Summer Road Trip I: Saskatoon

For Ty’s August holiday we decided to cruise 14.5 hours east down the road in the wheels to the Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites, a 5 star establishment half an hour south of Saskatoon in beautiful Dundurn, Saskatchewan, pop 500. Its proprietors, Tracey, Darrin, Tango, and Molly, really rolled out the red carpet for us for the 4 days we were there.

One of the very beautiful features of this hacienda is the Tradar Trail (est. 2010), a tree-lined path around the perimeter of the estate, created by Tracey and Darrin and walked by them and their faithful beast Tango twice a day, summer and winter.

From the trail a walker can gaze out over the vast fields of wheat, canola, and peas.

Tango enjoys his daily jaunts, when he’s not hunkered down eating fallen apples from the laden apple trees close to the house.

This view from the homestead shows, on the left, the original farmhouse, now a tractor garage and nesting area for local swallows, the 100 year old barn, used for storage and the odd barn dance, the solar panel array, and the water pump.

Our first day was cloudy, with the odd bit of torrential rain, a perfect day for gallery-going in the city.

Art Placement Gallery, one of the art spaces downtown, had an expansive show of prairie landscapes by a doyen of the prairie painting scene, Dorothy Knowles, who celebrated her 90th birthday in April.

There are still a few old early twentieth century buildings downtown with nice facades and elaborately decorated lobbies, such as the one below. Saskatoon does not have many highrises and the ones that do exist are not very tall. Most of the buildings are no higher than the one below. It has a pleasant, compact downtown area.

Tracey and Darrin were very good tour guides, showing us around the cool parts of town where galleries, studios, pubs, and coffee shops abound.

Ty fired up his holiday fedora, a newish travelling hat that replaced his previous short stovepipe straw hat; with it on, he can always be found in a crowd.

We didn’t see a lot of street art, but a few murals caught my eye.

Seeking out galleries was thristy work so naturally we had to duck into one of the local coffeehouses, which just happened to house the remnants of the Void Gallery’s art collection on its walls.

Initially we sat outside but spitting rain chased us inside, where we watched a chalk artist cum barista execute some underwater images on the blackboard.

While waiting for the rain to subside, we had a fantastic lunch at the Seoul Koren Restaurant just down the block, big bowls of spicy seafood soup for Ty & I, beef, egg, and noodles for Darrin, and veg for Tracey – really great if you like red chilies, which we do! (The below picture shows Darrin and I discombobulated, not sure whether we would actually be getting a feed anytime soon).

 

Sufficiently sufonsified (sp?), in other words stuffed with shrimp, mussels, and noodles, we headed over to the Craft Council gallery to check out the exhibit of ceramic artist Jack Surs, a senior artist from Regina who, to celebrate his 82 birthday, had 82 pieces on display, some of which were enormous.

I was very impressed with his work, especially some of the larger vessels, and many of them had very intricate surfaces designs and glazing. If I had untold money and room space, I would certainly have purchased a few.

He made a number of quirky vessels with tiny animals on top.

I have done a small bit of ceramics and was only able to create tiny candy dishes on the wheel; it takes a lot of upper body and arm strength to throw pots. I am amazed that an 82 year old man was able to make these vessels – they really are incredible (although possibly the huge ones were created earlier …).

The second day dawned sunny and warm – huzzah! – so a bike ride along the river was in order. The Bike Doctor, from whom we had previously rented our steeds, didn’t have any rental bikes available – a brief moment of devastation ensued, and the 5 star rating of Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites was in jeopardy – but Darrin made a quick call to the Bike Universe and lo and behold, they came through for us with 4 bikes from their 7 bike rental stock.

Suitably set up, we rolled river-wards onto the north path which took us through rolling grassy knolls on the path along the water, past a beautiful, but closed, public pool, and the grounds of the former Saskatoon Sanatorium.

