Bula means “Cheers!”, “Hello!” Literally, it means “life” according to the Lonely Planet guide. It’s the greeting, offered with a big smile, you’ll receive and give whenever you meet someone, or just pass them by along the roadside, here in Fiji. It’s among the first Fijian words we heard on arrival, and the first one we learned.We are on a mooring in Savusavu, Vanua Levu. Savusavu, on the windward side of Vanua Levu, is the second-largest community on Fiji’s second-largest island.The mooring we’re on is owned by The Copra Shed, one of the town’s landmarks. Built in the 19th century for processing copra and located right on Savusavu Bay, The Copra Shed has been renovated and now houses the Savusavu Yacht Club along with restaurants, a ‘yacht club’ bar, a small chandlery, offices for Fiji Airways and a tour agency, as well as a couple of rental rooms. An adjacent building houses laundry, showers (solar heated!), and restrooms for visiting yachts. It’s quite comfortable. Copra Shed is on the main street of Savusavu, at one end of a park. Across the street are most of the town’s businesses, including numerous grocery stores, dry goods stores, hardware stores, restaurants, and the government offices for clearing in, all within walking distance of the marina.


We get off the boat every day. On most days, we’ll visit the farmers’ market, maybe a grocery store, and stop for lunch at one of the small, local restaurants. In the almost two weeks we’ve been in Savusavu, we have tried nearly all of the small restaurants in town. While alcohol (beer, wine, distilled) is the most expensive we’ve seen since French Polynesia, eating out is very inexpensive and good. Every small restaurant offers basically the same menu – a selection of Indian, Chinese, and a very few western-style plates. Curries come with fresh, hot roti, an Indian flat bread. Chinese dishes come with either rice or noodles. We couldn’t make lunch on board for much less than an ample lunch at any of the local restaurants.

Last week, we took a bus from Savusavu across the island to Labasa (say “Lambasa,” often there is an ‘n’ or ‘m’ pronounced but not printed before certain consonants – the opposite of some romance languages that print silent letters). Vanua Levu is mountainous, like most Fijian islands, and Labasa is on the northwest coast. There’s a rugged range running down its backbone, dividing the windward (wet) and leeward (dry) sides of the island. On the dry side, Labasa is surrounded by broad plains and is known for sugar cane production. The bus ride itself was the purpose of our excursion; we wanted to see some of the inland countryside as well as get a look at the other main town on Vanua Levu. Early Wednesday morning we walked to the Savusavu bus terminal – a large gravel parking lot next to the farmers’ market – and boarded our bus for the two-and-a-half hour ride. The paved two-lane highway took us around the top of Savusavu Bay before turning inland and beginning the steep climb that would take us over the mountains, stopping at villages along the way for people or packages to get on or off. The road is well-maintained and marked, but narrow. This makes for a sometimes exciting ride.

A few scenes from Savusavu:

The inter-island ferry.

Fisherman on his bamboo raft.

Savusavu city park LED lights, powered by wind and sun.

Waiting for the bus in the city park. Velic is in the background. Taro (Dal0) root is in bundles.

Voter registration, Fiji-style, strategically placed next to the market.



10 thoughts on “Bula!

  1. Thanks for the great pictures and descriptions. I received the link from my dad, Bill Matthews. We lived in Suva 1971-73 (I was in HS).


    • Hi Nancy, Welcome to our blog. We very much enjoy comments from friends and acquaintances, and especially the mission family. We’ll be in Fiji for the next 3 months, so subscribe to the blog if you like and you will receive a brief email notice when we post new articles about our experiences.


    • Yes, the cultural mix is delightful. We hear of lingering tensions between the Fijians (Melanesian culture) and the Indo-Fijians (east Indian Hindi/Muslim, et. al. culture) elsewhere in Fiji. But we have not seen any of that in Savusavu or Labasa. The cultural mix in French-Polynesia was also evident and enjoyable. It’s one of the joys of traveling so slowly this way.


  2. I’ve been enjoying your blog as you travel through Polynesia with great appreciation and fond memories. I’m reminded of the time your family, Randy, visited us in Fiji and we spent a wonderful vacation on a remote island. So fun! Bula vinaka, Randy & Ruth!! Lynn


    • Nananu-i-ra. It’s now a kit-surfing destination spot! We hope to sail there and visit sometime this trip. So much of our Fiji experience brings back wonderful memories of that vacation years ago. The people, the foods, tea rooms, sugar cane, and kava root. Vinaka (thank you).


  3. And mBula to you guys, too! I’m so glad you’re safely back in Fiji! Your vivid descriptions take me back to those good old days! Uncle Dave


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