14 October 2010
We arrived at Suva in Fiji during the yacht club's sunday afternoon yacht race. We accidentally ended up anchored right in the middle of one of their short legs near the finish line and had boats coming as close as they dared to us to cut the corner. The state of some of the boats did not inspire confidence in me and i was hoping that no sudden gust of wind would turn any of them on to a collision course with us.
After the officials came to our boat the nexy day to clear us in ( and bonded our 3 litres of alcohol!) we were free to go and explore Suva. It was the biggest city we had seen since Papeete in Tahiti. It was great to have supermarkets with more than one selection of each product, a ginormous fruit and vegetable market ( about half an acre!), shops where you can buy just about anything, and some great Indian food.
Everyone is very friendly in Fiji and greet you with a cheery 'Bula', even the prisoners at the detention centre across the road from the yacht club. We'd heard some bad press about Fiji before we arrived but soon learnt that things aren't quite as reported in the press and in parliament.
Most people we spoke to seemed quite upbeat about their country.
The political situation is stable and Commodore Banimarama seems quite popular and is doing what needs to be done to get the country back on track: weeding out corruption, completing public works projects, stamping out crime, looking after the citizens of Fiji. Once the processes are in place, then they can think about elections. It's working, and they don't need Australia telling them what they ought to be doing. It is still a developing country and the general population find the cost of living relatively high ( even though we find it quite cheap). Their wages are something like $5-6 and hour on average. I think they will improve gradually. There is a lot of potential. Probably best if they are supported by nations like Australia.
Enough politics though.
I got some stainless steel work done and after having no luck getting our starter motor repaired, ordered a new one from the US and started tracking it's slow progress to Fiji. Let it be known though, that despite being $300-500 dollars cheaper, the US postal service (USPS) is no slower than the big specialised couriers like UPS and Fedex!
Again we met friends, new and old. Like David, a singlehander on a beautiful Bowman 48 with a great attitude to life; Ed and Fi on Sula, young Aussies who had spent a year working on aid projects in Tonga and who we spent an afternoon with helping them learn to fly their spinnaker; Michael and Jodie on Savannah and their lovely cat Logan who reminded us so much of ours; and Ed and Ellen on Entre'act who are making another cruise after their earlier one, 30 years before. They gave us a DVD of their earlier cruise which covered the Carribean, Atlantic and Europe. It has turned in to one of my favourite films. A masterpiece on a micro budget. A photo essay with words and self-composed music.
A sail training ship was also in port, the Picton Castle. We were invited to go onboard for a tour one evening and had a most interesting time. The ship was built around 1929 and has been refitted as a sailing square rigged ship. It is on a circumnavigation, having started on the east coast of the US. They have a professional crew and a paying crew of about 50 who come for adventure, experience and to learn age old skills. They were making some new sails in teh yacht club while we were there and i was glad that I didn't have to make sails out of 14oz canvas, but even more glad that I didn't have to hand sew some of the other sails like we saw onboard that had taken them three weeks to complete.