Lautoka, Fiji

Lautoka, Fiji

Fiji is an island nation of at least 300 islands.  Fiji is part of Melanesia, and the people are very different from the Polynesians.  We were docked on the island of Viti Levu, where the town of Lautoka is located.  This is yet another volcanic island, but the look here is very different from what we’ve seen on other south Pacific islands.  We took the shuttle into town in the morning, to see what it was like.  We ended up walking to what we hoped was a beach, but it wasn’t.  Since we have been collecting shells whenever we can at our ports, we thought we might be able to find some, but this time luck wasn’t with us.  However, we did get to experience the people, who were wonderful.  There is a mix of people on the island:  Fijians, Indians and Chinese are the main ones.  The Fiji natives were once cannibals, but that stopped at least 150 years ago.  A favorite souvenir for some, though, is wooden cannibal forks, which, while nicely carved, are still a rather macabre kind of souvenir.

Our excursion, Fijian Traditions and Beauty, was scheduled for afternoon.  This is the second time that we have shown up on the dock for a tour just before the meeting time, and found that we were the last ones to get on the bus.  Our first stop was at the meeting hall for a traditional village, where we experienced a kava ceremony, and we all had the opportunity to try kava.  It was worth trying, but it’s not something we would want to do again.  The kava ceremony was followed by some singing and dancing by natives dressed in traditional costumes.  Their traditional music was very melodic to our ears, and the singing was strong and excellent.  The dancing was also very interesting.  

Kava Ceremony and Culture Show

From there we made a short drive to the actual village of Viseisei, where we got to walk around and see the most important structures there: the chief’s house and the Methodist church.  This village is very different from those we’ve seen on other islands.  They have neatly groomed gardens, hedges and grass, and seemingly well-built houses. It could be that the standard of living is higher here in Fiji than it is in some of the other island countries.  It’s not clear that this is the case, because the bottom has fallen out of their former primary business, sugar can farming.  A deal with Europe apparently fell through, so now, the widespread cane fields are pretty much abandoned.  Maybe they should use the cane to produce more of their rum (58% alcohol) and export it?  We were certainly intrigued by the strength of it, but sadly, did not get to try any.

Children of Viseisei Village

We next went to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, a botanical garden founded by actor Raymond Burr (of Perry Mason fame).  Sleeping Giant is the mountain where the garden is located.  This is a beautiful tropical garden with a large collection of orchids.  We walked through the garden with a guide who told us about all we were seeing.

Our final stop was at a handicrafts shop in the village of Nadi, where we had a chance to buy souvenirs.  Possibly the most memorable portion of the excursion was the bus ride back to the dock.  There were several people who spent a longer time shopping than was allotted, so we were late getting back to the ship.  We apparently had a pick-up truck running interference for us, to enable us to get around slow traffic, and it was reportedly causing cars going in the other direction to be forced off the road.  It was a Fijian adventure not soon to be forgotten.  Our tour basically was operating on Fijian time, which made things difficult for navigation out of the harbor, because the tide was very low, and as we were sailing away, we stirred up some mud on the bottom of the ocean.  Thirty minutes can make a big difference in the tide levels.  Fortunately we did not need the tug boat that was following us.  Fiji is definitely a place I would like to return to.  To give you an idea of the meaning of ‘Fijian time’, our guide explained to us that Fijian time makes the Mexican concept of ‘mañana’ look like rush hour…

With this visit we have only touched the surface of this island nation.  Certainly there is much to see on some of the other islands, and more on Viti Levu.  Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to visit again.  Don’t forget to check out the photo albums for Fiji and the sail-away.

© Susan L. Stone 2015