Saturday, 29 September 2018

9-2018 Exploring Fiji

Hi from Clare,                  9-2018 Exploring Fiji                    29th September 2018

On 11th September we began our exploration of Fiji on the north island of Vanua Levu. We sailed 46 miles to Viani Bay which is the home of the Fiji Dive Academy. Here, along with Martin and Ellen on ‘Acapella’ we did two dives, one on the Great White Wall and the other on Rainbow Reef. The Great White Wall is a coral wall approx 50 metres wide and 60-70 metres deep. It is covered with both hard and soft corals and in some lights the wall appears white, however when we were there it had a mauve tint which was very pretty. The fish life is prolific and we discovered fish we have never seen before. Rainbow Reef is called such because the coral and fish are all the colours of the Rainbow. Both dives were spectacular and in fact until recently Rainbow Reef was listed in the ten best dives in the world. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos as the dives were too deep for my little camera. However, maybe it was better that way as I could just enjoy the dive and lap it all up.

Ellen, Martin, Clare and Andrew ready to dive

We also visited the local Primary School in the Bay. There are no roads into the area and so the kids arrive by boat every morning. The teachers were very welcoming and they showed us around the school and also the sixth grade exam paper the kids were sitting that day. All their lessons are in English but they teach the Fijian language as well to maintain their culture. The school was a happy place despite the fact that it was injection day which generated a few sad faces.

Just another day on the school bus

We continued 30 miles north to Albert Cove on Rabi Island. No one lives here but it is frequented by fishmen from the nearby villages. The island is owned and occupied by the Barnaban Islanders. We met a local man on the beach, he spoke good English and had worked in Fiji but had returned to Rabi Island to enjoy the simple life and the peace and quiet. Andrew drew pictures on the sand showing how Eye Candy will be placed in a pit at Vuda Marina for cyclone season, of which he had no concept. We enjoyed a few days there with ‘Acapella’ and a new friends Dieago and Marina on ‘Meccetroy’ snorkelling the reef and sharing sundowners in the evenings.

Our next stop was Kathryn Bay on the south end of Rabi Island. Here we hoped to snorkel with the mantra rays as they come each morning to a cleaning station near by. However we were out of luck and just had to satisfy ourselves with beautiful tropical fish and coral. We said goodbye to ‘Acapella’ as they headed back to Vuda Point in preparation for sailing to New Zealand. ‘Meccetroy’ and Eye Candy sailed to the township of Matei on the nearby island of Taveuni. This was just a quick stop for provisions before we sailed 65 miles overnight to the Northern Lau Group of islands east of Fiji. We arrived on the island of Vanua Balavu around 2pm and anchored off the village of Dalicone. ‘Meccetroy’ had been here before so they headed to the Southern Lau Group some 120 miles away.

We went into the village the following morning to visit the Chief and gain permission to sail in their waters and visit the island. It is traditional to present the Chief with a gift of Kava. This is a root that the natives ground to a powder add water and drink. It has a numbing effect and makes the recipient lazy. It is known as grog but without a hang over. I think you just sit around and do nothing unlit it wears off. The welcoming ceremony is called Sevusevu and if done traditionally the chief drinks the Kava and hands the cup to you, you clap once drink the Kava (which tastes like muddy water) clap three times and return the cup to the chief. Traditionally the visiting male has to sit crossed legged with bare feet but not pointing his feet at the Chief, his legs must be covered. It is advisable to buy one of their traditional wrap around skirt and pull it up over your shorts before meeting the Chief. Visiting women must have their shoulders and legs covered to the knees. She sits with her feet underneath her. So we were totally worded up and arrived at the village with Kava for the Chief and school supplies for the local Primary School. The Chief was away somewhere so his nephew got the job. He jumped out of a truck he was driving, invited us to his house and kicked off his thongs at the front door. Andrew reached for his skirt, the nephew said “don’t worry about that” we sat on the floor, gave him the Kava and signed the visitors book. The nephew then welcomed us to the village and said we were free to come and go as we please. We had a very nice conversation with him and then he dashed off. We visited the newly constructed school after cyclone Winston and meet all the teachers and visited the class rooms. We had brought school supplies and lollies for the kids. On our way back to the boat we stopped off and talked to a couple in their 80’s. We soon discovered that these people were not isolated villagers. Susana had a house in Honolulu, one in Suva and was building one in the village where she anticipated spending two weeks a month and the other two weeks in Suva with her children and grandchildren. Susana wanted to know all the places we have visited in the yacht in the past 14 years. She had been everywhere we have been and commented in detail. Sireli is over 85 years and is Susanna’s cousin. He had served in the British, Australian and New Zealand Navies. His son was in the Australian SAS and fought in Afghanistan. They were a surprising find in what we thought was a quiet and remote traditional village.

The bus ride - at least it was an Isuzu

The following morning we went on the local bus across the island to the main village of Lomaloma. The bus was an Isuzu truck with a cage on the back. We piled in with all the locals sitting on bench seats along the side of the truck and hanging on to the wire cage so not to slip onto the floor. We bumped and jiggled along the track stopping off for parcel deliveries, gas and diesel tank collection, passenger pick up, money exchanges and various other transactions which must have been prearranged as there was no communication with the driver, he just knew where to stop. We watched with fascination as it all happened around us. The village people were very happy to talk to us and made us feel very welcome.

We then moved the boat around to the Bay of Islands which is inside the reef surrounding Vanua Balava. We entered through a small opening between high cliffs to find a maze of small limestone islands and shallow lagoons in azure waters every shade of blue, turquoise and jade. The bird life is plentiful and the coral outcrops are in perfect condition; really beautiful and different from what we have previously seen. The tropical fish species are numerous and we are enjoying the snorkelling. We met new friends Allan and Paula on ‘Dam Kiwi’. The boat got its name when Allan worked in Australia and his work buddies referred to him as the Dam Kiwi. We assures him that was a compliment and just the Aussie sense of humour.

Bay of Islands - Great shelter everywhere

Last Wednesday we sailed 25 miles north to the small island of Wailagilala. This island is flanked by a beautiful sandy beach and has a reef surrounding it. There is one permanent local and three boys who come out for a month at a time to look after the island. An Australian has a 99 year lease on the island and the four local men work for him. There are a two holiday cabins there with new furniture still in packing cases inside. The permanent local, Howard, said he has seen the Aussie owner 3 times in seven years. Hard to know what is happening there, but it is a beautiful location. However having said that there is very little protection when anchored behind the reef. We experienced 24 knots at anchor and bucked around all night. We slept on a cushion on the floor as this was the most stable place on the boat. We left the following morning and return to the tranquillity of the Bay of Islands in Vanua Balava.

Great beach but rough anchorage

Yesterday we met up with John and Lyn on the American vessel ‘White Hawk’ whom we met in the Marquesas in 2014. We had drinks on Eye Candy last night and caught up on the happenings for the past four years. We are looking forward to spending a few days with them.

We are waiting for a the remnants of a tropical cyclone to pass by before we sail down to the Southern Lau Group. The wind is very strong outside but we are sitting here with rock walls on three sides of us and the lagoon in front of us. We are totally unaffected by the strong winds. We will get some heavy rain which will give us a decent boat wash, hurray.

Love Candy xx