This is part of the fourteenth section of our around
the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Sri Lanka
17/9/07 Our first international flight on a no frills airline.
Pacific Blue, has reduced the cost of travel from Australia to a number of
the Pacific countries but requires a return to its Australian base for each
interconnecting country. Any in-flight entertainment has to be purchased as
does food and beverages, otherwise it's a regular service. We landed at Nadi
Airport and caught a taxi to Lautoka, a non tourist town to its north and
Fiji's second largest at just over 40,000 people. Customs briefly queried
the tyre and suitcase of spare parts but allowed us to pass. Nadi is on
the west coast and Fiji's main international airport, a five hour bus
ride from the capital Suva. It is also a major port but the motorcycle
is being shipped to Suva.
18/9/07 We have not previously visited any Pacific Islands.
Australia's influence in the region is immediately apparent. The airport
bank is Australian, the coins are almost the same size, shape and denomination
as Australia's. Brand names we are used to at home are in the supermarkets.
Everyone we have spoken to speaks good English and is exceptionally friendly
calling out "bula", hello, as we pass.
An enquiry at the Lautoka port area informed us that all shipping we
might require will be out of Suva. Short hop flights to nearby neighbours
are also from Suva but longer hauls will be from Nadi Airport, a little
inconvenient. A walk around the town region revealed the sugar mill with
cane trucks waiting to unload, and a wood chip stockpile for export.
19/9/07 The Lautoka region is heavily Indo-Fijian. At the
end of the 19th century tens of thousands of workers from India were brought
here as indentured labourers to work in the cane fields. Many stayed and
over time represented almost half of the population. Fijian nationals, fearing
the loss of their country within a democracy, overthrew the government in
a coup in 1987. Many Indo-Fijians fled the country, a pattern that has continued
with each successive coup or instability. With each wave of unrest the economy
suffers as tourism declines and Indo-Fijians fleeing remove skilled workers
and money. The current unrest has reduced tourism to half what it was at
this time last year. A quiet day resting and catching up after our hectic
visit home. Travelling now seems like being home and going home seems like
holidaying. Not having done any work towards writing a book since leaving
the islands off East Africa eighteen months ago, and anticipating long
periods of wait time in these islands,
we resurrected thoughts on the project.
20/9/07 The services and facilities here are better than
we expected, perhaps a hang over from our recent visits to India and Sri
Lanka. A mini bus took us the 220 km to Suva, four hours, comfortable and
efficient. Fijian native people are incredibly welcoming. Room staff at
our cheap hotel, introduce themselves, ask if they can help with anything.
There is always a warm smile and helpful directions. Carpenters Shipping
is the agent our motorcycle is supposed to be consigned to but their office
has no paperwork or knowledge of its arrival. A quick check on the internet
showed the container it was supposed to be shipped in from Singapore landed
in New Zealand four days ago and was emptied and is now on its way back
to Singapore? The motorcycle is supposed to be in Fiji in two days time,
an unlikely event. We had been informed the ship Mol Mauao, was to bring
the container to Fiji, but it is also heading back to Singapore. An email
to the consigning agent, GGL Line in Sri Lanka will hopefully clarify the
21/9/07 Back on the bike hunting trail. By days end, Friday,
we were no further advanced as to its whereabouts, come back Monday we should
then were the agents last apologetic words. We did manage a visit to
customs, they don't accept the carnet, a bond would need to be lodged and
refunded when the bike leaves, then at the last minute they agreed to accept
it "check-in, check-out", meaning they would trust us without a bond, however
a customs agent is compulsory, we do not have the required licence to complete
the documents. An optimistic result on the onward shipping was that one
of the Tuvalu Government's boats is coming in for repairs mid October, leaving
early November and takes passengers and cargo. Even more optimistic was their
second ship, they only have two, would be returning late November to collect
students currently studying in Fiji, we should be able to return on that
vessel. As these ships only come to Fiji every few months, if the connections
work, it will certainly reduce our costs and time.
22/9/07 Native Fijians are big people,
they win many rugby games against larger nations, they're tall and solid.
Having spent a lot of time in South East Asia recently where the people are
of slight build and both Kay and I were tall arriving here we now seem short
and slight. We decided to book our bedsitter hotel
room for a week, cheaper and looks like we will be here for at least that
23/9/07 Having decided to write the book we at least have
something to do on quiet days, particularly Sunday when almost everything
is closed in Suva. It has rained each day we have been here, even though
the locals insist it is the dry season.
24/9/07 The weekend
over and checking our emails, a potential shipping logistics sponsor, advised
us there was insufficient ROI, presumably return on investment, for their
company in such an arrangement. We were surprised as we had progressed to
actual amounts of money, advertising, each party's responsibilities etc. Perhaps
they discovered that logistics in this part of the world is not easy, as
we are finding out. The shipping agents have located our motorcycle, it
is in New Zealand, still, missed the last ship out, and for some reason is
missing the next one, likely date of arrival, 7th of October, or 20 days
later than first advised and just four days before we have to leave Fiji
for our son's wedding. Good news is we found a boat that normally runs monthly
to Kiribati, however it has been in port now for over a month waiting on parts
for its engine. The agent doesn't know when it will be leaving.
