A few weeks ago, I went once more to Levuka, the old capital of Fiji. I had the opportunity to stay in a
wonderful home at the top of the hill owned by a colleague.
Traveling back, I got the water taxi from Levuka to Bau Landing, near Nausori with a stop over to visit a friend at Leleuvia Island resort. From Bau Landing, there is a bus to Nausori which costs $1.60, and from there you can get the bus to Suva. Otherwise, you can organise a taxi to collect you from Bau Landing, and the trip to Suva will cost about $30.
Usually, I take the bus/ferry service run by Patterson Brothers Shipping, but the trip from Levuka to Suva means getting to the bus
stop at 4am. This time, I took the water taxi, which was much better, and really fun! The pick up was at 10am (much more civilised), and the cost is about $90. If you stay at Leleuvia for lunch, there is an additional cost, but you can also swim, snorkel, and relax on the beach. The details for the Leleuvia to Suva island transfers are at the Leleuvia resort web site http://www.leleuvia.com/island_transfers.html#.
You can also arrange to get picked up from Levuka, or Moturiki. Leleuvia is really beautiful with accommodation in traditional thatched bures on the beach. It is a small island that has only the resort, and is what people would think Fiji is if they had just one picture in their minds. The lunch was served in a massive traditional bure that has the dining area and bar, and is open to the beach. The cost to stay at the resort is surprisingly cheap and I am told that all the watersports are free, and that there is a special rate for kids. Anyway, I can’t believe I didn’t know both about Leleuvia, and also about this excellent way to get home!
While in Levuka Town, my driver, Mr Ram took me along Beach Street to the tomb of Tui Levuka, near which is a stake that marks the centre of Fiji. Levuka is on Ovalau Island, an easy trip from Suva or Nausori which are on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. The island is part of the Lomaiviti group which means “heart of Fiji” so I don’t know why I was so surprised that there is a spot in Levuka which marks the actual centre of Fiji. I am not a navigator, so I am not sure if this is gospel truth, but many friends from Ovalau assure me that what Mr Ram told me is true! Mr Ram can also take you on a taxi tour all around the island which is a great day trip. It is well worth the trip, as Levuka was the old capital of Fiji until the capital was moved to Suva in 1874, and as such was the hub of activity. It is the site of the first school in Fiji, the first newspaper, bank, the first Town Hall built to celebrate the 50th year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the first masonic lodge, the landing site of the first indentured labourers or “Blackbirded” people, the first electricity in Fiji (which was privately funded by Reg Patterson the founder of Patterson Brothers shipping). In fact Levuka had electricity three days before Suva. Levuka is also the site where Fiji was ceded to Britain, marked by the cession stone. It is the site of the oldest hotel in the South Pacific that is still standing (The Royal Hotel). The longer I am in Fiji, the more Levuka is a fascination for me.
Levuka is also the site of the first Catholic church service in Fiji, I believe the first Anglican church, and the first Catholic Convent (Loreto), and the first Methodist Mission. Levuka also had a pigeon post which is marked by a water fountain near the Post Office (also the first Post Office in Fiji) on Kings Wharf (formerly Queens Wharf). Levuka is one of the three ports of entry for Fiji.
In Levuka, if you get a chance, visit Baba Settlement which is the settlement behind the town where the descendants of the blackbirded people from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Gilbert Islands, Ellice Islands were brought to work on the cotton and sugar plantations. Next year is the 150th centennial of the first recruits. A lot of them were actually stolen from their homes or tricked into boarding the boats as the traders posed as missionaries. Plus below, I have included a pic of the rubbish dump at Levuka just out of interest. Might have to push my recycling efforts to cans!
Baba settlement is one of my favourite places to visit. To get there, go along Bath St, beside Levuka public school. Keep walking and you will see some steps. Go up the steps, then you will see that the path branches out into three different sets of steps. All steps lead to Baba. If you take the fork to the right, you will get to “the Baths” or “Bower’s pool” which is a concreted swimming hole with steps at the base of the waterfall. If you cross the bridge, you can go up the steps to the top of Baba.
When you go there, be aware that you are walking close to, or through people’s front yards, and be respectful and polite. If you would like to have a look at the waterfall, or have a swim, then make sure you ask to be shown to the Kaivika pool. The water hole there is easy to negotiate, and lovely, especially after a downpour. If you ask to go to the waterfall, you will be shown to the source of the waterfall, which is at the top of the extinct volcano core, and it is very slippery and hard to get to. People in Baba are so friendly, and if you act nicely, they will be happy to show you around. The gardens are divine, and truly permaculture, with flowers, pineapples, yaqona (kava), cassava, dalo (taro), beans, aloe vera, watercress, lilies and bananas all riotously growing in harmony.
Make sure you take your rubbish with you when you go, as there is no rubbish collection in Baba, and it has to be taken back to town. If you have plastic bottles or aluminum cans, drop them at the Town Hall for recycling.
Cultural note: If you walk north of town you will go through Levuka Village. This is a traditional village, and as such, cultural protocols apply. A few tips: as you cross the bridge towards the village, please remove any hats, sunglasses, beanies, and backpacks. Also, it is polite for ladies to wear a sarong or suli to cover any short pants, and to wear a shirt with sleeves. If you want to look around the village, you must have permission, and go with a guide from the village.