By 10am we had showered, eaten break fast and were up on deck watching our entry into the port of Suva, the capital of the islands.
The ship glided in on a flat calm sea mirroring the tropical forested mountains on the port side, with a back drop of blue sky and a few puffy clouds gently caressing the very tops of the peaks, it looked lovely. We couldn’t wait to get on shore.
However, as we had booked a ‘Spice Farm and Nature’ tour from the ship we couldn’t just disembark at our leisure, we had to wait and meet the rest of our party in one of the lounges at 10.45am. Waiting there it was surprising to see the number of people who hadn’t the intelligence to read the instructions on their tickets, or listen to the frequent PA announcements and turned up late and missed their coach. To see the realisation on their faces that they had just wasted an awful lot of money, prompted no supports of encouragement from those who could attend a meeting on time. Ship booked tours are not cheap. The crew were attempting to get them on another tour when we left, but things weren’t looking good.
In any event our tour party was quite small with only around a half of the coach being filled.
The guide was a large native Fijian, who had a lovely manner and described the sites along our route well. Thank god for air-con, as it was hot!
The Spice Farm was set up in the hills, well off the metalled roads. At times I thought we wouldn’t make it around some of the bends along our dusty track. But eventually we pulled up along some wooden huts with natives garbed in grass skirts who started to sing as we left the bus. Flowers were given and chairs provided under shade. First we were treated to some native welcome songs, then told that we would be having a traditional meal with them. A fire had been made on top of a pile of stones that by now were glowing red. The ashes were swept away and a hole made in the centre. We were shown our fayre, it was first wrapped in banana leaves and then with a modern touch, wrapped in kitchen foil. These quite large balls of delights were then placed in the hole and covered with stones to start the cooking process.
A Fijian welcome ceremony involves the drinking of cava. We were shown how this drink is made and it was demonstrated how you drink it. We were invited to try the stuff, not all did but Sue and I were among the volunteers. To be honest, it wasn’t vile, but luckily your lips go numb so it was just an unpleasant drink. It is supposed to be quite intoxicating, but I guess the stuff they made for us wasn’t that strong. We survived.
Drinks and fruit were then handed round and we listened to a description of how each of the spices being held up for our observation were grown, harvested and prepared for sale. With the lecture finished we set off in small groups each with a village inhabitant to see the spices growing in the fields. Just outside the village we met two lads who chopped coconuts for us to drink. It was hot. Everywhere was so naturally picturesque and we didn’t see a local who didn’t have a huge beaming smile on their face. They were truly pleased to have us visit and were so hospitable.
After getting thoroughly hot and acquainted with all the types of plants that grew in the area we returned to the structure where we first arrived. Our little group had dallied in the fields and we could hear singing emanating from our starting point. Unfortunately we missed the fire walker from the next village who had come over specially to demonstrate his skill on our cooker. Though we were in time to see some of the village dancing and singing. Though sung in their native tongue it was very pleasant to listen too. Not so some of the village singing we have heard in other countries.
We next were treated with more drinks and fruit, before the buffet of stone cooked food was laid out for us to try. It was all cooked beautifully, though Sue rejected my idea of doing the same for a Friday family curry night. We particularly liked the Tarot leaves cooked in coconut oil.
After eating I bought some spices to take home and use in my curries.
Finally, the villagers congregated and sang a goodbye song to us. So sweet, and then they lined up in one long row and we shook hands with each one before boarding our coach. A really lovely trip.
Driving back into Suva, like many on the bus we got off in the city itself rather than return to the ship. With around 4 hours to go before we had to be back on board, we thought we would do some shopping. For once, despite Sue trying on several dresses I was the one that purchased an item of clothing, a Fijian rugby shirt.
Before catching the shuttle-bus back, we visited an impressive church located in the centre. Inside it was less impressive, though it had the advantage of being cool.
Back on board we visited the cafe for drinks and snacks before showering in the cabin to cool down. Sue had a nap and I went to the library to fetch the days’ crossword and quiz. On returning we both went on deck to watch the ship leave port.
On the quay, way, way below us there was a Fijian pop group performing for the passengers watching from the various decks with access to the outside. When they had finished, as if by magic out strode the Police Brass Band in military style, playing their tunes and formation marching. The after a few tunes they sat down on seats already laid out and began to strike up again, this time accompanied by first a male vocalist, then a female voice. As this was happening, on the other side of the ship over the distant mountains an electric storm was building. Some of the flashes were quite spectacular.
With the lights of Suva receding into the distance we joined the majority of passengers and returned to our cabins to change for the evening meal. The dress code was casual tropical.
Prior to dinner we watched an American juggling act. It was a husband and wife team and they were OK. The banter suited the younger element in the audience and I am afraid the juggling itself wasn’t that spectacular.
We had the company of Steve and Ellie for our meal and we chatted about what we had done on shore, before dessert the waiters entertained us again with some dancing that was really rather good.
There was no show in the theatre afterwards and we spurned the various other venues to grab an early night (11pm), we have to be up for 6.30am tomorrow.