I decidedto take you all on a jaunt around Suva, my home town...before we begin a bit of history!
SUVA became the capital of Fiji in 1882, after 26 years of searching the archipelago for the old capital at Levuka, on the island of Ovalau. Levuka then one of the most colourful seaports in the South Seas, lacked space to expand, and most of the best land was owned, in any case, by the various Missions.
The old British colonial officials thought there should be a new capital "so that a fresh start might be made with white settlement", according to Col. W. T. Smythe, who had been sent by the British Government to investigate Fiji's plea to join the British Empire.
Many possible locations were studied, including Savusavu (Vanua Levu), Port Kinnaird (Ovalau), Galoa (Kadavu), and Nadi. Little did contenders realise that 80 years later their site would be the subject of another wrangle, but would win and become the Pacific crossroads for the then undreamed of aeroplanes zooming across the world's greatest ocean. The proponents of Nadi in 1875, when Suva and Nadi were on the short list - as they were in the 1950's - claimed a better climate, and sheltered anchorage and approach for ships (and flying machines?).
Suva supporters stressed the breadth and safety of the harbour, access to much fertile land, and an abundance of building sites (today's developers find that hard to believe). However, there were complaints about Suva's mosquitoes and sand flies, and "deplorable lack of fresh water".
In 1879, Suva population was 200. Today it is more than 73,000. The nucleus of the town was in the area of Fiji Air Services and The Fiji Times, with houses and government offices creeping up the hill, a tiny area compared with several square miles the city covers today.
In less than a century, Suva's topography has been transformed. Before the first Europeans arrived, dense jungle ran down the hills and mountains to the water's edge. And the water's edge was in a very different location then. Most of the land along the water side of Victoria Parade has been reclaimed, from the Grand Pacific Hotel which is now closed for renovations, right along to the Walu Bay industrial area, though there were two small hills where the Fiji International Telecommunications Ltd (FINTEL) building and the Library now stand. And there was a much higher hill backing the greensward of Albert Park. The top of that hill provided the fill for the land on which the Grand Pacific Hotel now stands.
In its infancy, Suva was a dusty little settlement in sunny weather, a quagmire in the wet. Many jokes were made about the state of Victoria Parade, now Suva's main street. The residents would vie with each other to think of the most suitable root crops that could be grown down the middle of the street, in the shadow of the great Raintrees that edged it on the sea side. More than 100 of these magnificent trees lined Victoria parade, providing shade and resting places for the citizens and their horses. Successive hurricanes, and old age-perhaps accelerated by the vibrations of motor vehicles - have reduced the trees to a mere handful.
However, the old city fathers planted a number of flamboyant trees to replace the raintrees as they crashed, and these brilliant crimson and jade trees make Suva one of the most beautiful city sights in the world when they flower late in the year.
When the first Europeans came to Suva, sometime around the 1860's, they found a small Fijian village, called Suva where the Thurston Gardens are now, presided over by a high chief whose house was somewhere close to the present Cakobau Road, which runs down the side of Albert Park.
There was a burial ground where the old Town Hall is now, opposite Fiji Air Services, which later became a European burial ground also. All the remains were re-entered in the existing Suva cemetery when the first Town Hall, for many years Suva's finest building, was built. And the beach, where the Grand Pacific Hotel now stands, was a landing place for commoners only. Another burial ground, perhaps the most ancient in the Suva area was sited in what is now the Thurston Gardens, where the bandstand is located. A more gruesome burial ground was on a hill near the Grammar School, which was reserved for what remained of those enemies who were clubbed and eaten. The Suva cemetery of today was once the site of a lime-kiln (lovo ni lase). The Suva area bustled with trade and the comings and goings even before the Europeans arrived. The bans of Nabukalou Creek, which runs through the city (alongside the Morris Hedstrom department store) was a busy trading and barter station for the Fijians. Passengers embarking on ships in the harbour were picked up by a row boat where the triangle outside Prouds, the jewellers, is now. A large block of coral on the shore where the Suva Gaol is now (and which is now part of the Gaol's wall) was said to be the shrine of the mosquito god, and ripe plantations were offered to him there.
And on the site of the big modern Suva General Post Office, the Fijians brought their produce ashore to sell it under the shade of a huge ivi tree that stood nearby. There is some dispute as to whether it was the large tree at the Proud's triangle, or another one close by which has long since gone. But the triangle ivi tree has been a silent witness to just about all of Suva's colourful history, and has sheltered thousands of passers-by from the sun and the rain for more than 100 years.
Once chosen as Fiji's capital, Suva began to flourish as a town, later as a city. The old Fijian village of Suva was moved about three miles to another site, and became Suvavou (new Suva). The village is still there, about halfway between the city and the Raffles Tradewinds Hotel, on the seaside of the road.
The first Government House was built on the site of another village called Nakorobaba, and was a simple little wooden bungalow that later was burned down after being struck by lightning. The present building, opened in 1928 is a replica of Government House, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which also was then a British Colony.
One of the first shopkeepers and merchants in Suva was James McEwan of Melbourne, Australia, whose business finally came into the hands of Morris Hedstrom Ltd., one of the great islands trading companies, and one of Fiji's largest merchants.
As the infant town grew, more roads were driven through the soapstone hills, and the existing roads were widened and glorified with surfaces of crushed coral rock. In 1902, the road to Nausori (Suva's Airport), now one of the best highways in Fiji, was a rough bush track, and it could take a full day to travel to that small settlement on horseback.
Social life was limited, and there was little socialising between the Europeans and the indigenous people. Until 1926 there was even a curfew of 11.00 p.m. for all non-Europeans. There were picnics and tea parties, fund-raising events for the many churches being built in the new township (the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cathedral in Pratt Street was completed in 1902), and there were boat trips to Beqa Island to see the Fijian firewalkers perform on their home ground for a round-trip fare tour of ten shillings ($1.00).
Now let us begin...on the road that leads you into the city is the spot where I train at 4am....and watch the sunrise while doing my energy exercises!http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=Trainimng+view+1__2005-12-09_PICT0003.JPG&s=http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=Training+View+2__2005-12-09_PICT0004.JPG&s=
There was a freindly game of touch being played at the park:http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=A+freindly+game+of+touch+rugby!__2005-12-09_PICT0008.JPG&s=
Right across the road is the presedents house...he has a guard like the hairy hats in the UK....you know not allowed to move etc!
From this point we begin the stroll into Suva City!http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=road+to+suva__2005-12-09_PICT0011.JPG&s=
First stop thurston gardens and the mueseum (we will be going there at a later date...after I have shown you the city).
In the gardens are all sorts of native flora, it was the promenade of the colonials as they took walks along the paths in days of old!http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=Thurston+sign__2005-12-09_PICT0013.JPG&s=
Across the road is albert park, and the saturday morning limited over cricket is on...the big ben look a like used to be parliment house, but is now the court house....gee can you tell we were colonized by the limeys!http://www.badongo.com/pic.php?file=parliment+of+old__2005-12-09_PICT0015.JPG&s=
I will leave you with that, digest it, I will be back with more later!