Friday 31 July 2015

Central Fiji

Qamea:  Wednesday 17 June – Saturday 20 June

The weather was closing in and we had one day if we wanted to leave Vanua Balavu, or we would have to stay another 5 days. We set off at 7am, nervously navigating through the reefs until we reached the open sea and could relax. We arrived at Naiviivi Bay  (an excellent hurricane hole) on the island of Qamea at 5pm and after four attempts managed to get the anchor to hold, ready for the bad weather forecast for the next 4 days.

Our lunch provided by the Chief

The island chief (Moses) came to visit us the next day on a boat with some food for lunch – local fish, cassava and some taro with coconut which we had for lunch. We stayed on board all day as the wind and rain made going out an unattractive option, particularly in the dinghy.  The next day, despite some rain and strong wind, we ventured onto the beach and made our way  along a small path to the chief’s house for the Sevusevu ceremony .We took Kava as a gift that we had bought in Tonga – this was the inferior variety as it was ready ground but we had had no opportunity to buy the real stuff.   

Moses, his daughter and grandson
He welcomed us to his home where we sat cross legged on the floor while he conducted a ceremony in Fijian, clapping as he spoke. At the end of this he said that we had access to the island and if there was anything we needed such as water or fruit he was happy to give us .The house, a single room, was made of corrugated iron like most of the houses in the villages and the kitchen was a separate building with a wood burning stove. Apart from two beds there was no other furniture and the floor was covered with lino.

We had two guides to help us!

We chatted to many of the villagers on our walk round and they

Building a new hut for the village

were all very friendly and happy to talk about us and them. Many of them had lived in Suva (the capital) where they went to school but most returned to live in their village as it offered a better life – no stress and a real community.

Going to school by boat

The village had about 80 people living together, mainly fishing and farming although a few people worked at a local resort on the top of the island. There were no roads on the island and even the school bus was a boat, taking the local children 1 mile

along the coast to the school in the next village.

We left a couple of days later to go to Taveuni as the wind started to die down.

Taveuni:  Saturday 20 June – Tuesday 23 June

We had wanted to visit Taveuni as it is known as the garden island because it is so lush with tropical vegetation. There is also a national park there and a lot of waterfalls. The weather didn’t look good for some of the anchorages at the north of the island but we knew that a number of boats had gone to Paradise Resort in the south of Taveuni on the recommendation of the ICA lead boat. We got there just before dark after a rather rough sail around the coast and tied up to one of their mooring buoys, not really wanting to go to a resort. We were very pleasantly surprised as we were greeted like long lost friends and invited to sample the delights of the yacht friendly small resort. The staff were excellent and the mood was like a house party.

We stayed three days and enjoyed having dinner with the other 30 or so guests on long tables and chatting over dinner and drinks. Mostly Kiwis and Australians although a few Americans as well – many of the guests come back year after year and mainly for the scuba diving which is among the best in the world. The resort has no beach but a reef where it has the most fantastic snorkelling , the best since Fakarava. Loads of fish big and small and beautiful coral both hard and soft- it was amazing just off the back of our boat.

The bridge was a little rickerty
Hard going in the heat
We took a trip out to the waterfall and coastal walk which involved an hour drive, most of which was on unmade roads. Our two hour walk with the guide was very instructive as we made our way along the beach and then through the jungle to the waterfall. The last part of the journey was a swim up river to the waterfall which I had not intended to do but we could not get that far and not do it. It was well worth the effort but we declined the offer from the group of adventure travellers who turned up just after us to climb to the top of the waterfall and jump off. It was not that I hate swimming, I just did not want to die. The 20 year olds did not seem to have the same fear!

We had to swim the rest of the way
Exactly half way round and standing either side of the date line

Vanua Levu:  Tuesday 23 June – Thursday 2 July

Curly's house boat
Savusavu is one of the main towns on Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji. We could not get an answer from the marina about tying up to a buoy and eventually Curly, a well-known Kiwi livingon a house boat in the river, shouted to us as we passed to take one of his buoys. Curly is a character and runs not only the local net on the VHF at 8am every morning but also chart navigation seminars for cruisers sailing around Fiji. An absolute must for safely sailing between islands and entering the reef strewn anchorages.  He also has a side line in making fishing lures which have a great reputation for catching fish.


Market in Labassa
Bus station - very busy!
The next day we set off at 7am to catch the local bus to Labassa with John and Stella from Excoet Strike. The 4 hour journey on surprisingly good roads goes over the mountain to the main town in Vanua Levu where you can buy almost anything.  After three weeks of not seeing a shop, it was an amazing change of scene – very busy with a bustling market.  Catherine managed to buy a new phone after the last one died two months ago, and I bought a SIM card so we could get at least some internet access and it turned out to be the best internet connection we have had since leaving England.

Weather Turns Again

The weather turned again and we were unable to leave Savusavu until the following Thursday which was just as well as Catherine was quite ill for 4 days with flu – something that had been doing the rounds among the fleet. Flu in 30 degrees of heat is not fun, nor is it living with someone who has flu and trapped on the boat. Catherine maybe the world’s worst nurse but she is even worse as a patient!  And to make matters worse, her new phone gave up and we were faced with going back to Labassa to get it changed. Fortunately the very nice girl in the Digicel kiosk arranged for a new phone to be sent by taxi from Labassa to her and I picked up the new phone 4 hours later. That is service!

So I wiled my time away fixing things on the boat and provisioning for the next leg of our journey. We were keen to get to Musket Cove before 1 July to see off our friends from the World Arc and so left on the Thursday with the first break of the weather – a little too early. The first 6 hours had waves crashing over the front of the boat and into the cockpit and we were on the verge of turning back a number of times. However, as the day wore on the winds eased and came round so that we were on a broad reach for the rest of the 150 mile journey. We arrived in Musket Cove late on Friday afternoon eager to see our friends before they departed with the rest of the Arc.

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