After cruising across one bridge with a pedestrian and bike path running beneath the cars, a great innovation that Vancouver should adopt, we eventually headed back over another bridge with a great view of the river and the Bessborough hotel and downtown.

We passed through Saskatoon’s equivalent of Shaughnessy, with its stately homes and tree-lined streets.

Back along the river we had a great view of the new Remai Modern Gallery, a vast new emporium of art slated to open in October: I was a bit disappointed not to be able to visit it on this trip.

The park areas along the river are beautiful but we were working up a powerful hunger from our cycling explorations, and getting a bit saddle-sore, so pulled into the Cut Restaurant just around the corner from the Bessborough for some sustenance.

Much of downtown is in the midst of roadworks, not surprising since summer is the only time that’s possible here, and orange tape was up many places around the city.

We had a tasty snack on the patio after Darrin had helped the wait staff erect the umbrellas necessary to keep us out of what turned out to be quite a hot sun.

After a quick zip through the Bessborough Hotel to check out the decor, we returned the bikes and returned to Dundurn to rest and recuperate.

The two old farm houses across from Tracey and Darrin’s place are even more rickety than the last time I was here, leaning ever more groundward – not sure how much longer they’ll be able to stay erect. If there weren’t such a tangle of underbrush in the field making it very difficult to get out to them, I would love a closer look.

Just off the Tradar Trail Tracey and Darrin have created a pet cemetery, where the remains of animal friends rest under carved wooden headstones. At certain times of day, the sunlight comes through the tree leaves at just the right angle and  strikes the glade with a golden glow.

Every angle of view across the fields from each corner of the property is interesting, especially with the different crops each being a distinct colour.

I remember thinking when I first came out to the farm from Vancouver that it was a little spartan in terms of vegetation and greenery. Well, after living in northern BC for a year, it seems incredibly lush and diverse here. All depends on perspective!

Below, surrounded by green, you can see the main house in which Darrin grew up, the Qualityman 5 star hacienda.

Tracey is currently researching the history of the big red barn; it’s more than one hundred years old and was the biggest barn built in these parts. On the main floor various treasures are stored; a tractor, Darrin’s first car, below, a Lincoln Continental, old windows, and other farm paraphernalia. Farmers never throw anything out because you never know when it might come in handy.

The upper floor is cathedral-like and is the venue for barn dances, the last of which will be coming sometime soon. The bathtub finds a new use as a cooling tub for drinks when the dance is on.

This would be an incredible space for an art installation – I will have to ponder the possibilities …

The booming metropolis of Dundurn is about 5 kilometers south of the Qualityman hacienda and houses about 500 souls; it also has a cemetery in which rest the pioneer families who tilled this land in the past. We stopped to pay our respects on a windy, sunny day.

Some of the headstones are quite eroded and covered in an orange organic material that is slowly obliterating the surface lettering.

When I was last here with the ladies in 2013 we had walked the Dundurn labyrinth and I was interested to see whether it was still intact – well, it sortta is …

In a park area next to the village’s church, the labyrinth was finished in 2003 and over the years has slowly started to disappear back into the grass from whence it came. I suppose not enough people are walking it to keep the path from becoming overgrown.

Speaking of walking, Tracey took Tango around the block to let him have a good sniff of the area.

Some of the houses here are from the beginning of the 20th century and remind me of the older houses in lower Lonsdale where my grandmother lived.

The garden of the house below looked fabulously full of blooming flowers; upon closer inspection we realised that almost all of them were fake. Odd.

The robin in the bird bath isn’t fake, though – definitely the real deal.

Below is a photo of the road back to the Qualman farm, past several very shallow bodies of water that host many duck families.

On the way back to the city one day we passed by the homestead and studio of a very well-know Saskatoon sculptor (so well-known that I can’t remember his name at the moment) who seems to be an avid airstream trailer collector.

Also in the area are several new mega-house subdivisions, products of the recent and now bust Saskatoom boom.