25/9/07 It is raining again, or is it still raining. I
think people look out here and say it is sunny like we would look out and
say it is raining. Another morning working on the book. The loose idea that
started in Mauritius in April 2006 is now pretty set. It was the time spent
waiting for the motorcycle's shipping to islands off the East African coast
that started the idea and it is again the likely time spent waiting throughout
the Pacific, over the next year or more, that will hopefully finish the
project. It is likely to be a coffee table book. Probably a short story
and photos for each of the countries we have visited. The topics have been
identified and with what was written in Africa last year it is now about 20%
written. The last week we have been writing a story each morning, looking
around town or following up on the motorcycle shipping in the afternoon, and
planning the next days topic in the evenings. It is a larger task than we
initially expected. Photos have to be selected, re-reading stories, editing
26/9/07 A boat is scheduled to sail to Tuvalu on the 27th October, the date of our son's wedding. We can have our "unridden in Fiji" motorcycle shipped to Tuvalu so that when we return we can immediately fly to Tuvalu. As the motorcycle has to return to Fiji, for later shipping to Kiribati, not much is lost, except it has to clear customs again.
27/9/07 Tried today to get the motorcycle here on an earlier
ship from New Zealand but no success. Appointed a shipping agent and arranged
for onward shipping to Tuvalu. With the deadline of our son's wedding the
four day window after the motorcycle arrives is likely too short to even
get it ridden in Fiji. A day's delay in the vessels arrival, delay in customs
clearance etc. could work against us.
28/9/07 Still book writing in the morning and looking around
Suva afternoon dodging thunderstorms and visiting shipping agents. Discovered
another boat today that is rumoured to, about monthly, go between Tuvalu
and Kiribati. A Kiribati Government vessel it has previously not shown up
in our research. Unfortunately it won't take passengers so we need to go
out and back to Fiji but the motorcycle might be able to go directly between
the two countries.
29/9/07 Feeling that we have researched all available
boats and flights out of Fiji we are ready to get out of Suva for a while
we booked a bus, boat trip to Levuka on the island of Ovalau, off to the
east. Heading out tomorrow.
30/9/07 With a population mix
of Christians, Hindu and Muslims we noticed the local McDonalds restaurant
doesn't sell any pork products. Halal
milk is advertised on television. Muslims represent about 8% of the population
and like in many other religiously mixed societies many international food
chains have adapted to religious sensitivities. It would appear to be a better
business practice to deny the 92% of pork eaters to attract the other 8%
who can't eat anything from the premises if there is any possibility of cross
contamination. With a similar religious mix in Sri Lanka the local Pizza
Hut had also removed pig products from its restaurant. Hindu's make up 38%
of the population who don't eat beef as part of their religion. Not as strict,
beef products can be processed on the same premises as other foods that they
can eat. Most local places here only serve fish, chicken and lamb, but the
small chinese community, with their restaurants having few taboos against
eating most things have an enormous variety to offer. The initial introduction
of multiculturism to western societies brought great diversity in variety
of foods. Is it now bringing restrictions?
1/10/07 Levuka was the capital of Fiji before it was moved
to Suva. We stayed in the 1860 built Royal Hotel, wooden shutters for windows,
uneven sloping floors, a billiard table downstairs, restaurant, movies
in the evenings, internet, and like so many other building in this town,
this historical era has remained. Not a lot has changed here since the
capital left the place. In the 1960's it almost closed, escaping oblivion
by the opening of a fish cannery. The pace of life is slow and the people
2/10/07 We are not doing much, a walk in the afternoon,
a restaurant meal at night and conversation with other guests. Some come
here to scuba dive, like a Canadian couple, here for a month, they have
dived a couple of times every day. A mother and a grandmother, both looking
after young children during school holidays, whilst husbands are back in
New Zealand working, make up the other guests.
3/10/07 We learnt
today that next weekend is a holiday weekend, so our hopes to ride the
motorcycle, at least for a day this visit, were pretty much dashed. Monday
is the holiday, customs is unlikely to clear the motorcycle before Tuesday
afternoon and we leave from the other side of the island Thursday. Out for
a couple of walks past the cannery. It gives off a constant boiled fish aroma
that permeates the downwind windward direction, and is the main private employer.
4/10/07 It is not raining here any less than it was in
Suva. Everyday a few showers, not enough to be devastating but enough to
be inconvenient. Each local household has a few fruit trees and a garden.
Out of town graze a couple of cows for local meat or milk, a couple of pigs
clear away household rubbish and also provide meat. We walked to the north,
to a small resort, an excuse to get out of the hotel room for a couple of
hours. Everyone called "Bula", the local welcoming, as we passed. A strong
wind was buffeting the couple of yachties anchored up in the bay, a Frenchman
on one and Canadians on the other. A large traditional sailing ketch, with
young tourists was in port for the day and we have started moving at the
locals pace, delaying our departure for another day's stay here.
