By Kate “Bob” Addison
This is my first visit to Fiji, and being back in the warm, lush humidity of the South Pacific is wonderful.
Picton Castle is lying at anchor just off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, on the southeast corner of the largest Fijian island, Viti Levu. It’s a bit more than 3 hours drive from the international airport at Nadi on the West Coast. Three hours drive to get less than half way round the coast! That give you an idea of how big this island is compared to the Cook Islands or Tonga say. It just looks tiny being so close to Australia on the charts. Suva, the capital, is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the South Pacific. The University of the South Pacific has a large campus here, with students coming from all across the region. There’s a major port just along the coast, with the occasional cruise ship amongst the container ships, bulk carriers and fishing vessels.
The weather in Suva is warm and damp, the humidity picked up by the trade winds on their long ocean passages is forced out by the mountains inland to the north and west, making the Suva peninsula lush and green and soggy. There’s been a more or less constant haze or light fog since I’ve been here, though not much actual rain so far.
The centre of town is an agreeable melange of old colonial buildings, now requisitioned to become bars, shops and restaurants, and shiny new shopping malls and office blocks. The main market in the centre of town is enormous and wonderful. I went there today with Tammy to pick up some fresh stuff for the ship, and being a Saturday morning, all was bustling. We got kumula and pumpkin, salad, fruit, veggies to stir-fry and coriander and ginger because they smelled so wonderful. Also some beautiful purple and green mottled beans that I bought because they were pretty. Apparently you pod them and then fry the beans with garlic before adding them to a curry. Sounds good to me! There were all sorts of exciting vegetables: taro roots and leaves, plantains, coconuts and all sorts of pretty coloured tropical fruit. The people were mostly Fijians and Indo-Fijians, all friendly, calling ‘Bula!’or hello. One called out ‘English?’, which I thought was quite impressive – how did she know I wasn’t Canadian. Maybe it’s the red hair. You buy the veggies by the bundle, which is a small plastic plate heaped with tomatoes or oranges or whatever for a fixed price of a few Fijian dollars.
We didn’t explore much beyond the market today, but the streets winding away were full of colourful cafes, bakeries and shops selling sarongs and bling. It all looked intriguing – I’m looking forward to going back to explore soon.