Suva is very different from anywhere we’ve been before. This port is extremely industrial. There are only a few sailboats here and cruising is a little challenging. We anchored off the Royal Suva Yacht Club, which is about a 10-minute drive from downtown. The water is very shallow; we anchored in 9 feet! That’s good, as we don’t have to worry about these huge ships getting near us.
The entrance to the yacht club is just as shallow, which is why we decided to anchor. Plus, there isn’t much room for us in there! The yacht club is pretty dang small, with mostly small boats med moored. We did come into the yacht club to fuel up. We came at high tide and had to ask boats to move off the dock so we could wedge ourselves in by the fuel pump. The depth sounder read no less than 8.5 feet through the entrance. This is the first time since Raiatea in July that we have been able to pull up to a dock and totally fill our tank!
Suva has plenty of grocery stores, and taxis are cheap. It was about $5FJ to downtown or $7FJ to the Sports City shopping complex, where there is a Cost-U-Less, a Costco equivalent. The downtown market is the biggest I’ve ever seen, full of produce, tropical flowers, and unusual foods. I also went to a proper department store to buy sulus – traditional formal wear for men, so that we can dress properly for a sevusevu (kava) ceremony. That was pretty exciting!
Our big reason for coming to Suva was to pick up our friend Kyle, visiting from the states. Kyle has been one of David’s best friends for 10 years and it’s his first visit to the boat. He flew into Nadi, the international airport which is located here on the island of Viti Levu, rented a car and drove to meet us. After getting settled in and having lunch aboard, we took off to explore Suva!
First, we drove down and parked on Southern Cross Road between a large government building and Albert Park. Albert Park was a busy place – people were out playing cricket and rugby on the beautifully manicured lawn. Did you know that Fiji won its first Olympic medal this year? They won the gold medal in Rugby Sevens, which is a huge sport in Fiji! Even though it’s been months, we see tons of people wearing special Fiji rugby shirts or Olympic medal shirts.
From there we walked through Thurston Park to the Fiji Museum. The museum is small but was a great introduction to Fiji. We learned about the history of the natives and the interactions with Europeans. They have a large drua on display; a section of the rudder of the HMS Bounty, of the infamous Mutiny of the Bounty; and a masi collection, including a modern wedding dress. The museum was a great deal at $5 US a person.
Next, we walked across the street to the Grand Pacific Hotel, a stunning historic building built in 1914. The staff was super friendly and let us walk through the lobby and out to the pool and shore. Throughout the lobby are old pictures, especially shots of the Queen of England visiting, and a display case with a rugby ball signed by the Fijian Olympic team.
We drove out of town for the Colo-I-Suva park, where we spent an hour hiking through the jungle. There were several pools and waterfalls along the way, including a rope swing! There were several men jumping off and doing flips, shouting “FIJI STYLE!” Kyle took a turn “American style”. We also saw several mongooses (mongeese?) on the hike.
On the way back we stopped at a restaurant called Eden near the US embassy and had drinks and dinner. I drank a passion mojito, while the guys enjoyed Fijian beers. We shared kokoda (a fish appetizer), and two pizzas, one with shrimp and cilantro and the other with an Indian chicken.
Saturday we woke up early and took off on a grand adventure. We drove to a small village called Navai, at the base of Mount Tomanivi (or Victoria). We took the direct route from Suva, going straight north and through the interior of the island. For the first hour, Kyle drove on a paved road, but the rest of the four and a half hour drive was through the jungle on a gravel road. Google maps estimated 3 hours, and we don’t even want to know what it did to the rental car! Kyle’s phrase of the day was “we’ve got to be getting close”.
Upon reaching the village, you stop and tell a villager you want to hike the mountain. We suspect every adult male is a guide, but our guide was named Bela. He instructed me to wear a sulu (but the guys were ok in athletic shorts) and we took off for the hike. Once outside the village, I could take the sulu off.
Navai is at an elevation of roughly 2,372 feet, and from the village, you hike 4.5 km and climb 600m (2,000 feet). It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes and it was HARD. The first 40 minutes or so up to the rest stop was a gradual uphill slope that we took fairly quickly. From that point, it started to rain. The trail is steep and very technical, and the mud didn’t help. We summited Mount Tomanivi at 2:15 pm, and even though it was cloudy we enjoyed the view of all the other mountains around us. Supposedly on a clear day, you can see out to the neighboring islands.
Going down was tricky and slippery with everyone slipping and falling at least once, even our guide! Since we had to take it slow for the mud we took another 2.5 hours to get down.
Back in the village, we paid the fee; $20 per person plus $35 for our guide, so $95FJ total. They let us use the village spout to wash some of the mud off, but we were really filthy. It was lovely for the drive back – stinking up the rental car!
Instead of going back the way we came, we drove north up the gravel road to King’s Road, a paved two-lane road that runs along the top of the country. This drive ended up being longer in terms of distance, but a smoother, more comfortable drive. It still took us 4.5 hours to get back to Suva. The gravel road was more scenic because the land was fields instead of the jungle so we got some pretty stellar views of the sunset. King’s road made it a much more comfortable drive back, although it was dark and there were tons of people, dogs, horses, and cows on the road. In Kyle’s words, it was like driving from Houston to Dallas, hiking a mountain, and then driving right back.
The next morning we had brunch at Governors Museum Themed Restaurant, which is a cute South Pacific-themed place. The walls had posters for movies filmed in Fiji (including Dove and Blue Lagoon), photos of Fijians in WWII, and pictures and news articles from the first transpacific flight.
Kyle wasn’t done driving us around! We took off west this time, driving along Queen’s road and the south coast. This drive was very different from the north shore. The north shore is full of small villages and churches, very local. The south shore is dotted with resorts and some bigger towns with grocery stores and restaurants.
Our destination was the Sigatoka Sand Dunes park. $10FJ per person got us entry, and we took the long route around. The dunes are AMAZING! We had a blast running up and down the dunes, posing for pictures, and taking in the view from the top of the dunes. The whole park took us about 1:40 and we bought waters and ice cream bars from the visitors center as a post-hike treat.
We returned the rental car and had Indian food for dinner at Maya Dhaba.
We owe a big thanks to Kyle already, as he planned the entire three days, drove the whole time, and treated us to all meals out. It’s the least I’ve cooked in a really long time.
Monday morning we took off for points south!