As we reported in
our last blog the formalities were a bit protracted here in Fiji, but the people
who conducted them were just charming. Here are Maria, the customs officer and
Joel, the immigration official.
In the background you can make out the Agriculture
Officer drifting upstream as the boatman tries to mend the outboard!
Savusavu is a small one street town but with just about
everythng on hand that we could need. The yacht club is rather smart, converted
from an old copra shed to house a good restaurant, a pizza place, a bijou dress
and jewellery shop, an estate agent that also runs car hire, a gallery, internet
cafe (internet not often working) and even a small chandlery.
This is downtown Savusavu.
Once we had finished all
the paperwork and done some shopping we hired a car for the day and drove right
across the island to the main town of Labasa (pronounced Lambasa). The journey
across the island was interestingly varied, with coconut plantations and
subsistence farms on the wetter south side, pine forests higher up and sugar
cane fields on the drier north coast.
Typical landscape on the south side.
Higher up you could be in Scotland - the indigenous
hardwoods have been replaced by conifer forests which are used for building,
fencing etc same as UK.
Sugar cane wagons awaiting the
a large Indian population that is concentrated in the larger towns and in sugar
producing areas, they now work in and manage the sugar industry here. They were
brought across as indentured labour by the British in the late 19th century.
Unsurprisingly the locals were not very interested in working in the cane
fields, their needs being met by their fishing, horticulture and animal
husbandry; food here just falls from the trees, sprouts from the ground or is
plucked from the sea. Good old British exploiting someone else's land again to
satisfy the sugar market and interfering with the natural balance of the
country! On the whole, as a visitor to these islands with little time to
experience the nitty gritty of street politics, there seems to be little in the
way of racial tension between the groups. The indigenous Fijians are easy going
and gentle people, however, they are very worried about the erosion of their
culture which they see as being driven out of the two major islands and relying
on the numerous smaller islands where they can follow their more traditional way
of life. Those who are up on current affairs will know that there have been
military coups in the past, so clearly not everything is as rosy as it seems,
certainly not in political circles anyway. The problem is that the Indians are,
as elsewhere, hard working and keen to get on. Consequently they are the
entrepreneurs and business men of the island and also therefore the wealthier.
Most Fijians remain peasant farmers and fishermen although it would seem there
is positive discrimination in the civil service as all the officials we met were
It was a Saturday morning when we went to Labasa and the
place was alive with people.
We had a good lunch in a local cafe . This meal is
called mitt nama. The green bubbly vegetable is a sea weed,similar to samphire
that grows at the water's edge and it was mixed with coconut milk, onion,
chopped tomatoes and fishy bits. Served with big chunks of cassava instead of
bread it was delicious and cost about £1.60 each!
The market was in full swing and we bought some fruit
and vegetables from the many stalls.
We also bought some of these twiggy looking roots. They
are yaqona, which is the raw material for making Kava and are by far the most
expensive produce in the markets. Kava is a mildly relaxing drink that the
locals use whenever possible. However, it also has symbolic importance and
yachties are expected to present bundles of the root to the the head man of any
village that they anchor near. This is accepted during a short ceremony called
'Sevusevu' when the yaqona is formally blessed and one is then allowed to become
a temporary resident of the village, with the same rights as the locals e.g. to
fish or to swim in their waters.