Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Levuka, old colonial capital of Fiji

Levuka turned out to be the "Mayberry" of Fiji.  Lots of friendly townsfolk.  The customs agent was outraged at the exhorbitant price somebody charged me for papaya.
Lovely people

Combined bell tower and range maker

Town Hall
Old Masonic Temple

Old Royal Hotel Lobby - very Graham Greene, no?

Hotel Veranda, enter Peter Loree

Every place since burns rubbish


More About Makogai

There's more to Makogai than giant clams and the Leper Colony ruins.   We went to church at the other end of the island by boat.  It was a Methodist service conducted mostly in Fijian, so we didn't understand too much.  But there was lots of "testifyin'".

Bag Lady and preacher

Of 1,000 graves, only a few are visible.  The "rest" are swallowed by the jungle

Makogai Island Fiji

We went a few miles south to Makogai Island, site of a former leper colony.  It has a great curved and protected bay.   
Leper Colony Ruins

Our host in jail

Currently, the site is used for breeding giant clams and turtles. The clams were really amazing:


Incredible blue lipped clam in tank on shore

Clam on the reef
another tank specimen

Savu Savu, Again

We left Dolphin Bay and headed back to Savu Savu. The weather being much cooler, this visit was more pleasant than before. We made some new cruiser friends and the young Danish couple we met at Dolphin Bay were in town for a couple days. So we all hung out.

SavuSavu - steamy tropical backwater

We finally got the bikes out and took a bumpy ride down the unpaved road along the shore to the Cousteau Resort on the point.

We got water, fuel and provisions and moved on to Namena Reef. Namena Island is a sliver surrounded by a large reef. It's a private reserve. We had a very bumpy anchorage, got the anchor chain wrapped around the keel and spent 45 minutes undoing "anchor chain macrame" around the coral when we left.

Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat

Dolphin Bay resort is a low key, un-fancy Gilligan's Island kind of place. They can accommodate 14 guests. In addition to the hospitable Swiss owners, Viola and Roland, the wonderful Fijian staff and the delightful British, French, Slovenian, German and Danish guests, enjoyed some wonderful company for a few days. It's kind of nice to see some new faces and make new acquaintances as many of our cruising companions have moved on. here.

We spent several enjoyable days hanging out (and eating ashore) and went on some great dives.
Finally, here are some photos.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Matagi Island, not a mistake this time

We moved east to nearby Matagi. We were pleased to see our Dick & Patricia from the Netherlands on Geremar, beautiful Malo 48. Matagi is a tiny creseent shaped island formed by a sunken volcano caldera. The only development is a small resort at one end. The bay formed by the caldera is steep sided, with a pretty beach and lots of coral. The resort brings a few guest over to a the beach for picnics. (We were asked not to disturb them. hmmm)

We did a little snorkeling outside the bay. The bay opens to the north and the wind was predicted to swing around from that direction, so after peaceful nights, we moved around to Qamea Island. We anchored at Namata Bay at Qamea, on the east end of Qamea. There are several houses there and lots of boats coming a going. Our friends Howard and Lorraine from Tasmania on Namzamo were there. One night we had drinks aboard their boat and the following night, they planned came to Jarana to watch a movie with us.
Namata Bay
ur itty bitty movie projector has turned out to be a good way to entertain our friends with a movie. Since Jarana has a big plain white bulkhead, we can project films on it. We can almost comfortably seat 4 people for viewing.

I (Kathi) spent all day cleaning the boat interior for "company".   I was exahusted by the end of the day.  But the wind was changing to the north quickly and Namzamo was closer to a reef.  So they decided to stay aboard that night.  Because the wind had passed through the north quickly, so we decided to head back to Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat on Vanua Levu for a couple more dives on Rainbow Reef.  (Bill had previously dived with them one day while we were at Viani Bay.)

Our Second Visit to Naselesele, Our Second Mistake

The next day the weather was fine and we headed back towards Naselesele where we knew there was a good store (shop). It was Sunday and we knew it wouldn't be open, but we planned to shop on Monday and leave again on Tuesday. Ha, it was not to be.

The wind came up in the night and built and although the anchorage is protected by a huge reef, there's a long fetch for the wind waves to build inside of it. There are only 2 wee islands to windward of us, so we felt quite exposed to the brunt of the wind from the southeast. There were a couple small reefs behind us, so if we drg anchor we might hit one rudder first.  Not good.  The anchor held well, but we didn't dare leave the boat for a day or so. After a few days, the winds finally settled down, we were able to get ashore and do our shopping, eat out and get on the internet. It was time to move on to nearby Matagi.

