Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Road From Nadi to Suva

10 October 2013

Today is Fiji Independence Day, so it's a government holiday here in Fiji, with celebrations going on all over the country.

We caught the bus from Nadi to Suva, so we ended up not seeing any of the parades, or anything other than flags flying, people wearing shirts based on the flags, and a few small towns having festivities.  Oh, and fireworks for sale at the supermarket, and some firecrackers going off in the streets around our hotel.

The bus - I almost don't even know how to explain the bus.  First, we bought the tickets, and waited.  And waited.  Finally a huge bus showed up at the station, and everyone crowded around, pushing and shoving, like the subway in New York or Tokyo or almost anywhere.  (Except maybe in London.)  Anyway, by the time we got on the bus, there weren't two seats available next to each other.  I climbed over an old man who assured me the seat by the window was available (but he wouldn't stand in the aisle to let me in easily) - Richard took the aisle seat in the row in front.  We were on the side of the bus with three seats.   So the old man proceeds to act as my tour guide, and tells me about each village we pass, or resort, or whatever.  Except he has a very strong accent, I think East Indian, and I can only understand part of what he says.  Some of the time I had zero clue what he was saying, but I'd nod and say "Oh, okay" as if I understood.

So in this bus crammed with Fijians, a few of East Indian descent but most being native Fijians, we are "treated" to a Bollywood movie - screen up front, sound broadcast throughout the bus.  In some Indian language, I really don't know what.  With English subtitles, but I was nearly in the back of the bus and I couldn't read it most of the time.  It was a confusing romance/musical/drama/slapstick comedy/kung fu movie with lavish costume changes in the midst of the music and dance numbers.  I think the basic plot was boy and brother steal money from some bad guys, they fall in love with two girls who might (or might not) be sisters, in the end the father (or girls' father?  or someone's uncle?) pays money to the bad guys to make the problem go away.  In the middle, there was a song and dance with footballs.  Then another song and dance with eggs.  See what I mean about confusing?  I really couldn't figure out how things went together, it left me pretty baffled.

But there was an adorable little girl on the bus, of Indian descent, who was more interested in the other passengers than this very odd movie.

Oh, I should add here that this is the 43rd Fiji Independence Day - the country became independent from Great Britain in 1970.  There have been major problems with ethnic tension between the indigenous Fijians and the Indians who have been living here for several generations.  There were a few coups, the most recent being in 2000, when the Fijian political party and military ousted the country's first Indo-Fijian leader (who was elected by the Indian majority at that time) - and the military government passed legislation decreeing that only indigenous Fijians can hold political office.  I can sort of understand, because the Fijians were under British rule for a long time, and then, after a short time of independence, then found themselves a minority and with a leader of the ethnic majority (who, let's face it, could be seen as part of the British Commonwealth even though India has its own history of fighting British oppression).  Anyway, it's a long and complicated situation, with no easy answers, and the current law means the military leaders are in control; even though elections are coming up in six months or so, everyone expects the current leader to win the election.  (And, if you look at the flag, there's the Union Jack in one corner, just like Australian and New Zealand flags.  British ties are difficult to sever.)

So - given all that abbreviated history, I thought it quite odd that this bus full of Fijians and a few Indo-Fijians was watching this bizarre Bollywood movie.

Ah well.  The countryside was interesting, with flat areas around Nadi giving way to hills as we headed east.  Lots of rivers, some small villages, a few larger towns, the occasional farm (sugar cane, coconut, and banana mostly), and a bunch of resorts were here along the Coral Coast.  And of course glimpses of the ocean (okay, the Coral Sea) with beautiful beaches.  And tourists at the resorts.   

My old man tour guide got off the bus at one of the large towns, so I didn't get the commentary for the rest of the trip.  It was interesting to note that we didn't see pigs, the way we did in Samoa - there were occasional small herds of cows, and isolated goats.  No sheep, I guess the climate is too hot for woolly sheep.

It was very grey and rainy after a while, so I couldn't get any more photos.  We finally, after nearly four hours, arrived in Suva, grabbed a taxi, and headed to our hotel - which actually is a "serviced apartment" - we don't have a full kitchen (just electric kettle and a fridge), but have a large room with a lounge kind of couch, a few chairs, a queen bed, and full bathroom.  Plus a balcony.  We're right in town, and will explore tomorrow, when it quits raining and the wild wind dies down.  And our stomachs settle after the bus ride.

We had Chinese takeway for dinner (which the lovely manager drove out to pick up for us, how nice is that kind of service!) - and will see what tomorrow brings!


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