Friday, June 10, 2011

Suva, Fiji

Flying the Fiji courtesy flag and yellow Quarantine flag

First view of Fiji

Suva harbor

Sunken cat in Suva harbor

Another wreck in Suva

Riverfront slums, Suva
Fijians check in process was funny.  Waited til today since we got in at 1500, and would have had to pay $200 in overtime to check in yesterday.  Fat man in boat dropped off papers, and we spent an hour filling out lots of forms in duplicate before they returned.  A boatload of 6 laughing, joking customs people climbed into the cockpit and filled it up.  Cpt put on a shirt and did the paperwork stuff, and the one Indian girl came below and looked at the provisions, then said just to not bring anything on shore.  Wow, easy.  The other officials charged $50 for the boat to transport them out and $175 for health officer and other fees- but they didn’t do anything at all!  One guy took our passports and stamped them with a 4 month visa, then they all left, telling us to check out at Kings Pier when we left. 
Apparently you have to check in and out pretty much everywhere you go in Fiji - at ports, you have to check in with the govt, at you have to check  in with the village head and bring a present.  You have to stop at 4 different cities to get cruising permits for the 4 different zones of Fiji.  You're supposed to check in with the coconut authority pretty much everywhere- they're worried about rhinoceros beetles. 
Suva is a bit smaller then I pictured, with 200,000 population.  Bigger than Tongatapu though, with some 10 story+ buildings in center, of various ages and designs.  Things under construction were covered with giant heavy-duty hunter-orange tarps.  The harbor was sorta busy- lots of fishing boats and ferries, small container ships.  B says Papeete was much busier, but also really run-down, with a messy market just like Suva's cause the French let all the infrastructure go to hell.  Lotsa Chinese boats here, and the biggest thing in the harbor is a multi-story cruise ship that came in after dark last night after we went to bed early.  They let their passengers off to wander the little shops for the day and left at 1700.  The blue glare of a giant TV on the top deck was visible even after they had cleared the harbor entrance.
The entrance was a fairly wide and well marked channel through a reef that just comes above the surface at low tide.  There is some weird rock formation way down at the west end, or maybe a big wreck.  A dredger was a work when we came in.  The  harbor water is warm and green and full of trash and rafts of floating vegetable debris from shore- good for clogging up intakes.
We entered the quarantine circle as shown on the electric chart.  The old circle shown in the book was on a shoal that’s occupied by some half-built abandoned heavy-duty concrete structure on stilts with some nice verdant stuff growing out of the top.  The water isn’t as gross as expected, as you can actually see the bottom on the shoal.  Not far from the structure, in the direction of the yacht club, is a sunken fishing boat.  Its port side just clears the water at high tide.  After we left Suva, an unfortunate friend of ours crashed his dingy into it in the dark, on his first night in Suva.
While waiting for customs we unpackaged the dingy and inflated it and put deck boards in after re-gluing the bottom inflation pouch.  The rubber of the bottom was showing some wear and tear- the surface flaking off, but then it’s as old as the Marquesa.  The little outboard worked like a charm as soon as it was started up- good, since I hate to think what trouble we’d be in without it in some of these reefs we visit, downwind and down current of the boat with no paddles or radio… but there is the anchor- just got to get back off to the reef… spose 2 pairs of flippers would be adequate under most any conditions.
I untwisted the main sheet and cleaned out the stuff that got wet with saltwater- tupperwear, pots, tools, etc.
Dingy $5000, Cpt worries it won’t last and he cant’ afford another…
When we anchored it was right in the middle of a great big oil spill.
Finally we’re all cleared and pretty quickly we’re off into town.   It's pretty typical 3rd world, maybe a lil cleaner than Bangkok, less crazy, and no stray dogs.
