We wound our way through the reefs from Viani Bay to Buca (pronounced Butha). This is where the little village of Loa is located and where you can catch a bus to Savusavu. We would settle here and make sure Astarte was well-anchored and wait for word that the part are in Savusavu. We knew it was in Fiji, but cryptic tracking messages made us wonder where exactly in Fiji it was. It was Saturday and we would have to wait until Monday for answers. On Monday, after several e-mails, texts and phone calls, we got the good word it was in Savusavu but the bad news: that in order to avoid paying "duty" the customs officer would have to place it on the boat. We had not intended to bring the boat back to Savusavu. Luckily, the DHL rep went to bat for us and got permission to release the part to Michael from the post office for a small service fee. The $4.50 (F$) was a lot cheaper than the $200 or so "duty." So we would plan to head to Savusavu on the 6:30 am bus from Loa.
On Monday, we did head into Loa to get permission to anchor in the bay, but sevusevu was not required. We met the "headman" Tom, and he was very friendly and we got permission to be there. We met lots of people from the village – everyone is exceedingly friendly – handshakes and introductions are constant. The women of the village get together daily and sell food at a booth – this includes meat pies, rotis, sweet "pies" (a pastry topped with a lemon or orange custard-like topping), curries and fish dinners. The prices are very cheap (almost everything is $1 F). The fresh squeezed fruit juice was $1.50 for a bottle.
We also took a hike around the village and into the outskirts. People would come out of their homes and invite you inside. Everyone stops and chats.
On Tuesday, we got an early start to catch the bus. This means loading our stuff into the dinghy and getting to shore (dragging the dinghy through the mud because tide is way low) and tying it securely to some mangroves. Then we had to walk into the town to the bus stop. We loaded on a bus with no windows (curtains could be rolled down if rains) and we were grateful the seats were at least slightly padded. We headed into Savusavu – an almost three hour ride over roads that were both muddy and potholed, as well as roads that were nicely paved. Lots of road construction was going on – all run by Chinese companies. The bus got quite crowded with lots of stops at small villages as well as just folks standing by the side of the road. We got to Savusavu around 9:45 am and started on our list of projects (propane tank fill; part pick-up at the post office (had to wait until 11 for the customs official and then they had a hard time finding the part as it was misplaced in the wrong number bin); some groceries and fruits and veggies; beer purchase; and then back to catch the bus again at 1 pm for the return trip. Loading the bus is a trip – as everyone rushes to it when it arrives to get their many, many packages and boxes on board. We joined the mad rush with all our stuff! We got seats. The bus driver (a different one than we had in the morning) knew we were off the "yacht" in the harbor. So did almost everyone else on the bus and they even knew where we parked the dinghy. At the end of the trip, the driver dropped us off at the dinghy, and like everyone else, we offloaded our stuff out the windows! Along the way, the bus stopped to drop off boxes and packages at different locations and would often just honk the horn and someone would hand off a package through the window to someone. You also get to stop at lots of roadside booths, run by the local women's groups, to buy snacks – just like the ladies sold in Loa. In fact, in Loa, those ladies as well would come aboard the bus with their trays of food to peddle their treats. It was quite an adventure. We finally got back to the bus around 5:30 pm – it was a long day. We both woke up quite sore the next day from the bumpy ride.
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