning. A group of college students.
About the half-way mark we stopped at a junction and Arnand gave time for the orange sellers to wander the aisle.
We stopped at a village well past its prime and later a pretty little temple.
Downward to the ‘dry’ side of the island the scenery changed and then turned to sugar plantations. This was the main trade of the area complete with rail line to take the cane the five kilometres to the nearest port.
A few rickety bridges later, Labasa appeared and onto the High Street.
Into the Bus Station. We had travelled eighty five kilometres at an average speed of twenty miles an hour from sea level to a highest elevation of five hundred and ninety eight metres. It was now twenty past ten and clearly it was time for a cup of tea.
We were soon settled in a very popular cafe and just look at the prices – a cup of tea thirty pence, sausage and chips one pound thirty and whole chicken for the princely sum of two pounds and seventy pence.
All the locals were so very welcoming and the waitress was with us in seconds. A two gallon kettle was seen swinging busily in the background and the hot cabinet was full of delicious looking curry, roti, ordinary chicken and the days special – beef stew. The boys tucked into meat pies that were a really good impression of a Cornish pasty. I had sponge cake, can’t really tell you what flavour it was but so light and moist.
Maj had a roll with a hard-boiled egg beside it and gave us all a laugh when, on taking her first bite, the yolk quite unannounced popped out and bounced around on her plate. Mary delved in the Lonely Planet and announced we were off in search of the ni bokola – the head chopping stone and the bowl-like stone in which fresh human brain was placed to be savoured by the chief. Rightee-oo then, and off we went.
ALL IN ALL A MEMORABLE AT-VENTURE OVER THE HILLS
A GREAT WAY TO SEE THE ISLAND AND MEET THE LOCALS