We saw a beautiful white horse in a brilliant red barn.

Darrin’s sister Lori and kids from Houston were also visiting and we spent some time at the fair with them one afternoon. Of course, Ty was bugging me to go on the ferris wheel but I declined firmly; a fear of heights makes these rides not at all enjoyable to me.

Ty, Darrin, and the kids enjoyed the ride below, being whipped around at about 200 miles an hour.

Tracey the hat lady wisely decided to pass and kept cool in the shade with her many chapeaux.

Very foolishly, I suggested that we all try the Octopus – it looked relatively tame from the ground but was definitely a different story once it got going.

I was utterly terrified, which Ty and everyone else found quite amusing.

And, once again, Darrin emerged victorious at Whack-a-Mole, keeping his crown and adding a Nemo to his collection.

I took several infrared photos of the farm and am starting to play around with them. Below is a picture of Frankie in the Field, the metal sculpture that Barb, Christine, and I created the last time we were here.

Good times! Thanks so much to Tracey and Darrin for their generous hospitality! See more photos here. Stay tuned for Part Two of the summer road trip.

San Sebastian del Oeste, Jalisco, Mexico

Originally settled in 1605, San Sebastian del Oeste is a secluded 17th century mining town which reached its peak of prosperity in the 1700s, when over 30,000 people inhabited the area. Over the years, the town’s population fluctuated wildly as gold and silver were mined intermittently between the 1600’s and the 1930’s; it now has around 600 permanent residents. Located at the foot of the Western Sierra Madre in West Jalisco, San Sebastian del Oeste, designated one of Mexico’s Magical Towns, is an hour and a half drive into the hills along winding country roads from Puerto Vallarta. The town is located in a pine forest and the air is crisp and clear.

By 1785 there were 10 gold and silver reduction haciendas and almost 30 mines in the area; the town became a city in 1812 and reached its peak in 1830. The mines stopped working during the 1910 revolution and the foreign companies moved elsewhere. The last mine stopped working in 1921. (http://www.puertovallarta.net/what_to_do/san-sebastian-del-oeste-mexico.php)

“The mines were, in part, responsible for the start of Puerto Vallarta. Then know as Las Peñas and consisting of just a few huts at the mouth of the Rio Cuale, it was used to supply the mines with salt which was taken by mules up to San Sebastian and other mines in the High Sierras and used in the smelting process. The silver and gold from the mines was sent, again by mule train, through Guadalajara and Mexico City to Veracruz, where it was sent, once a year, to Spain” (from PV Insider website).

Our driver picked us up from our casa at 10 am for our trip up to San Sebastian, and, after passing many mountain bikers panting slowly up the hills,

we stopped for breakfast at a local family restaurant in tiny Estancia to sample home-made quesadillas cooked on a fire in front of us.

Our next stop, just outside the town, was the Hacienda Jalisco, “built 225 years ago by the Spanish to hold and guard the returns of the myriads of mines of San Sebastian, in preparation for shipments to Spain”, as their website explains.

Now a guesthouse, the hacienda has a small museum of artifacts from its mining days on the first floor, as well as old photos of Elizabeth Taylor and John Huston, the luminaries whose presence here in the 1960s really kicked off Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area as a tourist haven.

We strolled around the premises, snuck a look at one of the guest bedrooms, a high-ceilinged room with wooden ceilings and a big stone fireplace, and saw the aquaduct system and the remains of smelting chimneys still standing on the edge of the property.

Avocado trees, bougainvillea, and coffee are all grown here. There is no electricity, evenings are lit by oil lamps and candles, and there’s no telephone, life as it was in the Colonial era.

From the hacienda we made our way into the small town, currently in the process of being modernised, much to the chagrin of the older inhabitants, who are not interested in change.

Innovations such as a new entrance gate, newly paved sidewalks, new brick walls, and an entirely renovated town square, are evidence of the money the Mexican government is putting into its Pueblos Magicos program, designed to encourage and capitalise on tourism.

