Having deterred from our original course due to Cyclone Lusi, the possibility of us getting to the Yasawa Islands as planned seem as distant as the horizon.
Instead we set sail for the town of Levuka on Ovalau Island. The old capital of Fiji, Levuka is UNESCO World Heritage listed, and a hidden gem of old world meets new. The oldest hotel in Fiji, The Royal Hotel, can be found here, along with a scattering of historical monuments, churches, community centres and museums.
Having enjoyed the natural beauty of Fiji so far, it was time to delve into the culture and history of this Pacific nation. Disembarking straight from the ship to the dock meant I could come and go as I pleased, and I skipped the organised village tour in favour of a little self-exploration. Walking down the main street of town, Beach Street, I was greeted by the familiar Fijian smiles and chorus of ‘Bula’. A bygone era, Beach Street is evident of the Old World charm and dignity while remaining a living and working progressive community.
After a lunch at Whales Tale restaurant it was time to gather up my pre-purchase school supplies and head to one of the local schools, Saint James Anglican Primary School. Originally held in the Church of Holy Redeemer, the school has since progressed to four class rooms and two teachers’ quarters as the number of students increased. The school now has 76 students and four teachers, catering for year one to year eight. The children’s ages range from six to fourteen years and all dress in a blue uniform.
Today however is a special day, and the children have been practicing their performance all week for the arrival of us, their special guests. Sat on the grass under the shade of the trees, the children sit chittering as we arrived and took our own seats. As soon as we had all settled, the harmony of pacific cheer sounded as the children sung their little hearts out. Following was an entertaining performance of tribal dances depicting a story of the local town and their warriors.
After the performances it was time to play with the children, and as I handed out my bag full of coloured pencils, pens, note pads and other small toys, we played blowing bubbles and laughing like children ourselves. It was the fitting end to the afternoon and brought home how simple things can be so precious to some people. I felt honoured to have shared such an experience.
Back on the Reef Endeavour for the evening, we docked off the island to spend the night avoiding Cyclone Lusi. We may have had to change our itinerary, but we still were outrunning the fury of the storm. Cyclone Lusi 0 – Kate 3.