5/10/07 The Fiji National Day celebrations started in
Levuka today. The local oval hosting most events, football the big draw card.
It didn't take long for the field to be cut up as showers again moved through,
players getting muddier as the day progressed. Small team shelters along
the fields edge provided their players and friends refreshments and a place
to avoid the rain. The local minister for tourism arrived at our hotel in
the evening, quite a celebrity in the small town.
6/10/07 The boat and bus trip back to Suva started at
5.30 am, four hours, and when we arrived it was, yes, raining. We are almost
pleased not to be riding, not really. The slightly depressing city, coming
from the such lovely setting of Levuka, didn't help our mood. Fiji National
Day celebrations were occurring in the city park.
7/10/07 Looking out
from our hotel verandah early this morning we could see the container
ship Cap Spencer arriving, hopefully carrying our motorcycle. An efficient
port, working on Sunday the ship was unloaded, reloaded and gone.
8/10/07 Monday public holiday and everything is closed.
9/10/07 The container was moved to a bonded warehouse
but won't be unstuffed till tomorrow. Our customs agent, necessary here, expects
the motorcycle to be available for clearing tomorrow. We leave Fiji for Australia,
and our son's wedding, the day after tomorrow so we won't be able to use
the motorcycle this trip, but it is essential it clears customs before we
leave for Australia. On our return to Fiji in a month
we hope to ride for ten days before the motorcycle is again shipped, this
time to Tuvalu. Free storage for the motorcycle while
we are away was arranged with the company who will be onshipping the motorcycle.
10/10/07 Paid for the port fees, handling, customs clearance
and onward shipping but didn't get to see the motorcycle, still at the bonded
customs warehouse so we won't see it till our return to Fiji in a month's
11/10/07 Caught a fast minibus to Nadi on the other side
of the island and a flight back to Australia.
12/11/07 A month later we returned to Fiji. At the shipping
agents, William and Gosling's warehouse, we expected to see the motorcycle,
unsighted since it left the Maldives three months ago and transhipped through
Sri Lanka, Singapore, New Zealand. Yet again, in the saga of shipping the
motorcycle, someone hadn't done their job correctly. This time the motorcycle
had already been shipped on to Tuvalu. The last words I said to the agent
was, "You won't ship it to Tuvalu before we return will you?" A laugh and
definitive "no" was the answer. It has now been in Tuvalu since the 4th of
November. The agents were supposed to store the motorcycle, awaiting our
return, then onship to Tuvalu on the 26th of November. As it has now
not been ridden in Fiji it will need to be returned here, at some stage.
Our onward shipping plans, to Kiribati then to Samoa are instantly thrown
out. William and Goslings shipping manager was apologetic and is looking
into how they can assist us rectify the situation. The number of times we
have had "stuff ups", particularly when transporting the motorcycle, when
things have been taken out of our control, on this trip is amazing. Switching
our planning midstream we booked on the earliest flight to Tuvalu, Friday,
in four days time. Rushed to the Kiribati Embassy to get a visa just in case
we can get on a boat directly from Tuvalu to Kiribati, only to discover that
as from last month, Australians no longer need a visa to enter Kiribati.
Assuming that information is correct it is a small win for the day.
13/11/07 It rained almost all day reflecting our mood
and we didn't leave the hotel. Rethinking our future travel plans and getting
back into writing the book occupying most of the time.
14/11/07 Another visit to William and Gosling shipping.
They were very helpful with trying to solve the problem they had caused and
were looking into solutions, either bringing the motorcycle back to Fiji after
our visit to Tuvalu, or Kiribati, at their expense. Shipping schedules the
main unknown. Either solution proposed would suit us as we need to return
to Fiji because of air connections, minimising extra expenses caused from
15/11/07 An email from Williams and Gosling, our only means
of remote contact. There seems to be no easy solution to get the motorcycle
back to Fiji. There are simply no ships. So tomorrow we head out to Tuvalu
not knowing where the motorcycle will be going afterwards. It is a relaxed
aproach to life the Fijians have. Somtimes too relaxed for us. It is easier
to stop a problem happening than to fix one.
16/11/07 Flights leave from Nausori Airport, just north of Suva, a small busy place mainly for domestic flights. Security was strict yet people could wander in and out of the secure area freely. Tuvaluans, carrying home as much cheaper goods as possible lined up. One lady, seeing our light luggage asked if she could utilise our spare capacity to avoid or at least minimise her excess baggage, she was still 33kg over the maximum allowed. The turbo prop Convair 580 arrived and looked quite ancient, self folding steps, doors to the pilots cabin kept open the whole flight, waterless toilet, but spacious seating.
Move with us to Tuvalu or go to our next trip to Fiji
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