The Old Capitol Inn
Beach Road, Levuka
30th April 1986
I’ve returned here for the peace and quiet offered by the old capital of Fiji. This could be that last respite I get in a long while. Ahead lies the travails of travelling again: the States, Mexico or straight ‘home’ – city strife and/or an uncertain life.
Levuka offers a certain calm, an unhurried welcome. Its occasional isolation when ferries don’t run because of the weather conditions and the 19-seater Fiji Air flights are cancelled at the pilot’s whim add to the attraction. But we still get the daily papers and keep in touch.
fr. the Fiji Sun 8.4.86
A 33 year old mother of two pleaded guilty at Lautoka Magistrates Court for loitering for the purpose of prostitution. She also admitted to police that she was paid $2 for having sex.
She said that she was trying to support her two children who were attending primary school.
Magistrate Sampum Anand Anand told M. that she was too old to be in the very old profession and she should do some other types of work like catching crabs and selling them.
When there’s no hurry, there’s no worry. However, I did notice that Ovalau Fisheries Ltd. who supply A class tuna to Sainsburys and John West require their many staff to clock on. Buses and the public carriers to Lovoni, the sleepy village nestling in the dormant volcanic crater in the centre of the island, keep to a schedule. Its an ordered calm then.
Once there were 52 or 54 hotels and bars here. Now there are but three, the Ovalau and Levuka Clubs and the Royal Hotel. The Old Capitol Inn, Emosi’s place for travellers, is as yet unlicenced. Night life then is a pitcher or stubby of Fiji Bitter and a game of snooker at the Royal. Or a video: Bud Spencer, Chuck Norris or John Wayne fights the Ninja.
Wooden clapboard housing nestles in the shade of the surrounding hills which limit the growth of the sleepy town. Hence the later nomination of Suva as the nation’s capital.
This is a place to return to when space is needed to write the Great Novel. Limited but pleasant. Boring say some. Captivating say I.
Tonight I’m moody. It is unsettling and annoying to be dragged into conversation with an Englishman, an Irishman and … They are obviously in need of company. I am not.
So I have a dilemma: should I go with them, and others, to Caquali (pron. Thongeli) for a last session of snorkeling, or should I stay here? Now that hurricanes and floods have subsided 15 travellers have arrived seeking deserted tropical islands, coral reefs and sandy beaches. Caquali wil be overcrowded. Yet if I stay, apart from pleasurable socialising with the Peace Corps and Voluntary Overseas Volunteers – both called Dave, I could well be preached to/at by some or all of the 27 young Australian ‘Fiji For Christ’ missionaries who wander about in identical T-shirts.
I wonder about them. Ovalau is devout and there are more churches than bars here. Yet are the missionaries the reason that today young children have begun to accost me and ask me for money. Is this a sign of Australian Capitalist Christianity or Australian Christian Capitalism? Faith, hope and charity … according to Jesus the greatest of these is charity.
I say, let it be.
Actually, it was pleasant on our desert island without the discs. A comfortable mbure to sleep in, a long session of grog drinking around the camp fire. With the Danish Family Robinson as part of the audience, it was a chance to show a few magic tricks and to tell a long shaggy dog story.
“So he did …”
There was the snorkelling, duck diving to observe our local cooks spear fishing for our suppers. There were sightings of turtles dashing away as if their clockwork motors had just been wound up. Black and white striped sea snakes popped their heads up periscope like for an intake of air before undulating away for a nibble of coral, after which they drifted, suspended a few inches above their meal.
Fiji has been very relaxing and quietly interesting. The people are incredibly friendly, with a ready smile and greeting: “Bula.” A time to pause politely. En route through rural areas children wave both hands with generous smiles. Sometimes their parents do too. And why not?
When the sun shines, as it has done recently and topped up my tan, crops flourish, fruit ripens and little effort is required. It’s a time to converse, sing, play, pray and drink grog.
This has been my kind of holiday, a time to live without the timetable tourists need. I can well understand the young English couple who’ve been here four months and done nothing.
No hurry, no worry. They’ve sussed it, and so have I.