After the winds subsided and the weather cleared, we overheard radio traffic among the friends we were with at Matawa.  Most of the group was moving on to the north side of Vanua Levu and we were headed the other way.  We would continue to be on our own and we would miss them.

Buca Bay, Our First Mistake

The wind was forecast to veer around to the north and Matawa is exposed in that direction, so we decided to move on. We also needed some supplies and the cruising guide said there was a store. So we headed south towards Buca Bay. The bay is also somewhat open to the north, but has some sheltered anchorages. It's on the east side of Vanua Levu, which mind you, is the second largest Fijian island.  So we didn't expect it to be completely remote.

Buca Bay is quite open and there were a few settlements around ,but it was difficult to figure out exactly where to go. There is one tiny jetty (a dock), but with few buildings near it. A ferry stops somewhere in the area, but it was hard to figure out where it might land. So after circling around, we headed towards the largest group of buildings on shore. We saw a bus pass by along the shore, so we couldn't be that remote. There was a woman and child fishing from a raft near the boat so we asked was the store nearby. Big smile, then blank stare. We reasked if there was a shop nearby. Big smile, oh yes, here in the village. The houses were very poor indeed, and although there was a fair amount of litter on the beach, the village itself is neat and tidy, as are most Fiji villages.

It was very quiet, just a few adults in their yards. We passed a small, shuttered shack, which turned out to be the shop. A tall man came out from one yard and we asked where was the shop. He smiled and said hello, sort of. He appeared to be disabled or retarded and we couldn't really converse.

We then figured out that the shuttered shack was the store and friendly young woman came from across the lane and opened it up for us. The stock was meager to say the least: onions, rice, toilet paper ($2.35fj - how many could afford that?, I wondered), canned tuna, and gummy candies. A few onlookers stopped by to see what we were doing.  I bought some tuna, onions and rice although I didn't really need them. There was long list of names on a sheet posted on the door. She explained that the villagers take turns paying for the village generator fuel. The store owners bring a truckload, and then each week different families pay for the week's allotment. The price of oil had really jumped in 2010 and 2011, and it's a real hardship on these people with very little cash income. They can't trade fruit for fuel.

The bay was a bit open and we didn't want to stay, so we headed across the bay to the east side of Kioa Island. There is huge aquaculture area there. No pens were in evidence, so we think it is for pearls. The island is high with steep bluffs and thickly covered with jungle. We anchored in a quiet by fringed by mangroves, The steep sided shores usually lead to steep sloping seabeds, making it difficult to anchor a safe distance from shore. We found a reasonably shallow spot (40-50ft) where a stream outflow left a pad of sediment. There was no wind and the water was glassy. This is a very unusual circumstance in the islands. With no signs of habitation, no boats, and no sounds but birds and the occasional fish splashing.

We spent a very peaceful night there.  It was to be the last for several days.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rabi Island, Fiji

We left Naselesele after a week and moved to Katherine Bay at the south end of Rabi Island (pronounced Ramby).  The inhabitants were relocated from Banaba Island near the equator.  First the British swindled them and exploited the guano deposits, devastating the environment.  Then the Japanese invaded and enslaved the population.  Somehow the survivors were evacuated by the British to Rabi in 1945.  I guess Rabi was purchased or otherwise appropriated from the Fijians for copra plantations (coconuts).

Katherine Bay is a very quiet, deep V-shaped bay surrounded by mangroves.  There's a village with a really big church for such a small place.  After a night or two, we moved up to Motawa (Albert Cove) at the north end of the island.  Here's where we first encountered submerged reefs extended across what looks like open water.  We gingerly crossed a 16 foot depth before it dropped off again.

We later moved to beautiful Motawa at the north end of Rabi Island.   Motawa is a stunningly beautiful, curved cove, surrounded by craggy verdant jungle peaks.  There are protective reefs across the entrance and outside in the sea.  
Albert Cove (photo doesn't do it justice)
There are just a few houses and shacks.  Migrant farmers from the nearby small town camp there in shacks or thatched huts and gather crops (kava, bananas, copra, papayas and egglplant). And they spearfish.  The price of fuel is really high and is a real burden for these people who get around in big open boats with outboards. The residents were  friendly (and happy to see new faces probably), as has everyone we've met in Fiji.  A couple led some yachties on a hike.  They are all quite poor, so they need various things.  In this case, laundry soap, in addition to T-shirts and baseball caps.  The Banabans speak their own language (vs Fijian, though everybody speaks English) and maintain their own culture. They are delightful hospitible people and it was a pleasure to meet them.

