January 28, 2016
I forgot to mention that yesterday we had breakfast with the Fiji Prime Minister and his wife. Of more precisely they were at the table next to us with their support staff and hangers on. Our normally good service was crappy as we were not the focus of attention. It was good that they only spent one night otherwise I might complain. They had nice wheels.
The plan for today was to visit the Fiji Cultural Center in Pacific Harbor. We were expecting a somewhat cheesy display of Fijian cultural history like fire-walking and ceremonies performed by docent re-enactors. Coming from our Gold Rush Columbia, it was turnabout is fair play. We drove 40 miles south to find out that the performances had been canceled for the day. It was initially a bummer but in retrospect it was a good thing.
The ugliest part of the day was the drive along the beautiful shoreline and verdant jungle. The scenery is great but the drivers are not. Double line no passing stripes mean go real fast. Parking on curves and blocking a lane are permitted. The list goes on but we made it both ways unscathed.
Pacific Harbor was created by some Australian investors who believed that they could turn a dramatic natural port into a world class tourist attraction. The result is a disappointing collection of mostly empty rental houses, an empty golf course and a large collection of decaying tourist oriented stores. The goods were overpriced and tacky while the buildings verged on collapse. We founding a quality shirt for Barrett and escaped.
Before leaving we drove around the subdivision that is composed of a variety of incompatible building styles. There were concrete “megaplexes” and less substantial Floridian retirement dwellings. To me, it was all misplaced and a bad dream. Of course, I have a multitude of biases but one that is front and center in my mind is the destruction of natural beauty to impose ugliness and trash. That is Pacific Harbor.
It is not that Fiji is perfect and without its share of poverty and corruption, but the Fijians have adapted to the environment and have not tried to impose themselves with the rather large exception of the loggers and cane farmers. What I am talking about is the simple home surrounded by gardens growing edibles and livestock munching in the cleared areas. There is no pretense. They blend into the jungle and shoreline. If I was an ex-pat down here, I would try to go as native as possible so long as I had AC, ice cold beer, Netflix and few other things like a good wine cellar. Now that I think about it, I better stay in the good old US of A.
The drive back was more pleasant as we realized how good our trip has been since we have mostly avoided tourist traps like Pacific Harbor. We ate a lunch of Fiji delights at an upscale roadside restaurant. The bathroom had running water. That is always a good sign. We stopped for a couple of photo shoots before heading back into Sigatoka for a little shopping.
We were directed to a store that sews their own Fijian shirts. No labels other than the size. They felt good and we decided a little cotton would be a good idea in this climate. We checked out the local stationers for school supplies as we plan to go up river with our guide Moses to a remote village school.
In the mean time it is relaxation and swimming in the resort pool. Dave Sheff would love our refrigerator that gets the beer to within one degree of freezing.