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Published: February 6th 2010
After our high seas adventure, we arrived at Lautoka with nice calm water at about 9:00am. This will be a short visit as we depart this evening at 6:00pm. The Republic of Fiji Islands is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. It comprises an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which about 106 are permanently inhabited, and 522 islets. The two major islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, accounting for 87% of the population.
With about 45,000 people, Lautoka is Fiji’s 2nd city, after the capital Suva. Lautoka is known as the Sugar City because of the surrounding sugar cane plantations and big processing mill in town. Along with neighboring Nadi, they are now known better as Fiji’s main tourist belt at the western end of Viti Levu. Thanks to the sugar, Lautoka has a higher concentration of Indo-Fijians than anywhere else in the country. Legend has it that Lautoka got its name when two chiefs got into combat and one hit the other with a spear. He claimed "lau toka" (spear hit), and thus the future town got its name.
Cruise ships usually dock at
Crew Doing a Firedrill
As we exited the ship, the crew is performing their own firedrill.
the Main Wharf, where we docked. If sugar and timber ships are in port at the same, it can be very hectic, since there are also ferries going back and forth to the outer islands. It was fairly calm while we were here.
The city has a few tourist sights, but you cannot visit the 1903 Lautoka Sugar Mill. Although an ailing industry these days, sugar still strongly influences the region with mostly family-owned plantations. We understand the cane is fast growing and is harvested every six months. Much of the cane is hauled by road, but 370 miles of narrow-gauge rail serves the mills in Lautoka and Ba.
Before departing the ship, we were warned it was not a good idea to take photos of the armed soldiers that guard main intersections and patrol the area. As a result of a coup de etat in December 2006, Fiji is now under a form of military dictatorship. They will not usually bother tourists but when a cruise ship is in port, it will lead to a tightening of military security over the general population. In an earlier coup, many soldiers were court-martialled based on evidence produced from photographs.
We stopped at a primary school on our way up to the mountain.
Today, we signed-up for the Viti Eco Tour-Rainforest and Waterfall. After boarding our coach, we headed off on an interesting 40-minute drive on some paved road, but mostly one-lane dirt and rocks road up into the picturesque Sabeto Mountains where we will take an interesting trek through the rainforest and up to the waterfall. On the way, we stopped briefly outside a traditional primary school for a photo. As we proceeded up the hill, the bus had to make a sharp right-hand turn onto a narrow concrete bridge not much wider than the bus, which became a bit of a challenge for our driver, as seen in the photo. The driver from the smaller bus behind us had to assist our driver so we didn’t go over the edge into the stream. We finally crossed the bridge safely and were then ushered to an ancestral village; the areas very first Christian village, where we have to sit with the chief and get his permission to venture onto his land. During the ceremony we will have Kava prepared and drink with the chief. This is a time-honored tradition.
Kava is a large shrub with broad, heart-shaped leaves, native to
We Have to Cross that Bridge?
Our bus has to make a right turn onto this narrow bridge and the bus driver needs help so we don't fall off.
many islands in the South Pacific. Kava roots are pulped to make the drink known as Kava, traditionally measured and drunk from a coconut half-shell. Due to its rather earthy taste, drinkers swallow it in one gulp and then rinse their mouths to take the taste away. Natives will come to drink kava at a Nakamal, to socialize and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. Kava, which is non-addictive, has a very calming effect and Nakamals are places of quiet discussion and contemplation, dimly lit and peaceful.
As we all entered the Nakamal, we removed our shoes and sat on the mat floor with the chief and other members of his group. He said a prayer and then another man began pouring water from a pot into the traditional urn and squeezing the cloth sack that contained the kava with his hands in the water. The chief said that one member of our group would have to be designated as our chief and drink first with him…Brad from our group volunteered and the ceremony proceeded. We were all offered to drink some, which Doug & Annette participated. After that we were allowed to start the trek up to another remote group
A Native Rider
This native comes riding down the gravel road on the other side of the bridge.
of buildings. We would come back to them following our hike to the waterfalls through the rainforest and crossing three streams. We were told that the falls would be about a 15-minute hike, which ended up closer to 40-minutes. It was a beautiful hike, albeit a crude path. Because of the incline and path, it was not a hike for the timid, and a number of the folks that were with us, shouldn’t have been there. When we got to the waterfall, many people stripped to their bathing suits and went in the water. Annette didn’t bring her suit so after a bit, she decided to head back down. She met up with one of locals who walked up with us, named David. This was actually his first time on the trail to the waterfalls, so Annette helped get them both back safely. After Doug spent some time at the waterfall, he made his way back hoping that he was going to see Annette again at the bottom…Thank goodness!
We were then provided a barbeque and fresh fruit luncheon and followed-up by some traditional dancing. We then made our way to the bus and back to the ship. It
This is the first hut we see after getting off the bus...laundry drying and little boy in the doorway.
was a great exercise!
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