Sometimes the best way to get a feel for a place is to travel its countryside. With just a week in Fiji and no ambition to make the hop to any of Fiji's 300-plus outer islands, we opted to rent a car and circumnavigate its big island: Viti Levu.
We started on the dry side of the Island, just north of Nadi. (Well, actually Josh started at the Nadi airport where he picked up our rental car. I started at the Vuda Point Marina where we entered the country on our friend's boat.) On our first day, we drove north to Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji. From there, we continued north in a clockwise circle and spent two nights in the small town of RakiRaki where we were able to go scuba diving and watch local kids play rugby from our hotel room window. Heading southeast, we entered the wet side of the mainland and passed through lots of villages before arriving in Suva, the capital and home to the Fiji Museum. From there, we drove west to Sigatoka and then north into the interior where we enjoyed a Homestay on a farm for three nights. Josh's last day in Fiji brought us to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and then north to the tourist town of Denarau and finally Nadi where I holed up until my flight out a couple days later.
As we drove around the island I took notes and photographs in an attempt to capture the essence of rural Fiji.
THE NORTHWEST: Lautoka to RakiRaki (Sunday morning)
- The bus station in downtown Lautoka packed with privately operated buses headed in every direction.
- Indian sweet shop by the side of the road where we bought four fried donuts and four chickpea savory bites for just $1 FIJ ($0.50 US)
- Corrugated metal houses painted in bright reds, pinks, blues and greens
- Sugar canes fields on fire in preparation for the harvest
- Trash littering the roadside: tinned food, beer bottles, plastic bags, foil chip bag
- Cows with curved horns tied up and grazing along the highway beneath fluffy clouds begging to be flown
- A mother and daughter dressed in pink crossing the fields behind the belching sugar cane mill, with the sugar train engine awaiting it's next journey.
- Mangrove swamps dried up with colorful boats moored in mud
- Families walking with rainbow umbrellas along the highway
- A whole village dressed in their Sunday best seated on the dirt ground under pole roof outdoor room listening to a sermon
- Seventh day Adventist, Catholic, Muslim, and Hindi churches and temples and schools
- Goats! Black furry baby goats, Dalmatian spotted goats, brown goats, grayish white goats--some grazing freely, others tied with long twine ropes
- Tiny homes with immaculate yards, swept dirt front yards, a rainbow of flowers individually planted just so
- Satellite dishes on corrugated metal roofs
- A yard full of broken down and banged up cars
- Buses belching diesel fumes, driving through a cloud of exhaust
- Bus stops dotting the highway where relaxed woman, teen boys and families awaited their pickup in the shade
See the next post in this series for EASTERN FIJI.