Wednesday, September 26, 2012


To get to Ambaca (pronounced Ambatha), a guy in a mini-van with a busted rear windshield picks you up at your Nadi hotel and takes you to his pad in Lautoka.  Then you hop in the bed of a covered 4x4 pickup and some other dude, who is always late I might add, drives like a maniac up a dirt road, across a river and into the mountains for about 40 minutes while you carom off the roof and quarter panels.  On the way back (last photo) some of the villagers who want to go into Lautoka, one of which is a toddler whom they sit on a plastic bucket, hitch a ride with you.  It’s safe, in the sense that you’re not going to get mugged or get eaten by a lion.

We stayed at the home of the village chief’s brother, which was basically one big room with a curtain dividing it in half (like a loft but on the ground).  Inside the home, one chicken was motionless in the corner as she waited for her eggs to hatch, while another hung out inside a crate with her own chicks not more than a few hours old. 

At night I was not invited to church at 7PM.  The day we were there it was the men’s day to attend mass and then afterwards they stayed up till 5AM drinking Cava and bonding.   I wasn't invited to that either.  I was however, in attendance when the women of the village came over.  We had our own Cava ceremony.

In the morning we took a shower in a concrete closet located about 40 yards from the house and filled with spiders on webs.  The water was diverted from the nearby river and was of the unheated variety. 

Needless to say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Take a Hike

One day Simona decided we should go to Koroyanitu National Heritage Park which included a stay at a village and a nature walk through the park.  Upon arrival, the head of the Ambaca Visitor’s center, a woman of about 55 years or so, said the walks were easy and she does them herself all the time.  This is how that went:

We = Simona (the Gorgeous Girl) and Me.
They = our guides Joseph (tall) and Letia (barefoot).

We struggled in hiking boots : They sauntered in sandals or went barefoot.

We brought an extra pair of shoes, two cameras, three lenses, three books, two bottles of water, two jackets and bug repellent : They brought a machete.

We took 2.5 hours to go up and another 1.5 to come down : They (sans us) take one hour up and less coming down.

We recoiled at the caterpillars by the river and used antibacterial hand sanitizer : They usually hunt and kill wild pigs in these hills.

We called it a strenuous hike : They call it a walk.

Upon arrival back at the village They went about their day : We took a nap.

Needless to say I do better in Los Angeles than I do on a mountain in Fiji, but to be honest not by much.

the white dots over Simona's left shoulder is the village where we started from.  Behind her is Lautoka, on the screen left edge of frame is Nadi.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

the Sugar Cane Fields

On our first day here in Fiji we met this Indian kat named Prem at the bus stop.  He was super friendly so I immediately was suspicious of him.  Turns out he had no angle and was genuinely nice if not socially awkward.  He invited us to dinner and when we took him up on his offer it turned out to be just tea and silence.  Anyway, he also mentioned he knew some sugar cane workers and could hook us up so we can see them work.

I immediately imagined the premium, National Geographic style photos I was about to take and maybe even sell!  Well, Prem proved as good as his word and on an overcast, rainy morning Simona and I walked up through a downed sugar cane field towards some workers.  They were so happy to meet us they stopped working all together and chatted us up.  So instead of these amazing photos of Fijian sugar cane workers toiling in the field, here are some pictures of some dudes with machetes, having tea.

And for those of you playing the home version, don’t forget to see if you can Spot Simona!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Lautoka Sugar Festival

The Lautoka Sugar Festival is a weeklong celebration with absolutely nothing in it to remind of you of sugar, how it’s made, how delicious it is or how important it is to the community.  No sugarcane juice, no tasty confectionaries, and “ice cream.”  What they did have was five Ferris wheels made by long interlocking metal pipes and spun by the rear axle of a car.  For the kiddies there were smaller Ferris wheels, and planes and horses that go around in a horizontal circle.  Finishing where you begin is a big thing here.

Also there were barbeque stands and a parade.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fiji By Bus - Lautoka

My second favorite thing about Lautoka, is leaving it.  ZING!

But seriously folks, the bus ride from Lautoka to Nadi is 45 minutes of nature’s eye candy.  I stare out the window the whole time.  Most Fijians don’t seem all that enthralled with it probably because they were looking out their bus windows before it was cool.  Ugh, is there anything worse than a Fijian hipster?

Enough talky, picture time!