Day 31, Year 2: University of the South Pacific Trek
Date: Friday, May 25, 2007
Weather And Yet Another Beautiful Sunny Day
Location: Suva, Fiji

Our day started with a walk to the Hydrographic Office and to Carpenter’s Hardware. Both are very close to the Yacht Club, just on the way into town. We wanted to check the Hydrographic Office to see if they have any close-up charts of the Lau Group islands and we just wanted to check out the hardware store. We were told that it is an even bigger store than Ace Hardware in American Samoa. After visiting it, I don’t think the actual retail store is bigger, but Carpenter’s has a yard out back and a warehouse attached to the retail store that houses just about anything you might need. It was impressive and the stock they carry is top-notch. We didn’t really need anything, but we just had to check it out.

We then walked into Suva and went to the police station to check on the progress of our police clearance needed for visiting the Lau Group. We went to the Clearnance Office and they sent us to “Sierro.” At least that is what we thought they said. We asked at the main desk for directions to “Sierro” and they just stared at us. I finally said the word ‘records’ and a young policeman was able to direct us to what we discovered was CRO–Central Records Office. I guess that sounds like “Sierro.” Language barriers always make things interesting. We made it to CRO and found out that our information had just reached their office on Wednesday of this week and that the Captain still needs to approve it. A very nice woman assured us that clearance can probably be completed on Tuesday.. She suggested that we convince the woman from the Lau Provincial Council Office to walk over to the CRO at the police station on Tuesday to pick up our clearance, and then it might be possible on the same day for us to know if we have permission to visit the Lau Group. It is complicated, but we will just hope that all of this works. We can’t find out anything on Monday as it is a holiday. We’re not exactly sure what the holiday is, but our Canadian friends think it is the Queen’s Birthday. They celebrate this in Canada on the weekend before Memorial Day in the United States. The Lonely Planet Guide says that the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated here in the middle of June. Whatever, most everything is closed on Monday, so we will be here until at least Tuesday, probably leaving here on Wednesday.

After leaving the police station, we hopped on a bus heading to the University of the South Pacific (USP). We wanted to visit the campus and to go to the Cost-U-Less just across the street from the campus. The bus we got on was completely full, but a young man immediately jumped up to let me have his seat. I tried to refuse, but he wouldn’t let me. The trip across the peninsula to the USP campus was a short ride. We got off at the Cost-U-Less which is like a Sam’s Club. There was a MacDonald’s next door with a “Bula” instead of “Welcome” sign. Behind the MacDonald’s and the Cost-U-Less there was a strip mall. For just a minute, I felt like I was back in the US of A. But then we walked up the street to the main gate of the University. There was a Hindu temple on our side of the street. We were very curious, so we walked in the gate. We know so little about Hinduism and realize that we really need to learn so much. About 52% of Fijians are Christian with 37% of those being Methodist, about 9% Catholic, and the remainder being evangelical Christians. Another 38% of the population is Hindu and about 8% Muslim. The other 2% follow other religions or none. As we entered the gate, there were three shrines on our right and then the main temple. We climbed the stairs and looked inside through the windows. There was a young woman who was entering the small temple and she indicated that we should take off our shoes and follow her. We did so, and found the whole experience interesting but very foreign to us. Like I said, we have a lot to learn. After leaving the temple, we crossed the street and entered the University world. USP has a lovely campus here. There was a campus botanical garden, but we had to laugh at that. Every place here is botanical garden! We walked past the student center, men’s housing and women’s housing, classrooms, the stadium and playing fields, saw some interesting solar and wind power science projects on the lawn in the science sector, and then exited on the street right across from the Cost-U-Less. We were back where we started and we decided to stop for lunch in the strip mall before doing our shopping.

For lunch, we had to make a choice between MacDonald’s, the Quick Bite, Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant, and the Taj Palace. We chose the Taj Palace and enjoyed chicken curry with garlic naan. Then it was on to Cost-U-Less. Actually, it should be Cost-U-More, as everything was very expensive. But it is the only place in Fiji that you can buy certain items. The only other place we have found like this was the Cost-U-Less in American Samoa. I was looking for quart-sized Zip Loc baggies, canned green beans, shampoo and conditioner in one, canned coke, and liquid Tide. I found the quart-sized baggies, something not availabe in New Zealand, canned green beans (the Watties brand in New Zealand were just too mushy for me), canned coke, and liquid Tide. I didn’t buy the Tide, however, as it was $42. Right next to it was a brand called Sun that cost only $21, so I have just become a Sun user. Combined shampoo and conditioner is something that is just not available anywhere in the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t bring any back from the US thinking that I could buy this in New Zealand, but that was not the case. On the next trip home, I will certainly stock up.

We took a cab back to the Yacht Club area. We had the taxi driver drop Mark off at a beer distributer near the Yacht Club and I went on the Yacht Club with what we had bought. While I took the first load out to the boat, Mark bought beer. He brought this back to the dock where I met him. We can buy beer in bottles in town, but the distributer seems to be the only place that sells cans. So we are now restocked with canned goods and drinks. Tomorrow we will go to the market to buy fresh fruit and veggies and complete our provisioning for the next leg of our journey. It will be about a month before we will be where there are stores of any size, and probably months before we will be anywhere that has as much to offer as Suva.

070525 Day 31 Viti Levu, Fiji–University of the South Pacific T