We had a look at the Hotel del Puente, purchased some churros pastry at a local bakery, then drove up to a local raicilla distillery.

Raicilla, home-grown moonshine, sort of a cross between scotch and tequila, is made from the agave plant, which distillers harvest from the surrounding hills and then process in what is essentially a small home alcohol still, consisting of clay ovens, big blue plastic barrels, copper pipes, and hoses.

Nothing was being cooked this day but I could smell the remnants of previous batches in the air. Home distilleries such as these have to be careful to pour off the first litre of distilled alcohol, since it is pure ethanol and will blind the drinker. Provided that the distiller only makes a certain small amount, this home production is legal.

Back in town, we sampled a draught of raicilla at the only cantina in town, located at one corner of the town square and full of local guys quaffing shrimp micheladas who had ridden in on bicycles and motorcycles.

From there we checked out the town church, the Town Hall with its still-functioning jail and graffiti-scratched walls, a jewelry shop with work by local artisans, and then had some delicious fajitas at a Mexican restaurant around the corner.

Full of fajitas, we then drove to the Quinta Mary coffee plantation, another former hacienda restored to a shadow of its former glory,

with two beautiful African blue parrots in a gigantic metal cage snacking on sunflower seeds,

and finally to the local cemetery, where colourful graves and a gigantic bougainvillea bush rest quietly on a hillside to the accompaniment of cattle lowing in the shade.

The experience of being in this town was a strange one. In a way it felt more like Switzerland than Mexico, with the cool temperatures, the mountains and the white of the buildings against the green hills.

For a town of 600 permanent residents, it has an quite a few restaurants and hotels, testaments to the increasing number of tourists who make their way here on day trips and overnighters. Like that strange Greek island I went to off the coast of Turkey, Castellorizo, this place, too, feels like a stage set, on which people are wandering about waiting for something to happen, something that is just around the corner but that actually never seems to arrive.

See more photos here.

Sunday and Sundry

Things we have learned in our attempt to live local, none of which will really come as a surprise: 1) fruits and vegetables, if bought from small local shops, are one tenth the cost of those in Vancouver 2) rice and pasta are one fifth the cost 3) pastries, cheese, fish are one quarter the cost 4) beer, meat, and sauces are half the cost 5) milk, cereal, wine, and coffee are the same price 6) bus transport is one quarter the cost Entertainment, for us in the form of beach bars, averages $35, including tip, if we share one order of food. The little cutie below was fighting with his leash at Mango Beach Bar.

DSCN3149

Beach vendors are relentless, coming in waves along the beach like the incoming tide. And speaking of waves and tides, you can see how strong they are here at Playa del Camarones, where they have carved a bank in the  beach.

DSCN3139

People work very long hours for not very good wages and few days off.

DSCN3221

Lots of people bring their beasts here; many people adopt stray dogs locally. Schnauzers are a favourite. It seems like the new pier may have changed  the water currents in the Los Muertos area; new expanses of sandbars are being carved out and the big waves are breaking in a different area than I remember from last time. The fishing must be good off the pier; these pelicans know a good thing when they see it.

DSCN3219 DSCN3211 DSCN3214

If you can speak Spanish, you usually get a better price for almost everything. My crummy Spanish occasionally gets us cheaper donuts… Las Brazzas grill has fantastic grilled shrimp in soya sauce and garlic.

DSCN3233

Walking around Gringo Gulch the other day, not having any idea where I was but wanting to explore the hilly area behind the church, I stumbled across the Hacienda San Angel, a beautiful boutique hotel and restaurant with a tremendous view of the entire Bay and wonderful old wooden religious sculptures.

