Sunday, September 9, 2012

We are off to House sit on an Island in Fiji

This site is obsolete

Now we are real travellers.

We have been staying out of the town near Pacific Harbour.

It is raining all night, and we have to get to Suva – the capital of Fiji.

The gardener and host help us with all our bags to the front road shelter.

It is still raining and 7.30 am, and the traffic is busy.

In Fiji, you just stand by the roadside and secure a ride from whoever passes first and stops.

In our case it is a pretty empty bus.

I wish I had not been so busy with the luggage to take a photo, as it is all passed up through the back window, and it kind of cracks me up.

The 1 & ½ hour fare is $7 FJ – less than $4 AU for both of us combined – that includes a $2 for the luggage that occupies the back seat.

We sit at the front, and as the bus fills to overflowing, we trust no one is rifling through our packs with our computers and phones, but there is no way to have them near where we are sitting. Already one of our boxes is balanced on the dashboard by the permanently open door, and I fear it will slide out if we combine a corner and a bump at the same time.

Alas, we collect “The Inspector” along the way. He is very important and respected, and glares at us over his taped together glasses, that match his taped together clipboard.

So out of respect, the driver goes really, really, really slowly. This goes on for about ½ hour or more.

Finally we drop him off, and the driver makes up for lost time. The minute the driver is over the hill, we blow some serious black smoke, as he lead-foots it down into the valley.

We are dropped at the bus station and the driver helps us get a taxi. We don’t have much option here, as with the extra box and bag of things to give the poor, we really are loaded up way beyond what I can handle. Alas we are ripped off blindly for the fare, but I have little choice other than carry it to who knows where.

We have no idea what to do with our stuff, so we drop it at the police point at one of the wharf entries, and head off to buy our ferry tickets. I have to remember the Fijian wharf name or never see my stuff again – there are no time for pens and paper as he shoots off and I try to familiarise myself with where we are – yikes!

The price of the ferry tickets has rapidly increased since we enquired from Australia.

When I rang from the resort last week, we were told to ‘talk cash’ and get a return ticket deal. However when we went to buy the ticket he refused and no discount on a return, so we just bought a one way. I had already decided on a cabin as it was a 14 hour crossing to the island, and there was no way I could sit up and watch bags and a child all night.

So we find our wharf, and our police point, and then our ship and lug our stuff on board.

We are the only “Europeans” in the cabin area.

My son is amused as we are requested to remove our shoes on board.

We then find we completely lack bedding and towels and the bathroom is a toilet, and the shower is the end of the hall.

An Indian man already knows the ropes and goes first and toddles down the hall with his great roll of fat hanging over his towel. He keeps opening and re-wrapping his towel and I try not to look - yuck.

We sort out some bedding and manage a throw each, and 2 pillows with no covers that have seen better days.

The funny thing is this “cruise ship” is an old Canadian ferry “The Prince Rupert”, now renamed “The Lomoviti Princess”.

We are so fortunate as we have air-conditioning in our cabin. The rest of the boat has NO airflow. Everyone dashes for a spot on the floor.

 You would think it is a post natural disaster site, as native Fijians make themselves at home anywhere.

Bodies are soon found sleeping everywhere.

Soon it is impossible to even get to the stairs.

We had figured we would eat dinner on board, but it was strange local food. The Fijian lady was fantastic and made us a stir-fry and my son a Milo. Fijians seem so friendly and helpful and just want to talk to you to be nice.

After about a three-hour wait, we finally left the dock, and as the boat started to rock, we both felt too ill to do anything but try to sleep.  We step over the bodies to get back to the cabin and try and get some rest.

Alas my 7 year old is violently seasick. He is also bitten by bed bugs, and is covered in mosquito bites. We huddle together in my bed - quite cold, and he sleeps. The loudspeaker blasts at 3 am, and we think we have arrived and madly dress and pack. But no – it is the island of “Koro”.

I try to get him to take a shower and he throws up all over his clothes. ‘This has to get better’ I think to myself. But the lack of air forces us to finally work our way over the sleeping bodies to the guys out in the staff deck. I thought they were sitting around buckets as they were ill, but no the muddy water in the buckets is kava. It seriously looked like someone could mop the floors with it, but they drink it with joy.
So we head back over the sleeping passengers for some fresh air as the sun rises, and our new island home for the next weeks is in sight.

It is 7 am and we have to exit the cabin area, and wait in the non air circulated docking area, and by then I can hardly breathe and feel like I am going to puke.

I have been wearing a backpack (with 6 bottles of drink that feels like it has bricks in it) for the best part of an hour, standing on a rocking boat. The staff members were great, and end up sitting my son in their air-conditioned pursers office, while the poor locals are not faring too well with the wait.

We go downstairs to the car dock and collect our bags and boxes and I have to pay a duty?

We arrive at Savusavu and are collected by the cheeriest man I have ever met that my son calls “Mr Happy”.

We are house sitting and he is our host. He drops us to our hotel to have breakfast and clean up. Now I feel really ill and my son is as good as gold.

I force some breakfast down and we both have a swim.

We go for a walk to check out the town. The road is swaying and I just need to sit down.

Today we are shown the ropes of the house we will call home for the next 5 weeks.

It is out of town about 2 km, and set on a hill overlooking the harbour.

It is a lovely place with a million dollar view and it feels like paradise. I can see these people really care about their home and garden, and I feel blessed to have the next few weeks of life here.

“Mr Happy” shows us the ropes of the home – looking after a home in the tropics has a whole new set of rules to city life.  My son asks where the pool is, and why we only have 3 TV stations. “Mr Happy” laughs. I am embarrassed.  He picks us some bananas out of the garden.

He leaves the next day, and we move in.

I sit out the back eating Cassava chips and watch the sun set with a drink in my hand.

The stresses of packing, selling and moving house all roll away.

I think I am really going to like island living.

“This is the life”, says my seven year old, and I have to agree!

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