September 13, 2011

From Silence to City

 When I last blogged (it seems like so long ago!) we were still at anchor in a peaceful cove. A few local fishermen had yet to stop by and visit and offer us some of their day’s catch—because to them we were part of the village: a village we had no idea was there and couldn’t see. But no matter—we offered them baseball hats and school supplies for the village kids and chatted about weather and fishing and enjoyed their company.

And sailed on: Which is our theme here as we seem to rush through the ports.

A month isn’t going to be long enough for Fiji. Especially with projects to complete and plans for Australia needing sorting. If I did this again I’d go from Tonga to NZ and then return to spend an entire second season in Fiji and Vanuatu. Especially now with so many formally Med-bound boats beginning to back up in SE Asia--there really is no reason to get there quickly.
From Vatia Lailai we sailed on to Lautoka, an industrial sugar mill town where I realized we were just about the only white faces. It was my noticing, more than the fact itself that surprised me—when we were walking down the street we saw a couple of shiny-pink tourists. They stood out so completely against the backdrop of Fijians that I realized we must be equally obvious looking.
I tend to forget.
 Lautoka is affordable—and with Maia seeming to double in size on a near monthly basis it looked like a good place to outfit her in clothes that fit again. She and I set off with a shopping list (being a good cat sailor I had her pull out everything she had grown out of to donate—then we could replace those items only—rather than her doing what I do and just accumulate more clothes…) and a budget.

Lautoka has both a local clothing industry—with nice locally made things for a good prices, as well as several shops where last years’ (or the year before) brand name clothes are sold off at a bargain. We rarely paid more than $10 f ($6) for an item of clothing and most were in the $5 range. By the time we had finished shopping Maia was fully outfitted in up to date tween fashions and I had a pretty new dress.

The other shopper’s paradise in Latoka is the market. It’s good we started with the smaller versions in previous ports—because this large cavernous building could overwhelm otherwise. We stocked up on the normal fruits and veggies, but having ditched Evan for our girl’s shopping day, we also decided to pop into the handicraft market (claiming it was research for our upcoming visit from the NessetsJ) I’m a little addicted to tapas and the Fijian ones are gorgeous and affordable. So we stocked up.

Lautoka isn’t beautiful. It’s noisy and busy and the fact it had streetlights! multi-story buildings! so may shops! made us realize that other than Papette it’s been  five months since we were last in a city, or even a biggish town. But Lautoka is incredibly friendly and as the kind of person who tends to gravitate toward non-tourist centres (I’m also not that keen on ex-pat towns—they always strike me as a cross between summer camp and a dysfunctional family reunion…) it is the kind of city I love: easy to navigate, everything we need and lots of cheerful energy.

Our stay was brief though—we wanted to get to Musket Cove for the regatta and to reunite Maia with her friends (and us with our friends) on Mamalu and Connect 4.
So we sailed on.

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