After seven days at sea, several of them through high winds and seas, we arrived on a beautiful sunny day to Fiji. The ship skipped our stop in Pago Pago, American Samoa due to tropical storms. That was a bit of a ride. The ride in to the port took us past a number of beautiful islands, most small and filled with greenery and white sand beaches. Fiji is made up of over 300 islands, but I don’t know how many are actually inhabited.
The port of Lautoka is a commercial port where sugar and lumber are the main industries. There are beautiful mountains rising up behind the city and everyone is very friendly. So friendly that you have to be alert to reply to many greetings of “oola!” (hello) that you hear as you walk along the street and enter shops. We caught a shuttle in to town and immediately set out to find postcards! There were many shops but they clearly catered to local residents as opposed to tourists. We stumbled across the central market which was full of stands selling fruits and vegetables, many easily recognizable but more than enough exotic offerings to remind us that we were a long way from home. No pictures of the market though, we were too distracted looking around.
Eventually we found our postcards and got them written. Then we headed off to the post office where everyone greeted us and pointed us to the right counter. We got our stamps and the guy behind the counter even offered a damp sponge to affix them. When I pulled out my credit card to pay, he gave me a blank look. And, they – unlike almost every other merchant – did not take US currency. He pointed us down the street to the currency exchange and offered to finish putting the stamps on our cards. We could not quite communicate the need to know how much the stamps were going to cost though, so we took a guess and got some Fijian cash. When we came back, he took our money, gave us some change, showed us our stamped cards and sent us on our way with a friendly smile.
This particular area of Fiji is home to large Indian community brought to the islands by the British for the sugar trade. There are several Hindu Temples and a Mosque. We were able to see one of the Temples and the Mosque on our walk around town.
We left port at sunset, and what a sunset it was!