The yacht club was nice.  Motored in past a lot of local boats tied up med-style to a pier on one side and a breakwater with palm trees growing on it on the other.  Mostly local boats, and some cruisers, half of which looked to be abandoned.  At the end there was a half-sunk cat hauled up partway onto a ramp.  It was high-tide and the water was well above the waterline in it on the port hull.  It looked like it hadn’t been in good shape to start with or maybe spent a long time sitting out on a reef- big rust stains running down the cabin, and the dark blue suncover and flags were torn to shreds.  Later we learned that the skipper had fallen asleep and run onto a reef- holy crap!  Not sure where.
The yacht club reminded me a bit of Mama’s in Tongatapu, a little less nice tho- no sand underneath, less breezes blowing through, a lil less open.  In back by the office there was a nice big dark-wood dancing area with a lil bar in back.  A group of locals and a cruiser or two were singing karaoke.  The Fijian on the mike was intimidatingly good.  The girl at the desk was nice and quiet and very hard to understand.  This seemed to be a  theme from here on in Fiji.  I basked in the cool air blowing through the holes in the office glass.  It’s hot here, but not oppressively so.  It seems that every time it starts to get a bit too much, some clouds and a cool breeze roll in.  It hasn’t done anything but shower so far.  Winter- short days, 7-5 sun.  Still, I feel sorry for those coiuple American students who opt to go to S Pac U every year.  Suva isn't the prettiest place to spend 4 years.
We wandered into town with grocery bags.  The yacht club is located right next to the jail- haha.  Jail was a really dismal looking place- old soot-stained concrete shaped into castellations with the dates 1912-1913 etched into a peak.  Happy Fiji’ and biblical quotes adorned the exterior wall that was topped with 4 layers of barbed wire.  A couple guys in beige uniforms with lace-up high boots and crimson berets looked straight out of some African dictatorship. 
The streets were old and haphazardly repaired, the sidewalks made of large uneven concrete squares that rocked and protruded hazardously in many spots.  We passed by a mysterious poured concrete apron that sat 3” above street level and was still surrounded by forms in front of a car place.  A street sweeper in long clothes and an orange vest swept garbage into neat piles for the wind… must be the most depressing job in the city.  We passed a few houses of concrete painted multi-colored with yards like Tonga- grass and tropical plants, some fruits and vegs.  Directly across from the yacht club is a tall steep interesting hill, contoured with old tree roots and rock lines, several neat trees providing shade.  No idea what it is.  Behind the waterfront is a low ridge of hills with suburbs.  The city center is a miles or two south of the yacht club. 
Several people said bula to us as we passed by.  I walked down the same street alone later, and got a couple very bold stares from Fiji men. Not exactly a nice neighborhood here by the yacht club.  Next door is the working waterfront, full of old rusty fishing and cargo ships.  Occasional curry places and corner venders of oranges dot the blocks of miscellaneous concrete and steel commercial shops and outfits.  The next thing south of the jail on the inland side is a rotary club, couple shops, and a Fiji Bitter brewing co.  I could hear it operating last night over the sound of boat generators in the harbor.  A couple other industrial processes were audible too. 
We continued south and passed three supermarkets all right next to each other, along with tons of other shops.  Found Cumming St but it was a bit of a disappointment- nothing that I really wanted.  Bus station, and a big produce market of two levels and vendors spilling over under shade awnings outside.  At the very edge was an old man selling what looked like cherries, and even though I figured they were awful I had to come back and buy some, just in case there were actually cherries!  They were $1.40. 
Exchanged the $990 NZ from the car- that should pretty much cover Fiji costs hopefully.  Stooped at lil wire-clad alcohol shop and got rum, Chinese variety for deodorant and some fruit soaps, seeing some cruiseship people now.  Supermarket for drink mix, dairy.  Then produce market - upper level seemed to have more customers than lower, so I stayed up there.  Pretty good selection and cheap- cheaper than Tonga I think - eggs, apples 40c, import pears and oranges, pineapples, papaya $2, lemons, local oranges, limes, weird watery green thing, cucumbers, lettuce $2, 4 or 5 other greens, carrots,$2 for 3 tomatos, eggplants $2 for a huge plate, watermelon, flowers, rolls of that bark cloth stuff, lots of other things, bananas $3 big bunch…
Walked home all loaded down.  Fuel dock is 1.6 meters deep.  Had a beer - not bad, and went back.

