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Sunday, August 2, 2009

July 14-17, 2009 Back to Vuda Point Marina and Land Travel to Suva (part 1).

Our main reason for returning to Vuda was that we had wanted to take a road trip to Suva, the capital city, for a few days. It isn't feasible to sail over there, and we had heard that Vuda Point is the best spot to leave the boat and arrange land transport. Arriving at the entrance to the pass at the Marina we found James Finan (Mai Miti Vava'u), of the previous duo; "James and Amber", standing on the point snapping our pictures as we navigated into the pass. We knew he was in the area and had hoped to run into him again. He had left his vessel at Vuda Point Marina while away for the season, making yacht deliveries and visiting friends and family at home and abroad. He helped us to get docked and then came by for a visit. We invited him to join us, Glen and Sally for dinner at the yacht club that night.

The next morning, Frank, Glen, Sally and I went into Lautoka for a bit of provisioning. Well, actually, Frank and Glen went for the ATM machines. We grabbed a quick bite of lunch and then on the way out, Frank spotted a hair salon. He and Glen wandered in while Sally and I roamed into a bookstore. She and I window-shopped a bit and returned to the salon not much later to find Frank sitting and watching Glen get a haircut. Frank, looking darn good, proudly announced that he just got a F$5.00 haircut! We watched and waited as the gal finished with Glen. After which the boys announced that they were all done with their shopping and were thirsty, so we set off in pursuit of a bar in which to park them. Bars are not easy to come by in downtown Lautoka. We ambled around, made a couple of inquiries and then spotted the perfect spot to plant them. They settled in getting nice and cozy in the bar at the Lautoka Club while Sally and I set about running errands and doing a little bit of shopping – not too much because we were planning a Thursday departure for Suva. We returned to the marina to find that Dave and Jan (Baraka) had arrived in from the Yasawas. So before they got too settled we convinced them to join us on our road trip, which meant meeting the cab at 7:00 AM for a ride to the airport where we would board the bus to Suva.

Thursday morning found us packed and ready for our little adventure into the big city! We enjoyed the comfortable air-conditioned bus ride, and arrived in Suva city at about 12:30 PM. Just in time for lunch! But before lunch we needed to find a hotel and stash our bags. The bus had dropped us at the Holiday Inn, just on the outskirts of downtown, so naturally we inquired there first. Frank, Glen and Dave basically got three different stories on "walk-in special rates" and by the time we sorted through the deals offered, we decided to keep looking. We piled into two cabs and literally got "taken" all over hell's half acre by two slick Fijian drivers whose meters had been turned off. After a ridiculously long, dusty, hot and annoying ride, we ended up just blocks away from the Holiday Inn at a fairly new hotel called JJ's, located in the former YWCA building. Great location – great hotel, superb pricing! They were offering a special rate of $115/night (normally $350/night), including breakfast delivered to the room each morning. Yes! When the guys returned to the cabs to get our gear, the drivers wanted to charge us the outrageous sum of $74.00 per cab! After some words Frank tossed one driver a $20 and said that's it! I think Dave paid the other guy a $20. We eventually found out that any cab ride anywhere in Suva shouldn't cost more than $3.00. What a couple of crooks.

We loved our rooms, and were very pleased with JJ's. The well-appointed hotel was in the center of Suva's cultural and shopping venues. We enjoyed an excellent very late lunch at Tiko's Floating Restaurant, located just a few steps away. We then set off exploring and planning our activities. Wandering over to the mall and up and down the various streets we enjoyed being in a real city with modern conveniences and amenities. Dave, not to be outdone by Frank and Glen sought out a place for a haircut – we all stood around watching while the stylist went to work on him. She did a very nice job for the princely sum of F$7.00. Big City prices! Thursday evening we dined in the hotel's excellent restaurant enjoying live jazz music.

Sally, Jan and I planned a Friday excursion to Cost-U-Less, which is the South Pacific's version of Costco or Sam's Club and is actually based out of Seattle. This we decided was definitely intended to be the highlight of our little road trip adventure. As we headed to the taxi stand, the boys strolled away toward the Royal Suva Yacht Club for a day of male bonding. At Cost-U-Less, we filled our baskets to overflowing with American goods for which we had been pining. Nestles Tollhouse Morsels! Bounty paper towels! Large jugs of Pace Picante Sauce! Quilted Northern bathroom tissue. Dixie paper plates! Tide Laundry detergent! Hershey's chocolate syrup! Ghirardelli's fudge brownie mixes! We were in absolute Heaven! The bonus…we checked out, paid by credit card, handed over a list of perishable items to add to a COD order, gave the names of our yachts and the address of the marina, left the goods and walked out the door to catch a cab for the hotel. Cost-U-Less would have everything packaged up and delivered (free of charge) to us by Wednesday. This is the best therapy I've had in ages. How can it get better than that?

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