The sun was rising in a glowing orange ball as we approached the Navula reef entrance from the south-west. Over on our port side was the “Carnival Spirit”, bound for Port Denerau and an LPG tanker, bound for the gas terminal. The “Spirit” had changed schedule, arriving in Fiji because of a tropical storm, away to our west and named ‘Edna”, which was affecting New Caledonia and Noumea in particular.
We were 45 minutes ahead of both ships as we entered the gap in the reef, the light blue water and rocks clearly visible. We embark a pilot here; however he takes his cup of tea and sits down in one of our chairs, leaving it up to us, which, as you know by now, is just how we like it.
25 miles later, after weaving through the islands and isolated reefs, we approach Lautoka, our destination. As it happens, there is a ship on our berth, in fact it’s the only berth and we reduce speed while he stops working cargo and leaves to anchor for our stay; once we vacate it, she will come in again and complete cargo, I’m sure we are not popular with them.
Alongside the pier and gangway in, even at 8 a.m. the temperature is already in the 80’s F, or around 28C, later that day it will reach 34C, or 93F. We have drills in the morning; first a fire drill, then a General Emergency drill and finally an Abandon ship drill. Our guests are off on tours, browsing the stalls on the pier, or hopping on a shuttle bus to take them to town.
The Fijians greet everyone with a resounding ”Bula Bula”, basically their ’welcome’ and they are extremely friendly, talking to anyone they can. They were also a fierce warrior race, to which European explorers can testify to and on the pier are two such men, dressed to ‘kill’. Fortunately these ‘natives’ are friendly and only too pleased to let me take their photo; such was their enthusiasm that they insisted on me being with them and so, wielding a war-club, I did so.
Then a lightning tour of Lautoka, courtesy of the ship’s agent. Our transport had no air conditioning; instead we made do with ‘natural’ ventilation, i.e. open the windows…..
The tour took in the small town and a visit to the market, a wonderful mix of ethnicity, colour and every vegetable and fruit one could dream of. Here too, the smiles are warm and welcoming and I buy some papaya, which I am particularly fond of, (makes great smoothies).
Back to the Amsterdam, the heat is oppressive and inside, the air-conditioning welcome. We sail at 5 p.m., retracing our steps, however the pilot leaves as soon as we have cleared the berth, he must have had a dinner to go to.
I am watching ‘Edna’, she should, if she behaves herself, keep heading south, away from Noumea, as we come in from the north-east.