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South Pacific Cruise: 15 November 2007

Savusavu, Fiji

Thanks to our relaxing day at sea and our early bedtime, we both awoke early. We watched our approach to Savusavu from the deck outside La Palette. As we were setting anchor, a large, blue overnight ferry arrived from Suva. We watched it dock and begin to unload. Lots of people, vehicles and cargo unloaded from the ship very quickly.

Fred joined us while we watched the ferry, and he and Wendy joined us for breakfast. They told us they were going on a rainforest walk for their shore excursion. The weather report called for rain all day. We didn’t envy them their walk.

Hidden Paradise and Plantation Tour

Our excursion was the “Hidden Paradise and Plantation Tour.” We took the 8:30 tender from the ship to the pier at a shopping center called The Copra Shed on the edge of Savusavu. Nearly every local we saw greeted us with “Bula!” which means “Welcome” or “Hello.” We weren’t sure how to respond, and we alternated between “Thanks”, “Hello”, and “Bula”, with the occasional “Ola” slipping out. The locals were almost universally friendly.

We boarded an antique bus for our tour – a real rattletrap that could barely make it up some of the hills. Our guide, Keni, tried to make commentary as we drove through town and out into the countryside to a coconut plantation. Unfortunately, the creaking of the bus and the loud engine made it difficult to hear him from more than five feet away. One very annoying passenger insisted on sitting near the back and repeatedly complaining that she could not hear Keni.

When we arrived at the plantation, the manager led us to a drying shed where workers were splitting coconuts and removing the meat. The meat was then placed on racks and dried using the heat of burning coconut husks. He demonstrated how all parts of the coconut tree can be used – lumber from the trunk, medicine from the roots, shelter from the leaves, food, drink, and medicine from the nuts themselves, and bowls, musical instruments, and strainers from the shells and husks.

After we completed our tour of the plantation, we rattled back into town and out again, ending up at a copra mill. The mill buys the dried coconut and presses coconut oil from it. The pressed meat is then ground up into meal that is sold as animal feed. The mill was loud and dirty, and we couldn’t hear much of Keni’s commentary. The technology in the mill was about forty years out of date, but it seemed to get the job done.

At the Hot Springs Hotel

Our last stop was the Savusavu Hot Springs Hotel, where we were served tea and finger food. The hotel has a lovely deck with great views of Savusavu, the surrounding valleys, the harbor and the peninsula across the bay. After refreshments the bus dropped us off back at the Copra Shed.

Shopping

Savusavu was a small city. There was a single main street lined with shops, bakeries, and grocery stores. There were no touristy shops that we could see; those were all at the Copra Shed where the tender had docked. We wandered up one side of the street and down the other, occasionally stepping into a store but not buying anything.

When we were nearly back to the Copra Shed we stopped into a tiny shop where a woman was making tropical shirts and selling them. I needed a shirt for the evening’s Polynesian Night, and she was selling them for $15 Fijian, about US$10. I visited a nearby ATM and withdrew cash, we bought the shirt, and we were done shopping.

Despite the weather forecast, we had never seen any rain other than a few sprinkles.

A Relaxing Afternoon at the Pool Bar

We tendered back to ship in time for lunch, but we weren’t hungry. The tea cakes were still hanging in there for us. Instead of lunch, we cooled off in the pool and then found seats near the bar. We realized we had been in the tropics for well over a week and hadn’t yet had a single Mai Tai. We remedied that situation with an order from the bar.

We spent the afternoon chatting, enjoying the breeze, and eavesdropping on our fellow passengers’ conversations. We watched a 30-ish woman passenger chatting up the ship’s doctor. Later they were joined by Kemble, who stood nearby and talked to them. He mentioned that the doctor had a fan club of older women on the ship. They had been at the piano bar a few nights before, just waiting for him to walk by. Weird.

Kemble

When the doctor and his young fan left, we talked to Kemble for about twenty minutes. He told us some funny stories from some of his other cruises, including one from the Radisson Diamond. During one dead night at the piano bar a couple walked in and sat right next to the piano. They ignored Kemble and chattered with each other. Shortly, the woman asked Kemble for an ash tray – while he was playing! He had the bartender bring one and resisted the urge to make a stink about her impertinence. The next night, she showed up to a big party at the piano bar with a different man. Kemble asked “Is your husband not feeling well?” It turned out she was with her husband and wasn’t supposed to have been out with the other man the night before. It suddenly became a long, chilly cruise for the woman. Ah, karma.

Polynesian Night

At 4:00, we returned to our room and took a short nap. Then we put on our “Polynesian” clothes and went to the piano bar. We took a seat with the Salters and chatted with them for a while. They had received an invitation to dine with Mark Eddowes that evening, but they didn’t know why. We envied them the opportunity to talk informally with him.

Chris and I went upstairs to La Veranda. Since it was Polynesian Night, we didn’t need reservations there. As we stood in line waiting for a table, we noticed Nancy and Rich waiting, too. They had planned to eat with three other couples, but there were no tables large enough eight people available. We invited them to join us, and they did.

After dinner we went to an enjoyable dance show put on by Les Gauguines. They wore lots of different costumes, ranging from full-length dresses to tiny skirts and tops. The dances ranged from tame swaying to some very provocative hula-type dances. Lots of fun!

We managed to stay awake for the whole show, but went straight to bed afterward.


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