Lautoka, Fiji


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Oceania » Fiji
January 31st 2010
Published: February 6th 2010
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Welcome to Lautoka, FijiWelcome to Lautoka, FijiWelcome to Lautoka, Fiji

We've just docked.
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 FiredrillCrew Doing a FiredrillCrew 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.
Primary SchoolPrimary SchoolPrimary School

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?We Have to Cross that Bridge?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 RiderA Native RiderA 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
Native HutNative HutNative Hut

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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Additional photos below
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Tribal NakamalTribal Nakamal
Tribal Nakamal

This is their communal and spiritual gathering place where we will sit with the chief and other members of his tribe.
The Chief Meets With UsThe Chief Meets With Us
The Chief Meets With Us

The chief on the right, you can also see the urn which will make the Kava.
A Young TribesmanA Young Tribesman
A Young Tribesman

No doubt a son or grandson, here for the ceremony.
Preparing the KavaPreparing the Kava
Preparing the Kava

One of the men prepares the Kava in their traditional urn. The chief will have a short ceremony and pray before he drinks the Kava with someone from our group that has been designated our chief.
Brad, Our Chief DrinksBrad, Our Chief Drinks
Brad, Our Chief Drinks

Brad was selected as our chief and he drinks the Kava first with the chief.
Down the Hatch!Down the Hatch!
Down the Hatch!

Doug drinks the Kava. It has a earthy, rooty taste and makes your tongue a bit numb.
Going to Drink it With a SmileGoing to Drink it With a Smile
Going to Drink it With a Smile

Annette prepares to drink. She has experienced drinking Kava in the past.
Beautiful SceneryBeautiful Scenery
Beautiful Scenery

We've had our Kava, given permission access, and we're on the path toward our first stop before heading to the waterfalls. We will follow the stream most of the way.
Mike & EvyMike & Evy
Mike & Evy

Mike & Evy Chipman took this excursion too. Friends of ours from last years voyage.
Along the PathAlong the Path
Along the Path

We saw lots of beautiful flowers along the way.
Our First StopOur First Stop
Our First Stop

From here we head off to the waterfalls, not before we get a little musical entertainment. Evy joins in.
Stream CrossingStream Crossing
Stream Crossing

This the first of three times that we have to cross the stream to keep on the path.
Cows!Cows!
Cows!

Two cows graze near the path.
Our 2nd CrossingOur 2nd Crossing
Our 2nd Crossing

We have to cross here as well. When wet, the rocks can be slippery so care must be taken.


6th February 2010

Forgot to mention...
PS...the pictures I have of the natives they are all naked and they don't have vans for transportation...very primitive. Your pictures of the children are beautiful...and the plants...

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