Levuka – something’s fishy….

13 Nov


So, down to the local bus stop to catch the bus to Ovalau, an island on the east side of Viti Levu.  Busy today, so they’ve laid on three buses – but only four tourists.  After a couple of hours bus ride through wonderful scenery and fascinating villages, the bus drives on to the roll on roll off ferry for the hours trip to Ovalau.  The sea is at once invigorating and peaceful, and as Viti Levu recedes into the distance Ovalau appears out of the mist.  The bus draws of, and we are subjected to a bone jarring ride round the island – the road is due to be sealed next year.

Now, one slight problem – I’m on the wrong bus.  My guide – and, more importantly, my bags, are on the other bus.. So I am paying REAL close attention to where to get off f- and the bus stops at ever little village on the way (several times).  But a smiling Emosi is waiting for me at the other end, and shows me to his daughter’s little lodge, my home for a few days.  It’s a charming little place right on the seafront in Levuka town, with a nice veranda to watch the world go by.  And since there’s only one street in Levuka, most of it does!

(I will learn to take photos where the horizon is horizontal.. but in my defence, I didn’t want Tigger or Snuff blowing into the sea)

Levuka was the original capital of Fiji, and it’s a lovely little old whaling town with old clapperboard stores and little old churches (and a burned down Masonic lodge – apparently the Methodists got over zealous in the 2000 coup).  The town does smell fishy – there’s a tuna cannery south of the town. Apparently they had a thriving pigeon post here to Suva on Viti Levu.. The bus takes four hours, the pigeons manage it in 30 minutes.

So, I’m here to finish my dive course.  Only one snag – the Dive Master is in Germany.  So no course for me.  Time to rethink my plans…

Anyway, the rain is back, so nothing much is happening anyway.  Explore the town, with the church where the bells strike twice – once to warn people on ‘Fiji time’, so they say, the second for the rest of us. The clock is five minutes fast, anyway.  The sea is stormy and rough, the skies dark with threatening rain.  But the fish and chips is the best I have ever had, and everyone greets me with a smile and cries of ‘Bula!’


Of the four tourists that arrived in Levuka on Monday, three of them are in Mary’s Lodge. And it’s not raining! So we decide to take a trip into the interior of the island with the legendary Epi… after another bone jarring ride (on the same road) we walk up and over the rim of the volcanic crater, hearing stories of natural cures for asthma, toothache and cancer (including many of Epi’s family – his wife was cured of cancer through natural plant remedies, while his cousin was discharged from hospital after being cured of hepatitis when the hospital couldn’t treat him (they had to discharge him – the use of natural remedies in hospital is illegal in Fiji)).  Along the way we were introduced to the mandarin and lemon trees, to yams, taro, ironwood trees, edible ferns and more – vines, trees and plants that are used to create natural remedies – and a disappearing knowledge.

When we arrive at Levuni village, in the heart of the (inactive, for once) volcano, Epi’s wife has prepared a wonderful feast of traditional Fijian food based on the plants we’ve encountered.  Joanne is from Newcastle, England – when she married Epi the story made the papers, and is still hanging in their bathroom. The chicks were brought indoors during the bad weather, and haven’t worked out they actually live outside.

After hearing tales of the Levuni villagers’ exploits in battle, and their treacherous betrayal, we get back in our SUV for the ride back down rocky tracks, across rickety bridges, to the accompanying tales of flash floods washing away cars down the valley.


Time to organise diving and the next step on the journey… an early night tonight because the bus leaves at 4:30 am.  Eek! But time to climb the 199 steps (actually I make it 188, Lonely Planet suggest 185) to overlook the bay…


3 Responses to “Levuka – something’s fishy….”

  1. Mo November 13, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Now there is a new project Tim, wouldn’t it be wonderful to document all the plant remedies and the ailments they cure. If it is unfeasible to wait on, could you develop a rapport with someone who knows or someone who knows someone? You could then email each other.

  2. Nikki Rose November 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    Hey, Mr H!
    Wonderful stuff! Am just loving reading all this :o)


    Take care,
    Mrs Rose xx

  3. Estelle November 14, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    wonderful Tim thank you for sharing that x

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