Levuka - Fiji's "almost capital"
This funny little town was such a surprise – we had to do a quick news flash about it.
Levuka is on the island of Ovalu in the Lomaiviti Group – a day sail from Suva. Its claim to fame is that for a time in the 1800’s it was the capital of Fiji before that honour was transferred to Suva in 1882. It was one the first colonial settlements in Fiji and many buildings and heritage sites have miraculously stayed in tact.
Like Russell it was a whaling town with more bars and saloons than you could poke a stick at – upwards of 60 hotels along the waterfront. Escaped convicts and debtors fleeing creditors in Australia swelled the throngs until it was said that you could find the reef passage into Levuka by following the empty rum and gin bottles floating out on the tide.
It looks a bit like a western movie set and has an amazing number if “firsts” for Fiji:
· First hotel – “the Royal Hotel” – built in 1860 and still operating (it has parrots but seems infested with mosquitos L)
· First public school opened in 1879
Fijis first supermarket - "MH" still operates everywhere today.
· First pigeon post – the pigeons provided the first postal link between Levuka and Suva. The birds took 30 minutes, and were considerably faster and more reliable than Fiji Post.
· The South Pacific’s first Masonic Lodge (by far the best story in town – see below)
“Lodge Polynesia” was established in 1875. It was burnt to the ground in the 2000 coup by villagers egged on by their church leaders. Local Methodists had long alledged that Free Masons were in cahoots with the devil and that tunnels led from beneath the lodge to the Royal Hotel and then on through the centre of the world to Masonic headquarters in Scotland!. People were apparently perplexed when they discovered after destroying the building that this was not the case J
As with all Fijian's - lovely friendly people - although they obviously have their share of ratbags who dont pay for stuff (see below) - but they seem to have developed their own system for dealing with this (interesting addresses and reasons for the debts)
Anyhoo – tomorrow – we’ll sail the 55nm to Suva where we will catch the last of the Hibiscus Festival. The attraction for us is the traditional sailing canoes (waqa) which only sail now in the southern Lau are racing. We don’t know how many will be there but we are hoping to see some of our Fulanga friends.
From there we will sail round the bottom of Viti Levu to the tourist side of Fiji – lots of sunshine, sandy beaches and dancing girls (and possibly more floating rum bottles).
Hope all is well in Kiwi land – Go the All Blacks!!! (The Fijians all want us to win not the Aussies J)