DSCN3251 DSCN3255

At one time it was a convent, then the villa of Richard Burton, bought while he was starring in the 1964 John Huston film that put this place on the map, The Night of the Iguana. Attached to the villa by a pink Venetian-style bridge was Casa Kimberly, the house given by Burton to his lover Elizabeth Taylor. Unfortunately, even though everything was intact when sold by Taylor in the eighties, it was not kept that way and the place is now a gigantic construction site. The only evidence of that famous filming remaining here is a dilapidated sign, barely legible, just south of Mismaloya where the film was set.

DSCN3265

We sampled the South Side Shuffle delights once again and enjoyed an interesting chat with Jack, the owner of Ambos Galleria. A really great show of paintings is on view at the Contempo Gallery by Cuban artist Yoel Diaz Galvez; I recognized his work as being by the same person as a show that we had seen in Guanajuato in 2012. Obviously others liked it, too, because the gallery was packed.

DSCN3078 DSCN3072 DSCN3069 DSCN3059

The “husband’s waiting area” benches get a pretty good workout on these evenings.  We also met Linda,  originally from Victoria, the owner of Banderas Soap Works, who was stirring up a storm of lovely smelling handmade soap.

DSCN3056 DSCN3070

Sunday nights El Centro comes alive with locals and visitors. The municipal band plays in the square in front of the church,  all decked out in traditional white. After they finish, a DJ spins contemporary and traditional Latin hits for a big throng of dancers against a backdrop of incredible deep blue sky.

DSCN3193 DSCN3201 DSCN3202

Strolling around the back streets we discovered the Que Pasa bar, an expat haven, and the municipal market, with several butcher stalls.

DSCN3165 DSCN3173 DSCN3112

We took a  moment to visit the 5th of December cemetery, walking among the colourful headstones and family tombs, one of which had an interestingly painted portrait of Jesus.

 DSCN3119

Below are some closeups of the plants at the Botanical Gardens, where I went back another day to take some infrared photos.

DSCN3352 DSCN3332 DSCN3321 DSCN3315 DSCN3302 DSCN3291 DSCN3289 DSCN3281

Adios Cancun, Hola Vancouver!

For my final post of the incredible Round the World trip, here are a few photos of Isla Mujeres and the beaches of Cancun. Tropical storms have been blowing through this region in the last several days but we did manage to have some sun on our last couple of days in the Cancun area.

As we were walking to the beach on Isla Mujeres, we happened to pass the Municipal Cemetery; I took a few pictures of the colourful tombs.

Storm clouds chased us off the island; we saw these old fishing boats near the Gran Puerto dock.

On the way back from our usual beach, Playa Gaviota Azul, we stopped in to take a look at Playa Tortuga. It was Sunday and lots of local families were enjoying themselves beside the water.

It also has the only Bungee Jump that I’ve seen on the trip (not as high as the one in Nanaimo, however).

Today was our last day at Playa Gaviota Azul – here’s a picture of our usual waiter, Santos from Chiapas. Adios and Sayonara Cancun, Hola Vancouver – Canada here we come (hopefully bringing the sun with us)!

 

 

Playa: Beaches, Ruins, and Beasts

Playa del Carmen is a town divided: one small part, that along the seashore, is a playground for middle-class and wealthy gringos, mostly from the US and Canada but also Europeans; the rest, extending north, south, and west past the Carreterra Federal highway, is Mexican. Never the thwain shall meet.

Coming back from the beach the other day we got on the wrong bus; instead of taking us up Benito Juarez Avenue to 70th, it rolled along parallel to 5th Avenue and then cruised slowly back up past the highway, past the Hospital, and through the newish development of Los Flores, a vast subdivision of small row houses painted in tropical colours, catering to the locals who work in the tourist industry. Some rich dude must have sold his hacienda property to developers who are now erecting thousands of these small structures.

A couple of days ago we jumped aboard another bus, hopped out at the ADO station, walked the length of Fifth Avenue north and from there took a taxi to the Playa Cemetery. Cemetery visits are one of my little idiosyncracies; I enjoy walking through the grave sites and looking at the inscriptions and mementoes.

