Bus trip to Nuku village
Thursday 2nd July 2015
We set two alarms to make sure we were up early, and were ashore and ready and waiting for the bus when it arrived promptly at 8 a.m. The bus was a truck with seats fitted along the sides at the back, with a tarpaulin-covered frame for shelter from sun or rain, and we boarded along with several locals and some older schoolchildren, and off we went on our bumpy way. The road was a dirt track the whole way, and went up and down a couple of somewhat steep hills along the way. I soon copied the locals and planted my feet apart on the floor to steady myself around corners and held on to the wire mesh behind me to stop sliding along the bench when we went up or down a hill. At $1 each for the fare, it was better value than a fairground ride, and with stunning views of the coastline as well we had no grounds for complaint (though my backside tried!)
We arrived at the village of Nuku in one piece, and climbed a little shakily off the bus at the ‘terminus’ - two mango trees with benches underneath.
Pepe demonstrating the ladylike way of disembarking the bus. The bus terminus in the main street of Nuku.
Across the road was a low building that housed offices for the two Police forces and the Courthouse. We looked inside but could find no one at all.
Rabi Community Post – Police offices and Courthouse Inside the Banaban Police station – not too busy!
We wandered on in search of someone who could give us advice, and eventually met a young man who told us the Police officer was away off-island on a course at the moment and would not be back for a week. He said we should see one of the leaders at the Rabi Council and very kindly showed us where. Steve & Bear went upstairs in the Council building and in no time at all were back down again and we were legal. Apparently we were welcomed and told to spend our money!
Where we eventually found an official to ‘check us in’.
By now we were thinking of a nice iced coffee and slice of cake, but it was obvious this would not happen, so asked where we might get a cup of tea, maybe? We were pointed towards the Fisheries building, where an enterprising young man had set up a stall on the veranda in the shade. We bought refreshments – plastic glasses of raspberry squash and home-made cake or custard pie. For the four of us it cost $3.50 (£1), and it was very welcome indeed!
Ready for anything now, we ambled on and explored the village further. A big sign declared the presence of a coconut oil factory, so we went for a visit. This was quite a small set-up, and they were happy to show us the two-room factory. The coconuts are cut in half by machete outside, and then the white flesh is removed on the machines inside. The pulp is then squeezed and the liquid put into bins to ferment. The liquid below the foam is then drawn off and filtered four times before being left out in the sun in bowls for a couple of days. Eventually it is poured into bottles and sold as virgin coconut oil, and it is a main source of income for the island. We bought two bottles at $5 each.
The sign suggests a rather larger set-up than we found... Here the coconuts are chopped in half with the swish of a machete.
These machines take out the coconut flesh. The flesh is squeezed and the liquid placed in these bins under covers.
The liquid beneath the foam is strained through four filters... and then left out in the sun for a few days.
We also went to the village post office where Pepe was disappointed to find that the Rabi postage stamps were Fijian ones, but bought a few for a stamp-collecting friend anyway, and Steve was successful in buying a top-up card for his phone. We walked out along the concrete remains of a boat jetty and saw locals walking on the reef with buckets, collecting something we later discovered was a type of seaweed they would cook as a vegetable with their dinner. We ambled along the main street, which was really quite a long one, and of course we walked up to the very large, white church on the hillside.
Pepe buying stamps at the Post Office. The remains of a jetty or wharf.
Looking out over the reef where locals are gathering seaweed. The village church, up a steep flight of steps.
View from the church across the reef and sea to Vanua Levu. Another well-kept church interior, shown to us by a local.
Traditional outrigger canoes are still used here. The friendly children are always happy to pose for the camera!
Looking along the main street from the bus terminus. One rather clapped out School bus.
Another sad-looking vehicle left to rust. I was disappointed to see a stick in this pre-school teacher’s hand...
Steve & Pepe check out one of the village shops. The bus waits for the return trip.
Just before midday we sat under the mango trees and waited for the bus for our return journey. When it came we boarded and sat down for a well-earned rest, then noticed that the bus was going the opposite way than expected. It turned out that it goes first to a village to the north before returning to Nuku and then continuing to Katherine Bay. It meant that we were on the bus for an hour longer than needed, and my backside really did complain when we finally got off!