Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suva and the Fiji Museum

It rains almost every day in Suva. On the plus side - our water tanks are full and we have been enjoying luxurious (for us) bucket showers in the cockpit.

A rainy day in the anchorage off the Novotel hotel. There are 5 free moorings here owned by Tony Philip, who also owns the Vuda Point marina and the Copra Shed in Savusavu.

Catholic cathedral on a dramatic day

We are anchored near the town of Lami about 4 kms outside of Suva. Each day we take the Shore Bus into Suva. The town spreads up a hill and out into surrounding lowlands. The streets are winding and it is quite easy to get disoriented. The buildings are a hodge-podge with a few interesting ones left over from the colonial era. The bay is packed with foreign trawlers and cargo vessels. We were told that some vessels were here because they had been impounded for illegal fishing. There is a huge vegetable and fruit market each day beside the bus station and a regular fish market along a canal. Indian restaurants are plentiful and cheap. You can get a nice filling meal for under $4 Canadian ($6 Fijian) and street food (e.g., fish and cassava) for less than $3 Fijian.

Foreign fishing vessels - mostly from China and Taiwan

The highlights of our visit (apart from my new crown) have been the Hibiscus festival - a yearly event, with which our visit just happened to coincide, a visit to the Fiji Museum, and yesterday, a Hindu fire walking ceremony.

The Fiji  Museum ($7 entry) is a low-key but fascinating place. The main entrance hall houses a number of sailing canoes including a double hulled canoe (drua) built in 1913 and a gigantic bamboo raft. These rafts are still used for trading on the rivers of Viti Levu.

100 year old drua. The white decorations are shells. A massive steering oar was used to direct the vessel and required three men in a strong wind. 

Story of  Rev Thomas Baker

The museum also houses historical exhibits of the peoples who came to Fiji,  including Tongans, Solomon Islanders, Indo-Fijians, Polynesian Islanders, missionaries, and European traders. We had heard of the exhibit about the unfortunate Rev. Thomas Baker from reading "Getting Stoned with Savages". The exhibit explained the true story of Baker, a Methodist minister who was killed and eaten by natives after he slighted a 'Christian' chief by holding a meeting at a rival village. The display includes parts of Baker's boot, a bible, and a fork and bowl supposedly used in his consumption.

Reverend Baker's effects

Fork and bowl used to eat parts of Baker

As an aside, I have been reading a fascinating book written by a woman named Wallis who accompanied her husband on a lengthy trading trip through Fiji in the 1840's. The book called "Life in Feejee - Five Years among the Cannibals" describes the state of almost perpetual warfare and cannibalism at this period when the islands were still independent of Britain and the missionaries and traders were making their first forays. It is no surprise that the occasional white man or ship of sailors ended up as dinner when cannibalism was a daily occurrence. Powerful chiefs had almost unlimited power and deceit and trickery were common tools used to defeat an enemy. You can download this book as an e-book from the library of congress archive.

Whale tooth Tabua offered to the Methodist Church (many years later) by way of apology

The museum has a small exhibit on local flora and fauna including the 2nd largest beetle in the world.

I would not want  to find one of these in my bed!

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