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.'

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