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Plasters and Pirates

Back to Bula Land
After a break in Auckland we made it back to Denarau. In our absence while Margarita was innocently tied to the dock, a ferry gave it a small biff. Happily everyone fell over themselves to resolve and repair this.
Our plan was always to head north so only a day late we motored to Vuda Point. Still the same old hot, sociable place. It sort of feels like home now.
We met Jonah who said he wanted to go to a pirate boat. When I said I was a bit scared of pirates Jonah bared his teeth and snarled. His superpowers would take care of those pirates, no problem. His superpowers must have been very tiring because a couple of hours later we saw him sound asleep on his mother’s lap.
Off at the crack of lunchtime the next day, we motored halfway to Nana i ra and overnighted in a mangrove bay in perfect calm.
Now we are just across the channel from Nanu i ra at a friendly little resort called Voli Voli Beach Resort.
How did I nearly forget to report that we caught two Spanish Mackerel?

THE MANY FACETTED EXPERIENCE

RINSING ROLLERS
Lyn Dallison and I arrived in Taveuni ready for a short stint of building. It turned into painting which suited me fine. In a small 2 bedroom teachers house 9 people hammered, skilsawed, painted and sweated profusely.
I battled a paint roller which fell off the handle when I turned it the wrong way. And the floor was covered in heavy dust and tramped in mud.
Lunch was a treat. Sandwiches made by Joey and delivered in a big plastic box. A lovely surprise every day.

 

HONEYMOON ISLAND

After a quick trip to the dusty town of Somo Somo to buy more rollers for the steadfast guys, Lyn and I caught a boat to The Remote Resort. Serenaded ashore, fruit cocktails and a welcoming kava ceremony. (preferred the fruit cocktail )
This place was much quieter, less dusty, virtually noiseless and peopled by smiling staff who looked after our every need. A very fine village cultural visit, swam, snorkelled day and night and massages.
The night snorkel was a first for both of us. We saw a startled turtle. And when I tapped a squid with my torch it rewarded me with a faceful of black ink. I laughed underwater.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS RIGHT NEXT TO CUBA

And still the blokes worked and sweated.
Having been gentled by a tad of luxury, we were whisked to the island of Kioa. Kioa is populated by Tuvaluans who settled on this Fijian island starting in 1947. The village boasts a population of about 1000, is situated in a lovely bay. Governed by the elected Island Council, the “chief” is The Chairman.
70 years ago the Council divided the village into 4 areas. For reasons lost in the mists, they are Papua New Guinea, Cuba, London and Ncombia.
We stayed in PNG with the extensive Fiafia family under the kind eye of Mrs Ruby. (sister of The Chairman ). We spent much of the day sitting at her table, being fed first as guests. It is a bit uncomfortable for us Palangi to know the rest of the family is waiting to eat when we are finished.
In deference to our great age Mrs Ruby insisted we rested a lot.
Lyn struggled with long periods of doing not much. I struggled with living so communally with the dogs, chooks and people.
We watched the kindy children rehearse their dancing and poems for the kindy celebration on another island the following day.
The next day everyone was up early to dress the littlies and their parents and grandparents. Matching clothes and head dresses. Very cute. Then into 5 longboats for the trip.
Lyn and I snuck away for a snorkel and a quiet Coke. Nice coral, many different fish.
We were part of the welcoming party for a bunch of eye doctors and students who were working at a nearby mission. Blended in seamlessly to the singing and dancing, no problem.
Saturday is rugby day! They played sevens, not surprisingly. Very well, very boisterously.
Getting back to Taveuni was an object lesson in not planning too much. Our plans were in permutation #5 before we finally left Kioa with much farewelling and tofa-ing.
On the ferry we talked to a midwife who was returning from Vanua Levu in more leisurely fashion than the night before. She had raced from Taveuni with a young mother in difficult labour across rough seas in a longboat to get her to an ambulance to Labasa. She said she thought the trip might have done the trick but the frightened young woman needed an immediate caesarean in Labasa. And then, there were Bruce and Brian waving on the wharf. Back to Margarita and the life we know.

 

We will sail Margarita from Fiji back to NZ for the coming summer. The plan is to be ready to leave Nadi, Fiji on Tuesday 31 October. Waiting for a weather window might delay our departure for a week or so and the passage to Opua/Auckland usually takes a week.

You will need to be in Nadi on Monday 30 October (or sooner if you want a taste of cruising here) and can reasonably expect to be back in NZ by mid November.
Let us know if you are interested. We will be in Auckland from 15 to 30 August and can answer all your questions in person.

Email bruce.idoine@gmail.com
Ph Fiji +679 906 8678
NZ +64 0 21 289 5098

It’s been a while and having written this I realise why. The 180th meridian, exactly opposite the Greenwich or zero meridian, crosses the Somosomo Straits. This is the true dateline rather than that political convenience. During our time here we crossed the meridian no less than 7 times. Longitude switches from east to west while time jumps back a day (or the other way round) in the blink of an eye, obviously very confusing.

