Thursday, October 16, 2008
From Labasa to Savusavu, the long way
I have never gone by bus this route but some tourists from Slovakia did and here is their story from their website.
Thus we exhausted pretty much all that Labasa offers in terms of activities, spent a night in the Riverview Hotel, from which we had no river view, and the next morning we were back on a bus to Savusavu - this time the one with the "long" route.
The first part of the trip lead through more sugar cane fields and was mercifully paved. Within 2 hours, though, the tar gave way to a bumpy and dusty back road and we started climbing ominously higher and higher into the thick bush again, getting swallowed by the overgrown jungle, from which we would emerge only on precariously steep climbs with sweeping views. On some of these inclines, it seemed that the bus was on its last legs - spewing clouds of black smoke and creeping up the hill so slowly that it seemed it would roll back any moment and hurl us down the mountain. But, miraculously, the extremely rugged Fijian bus never failed to get up on those hills or brake on the way down and we didn't get stuck by the road side 4 hours away from the nearest phone. (Only once did we have to coast down the hill in reverse to get a better running start up the hill.) And since the bus, like most Fijian buses, didn't have any glass in its windows, it was a breezy, safari-like ride, with clouds of dust and an occasional branch penetrating inside.
All along the way, we rode through villages so remote that the daily passing of the bus looked like an event in itself. Groups of locals were gathered at each bus stop, either sending off or welcoming people, or just sitting around, waiving at the passing travelers. And everywhere we stopped people would load countless pieces of luggage, rice bags filled with taro* and other crops through the windows and stuff them wherever they would fit them - on, under or between the seats. (Grabbing and loading other people's stuff is a part of the unwritten Fijian bus-travel etiquette and we were involved in the ritual a few times, as well. Just grab the stuff people hand to you through the window and give it to someone behind you who will stow it away.) Since Ryan and I sat in the back of the bus, we were eventually completely boxed in into our seats by loads of bags, rolled up mattresses and bunches of kava root.
*note: Taro and other crops are the only things freely available everywhere in Fiji, yet the locals always have a need to bring their own supply wherever they go, perhaps just in case the other town/village ran out...?
We rode forever - until the shadows grew longer, our spines felt impacted and every single pore on our bodies was covered with road dust. The views from the bus were sometimes quite beautiful, but overall, the ride was fun because it was so unbelievably out of the ordinary - and so Fijian.
And since Ryan and I were the only 2 people who stayed on the bus for the entire 8-hour trip, I really believe that we deserved some sort of a "Completed-the-most-arduous-bus-ride-in-the Pacific" medal.