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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spear fishing, overnight passage, cutoms and exploring the town of Levuka, Ovalau island

Another great snorkel adventure at Korolevu pass in the Great Astrolobe reef. I successfully speared a nice parrot fish in the pass without getting eaten by a shark! Ninety percent of shark attacks occur during spear fishing endeavors so I was pleased to get the fish in the boat and not even see any sharks. After a lunch of curry vegetables, rice and fish we prepared for our ninety nine mile overnight passage to Levuka on Ovalau Island. Levuka's claim to fame is a four year period between 1874 to 1880 when it was briefly the Fijian capital. One hundred and twenty seven years later they still tout the slogan "Fiji's old Capital" at every turn. The towns' main street runs along a waterfront promenade and is lined with historical buildings that are now small shops and a particularly striking Catholic church. We arrived Saturday morning and just in time to catch the end of the Saturday market held along the waterfront promenade. A limited selection, bust since we are trying to eat what's locally available we loaded up with Taro root and Taro leaves (cooked they taste similar to spinach)lemons, egg plant, cucumbers, green peppers and the tropical version of grapefruit. After dropping off the produce we returned to shore for lunch at a locals restaurant overlooking the bay. Having made the overnight passage and getting next to zero sleep we were pretty well beat, but managed to stay awake until seven PM and got a great twelve hours of sleep.

Today we woke up at our regular seven AM to listen to the cruisers radio net called "Rag of the Air" on the single side band radio (HAM radio). I was feeling pretty refreshed after all that sleep so I tackled some boat projects and Kathy gave the galley a good once over. Since today is Sunday nearly everything in town is closed so we went for a hike in search of the local swimming hole. Despite asking for directions at every turn we failed to locate the swimming hole, but did enjoy a nice walk into the lush jungle valley above town. Once back in town we watched part of a local soccer match then stopped by the Ovalau club (a members only local bar) for a beer where we were babbled at by what appeared to be the town drunks who were well on there way. Just before we got to the club one of the apparent members who was seriously intoxicated fell in the river then got out a started a fight with a local man. In response to the fisticuffs all the other "members" spilled out of the club to break up the fight. Of course it was then that we decided to head in for a beer, but soon after we were sorry we were there.

Back at the wharf we were stopped by the customs officer. He kindly reminded us we are required to check in with Levuka customs as it is an official port of entry. Anyway the nonsensical rules say we are required to check in if we should choose to stop. No problem we are happy to oblige, but, since we arrived on a Saturday we intended to follow the customary procedure of checking in during normal business hours (i.e. Monday) to avoid weekend overtime fees for an otherwise fee free process. We even checked with the customs office shortly after our arrival and a nice Fijian customs officer OK'd our plan. So, this particular ethnic Indian customs officer said he needed to see my papers... just to check them after I explained I'd check in on the next business day. Being agreeable I returned to the yacht to retrieve my paper work, although his request stank of an attempt at extortion. After reviewing my papers he reminded me it was Sunday and overtime fees would apply and yes I would need to check in NOW. I told him I thought it unfair as to the overtime charge of F$75 I'd be required to pay and that I would like to check in on the next working day as is customary. He pressed on so I went ahead and started filling out the forms in triplicate (no carbon paper) which took about 30 minutes. After completing all the forms I asked if he still intended to charge me, the intent of the check in process, etc, etc of which we discussed and then explained, among other things, that I'd rather spend the money in the local economy in lieu of paying the Fijian government. Anyway, our conversation was productive as he waived the fee and we both parted ways feeling good about the situation.

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