Friday, April 27, 2012

Lautoka, Fiji

En Route to Fiji
 We had been told that before we left New Zealand, we were required to email Fiji with an Advance Notice of Arrival - essentially saying that we were on our way and our arrival destination was blank.  Since we're kind of hard to pin down, we put both Suva and Savusavu, two of the three ports in Fiji which allow foreign vessels to check in.  However, since we chose to run before the huge seas that were slapping us around, neither of those two ports were options, so we headed to Door Number Three, Lautoka.  As I was sitting in the Customs office, whose furniture must have dated from the 50's, the huge Customs officer looked up from his computer screen and said, "It says here that you were either going to Suva or Savusavu . . . "  I was prepared for that and just told him the winds made it impossible to which he just grunted and continued on with the check in process.  After many forms and a trip out to the boat with a Customs officer, someone from Biosecurity and a man from the Health Department, Rutea was given permission to stay for four months.

However, if we wanted to cruise any of the outlying islands (which we do), we needed to get a cruising permit, which had to come from the District Office in downtown Lautoka.  There were some concrete steps near the Customs office and we tied our dink up there and, almost as if he was waiting for us, sat Ravin in his taxi.  Ravin probably tipped the scales at 140 or so kilos and his little Nissan Sunny would lean badly whenever he got in.  But he knew exactly where we had to go so instead of walking as we usually would have done, we climbed in and let Ravin take us everywhere we needed to go.

Buying Kava

A new policy prevented us from getting the cruising permit that morning (we were told that they now have to come from Suva and it would be faxed in the next day) but it was only a minor glitch.  Ravin took us to the Vodafone store where we got new SIMs for our cellphones, iPad and a 3G data stick for our on-board PC.  Even with FD$65.00 of usage for two cell phones each, our total bill came to just over FD$200.00 and the current exchange rate is FD$1.00 to USD$0.56.  After that, it was time for lunch and Ravin took us to a small restaurant that serves Indian food (the population of Fiji is almost half Indian) and the meal was quick, delicious and inexpensive.  From there it was off to the vegetable market.

My New Sulu

In many of the outlying islands, you cannot anchor your boat unless you get permission from the chief of the village.  In order to get permission from the chief, you need to bring a gift of kava, a root that is pounded and mixed with water to make an awful-tasting drink that's a mild narcotic.  We bought lots.  We also bought beautiful fruits and vegetables and soon we were struggling under the weight of all the packages, even though Ravin had taken the kava with him back to the car.  On our way back to the boat, the topic of laundry came up (laundry is a hot button with most cruisers as extremely few have any way to wash clothes on board - in the tropics it's even more of an issue as it's easy to soak through 3 or 4 shirts in a single day) and Ravin said he could take care of it - all we needed to do was bring him the laundry and he'd have it back to us the following day.  Since we needed to get the cruising permit anyway, we sped back to the boat, pulled the laundry together and sped back to the waiting Ravin.

The quarantine area where we were anchored had a very muddy bottom and our anchor had dragged slightly during the night so Ruthie stayed on board while Corie and I went to town with Ravin.  The first stop was the District Office where I got the cruising permit but it was written in Fijian.  The clerk seemed a little apologetic and translated it to me.  I was wary but there wasn't much I could do.  From there we drove to get the laundry, heading out of town to a very rural area.  It seemed like a long way to go to get laundry.  Finally we came to a ramshackle set of small, low buildings and pulled into a driveway - Ravin honked his horn a few times and parked the Sunny.  A heavy woman met us as we got out of the car and directed us to an area where a few pieces of corrugated roofing provided shade over a small slab of concrete.  She produced chairs for Corie and me then poured us lemon-flavored water from a dirty picture.  There were lots of 5-gallon plastic jugs around and Ravin explained that there had been no running water there for the past two weeks.  The women doing our laundry had to haul the water by hand in the 5-gallon jugs.  Ravin started to spread out a tarp in front of us and explained that he was doing this so we could inspect the laundry.  Corie spoke first and said it wouldn't be necessary so we loaded up the laundry and headed back towards town.

Rutea at Musket Cove, Fiji

With my cruising permit in hand, I then had to go back to Customs to check out of Lautoka.  "This is written in Fijian," the Customs officer said as I handed her the permit.  I shrugged my shoulders and glanced at the ceiling.  Several other Customs officials came to examine my permit and there were a few grunts and some head-scratching.  After more forms and many rubber stamps, we were cleared to leave. We pulled up the anchor in the early afternoon and headed out towards Musket Cove, one of the more popular destinations for cruisers.  Unfortunately, we hadn't prepared well and it wasn't until we were underway that we realized that it was going to take us almost four hours to get there, putting our arrival at dusk.  With all the reefs around and the poor charting, many cruisers only travel between 1000 and 1400 when the reefs are easy to see but almost no one travels when it's dark.  We pushed the engine harder than we usually do and wound our way through a circuitous route to finally get to the anchorage.  It was a relief to get the hook down.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work and great fun too. Hope all is well, Capt. Rob and Linda