Thursday, August 4, 2016

The “Big” City of Labasa

After getting some nice fish curry from the family we met at Wavuwav and delivering the family photos, we left the Tivi Island/Wavuwavu anchorage. We we going to make the ten mile passage to Malau.

Malau is an industrial area near the Labassa River. There is a fuel depot, a bulk sugar distribution center and a lumber/plywood mill. So it isn't the garden spot along the coast – but it is a good place to anchor the big boat and get to shore and leave the little boat for a trip into town. Labasa is a 40 minute bus ride into town from here. The bus costs $1.55 Fiji each way (that's about $3 US for the round trip for both of us!)

We anchored and dinghied into shore to the lumber mill's guard shack. Here we asked Tuni, the guard if we could leave the dinghy. He told us to tie it to the "sign." Then he invited us in the shack to wait for the bus which was about an hour away. He told us the bus schedule, price and where things were in town. A real tour guide!

The bus came and we made our way into town, chatting with a man who worked at the mill. He gave us lots more info on the sugar business. There were hundreds of trucks loaded with cane as well as tractors pulling beds loaded with cut cane. The man said, "that is the backbone of Fiji" as we looked at the trucks all lined up outside the sugar refinery. Sugar is still Fiji's biggest economic influence.

In town, we needed some groceries after being out a month – but it took a little time to get a handle on the three or four groceries in town. Meat is rare commodity here. All that was in the grocery stores was chicken bits or lamb bits (and bits meaning mostly stew type meat). The vegetable and fruit market however was terrific – several buildings packed with lots of fresh good looking stuff. Fruit was a tough find in Savusavu thanks to the cyclone – but here we could find some papayas, watermelons and expensive bananas. Bananas are still a premium – cyclone winds do a number on them.

We loaded up and looked like pack mules as we caught the bus back. The bus picked up a lot of young children from school so it was a festive ride. We were the "attraction" on the bus.

The following day we repeated the performance though we started a bit earlier to be able to have time for a lunch in town and a bit more of a walkabout. We also needed fuel so we were loaded down with two 5 gallon jugs. We found a butcher and picked up some meat and a few frozen chickens. A watermelon from the market was also added to the load. We made it back to the dinghy.

Labasa (pronunced Lam-bassa) is an interesting town. It is "little India" with all the shops selling jewelry and saris. Lots of Indo-Fijians in town as well as a mix of Fijians. Lots of cabs, trucks full of sugar cane and dozens of brightly colored buses. It is the largest town on this island – but we must admit we prefer Savusavu.

Now that shopping was done – we could move on to a more scenic anchorage (which we did – but that story will be the next entry.)

Latitude 16 21.72s
Longitude 179 21.61e
At 8/4/2016 8:30 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°13.98'S 179°05.21'E

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