We started running low on supplies, so we left to visit what we thought might be a "town" with a store.  That was our first mistake.'

Naselesale, Taveuni Island, Fiji

View of anchorage.  Jarana is tiny spec behind a palm
We left Viani Bay and met up with the rest of the fleet at Naselesele at the north end of Taveuni.  The anchorage seems very open surrounded by reef, and only 20-40ft deep.  But it turned out to be a good spot. 

Helen & Steve (not Kathi & Bill)

There is a store and a couple restaurants.  A big group of us took a bus to the famed Lavena National Park and took the guided walk to the waterfall.It's a great walk along the shore and then into the jungle.  There are pools below the falls to swim in, but they are very cold.  

More Viani Bay Photos

What lurks underwater:

Mighty Big Clam - looks more like a jack o'lantern

Cabbage Coral - big as garbage can lids!

Normal sized English Friends Jacqui & Dave, Jarana in the background

Friday, July 8, 2011

Viani Bay, Vanua Levu

Viani Bay is a few miles east of Fawn Harbor.  The extended Fisher family lives there, among others.  There's also a school.  Jack Fisher, the grandfather, is MajorDomo and dive and snorkel guide.  For a modest fee, he escorts you on your boat out to the famous Rainbow Reef that protects the bay.  He also delivers fruit and picks up rubbish.

When we were there, a number of our friends were also there, so Jack would escort us en masse out to the reef.   One day, our friends on Jackster hosted the group.  A couple days later, Oso Blanco, a big powerboat hosted us out at the reef.  What a treat!

The local school put on a lovo, which is the Fijian feast, as a fund raiser for their school.  They really know how to put on a feast.

Opening the lovo (underground oven fired with coconut husks)
Preparing the kava (mmm, looks good - Not)
Kava Circle (Bill in the loud shirt)

Kids keep the flies off the food with fronds

Lovo Laides

Fawn Harbor, Vanua Levu

We finally escaped rainy SavuSavu around the end of May.  Our first stop was Fawn Harbor Fawn Harbor is enclosed with mangroves and is a very protected bay. 
 Some of the locals use ingenious boats made from corrogated metal panels.
The extended Pickering family owns a big area of property there known as the Pickering Plantation.  There are a dozen houses or so spread out over a hillside.  Of Mr. Pickering's 8 grown sons in their 50s and 60s, only one is alive.  The rest died of either diabetes, alcohol or hypertension related illnesses.  The widows are supported by their children.  
Arthur (the oldest and only surviving son) and Sandra Pickering have 4 children.  Their oldest has just graduated from the University of the South Pacific with a degree in fisheries.  The younger children are in the local schools.  They also care for the 14yo retarded daughter of a niece who just left her there as an 11mo baby!  They also care for 4 nephews whose 35yo mother died suddenly of a stroke.  Their father works on a cattle ranch and visits when he can.

All this sounds like the consequences of bad western diets.  Sandra also cares for the 11mo old nephew whose mother is a school teacher.  This child is delayed developing and is not even trying to walk, and barely crawls.  He's not very playful and doesn't eat well.  There are some government clinics here with limited ability to help.

First Week in Fiji

  Here's a typical scene from our lives:  Bill at the computer/nav station.  Kathi at the kitchen sink.  (Kathi:  That's not how I pictured my life aboard.)

We arrived in Fiji May 20th making landfall at SavuSavu on the island of Vanua Levu.  You clear in with Quarantine, Agriculture, Immigration and Customs.  A policemen and boat driver came aboard as well.  They are really pleasant people and we see them around town (as we did in the Marquesas), so it's good to get started on a positive note.  The formalities are kind of a nice transition into a new country. 

We brought quite a bit of liquor, wine and beer.  The duty on liquor is really high, but not so much on wine and beer.   So we got by with paying $96F (about $58US) to bring in 8 bottles of wine and 2 cases of beer. However, the customs officer is such a delightful woman, you don't mind paying.  It's worth it for the wine.  There's plenty of beer for sale in Fiji.
SavuSavua st is eamy jungle town.  After the exhaustion of the passage, the work needed to dry out the boat and all our possessions before the mildew took over was really draining.  It was just too hot and muggy below, so Mike slept in the cockpit, covered with mosquito netting against the bugs and a shower curtain to keep the rain off.  Kathi just slept under the fan on the settee.  Bill somehow just slept where fell.
Sunday family rafting trip

Mike Webster
Fijians get around

We hired a taxi for a trip up to a national park in the mountains.  The island interior is dense jungle and craggy peaks.