Vanua Levu, Fiji
16° 32' S 179° 15' E
Sep 14, 2005 22:51
Distance 78km

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Text written in: English

How to create distance

How do you make a couple of weeks feel as though two months have passed?

The first way is to take local transportation, including a small ferry that took 2 hours to chug across the Savusavu strait from Taveuni to Vanua Levu (photos 1-2), and buses rattling over dirt roads for 4 hours. Add waiting times and a 5:30am departure into the formula: the result is 8 hours to travel about 150 km. Yes, you do such things for the joy of the experience. Then you look for easier ways to get around.

The second way is to throw yourself into one utterly different environment after another.  Savusavu, on the island of Vanua Levu, at first looked very attractive (photo 3). Closer inspection revealed a yacht haven for westerners that left me feeling as though I was in a Florida retirement village. Fortunately, that crowd stayed on their yachts or  spent their days at expat enclaves such as the Yacht Club bar.

The town itself felt like civilization writ large after the jungles and coral reefs of Taveuni. An even closer inspection revealed a larger Indo-Fijian presence (photos 4-6), in contrast to the indigenous Fijian majority I had grown accustomed to on Ovalau and Taveuni.

Then, over the cloud covered central highlands of Vanua Levu (photo 7) to Labasa, and yet more contrasts. It is even more of an Indo-Fijian center, women in saris,  stores playing Hindi music. I could have been in India -- but for the endless  stream of sugar-cane laden trucks heading for the mill across town (photo 8).

I integrate into daily life by picking out one or two places to visit every day. My strategy is to be recognized  as a 'regular', and to observe the pattern of people's daily routine. It gives me a sense
of place and of being part of it. In this case, Joe's fast food restuarant (photos 9-10).  I don't know why it has such a name. Chinese fast food places usually have names like Wun Wah cafe, Fong's cafe, Kwang Tung restaurant,  or Chong Pong restaurant. The climate is coincidentally different, with daily afternoon downpours (photo 11). I spend afternoons at the Labasa Club, observing how Indo-Fijians play snooker or get drunk (photo 12).

And, neither oceans nor forests, but a slow meandering river delta, and morning and afternoon river views from ... the Riverview Hotel (photos 13-14).

I take a walk out of town and within a half hour the city bustle of Labasa disappears (photo 14). Time and space begin to lose a subjective sense of continuous flow. Discrete bubbles begin to form.  For now, these bubbles of experience still have a linear order, but I can feel that order breaking  down as well.

Photos / videos of "How to create distance":

The ferry pier at Naqara, Taveuni On the ferry 'Raja', to Vanua Levu. Savusavu bay, with the anchorage for the yachties. Main street, Savusavu Savusavu store. Shop signs in Savusavu Thge cloud shrouded central highlands, on the road from Savusavu to Labasa Main street, Labasa, with trucks carrying sugar cane to the mill Joe's fast food restaurant. Family portrait at Joe's Rainy day... Labasa Club, with a Fiji Bitter A view of the Labasa river from the Riverview Hotel Another view of the Labasa river from the Riverview Hotel The countryside outside Labasa