 Sat June 11
Long weekend - the queens bday observed.  Bkfast cereal then into town - propane, fresh water from faucet- eek.  Cpt says you can't pour bleach into the water tank cause of the RO filter - so hopefully we can avoid taking on tap water from here.  80 gal front tank, 50 rear. Tastes like mildew and strong sulfur smell from filter when making water- time to clean. 
Back to boat and read while Cpt changed oil, fuel filter- very nasty, and ATF on engine.  One battery had broken its mount during the crossing and slid to side a lil- screw sheared, new leak wood wet, propeller shaft brake loose- wire needs tightening, electric priming pump for fuel loose connection.  5 hrs. 

Partly cloudy today with occ shower (showers last night too, but only on my side!?), 83 degrees, reading KonTiki.

12 June - Sun 2011
Cpt cleaned out water intake filter - big hole in it, its new in Samoa - $100 plus shipping Groco.  Fixed battery mount.  I cleaned saltwater out of pots cupboard and mildew from overhead insulation material. 
Afternoon trip to Lami, Nw of Suva.  Some little tin shacks along river, but mostly pretty nice houses and  fairly recently done road in good shape.  Amazingly well cared for greenery along sides of road - grass carefully cut around lots of tropical flowering plants for miles and miles.  Only turns crappy as soon as you enter Suva city.  Houses further on better, some thrown together tin and steel and concrete, but most nicer concrete pretty well painted etc.  Of course only thing up to western well to do neighborhood standards was the church.  Mysterious wire-bound compound with black and white stumps/poles lining fence.  Lots buses and even more taxis, well-dressed people mainly Fijians coming from church, busy market that closed at 1400.  Lots of mangroves and estuarine rivers emptying into Suva bay.  Nice anchorage over there at trade winds- couple lil islands, pretty looking and cleaner.  Boasted at least two large wrecks, one on its side and one broken in half in a passage coming in.  Couple docks with big boats backed in. 
There’s a new sunken boat in Suva harbor- towed in last night with float bags… it’s now been dropped and is almost completely under, waiting for god knows what. 
Fijians mix of friendly and neutral.
Tomorrow is queens bday.

13 June - Mon 2011
Morning I cleaned and Cpt cleaned water maker.  Water in, through raw water filter like engine filter never cleaned, then bypasses charcoal filter and thru electric primer pump, then ruffled filter, then into piston pump to 800 psi, to RO filter, to pressure guage and lil regulator, flow meter, and to tank.  Pex metal clamps and plastic valves.  Came as kit 2006? $6000.  Cpt put in cleaner filter and filled it with freshwater f tank that went through charcoal filter to remove any chlorine, which would destroy the RO filter $1000’.  Then close intake valve and bypass charcoal, flush thru cleaner filter and primer pump and pressure pump and RO filter guage bypass loop with everything running for 30 min or so.  Cpt installed all this, poured himself a new fresh water tank out of epoxy - brushed on and fabric layers along the fiberglass sides, bilge drains in the bottom, about 8’ long and not that deep, 80 gals.  Back tank does not communicate with it.  Drilled outlet etc into top.  Also built wheel and arch with cupholders next to it- wooden wheel before. 
Fiji museum- pretty nice, outrigger sailing canoe sorta like the Kontiki on top, looked to be built of logs with plank on top for hulls, bamboo shelter, triangular sail on one side, great big steering oar.  More boats and bugs, then unattended gift shop and nice 2 story back section, Lapita, pre-Euro Fijians, most craft skill seeming to come from Tonga and Samoa, cannabalism and weapons, Euro whaling sandalwood beche de mer, killing rocks, shoes of missionary who got eaten, arrows, porcupine fish hat, giant beetles, natural hx, wedding dresses, paintings, etc.  Nice museum.

14 June 2011
Into town yesterday for last day prep.  Lotsa lil things to find. Took taxi to Ministry of Foreign Affairs - guy didn’t know where it was and drove to the run down govt buildings, then past the museum park to nice new ones that they just occupied last Feb.  Really beaut nicely painted twin curving buildings of several stories with nice design and lots windows with green grass and pavilion in middle, gates, etc.  Right next to sprawling grounds of presidents residence- cool-looking white pillorred building up on hill.  Guard with funny weapon marching in front of gate at one side.  Chinese aid sign on fence.  :Nicely appointed inside, with guards at doors, Ac, high ceilings, really fance woodwork around elevators.  Nice girl there said we had to go back in town to immigration, looked at sheet and it actually said ministry of Fijian affairs.  We went next door to that and it turned out to be right one, big room with mess of desks and big stacks of folders and papers, everyone really friendly.  Nice looking tall guy in blue shirt, tie, and blue shirt J sandals does our papers then we ask were the ministry of health is and he walks us way into town and says take a left up there and its on the right, you can’t miss it.  Nice talk on way, but he’s very quiet like all Fijians it seems.  Walk all over looking for ministry, come back down one street and its an unassuming building with the sign covered over with a black trash bag/  Hilarious.  Only see it cause Cpt has feeling and stands and waits for wind to blow torn bag up.  Officious inside, horrible posters.  Nice view of city. 
Go down hill and stop in lots of lil Indian general clothing and goods shops.  Tons of lil attendents walking next to you as you shop- lots of staff employed in every shop, as opposed to the museum shop where everything was just laid out unattended for the taking.  
Spent couple hours at USP bookstore, AC, standing on one leg resting.  Happy to find some geo and eco books plus the big Crocombe hx guide.  I’d like to hear one of his lectures, but classes are out right now I think.  Lots of students from all over wandering the campus.  Indian cab driver talking about getting kicked off his sugar plantation and now it only makes 25,000 where before it made $300,000, Fijians, drink all the time, daughter schoolteacher makes $7000NZ?

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