August 30, 2009—The weather on Tuesday was not good for us to leave so we decided to do some land travel instead. We found an ad for Palmlea Farm Stay on the other side of Vanua Levu close to the town of Labasa. The owners, Joe and Julie, are former cruisers who have built a nice resort, so we called and made a reservation for Wednesday night. We then went to town to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Wednesday morning we left around nine o’clock and drove to the west along the Hibiscus Highway. We are not sure where the term highway came from because the road was paved for only the first 20 miles or so and then it turned into a dirt road with a lot of rocks on it. The scenery was lovely because we were driving right along the water, but after two hours of driving along the “highway” we decided to return to Savusavu for a quick lunch.
After lunch we headed north out of town on the main highway, which was actually paved, up the hills, and through the interior of the island. The road was paved, but it still had large pot holes all along the drive. We arrived on the north side of the island and soon found the turnoff to the resort. We arrived around three in the afternoon, and Julie greeted us and showed us to our bure. The facilities were lovely and the view was amazing. We unpacked our bags and then went out to the lawn chairs to relax and take in the view. Julie and her husband Joe soon joined us, and we enjoyed talking about their cruising experiences. That evening we enjoyed a meal of grilled and blackened wahoo, potatoes, and green beans followed by apple pie with ice cream. We then called it a night and returned to our bure.
After breakfast the next morning, we said goodbye and drove into Labasa. On the way we got stuck behind an overloaded cane truck so westopped and asked the workers in the field if we could take a picture of them., and they were more than happy to strike a pose for cane us. Labasa is one of the main sugar cane towns in Fiji. Here again the trucks were lined up waiting to deliver their sugar cane.
After we got through Labasa, we wanted to drive to the Naag Temple to see the cobra rock. Unfortunately, there are no road signs or tourist signs to direct you, so after several wrong turns, we asked directions and finally found the “Snake Temple.” Inside the temple was a rock that did look like the head of a cobra that is preparing to strike.
We then walked up the "108 Steps," one step at a time and viewed a small room where a family was saying prayers.
Our plan was to drive around the northern tip of the island and make a loop back to Savusavu. The road had again become dirt with rocks so it was slow going for us. We had to stop once again for directions at a small grocery store that was owned by an Indian family. After they gave us directions, we prepared to leave; however, the man came out and asked us if we would take the older woman in the group to her home. He said that she didn’t speak English, but when we got there, she would tap Steve on the shoulder. She spoke to me along the way, but I could not understand anything that she said. We drove for quite awhile before she indicated for us to stop. When we did, she got out of the car, waved to us, and walked toward her home.
We were not sure that we wanted to continue on the very poor road, but just then we saw a sign indicating that a new road cutting across the island had just opened. We decided that we would take it because it would cut about 60 miles off our trip. We drove along a secondary road that led back up into the hills. After we passed a village we became concerned when we noticed dump trucks loading up large gravel for the roadbed. We weren’t so sure the road really was open.
A few more miles up the road we came around a corner and found that we had to take a side road around construction.
When we came over the hill, we had to stop because a section of the road was not completed. We thought that we might have to turn back; however, a construction worker indicated that we should wait. A bulldozer was working on the last section, and after about 15 minutes, he backed up to our car, and then he cut a path across the red clay (thank goodness it wasn’t raining) for us across the missing piece. We had to weave around some large earthmoving equipment, and everyone gave us a look that said, “What are you doing up here,” but we just waved at them and continued on our way.
Finally, we came over the last hill, and we could see Natewa Bay down below. We drove down and were so glad to be back by the ocean. A village was close by and everyone we passed called out “bula” (hello) to us. We met Joshua and Navuka on the road, and they asked us to come by their house for a minute. They carried out chairs for us, one of which was a recliner, and we sat on the porch and visited for about 20 minutes. Joshua had another property by the water with a bure, and he said that we could stay there for as long as we liked. We thanked them but said that we had to return to Savusavu.
We were about 20 miles out of Savusavu and still on a dirt road when our RAV 4x4 began to run poorly, so we kept our fingers crossed that it would get us back without dying. We arrived back in Savusavu around 3 o’clock and immediately went to the marina to load our things. We then returned the rental car and went out to the boat.
The trip was interesting, to say the least. We enjoyed seeing the interior of this island, which is much greener than Viti Levu, but the people are just as friendly.
During the weekend I took advantage of the lower humidity to get some varnishing done. As soon as the weather clears, we will leave Savusavu and work our way back over to Viti Levu.