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Published: August 22nd 2007
Today was a travel day. Taxi early in the morning to Somosomo, followed by a trip on a car ferry across the strait to Natuvu on Vanua Levu. There were two movies playing on the ferry, which was a bit of a surprise. Both were black-market DVDs, which wasn't a surprise. Everywhere you go in Fiji there are street stalls selling illegal copies of the movies playing at the cinemas (at the present time for example The Simpsons Movie, Die Hard 4, The Bourne Ultimatum...). The two on the ferry were "Catch A Fire", a very good apartheid movie starring Tim Robbins; and then something really really bad called "Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever" directed by someone called Kaos which probably tells you all you need to know about that movie's credentials!
Once off the boat we were supposed to head north to Devo to a place called Silktail Lodge (aka Devo Plantation Retreat) where I hoped to see the Vanua Levu subspecies of silktail which is much smaller and more colourful than the Taveuni one. I hadn't been able to get in touch with Silktail Lodge before leaving New Zealand so all we could do was go there and see
what the word was. The worst that could happen was that we get back on the return bus and go to Savusavu. It was a bit disconcerting that nobody at the ferry landing had even heard of Devo, not least the bus driver himself ! However we sorted all that out and ended up at a nearby village called Loa from where we could catch a bus heading north in a couple of hours. The bus stop was surrounded by chain-link fencing topped off with barbed wire, which made it feel like sitting in a cage, especially when what seemed to be the entire village turned out at one time or another to stare or chat. We kind of got the feeling that tourists don't stop there too often.
When we finally got to Silktail Lodge it transpired that they were no longer in operation, despite their website still running. They offered to let us stay in their house but we felt we couldn't impose on their hospitality like that, so we caught the return bus back to the south. The trip to Savusavu is along what is euphemistically titled the Hibiscus Highway. There's not a hibiscus in sight
View from Savusavu
it looks like the town erected a giant matte painting across the bay to make the horizon look pretty, but it is in fact real. Fancy that.
and the thing that is fondly thought of as a highway is a rutted dirt track that makes for a bone-jarring three and a half hour ride.
Savusavu is not the most pleasant place we visited. Its geothermal though which made it interesting. Clouds of steam envelope the beach in several areas and the rockpools are boiling hot. We stayed at the Hidden Paradise Guesthouse. The room we had there must have had a hotspot under the floor because it was a constant 34 degrees. It was nice and cool outside in comparison even when it was 28 degrees!
Robyn went off diving again, and I took a bus to the Waisali Rainforest Reserve an hour outside of Savusavu. There weren't many birds to be seen at the time I was there but I did find a female orange dove, earning me a round of applause from my brain and raising hopes for finding the golden dove second time around at Colo-i-Suva in a few days time. Apart for the dove the highlight was spotting a turquoise tree skink which are very rare. There were red shining parrots of the Vanua Levu subspecies calling somewhere in the distance
but they remained hidden from view.
Our plane back to Viti Levu left at 3pm on the third day, so we passed the time until departure firstly in the Curly Cruising Bosun's Locker internet cafe ("fastest internet in town"), and secondly by collecting land hermit crabs along the beach. One had a very dapper racing-stripe on its shell. I think some of the larger ones may have actually been baby coconut crabs (which are a type of giant hermit crab, so use empty shells as homes until they get too big to fit into any). I made up a song about one that nipped Robyn, "Psycho psycho crab" (to the tune of "Macho man"). The hermits had the curious habit of readily abandoning their shells if played with for too long. It seems a rather counter-productive survival strategy -- there's a predator fumbling around with the shells trying to get at the crabs and they go "Oh no, let's get out of here!" and give up their ONLY means of protection in an attempt to make a low-speed escape. No wonder it was humans that conquered the planet and not hermit crabs.
Best animals of Vanua Levu: turquoise
tree skink, orange dove; and a collared kingfisher that caught a gecko from the roof above us and then proceeded to bash it to death on a powerline.
Robyn's favourites: a big pile of land hermits.
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