Monday, September 7, 2015

Visiting Lautoka, Fiji

Our sunset view wasn't so bad after all!

While some folks spending time cruising Fiji may not think much of Lautoka - we found it to be our favorite "big city" on Viti Levu. It may be true that the anchorage is not as picturesque as many of the other beautiful places in this country - especially since you usually end up anchored right next to the busy port - but the city itself has a LOT to offer. 

Super fresh yummy eggs from the market.
We visited Lautoka many times while we were in Fiji and here's a few of the reasons we loved the place...
  • A multitude of well supplied grocery stores to choose from
  • Some of the best banana bread we've ever tasted
  • Awesome $5 haircuts that didn't make us want to wear a hat
  • Super nice locals (though that's pretty true everywhere in Fiji)
  • The 2nd largest (and on Saturdays the absolute BEST) fresh market in all of Fiji 
The fish market had lots of options...
Puffer fish anyone?

Look at those gorgeous stacks of tomatoes for $1 US!
  • Always a cab ready (for cheap!) right when you need it most
  • A really cool sports stadium where we watched Fiji beat the pants off of the Cook Islanders in rugby 
  • Amazing views of the burning sugar cane on the hillsides at night (though I could do without the coating of ash all over the boat)
The glow of sugar cane fires - the whole
hillside seemed on fire at times!
  • Everything seemed about 5-10% cheaper than in Nadi
  • And the only place we were able to learn all about the local sugar cane industry! 

One of the 100's of daily sugar cane
trucks lined up to be processed.
And in truth, you could anchor closer to Bekana Island if you wanted a nicer view, but we liked being just a short dinghy ride from the town. 

Overall, we liked Lautoka because it pretty much provided one stop shopping with a significantly better "vibe" then the nearby Nadi. If you are cruising Fiji and need some time in the city to resupply, we highly recommend giving Lautoka a chance. We can guarantee that the more time you spend poking around there, the more you'll like it!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Suva – Fiji’s Capital

Beautiful artistry at the festival.
There's nothing like a carnival, right?
In August of last year, after our visit to Levuka (the original capital of Fiji), we thought we should check out the current capital  - Suva!  Definitely the biggest city in the country, Suva is the main port for Fiji and is definitely the political and commercial capital of this wonderful country.

Groups of fishing boats all on one big mooring ball...
Entering the harbor at Suva is an experience all on it’s own.  As you approach the outer reef you begin to see a multitude of abandoned wrecks, a stern reminder of the need for careful navigation in this area. I think we counted at least 6 wrecks on the way in.  After you enter the harbor, there are more sunken hazards to watch for (most of them marked or easily seen thankfully!).  But what's really crazy is the multitude of huge fishing vessels that will all be tied to one large mooring buoy – with most of them exhibiting an advanced state of disrepair. 

Now that's how you run a ride 3rd world style!
But if you can get past the view and the almost constant rain that falls here in the rain-shadow, Suva has a lot to offer the curious traveler.  We were lucky enough to arrive during the Hibiscus Festival – which meant plenty of fun activities, including lots of interesting food, arts and crafts and even some really sketchy looking rides!  Brett was especially interested in how they powered the Ferris Wheels – that’s some serious ingenuity... 

Some pretty good food at the festival!
Other areas that shouldn’t be missed?  Suva has the biggest and BEST fresh market we have ever been to.  It just goes on and on and on – fresh, beautiful fruit and vegetables as far as you can see in a riot of color.  Need some fish?  Maybe some eggs?  How about some nicely packaged Kava to present to the village chiefs? Or some Indian spices or brightly colored candy?  No problem!  The Suva market has it all. 

A replica of a classic Fijian boat.
Another must stop spot was the Suva museum.  What looked fairly small at first opened up into some really great displays on Fijian culture – both in the past and in modern times.  One display showcased some modern Fijian wedding dresses made out of Tapa cloth that were absolutely stunning.  Definitely glad we made it a part of our Suva visit.

Yep - just a motor and some pulleys!
All in all we would recommend Suva as a fun place to stop in and stock up before heading back out into the beautiful (and much more remote) areas that Fiji has to offer.