Saturday, July 23, 2011

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.

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