Destination Rabi - Part 1
French Farce as ‘Motley Crew’ boards the S.O.F.E
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Destination Rabi - Part 1
"French Farce as 'Motley Crew' boards the S.O.F.E."
by Garry Hawkins, U.K.
Everyone was assembled at Banaba House in Suva; it was dark by the time the truck arrived to take us to the Spirit Of Free Enterprise (SOFE). The ominously named craft would take us to Destination Rabi.
Everyone pitched in with shifting masses upon masses of luggage. What were all these people taking? Everyone gathered around and boarded the truck, only to discover from our driver that an obscure local by-law excluded this. Yes, only a grand total of four people were allowed on the back of the truck. It was a farce as everyone piled out again. They had to walk or take a taxi. Now only burdened with a collection of luggage Harrods would have been proud of, the truck headed towards the wharf.
Down at the wharf, another French Farce was rapidly ensuing with the loading of the ship. Fijian drivers in trucks so overloaded the tyres were flat, reversed by feel only, stopping only when their vehicle crashed into the truck behind. In their infinite wisdom, the ship's crew didn't allow the passengers on until the very last minute, blocking the gangway used by the trucks; they had nowhere else to go. The Motley Crew added to this spectacle by engaging in a team photo fest of almost Japanese proportions.
Clive Smith kept his head while others were losing theirs. He sat alone reading ‘Fiji Times' on a set of picnic chairs, no doubt destined for some far-flung village somewhere. For some bizarre reason, it rather reminded me of Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal, albeit in drag. The last of the British Raj perhaps?
The crew insisted on parking an implausibly large lorry in an impossibly small space, just where we were stood. Passengers scattered everywhere just like Keystone Cops as the lorry jerked violently in their direction.
Once aboard, yet more farce as everyone followed each other around the ship like a suicide squad of lemmings. We were looking for a space large enough to accommodate the whole group. There wasn't one. I found a berth at the bow (front) of the ship on top of a lifeboat, where a stiff trade wind was supplied free of charge.
Down below in the steerage, Chinese video movies blared at 115 decibels from two television screens. It was hot, sweaty and airless there.
Meanwhile, at the Stern, Stacey had arranged a cultural soiree. It was pleasing to see that somewhere in a melee of chaos, culture and civilisation had resumed. Yes, a wine and cheese party in the South Pacific. The Fiji Bitter flowed, and dial-a-pizza arrived, supplied courtesy of Laisa and friends.
Stacey held court about the forthcoming trip to Rabi and Banaba. To be honest, what with the noise of the boat, I caught little and remembered less, of the conversation. Consumption of considerable quantities of red and white wine and Fiji Bitter had nothing to do with it. Later I was to fall asleep in a stupor, no doubt comforted by the fact that I was sleeping on a lifeboat. The trade winds roared on ferociously, cooling the night air somewhat.
To be continued...
Copyright: Garry Hawkins: October 1997
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