posted June 28th, 2019
The following 3-part account follows our adventures & accomplishments in Fiji during the first half of 2019. The account is a more complete version of our last newsletter, #58, with completely different photos & additional info.
As a small charity, we have always based out of our house in the suburbs of Suva, Fiji’s capital. Our home thus serves as our office, storage depot, visitor centre & guest accommodation all at the same time, thereby saving a lot of money on rented facilities.
Despite repairing & upgrading the house over the years, including numerous roof patch-up jobs, over time the roof finally reached its expiry date, requiring us to change it entirely, along with much of the supporting timber. In order to get an engineer’s certificate, (very important here in Fiji), there were also numerous structural improvements to make, which stretched out the work to several months.At times we had as many as 10 workers on the roof, all hammering & sawing & drilling! In addition to the roof, we also had to put up a security fence around the property, which became another whole saga. Then, there was an exhaustive list of internal repairs to take care of as well…..
By the time we got it all done, the school term was just finishing, but at least we could start making plans for taking boxes of books to village schools as soon as the schools reopened. In fact, one of the main challenges was to find an island where we wouldn’t get marooned — many of Fiji’s over 300 islands have only an unreliable monthly boat, whereas others have a weekly or biweekly service. The bigger ones also have airstrips for small propeller planes, but as many of these are made of grass, there’s a big risk of cancellations if there is heavy rain! In fact it’s already happened to us several times in various Pacific islands that we have been completely stranded, due to just such occurrences.
Finally, we selected Kadavu as the most suitable choice, having several transport options, as well as a tarmac runway. (In fact the 800 metre strip is the only tarmac on the whole island, as everywhere else is dirt roads.) Kadavu is Fiji’s 4th largest island with an area of 411 sq kms (159 sq miles), & a population of about 10,000. To complete the picture, it’s a mountainous, volcanic island with lots of virgin rain forest & beautiful beaches, but very little development. Most people there survive from their small family vegetable & root crop plantations, along with some fishing.
The map on the left shows Kadavu island — to put things in geographical perspective, it’s about 50 kms long & is located 100 kms away from Suva.
To be continued….