Friday, August 26, 2016

Nice to meet you, Mr. Prime Minister

This may be a village, but it sure gets lots of activity. We are still in Nabouwalu waiting for the winds to lighten to make our way around the point. We have two more legs (about 50 miles) to get to Savusavu and complete our circumnavigation of Vanua Levu. But these will be the two toughest passages based on the normal trade winds. So we need them as light as possible. While we wait, we are in a relatively comfortable anchorage near the village of Nabouwalu.

This is a busy ferry port because it is the closest one between the largest and most populated island of Viti Levu (Suva the capital is there, as well as Nadi the international airport). We have had at least two ships a day – one smaller ferry "The Spirit of Love" and the larger one "Spirit of Harmony" have each arrived daily. On one day, "The Spirit of Love" arrived two times. The second time was in the dark which was a bit frightening (we are anchored quite close to the ferry dock – not much room to anchor elsewhere as it is a reef ridden and shallow port. The dock has taken up much of the "good" water. Trucks and buses line up throughout the day to catch the ferry. The trucks are laden with logs, cattle, and lots of stuff under big blue or green tarps. Plus there are the buses that this ferry company (Searoad) also run. People can get on a bus in Suva and be taken on the ferry and then driven off the ferry to Labasa or Savusavu when they arrive at this end and it is repeated for the return trip. A clever business in islands that have populations spread out.

Watching the ferries arrive, unload, reload and depart has been good entertainment. It is quite organized and they turn these old boats around quite quickly. The boats could use a paint job as they are quite rusty and have had passed lives as you can still see the asian characters on one and the name "Havannah" on the other.

The late ferry was exciting not just because the arrived in the dark. We called them to make sure they knew we were here and we turned on more lights. They spotlighted us as they came by and made it to the dock. What unloaded, was lots and lots of police personnel and a giant bus that said Fiji Police." We wondered what was going on – riots on Vanua Levu? Another coup? No one seemed stressed. There was nothing in the news. Hmmm.

The next morning, the larger ferry arrived earlier than normal. There was a large tent set up on the top deck. Off came lots of the normal trucks and vehicles. There were some homemade banners hanging around the road leading to the ferry. Lots of Fiji flags were hanging as well, including one on one of the small fiberglass boats that help the ferry tie up. Two flash black SUVs also came off the ferry. One of the Searoad buses had two large Fiji flags flying from the corners. Something was definitely happening here. Then we started to hear that perhaps it was the lauded Fiji Seven rugby team. The gold medal winners in Rio and pride of their country! We called the fiberglass boat over and asked him. He told us it was the prime minister of the country aboard going to Labasa to meet the team. The team had flown in that morning. Interesting that team flies and the prime minister has to take the two hour ferry. But perhaps its because he has such a large entourage and vehicles etc.

We were then told that later in the day, another ferry would come to take the team and the prime minister back. Well, we would ready for that!

The ferry arrived early so that they could re-set the fancy tent and the catering team could get aboard for preparations. The tent, chairs and flower arrangements came off the earlier ferry and would now be reloaded on this one. Just as we were getting ready to go ashore, thinking we had plenty of time, the flash black SUVs were heading up the road. We would have to scramble to get there in time. Luckily we got all dressed up for the event already – Michael in his sulu (traditional Fijian men's dress wear) and Barbara in a new skirt. We made it in and were met by the Prime Minister's secret service. You gotta love these secret service – they are in bright blue short sleeved flowered shirts and dark sulus. They immediately commented on Michael's sulu and Michael said, "we thought we should dress for the occasion, we heard there might be some important people here." They laughed and then told us to go meet the Prime Minister and get a picture taken. We proceeded to go where Prime Minister Bainimarama was standing, getting his photo taken with lots of the local folks on their cell phones. We then had a chance to visit with him for awhile, chatting with him about the country, the rugby team and yachting in the area. He was personable and pleasant also dressed in a sulu and blue shirt. Then we met lots of other folks including the police chief in Nabouwalu who invited us to come up to the station the next day. His name is Mikeli (Michael in Fijian). It was an eventful afternoon. The only disappointment was the Fiji gold medal rugby seven team flew back, So Barbara didn't get to see the good looking young men! The crowds would have been much larger had the team been here rather than just the Prime Minister!

Michael spent some time chatting with Willie, the first mate of the ferry. We confirmed we were in an okay location for anchoring.

It's Saturday morning and the dock road is loaded with trucks, cars and buses. The Fiji Police bus and the motorcycle police for the Prime Minister are here waiting to load. Plus lots of other vehicles. It is definitely a two ferry morning here.

We did get a little walk around the town as well. They have bread here (yippee) and we even had lunch at the "Tea Room" (sounds much fancier than it is). Ice cream is also available and Michael scored with a tasty chocolate cone. Today, we'll do a longer walk probably up the hill to the police station and what looks like a good view.

For now, its watching the ferries come ad go, unload and load.
At 8/26/2016 3:36 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°59.55'S 178°41.12'E

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