27 September 2006

Saweni Bay, Fiji

  • Saweni Bay
  • Vita Levu Island, Fiji
  • Melanesia, South Pacific
  • 17°38.6000"S/177°23.5000"E
We had one of the best sails we have ever had on our 45 mile run to Lautoka! We left Malake Island at 8am, along with our friends on the s/v Sheriaz. We had a downwind sail with 20 knots of wind down the west side of Viti Levu, inside the reefs, all the way to Lautoka. We did quite well, as our friends on the Sheriaz are on a 45-foot catamaran, and we matched speeds all day. We both arrived at the anchorage at the same time, right at sunset.

Lautoka is Fiji's second largest city (population 50,000). It has the largest sugar mill in the southern hemisphere. The sugar mill runs 24 hours a day! We anchored off the city's shipping terminal. During the night, the winds shifted, bringing all the soot from the sugar mill right over us. So when we awoke, Sandpiper was covered in a nice coat of black soot. At sunrise we decided that we needed a cleaner anchorage. So we moved to small bay, 4 miles south of town, where we are this morning.

The main reason for coming to Lautoka is that we need to get chest x-rays so that our Australian visas can be approved. So yesterday was quite an adventure!

When we arrived Saweni Bay, we could see the Sugar Train running back and forth. The Sugar Train is a small-gauge railway that runs all over the place bringing sugar cane to the factory in town. When we dinghied ashore, we found that we had to walk down a long dirt road towards town. We totally got lucky when a taxi came by and picked us up. There we no other cars on this road. He took us to the hospital in town for only $3.00.

The hospital in Lautoka is quite large, and there are people all over the place. So its a little crazy in there. We found the X-ray department.... and who should already be there? Our friends Steve and Rene from the s/v Sheriaz. They had beaten us there.

We did not know that we had to know the name of the doctor who we wanted to, see prior to arriving at the hospital. Steve and Rene had ben picked up by a guy near the shipping terminal who had drove them to the hospital. This guy knew the doctor in the X-ray department, and he gave them the doctor's name. So we all got to see Dr Raj, who told us that we were the first cruisers that had ever been in his office.

After he filled out all our paperwork, he informed us that we needed passport photos for our visa applications. And he knew the lady in town that runs the photo shop. So he phoned her up and told her that we were coming over. We then had to go to another part of the hospital to receive our official Fiji government health cards, paid our fee, then jumped in a cab to town to get our photos taken. Cabs are very cheap here, just about 2 dollars for everywhere you want to go.

As soon as we got to the photo store the lady took and developed our photos. We were back at the hospital within 15 minutes of our leaving. Once back, Amy and I both got our chest x-rays taken. Dr. Raj gave us the "thumbs-up", finding no TB in us, and promised to have the X-rays overnight mailed to the Australian embassy.

He also recommended to Steve and Rene a good Chinese restaurant in town. Dr Raj phoned the restaurant to let them know we were coming over for lunch. He also told us the he was a member of a private club called "The Northern Club". He told us to stop in the club for drinks and to tell them that Dr. Raj sent us! I don't think you could ever get the service that we received back in the U.S. As crowded and crazy as the hospital was, everyone seemed to be moving along pretty fast.

After the hospital Steve, Rene, and we had lunch at the Chinese restaurant that Dr. Raj had recommended. Then it was off to The Northern Club for drinks at ridicously low prices. After the club, Amy and I went to the movie theater in town. It is quite modern. And for 2 adults, it was only $6 Fijian, which is more like $4 dollars USD. A large drink and popcorn was only $4 dollars Fijian!

We saw the movie "Descent", which,is a scary movie about 6 girls stuck in a cave with a bunch of scary underground monsters who lurk around in the dark and wanted to eat everyone. So it did not help that it was raining and pitch black when we went back down the dirt road to try to find our dinghy. Once again, we forgot to bring our flashlight. Amy had the cab driver shine his headlights on the beach until we got the dinghy out and we were paddling away! We did manage to make it back to the Sandpiper without encountering any monsters.

Today's plans are to head south 20 miles to Musket Cove and meet up with our friends on s/v Blue Sky. We will spend time trying to crash their pool and drink beer at the $3 dollar bar.

More when we get there,
Tom and Amy

Notes from Ron:
Here is a blog entry about Lautoka that has photos and a pretty good description of what Tom and Amy are seeing.

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