Friday, October 16, 2009

Sugar City trail of scents

Many mornings we walk from the wharf to the PTC. The scents of the town change as we go. With the sugar refinery on the edge of the city, the air is often filled with the smell of mild molasses. Other smells contribute to the story of the sugar industry and the life of Lautoka, the self-proclaimed "Sugar City". Smoke fills the air from September to November as the workers burn the cane fields before harvesting. The fires remove the extra leaves and allow them to chop faster, machetes unimpeded. Even though Nomad is half a mile from shore, the ash from the fields and from the sugar plant covers the decks and cockpit when we come back in the late afternoons.

Every day we dinghy across the main channel, pass the wharf with the containers, large cranes and container ships, and tie up the dinghy at a cement wall. When we leave the port security gates, we walk past the "hot bread and milkshop" (they don't sell milk. I asked.). The smell of bread and hot grease trickle out the door and mingle with the smell of pine sawdust from the mountain of wood chips at the lumber yard behind the hot bread shop. This side road goes to a roundabout where we turn left into the city and pass the sugar mill with trucks and drivers waiting across the street to deliver their loads of sugar cane. The diesel fumes and molasses mingle together all the way up the street and past the carts of cane loaded and waiting on the narrow gage rails for the sugar engine to bring them to the plant. We turn right at the post office and head up the street, passing under the fragrant frangipani tree which covers the ground with white blossoms. For about a mile we walk up an inclined main road and diesel fumes spew out of the open windowed buses and mix with the scent of cut grass. Many parks and large trees line this walk. Every day, men with weed eaters persistently cut the grass one section at a time. We have yet to see a lawn mower. At the top of the hill we turn left into the Simla neighborhood which contains more parks. Here, the cut grass smells are sometimes mixed with the odor of curry wafting out of the houses. Then we cut across a park and arrive at the gates of PTC's driveway.

In the town, the smells are curry, hot bread, grime, diesel, and that peculiar odor of its multiple grocery stores: dry goods, meat, and produce mixed together into the air conditioning.

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