Visit to Labasa
Pos 16:20.67S 179:18.69E
20130812 Monday – Shân
We have an early start eating breakfast en route for Malaw, the biggest commercial port on the second biggest Fijian island of Vanua Levu. There is a saw mill, gas storage facility and a Mobil Oil Australia storage facility. At the end of a long jetty there is a store which contain sugar bound for London..
We sort out, get changed and set off in the dinghy for the shore. The water is a muddy brown and shallows out quickly so we have to disembark into the disgusting water and drag the dinghy through the mud until it’s above the high water mark.
We arrive to find that there is an hour to wait before the next bus goes to Labasa, the biggest town on the island. We decide to explore first of all finding the village shop where young men either play pool or sleep on the top of the refrigerators! Small children cheerfully greet us from the veranda. We enquire about the possibility of a taxi but to no avail.
The village shop. Future customers
We carry on past the large storage facilities to the brow of a hill where we meet two men who have Toyota truck, can these two help us with a taxi. Success one produces a mobile phone and soon we’re told that there’s a taxi on its way. We chat and answer all their questions for the 15 minutes it takes for the taxi to arrive.
The journey into town is a blur as our kamikaze driver swerves from on side of the road to the other at a frightening rate over the partially made up road, more potholes than tarmac. The volume of traffic slows him down near the sugar refinery where trucks, trains, trailers, carts and every imaginable vehicle queues up to deliver their sugar cane.
We stagger from the taxi and decline his offer to wait for us! Spotting the Popular Tea Rooms and Restaurant across the road we decide to lunch before shopping. Bad decision, I eat about two mouthfuls of the stringy, cold, greasy chicken whilst the boys valiantly dig in to their beef curry and cold rice.
Didn’t live up to expectations.
As we leave Bob spots a shoe cleaner so joins the queue, he’s delighted with his 3.5 Fijian dollar’s worth, they look brand new. We amble through the Arcade to the New World Supermarket where we restock essentials before heading off for the fruit and veg market.
Just like new. Note Shans foot in the upper left hand corner.
The usual crowd of stall holders call out greetings as we pass by. They’re all so friendly. We buy two bundles of “waka” which used to make the “kava” for the traditional “sevusevu” ceremony on the smaller islands we visit. I still have this experience to come.
Kava wrap Tomatoes
Fully laden with our stores we take a far more leisurely taxi ride back to the port. This time we have the chance to see the men cutting the sugar cane in the fields, they harvest by hand, it must be back breaking work. Cattle are tethered whilst goats wander among the bungalows built on stilts in some of the mangrove clearings. Most of these are brightly coloured with well kept gardens, some on their own plot whilst others make up small communities.
Gosh horror when we get back to the port, our dinghy is high and dry at least 50 to 70 metres from the water line. Gritting our teeth we haul the boat through the ankle deep slimy mud then have to wade another 20 or 30 metres still up to our ankles in mud and knees in foul water until we get her afloat. First thing on board is foot and leg wash in fresh water. That’s better, now lets set off again and find a nice bay to spend the evening.
The long haul.
We decide on Vorovoro where mangroves reach the waters edge and there appears to be the remains of a jetty. Yes, you’ve guessed its snorkelling then lunch then more snorkelling. I stay on board to read because the boys are going out to the furthest reef..
Old Jetty New species?
Late afternoon we’re entertained by two women who appear from the mangrove to prepare their boat and set off fishing. They have no engine or oars; they use a long pole to propel themselves forward with skill. I don’t think they caught any fish though.
Just before bbqed steak we’re visited by a whole family who come to say “Bula, bula”, they just want to look and wave. We exchange names and they depart.
Ships that pass in the night.
Another adventurous day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.