This cemetery has a lot of young men’s graves – a lot! – and also a section entirely for infants and babies. As I was photographing some of the memorials in the latter, Ty called out to me, saying “It’s time to go”.

Since we’d not been there very long, I was surprised but acquiesced. As we were walking back out, Ty told me that he’d seen a group of about ten young guys drinking around one grave, likely that of a fallen friend, one of whom pulled a pistol out of the back of his shorts. Definitely time to hit the road!

South of the Cozumel ferry terminal are many huge all-inclusive hotels and expensive condo developments. I find this area, known as Playacar, obnoxious. We had gone there to check out the Xaman Ha Mayan ruins and aviary. What remains of the ruins is very small, a few tiny stone house structures and an encircling wall accessed from the beach through the Xaman Ha condominium site that has been erected around them.

Walking past Playacar’s enormous mansions and condo developments to find the aviary was depressing. And when we did come to the small aviary to find that the entrance fee was 300 pesos ($22 American) each, we could not bring ourself to pay it. A total ripoff. In fact, almost any of the “tourist attractions” in this part of the world are ridiculously expensive and completely inauthentic. While all, except the Mummy Museum, of the many really cool museums and haciendas that we saw in Guanajuato were at the most 20 pesos, here it seems that you can’t get in the door anywhere without dropping mega bucks. [Grumble, grumble, grumble …. we interrupt this broadcast for a grumpy old lady grumble].

On the way back to Playa, walking along the Mayan ruin wall, we did see a wild capybara, a gigantic rodent not unlike a huge gerbil. This one was unafraid, munching serenely on grass, and about the size of a small dog.

After our aborted trip to the aviary, we stopped at the upscale shopping centre near the ferry for a coffee at Starbucks (there are no other coffee shops in this area) and had a bit of sushi for lunch, enjoying a break from the humid heat under a large leafy tree. [These two days were cloudy and rainy so the photos are not very good. And, although I’ve been wearing 50 spf sunscreen the whole time I’ve been away, I see that I have a tan …]

At the Casa Ejido there are many small lizards: some are very tiny and black; others are larger, greyish, and have a head frill, looking like miniature dinosaurs. One of the latter (in the picture below) rears up and races on two legs along the edge of the pool almost daily in the morning. I love these guys!

See a few more pics here.

Laid Back Levuka

After having stored our excess pounds of luggage at the Beachouse for later return, Ty and I were off on the local minibus (like a collectivo in Mexico or dolmus in Turkey) to the Novotel Lami Bay just outside the capital Suva for one night on our way to the former capital of Fiji, Levuka, on the island of Ovalau, just off the north-east coast of Viti Levu. Unfortunately, it was raining so our planned boat trip around Lami Bay didn’t materialise; but Saturday dawned sunny and clear (of course) for our 12 minute ride over to Ovalau on a tiny eight seater plane. We landed on the very short airstrip seemingly in the midst of the jungle where a taxi was there to whisk us away around the island to the Levuka Homestay.

This place is the home of John and Marilyn, Australians who have lived in Levuka for 12 years. They have four guest rooms but at the moment, it’s only us in residence, along with four cats and a beautiful parrot named Bula. Our room has a cathedral ceiling with ensuite bathroom and an outside seating area on the deck from which we can feast our eyes on the gorgeous greenery in the garden, including crab claw flowers, frangipani, red bananas, birds of paradise, lilies, and other tropical delights.

Breakfast is taken in the main house upstairs and was it ever good: many different kinds of butters and spreads, salsas, tropical fruit, banana and pineapple pancakes and French toast, as well as homemade muesli and bacon and eggs.

