Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fiji, Lautoka 30-09-14

It's really hard to figure out whether I love or hate Fiji. There's reefs everywhere, which makes sailing stressful and means we have to concentrate a lot more. But there's reefs everywhere, which means lots of exciting places to go snorkelling. The fruit and veges are amazing, but meat is harder to get. And everybody is so friendly and carefree, but that means nobody is ever in a rush to get anything done. We arrived in Fiji at 10pm and anchored in the quarantine area overnight. Customs didn't get around to seeing us until 4pm the next day. So we were just waiting around for what seemed like forever, with me literally pacing up and down the deck. We had ditched all our fresh food before we arrived as well, so we were starving with only tinned food to eat. I could even picture the road into town and smell the warm, soft bread from my favourite bakery. But we had to wait.

We eventually got ashore just after 5, so I knew the vege market would be closed. Luckily people kind of hang around outside after the actual complex shuts down, with their produce laid out on the ground. So I knew I'd be able to get some pineapples. If I was to be honest, that's the only reason I'd been pacing all day.

I scrounged up our loose change from last time, which gave us a few dollars. Sweet! Then I went to get real money out of the ATM, only to find out that I'd forgotten to transfer cash out of my savings account before we left Australia. There was nothing on my card. So we went to get sim cards snd data for our phones, but the phone shop was shut. No problem, we had $3. So we went in search of Internet. Only to find that most places were shut, it being 6pm and all. We eventually found a LAN cafe that we'd been to the last time we were there, only to discover after we'd paid that the bank website wouldn't work because their version of Internet Explorer was too old. So now we had $1. I gave up and bought a pineapple, then used my NZ card that's supposed to just be for ongoing boat related bills. Then I used that money to buy more pineapples.

We eventually got sim cards, a luxury we don't normally allow ourselves. Then we hung out in Lautoka for a few days, because I just love it there. The anchorage is calm, there's bins and water straight off where the dinghy tie up, and it's such a friendly place. No tourists or tourist shops or anything other than a normal town. I tried to buy a postcard last time, but they don't even have those. The bread is always hot when you buy it, and it's all dense and soft inside like homemade bread. The people are super friendly, always saying hi and wanting to shake our hands as they walk past. And the vege markets make me happy. They're huge, open every day, and filled with amazing colours and smells. I always get overexcited there and buy too much.

Our anchorage in the harbour

They spread out way past the inside part, with people selling their produce on the footpath all around the building and under tarps across the road. I saw people watering their greens all through the day to protect them from the heat, and everything is always fresh - you'd expect it to be sad and wilty by the end of the day.

They have little chilled stands everywhere where they sell precut pineapple and watermelon. Last time I didn't try them, seeing as I bought bags of pineapples anyway, but this time I gave in. They leave a bit of the stalk on as a handle, making a perfect snack. I kept going back for more and I'm sure the lady selling them thought I was crazy.

Out of focus because I'm trying to be sneaky... Everybody is still looking at me
I always feel like a complete tool taking pictures in markets. I think because people are just doing their grocery shopping and I'm taking pictures of them - that would make me feel like an animal in a zoo, seeing as there's nothing picture-worthy about shopping for veges. But this time I snapped a few shots, even though I felt like an idiot. Garth refused to stand near me. It gets even more embarrassing because people here are so friendly and want to help, so they get in the picture and smile for me. Then I feel even worse for interrupting their day while they're trying to sell stuff. Whatever, it's so bright and colourful! Especially seeing as a large part of the markets is taken up by indo-fijian food. So there's big bags of colourful spices and lentils everywhere. They obviously go through a lot of curry powder! The combination of spices also makes everything smell amazing.

A Mosque takes up a large section of the street in the middle of town. It's a really beautiful building and stretches quite a long way. Something was happening when we walked past on Friday afternoon, with bells and pretty temple noises ringing our across the streets. I would have expected it to be a Hindu temple considering the large population of Indians, but there's a Muslim school next to it with all the students kitted up in traditional Muslim clothing. It makes the town so colourful, with people wearing such an interesting mix of Fijian, Indian and Muslim clothes. I'm in love with all the traditional Indian clothes in the shop windows, all bright colours adorned with shiny things. I wish I could dress like an Indian princess.

There's nothing else special about Lautoka, aside from the chilled out vibe you get as you walk through the streets. It's the 'sugar city,' with sugar cane being their main export and a big sugar mill near the harbour. Trucks loaded with sugar cane all park in the yard out the front of the mill, waiting to unload their harvest. That space quickly filled up and trucks started to line the streets, parking anywhere they could. We spoke to some guys sitting on the grass across the road in amongst an army of trucks, and they said they'd be waiting until some time the next day. There was no way of telling how many trucks there were - somewhere between 100 and 500 is my closest guess, without seeing where the line went. Whether the paperwork and the processing time are really slow or its just peak harvesting time I'm not sure. I felt sorry for all the guys stretched out across their front seats in the hot sun though.

We're on our way to Suva now, slowly making our way there with the wind dead ahead of us. We've only used 20L of fuel in the month since we left Australia, but we're bound to chew through the rest if the wind doesn't change direction soon.

Xxx Monique

Garth doesn't have time for pictures

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