I went ashore this morning and completed the formalities. Everyone SO friendly and helpful. It was so much easier than I'd been led to believe. When we arrived yesterday I called the port on channel 16 and got an immediate reply. We were directed to anchor 100-200m north of the wharf.....Slightly nervous on a off shore with a vigorous breeze blowing but it worked out OK. Then i was requested to await the Health official, so we had lunch and within the hour Mr Aquila arrived. An imposingly large man, who I collected from the dock in a sloppy sea and got aboard with difficulty. Once he's fumigated the boat against Zika virus bearing mozzies we returned ashore to deal with Customs and immigration. This was handled by two charming friendly ladies in the Customs House on the wharf, and I was able to nip round the corner to an ATM to get cash to pay my bills - F $168 for Health and $5 for Ports.
As it was by then 4:30 I had to wait till today to deliver personal passport forms for the crew and walk 10 minutes to the Provincial Government offices for my cruising permit. Although they had to fax details to their offices in Suva I had my permit within 30 minutes and then my clearance from Customs to proceed.
This done we set out to explore Levuka. It's a UNESCO World heritage site and rightly so as it retains the unique style of early 19th century colonial days. The shop fronts along Beach Rd are freshly painted with the high square frontage carrying the names of the owners...Gulabda's, Morris Hedstrom, Ivans Hot Bread Shop, Patel's Tailoring & Radio Merchants. Inside are densely stocked emporiums staffed by families of indian descent. Everything from sari silk to radios, pots and pans to watches, lights to put under your car to machetes. There are a small number of restaurants along the front too. The Whale's Tale, Sea Site Restaurant and Horizon; some licenced, some BYO. Cyclone Winston's devastation showed in many places where buildings were still being repaired. The Category 5 hurricane unusually headed out to Tonga and then turned back. Levuka was completely open to its force from seaward.
Today we strolled back streets, enchanted by the shady verandahs and clapboard buildings, mostly fresh painted increases, white or pale blues and greens. Only the shop fronts were pinks, reds and yellows. Everyonebwe passed greeted us with a cheery "Bula!". Once for each in our group.
We passed large elegant school buildings with grounds and sports field alive with playing children. The occasional whistle blast showed that the games were often controlled; girls practising netball moves ends 8 year old boys working hard at very physical contact rugby, perfecting moves and playsnthat were impressively done. We stopped at Levuka Public school and looked in at the cream painted colonial buildings chatting to the Vice Principal and various children.
From there we strolled up the valley road toward the steep mountain wall behind the town. Neatky laid concrete paths andvsteps led off in differentbdieections snaking around from house to house, rising high above the bay. Benches had been placed at intervals for the elderly to rest. We met a young man who cheated to us for a long while and ttold us of his previous job as a long line fisherman, lettingnout up to 60 miles of baited hooks to catch tuna. He said that wages were about F $3.50/ hour -about £1.
We climbed up to a waterfall that marked the coĺection point for the town's drinmibfbwatet and then down the to the sea front again for a sandwich at the Royal Hotel. This grand colonial building was absolutely charming with rooms preserved since the 30s, dark lounges, a great billiard room and ceiling fans maintain a breeze. Out of the rear lounge through white psinted turnedvwoodeb window bars we could see teenagers practising rugby and hockey in the lovely afternoon light.
Before the shops shut at 5pm we bought various essentials and pushed a trolley back to the dock. Here we found Mark in the Port Authority office and were oeomptlyninvited to join in their Kava session. A largeborabge buoy had been cut open to create 're kava bowl. The youngest member, Samson, was mixing five F$2 bags of ground kava into water and straining it through a cloth. He pouredvitbfron a heiğtbinto the bowl and listened to the splash to judge its strength and consistency. Then he brought me a bowl, rtimesemembering the protocol, I clapped once and drank it down in one. Everyone then clapped three and so did I. The taste was a bit woody and mildly earthy.
After between 10-15 circuits of the room conversation was flowing and the fishing crew left to go to sea again, waving enthustically as they moored out.
We too took our leave to ferry goods to Tin Tin in the dinghy. However the stern anchor was firmly lodged on an obstruction on the seabed. To our surprise a man on the Jetty handed his long thin cigarette to a child and dived in, surfacing in the gloom of dusk with it in his hand. He then leapt into a long skiff worth his three children and sped off alkbf the lagoon. I shouted "Vinaka buku levu!!!" Thankyou very much! After him.
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