Friday, August 16, 2013

Levuka, Ovalau

The sail from Makogai to Ovalau Island last Monday was better than we expected - blue sky and sunshine. The southeast trades were light (8-10 Knots) and the sea almost flat. We tacked fives times to avoid the curving reef protecting the east coast of Ovalau and turned on the motor just outside the main Na Tubari pass. Despite the width of the deep channel, I went up the ratlines while Chris steered us towards the church where we had planned to anchor.

Cession Stone
 The common anchorage is off the Church of the Sacred Heart but it is downwind of the tuna cannery and the diesel electric plant. With the gagging smell of fish processing in our nostrils we almost pointed a reciprocal course through the pass. It seemed a shame to miss visiting the nation's first capital, so we decided to give it a second chance and motored over to the south side of Queen's Wharf, upwind of the fish factory. We dropped the hook in 44 feet after avoiding several coral heads between the wharf and beach. The anchor set instantly and we have not moved for 5 days despite stronger SE trades.

"Gonna Spin U!" - Kava is a BIG part of life here.

Kava pounding machine and operator
There is a tiny rocky beach close to the Cession Monument and an old pier which must have been destroyed by the last cyclone. We use the beach for our dinghy landings and it is not far to walk along Beach Street to the main shops and businesses. When the tide is low, we must carry little Annie a long way over rocks and debris to park her on a grassy bank alongside a couple of local long boats. Lately, a couple of local lads who live across the road have been running to help us and take great delight in carrying her and pushing us off towards Ladybug. Yesterday they offered us a fresh coconut to drink and it was the sweetest juice I have ever tasted!

Rugby match in front of the Marist Convent School

Town hall. 

Levuka is a fine town with many 19th century buildings from its colonial past. Originally founded as a whaling settlement in 1830, it became the main trading centre for Europeans in Fiji. A cotton boom in the 1860's brought many more settlers and resulted in the opening of over 50 hotels and taverns along the waterfront. Convicts and debtors fleeing from Australia added to the crowds and it was said that a ship could find the pass through the reef by following the empty gin bottles flowing out at ebb tide!

Ruins of the Masonic temple. This movement dates to the 1870's here.

In 1874, Fiji was annexed by Great Britain and a municipal council formed to bring about order. Levuka became Fiji's first capital and remained so until the lack of space for expansion forced a move to Suva in 1882. It was a collection centre for copra until 1957 when a new mill opened in Suva. A Japanese cold storage facility opened in 1964, followed by a cannery in 1975, thus reviving it's economy. "The Fiji Handbook" by David Stanley has more details.

Taiwanese trawlers lie off the dock, waiting to come alongside to unload their catch of tuna.

We have enjoyed our rambles up the winding lanes on the forested hillsides, greeted by enthusiastic "Bula, bula!" from almost everyone we meet en route. The Fijians are the friendliest people we have encountered during our travels. One lady invited us to come for kava on Friday night but we opted for tea instead as we like to return to our floating home before it gets too dark.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your blog.