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Having been right royally rejected by the Kingdom of Tonga yesterday, we found ourselves arriving at Suva in Fiji one day early. Instead of the planned single-day visit, we will now be staying overnight.

I’m sure that behind the scenes, everyone would have been quite on edge, worrying that Fiji might follow suit with Tonga’s actions and prevent us from coming into port. A health questionaire was thrust upon us at first light, as before, with the instructions that all passengers and crew should fill one out and hand it in to Reception at the earliest convenience, before the ship would be cleared by the local authorities. As it turned out, clearance was, mercifully, given long before all the forms had been handed in, so folks were free to start going ashore as soon as they were ready.

Checking out the local area fom the top deck, my eyes were instinctively drawn towards the mountains on the opposite side of the bay. Further consultation with Maps.Me told us that there are footpaths over there, but the distance would be far too great to walk, although a bus trip might make it doable. In the end, in deference to the intense heat of the day, we decided to take a walk in the opposite direction…

It’s always rather a luxury having two days in port. We have escorting duties lined up for tomorrow, giving us the whole day today, to do whatever we want.

We walked along Queen Elizabeth Drive, by the edge of the sea, pausing to film and photograph what we think were myna birds, and marvelling at the colonial facade of the old Grand Pacific Hotel (Fiji’s first hotel). We popped into Thurston Gardens, which is a large public park that also houses Fiji’s only museum, before taking a look at the Governor’s Palace next door, complete with its own guard marching back and forth across the front gates.

As we walked, the landscape changed slightly; mangrove swamps became prevalent, which were quite whiffy but also magnificent to look at, and teeming with birds and tiny crabs. We took a diversion up one of the side streets, by the tax office, to a supermarket, where we bought cold drinks and army-sized packets of crisps/doritos for our lunch. Returning to the promenade, there were many shady places to sit, but almost every single one had local people sitting in them (it was lunchtime by this time, after all), and it took us a while to find an empty seat where we could relax for a while and eat our nosh.

The path we followed went the whole way around the end of the broad penninsular, through a popular ‘picnic park’ to an area of extensive sports facilities, including the ANZ National Stadium, which is where Fiji holds all it a major sporting events (they’re big in Rugby, apparently).

We were well past the halfway point of the route that we’d planned, and the day just seemed to get hotter. Even a local chap who was sat on a chair outside his house, after saying the customary ‘Bula’ (which almost everyone did – it basically means ‘hello’, ‘hi’ or ‘welcome’), remarked how hot it was. When a local Fijian tells you its a particularly hot day, then it really must be a hot day!

The thing is; both Tracey and I are a little bit stubborn. I say this because, by this time, Tracey had developed an annoying blister on the back of her heel that kept catching and impeding her ability to walk. Applying plasters to it turned out to be only a short-term solution to the problem because they kept falling off. Several times, as we pushed onwards, from shady patch to shady patch, we found ourselves having to resist the overwhelming urge to hail a taxi – of which there were many who came past us, pipping their horn in the hope of picking up a fare. As I say; we’re stubborn, and the desire to keep pushing on, because to catch a taxi would be tantamount to an admission of failure, eclipsed all.

In the end, we walked 10 miles, following the road from the stadium, that climbed over the hill, past the Pacific Ocean University, and eventually back down the other side, into downtown Suva, and back to the ship, where we collapsed in a heap and spent the next half hour standing under a cold shower.

In the evening, we had the announcement that many folks had been fearing (particularly those whose ongoing plans involved disembarking in Hong Kong), but knew must surely come. Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, Hong Kong is off the itinerary; it has been replaced by two port stops in Vietnam.

Peter Woolley

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