Yesterday we walked around town, checking out the main drag, Beach Street (but no beach to be seen), along which are a few blocks of colonial buildings from the eighteen hundreds when Levuka was the bustling capital of Fiji and a hub for shipping, including yachts and pirates, and a diverse company of persons, including “foreign traders, merchants, missionaries, shipwrights, vagabonds, shipwrecked sailors, respected businessmen and speculators”. The shops include a few supermarkets, a hair saloon, two pool halls, a couple of variety stores, and four restaurants, all of which are crying out for a coat of paint – no coffeeshops, no pubs, no cinemas.

The one entertainment centre seems to have shut down. Since we’d had almost nothing to eat, we stopped at the Whale’s Tale, the town’s best restaurant, for lunch (it was very good) and returned again for supper, which was excellent. The only restaurant open on Sunday is Kim’s White Dragon Chinese, so we’re saving that for tonight’s dinner!

Geographically, the setting is gorgeous but my first impressions of the town are that it’s very poor and in an economic slump at the moment, a downturn from which it may or may not emerge. It reminds us of places like Ocean Falls or Barkerville – the same sort of architecture and feel about the place. The main industry in town is the tuna canning plant and it has been shut down for the past 2 months because of a change in regulations originating elsewhere. Tourism is not really a factor here, especially now with the global economic situation, although a few people do make the effort to visit Levuka and there is one company which offers a couple of tours around Ovalau and to the nearby islands. The Levuka Homestay’s gardener Nox offers several walking tours, a couple of which we intend to take advantage of while we’re here for the week. The townspeople are very friendly and, since there are only three tourists in town, everyone knew that we’d arrived by plane that day.

After breakfast today we walked back along the one unpaved road out of town to the hillside cemetery to check out the graves, passing by the remains of a burned out Masonic Lodge in the process. Interestingly, although this ruin is right “downtown”, it has not been pulled down; given the strength of the Methodist Church in Fiji, perhaps its arson-destroyed shell is left standing as some kind of warning and reminder …

The cemetery occupies a beautiful hillside site with a wonderful view out across the ocean to the small islands beyond. Several different sections of the cemetery could be discerned from the style of grave. The topmost area holds the tombs of the early European settlers, including the Archdeacon of the Catholic Church in Fiji, whose grave occupies the prime spot on a promontory overlooking the ocean.

Further back, nearest the mountain, are the graves of the Chinese community while lower down, closer to the water are the graves of the indigenous Fijians. The most recent of these are quite different in style than the European ones, being mounds of dirt, surrounded by rocks, covered by fabric, and having canopies of cloth held in place with bamboo sticks. Around the hillside, bits of fabric from older canopies which had disintegrated with the elements dotted the grass. A small disused crematorium occupies one corner of the site, along with a run-down cement pagoda. Things wear down quickly in the tropics and this cemetery is no exception; most of the headstones, with their inscriptions, can no longer be read.

An interesting side note: The former BC Ferry the Queen of Prince Rupert, decommissioned in 2009, is now plying the waters of the Fijian Islands, with a home base in Levuka. Now renamed the Lomaiviti Princess, she has been operating here since Sept 15. We saw this advertising notice for her pasted onto one of the buildings downtown. Here’s more from Wkikpedia:

“M/V Queen of Prince Rupert was a RORO ferry operated by BC Ferries that provided the main surface transport link between the Queen Charlotte Islands and mainland British Columbia, connecting Skidegate with Prince Rupert across the Hecate Strait (thus linking two segments of Highway 16). The vessel also ran on the Prince Rupert-Port Hardy Inside Passage route during the low season.

Built in 1966, the Queen of Prince Rupert was decommissioned on April 20, 2009 following the launch of the Northern Expedition and was replaced by the Northern Adventure on the Prince Rupert-Skidegate Route.

On May 4, 2011 the official registration of the Queen of Prince Rupert was closed. The vessel was sold to Goundar Shipping Company of Fiji and renamed the M.V. Lomaiviti Princess. The vessel departed B.C. waters bound for Fiji on August 5, 2011.”

More information about the Levuka Homestay here.

More pictures here.