Ah Savusavu! For many cruisers a home away from home, a place where they seem put down roots for a while but not us. The marina directs us to a mooring in the tightly packed harbour and shortly after kick off another cat so we can have one of the Customs berths. The officials arrive promptly and sooner than expected we have the freedom of the town to complete the process (and dump the laundry). By noon the next day we are done. Six government agencies (Customs twice), 19 pieces of paper (receipts included) and we are over the line in a PB of 28 hours! There’s more to this cruising lark than fast passages let me tell you!

Savusavu is a delightful small town with everything within an easy walk. We fill in the remainder of Friday with provisioning and sampling the local fare. Saturday we rent a car, a small sweaty SUV and head up the “Across Island Road” out of Soggysoggy. Past the divide the rain clears and after a few hours sightseeing arrive at Palmlea Resort overlooking the north coast. Julie rustles up some burgers while we lounge by the pool and then joins us so we can interrogate. The large “quarry” is a bauxite mine, her husband is unwell, Banimarama will win next years election. Too soon we head back across the divide. Savusavu is Soggysoggy still but the laundry is done.

On Sunday we lunch with Liz Thurston who we first meet in Rarotonga some 30 years ago and on our two boats, Charger and Drina, sailed in tandem to Fiji while their children and ours entertained each other. She has a house here and divides her time between Savusavu and Sydney.

We had a firm arrangement for Tuesday afternoon to collect Barry of Nelson from the Taveuni Airport about 80 miles back the way we had come. Unfortunately the trades were blowing hard from the ESE. More out of hope than science we leave at 3.30am tiptoeing out of the anchorage least we wake anyone. Unfortunately our stealth was in vain. We set off the dogs who in turn set off the roosters, or the other way round, and probably woke the whole town. Sailing doesn’t appeal and science wins out as we slam headlong into 25 kts and a fetch that extends to Patagonia. Five hours of randomising the stores follow till we are able to lay the Somosomo Straits and hoist sail. The motion eases a little, progress improves a little and sooner than expected we are motoring again in Taveuni’s wind shadow.

Tuesday Barry roars into the Taveuni Airport on a Fiji Air Dash 8 and we retire to Geoffrey’s place to discuss the following week’s work. Teacher house #9 should be roofed and clad and the boys starting the foundations for #10. Wednesday We head west again back through the Somosomo Straits again to Viani Bay and calm water. Lethargy sets in for a couple of days. Saturday we admire the locals as they lug 1800L of diesel to the generator, 150m above the bay. The generator powers the cell phone tower. Then we transit the Straits yet again and hand over Barry, now a seasoned salt, to Geoffrey and Joey. Sunday Brian, Lyn, Martin and Nigel fly in and we all dine at Geoffrey and Joey’s place. Monday we-all and Richie (call me Rich) from Washington State, attack house #9. Rich, an actual builder, and Barry pound dwangs(21 and 9/16″ long not 550mm Barry!) into submission, the boys fix the roof with enough screws to defeat a category 5 and most of the rest off us slap on paint. Tuesday is blurred out by the sweat in our eyes. Wednesday Dinah and Lyn retire to pampering at the Remote Resort while we get more sweat in our eyes. Thursday the school puts on lunch, a huge spread that defeats us completely. By Friday morning #9 is nearly finished and the more adventurous head up hill to #10 while the others annoy the tilers and fuss over the detailing. By 4.00 we are done.

Da 2106 house identical (but not quite as good) to this years effort.

Thanks heaps to Brian, Lyn, Dinah, Barry, Martin, Nigel and Rich for making the week both fun and productive and for making a meaningful contribution to Fiji’s education and future. Thanks also to Geoffrey, and Rotary Taveuni, for his vision and drive in championing the teacher housing project (along with many many others) and Joey for her tireless support and wonderful food and smile.

 

Levana School After Cyclone Winston

Levena School now

On Saturday we drive clockwise to the end of the road and Lavena village to admire the restored school. The drone is a big hit with the local kids and I manage to capture a shot that matches that taken by the airforce immediately after cyclone Winston. Then back via the National Park waterfalls. By midday Sunday the team has dispersed, Dinah and Lyn collected from the Korean Jetty and after final final goodbyes we (Lyn, Brian, Dinah and I) set sail towards Suva.

The falls

Phew!

 

Wallis Video

One of the wonders of Wallis is the Tongan Fort, The fortified village and residence of the high chief was built from basalt stones in the 16th century. It is extensive. Only the corner filmed has been cleared. It features elevated stone walkways least the chiefs feet touch the ground. His residence was on the elevated grassed platform near the center.

Another wonder is lake Lalolao which is surrounded with cliffs. The intention was to film from the center of the lake but the wind was strong causing first the drone and then the pilot to get the wobbles.

Back in the main town we stumbled this elaborate welcoming for a new Catholic priest which went on for most of Sunday. – a frocking perhaps?

 

Starting in 1845 the catholic missionaries did as good a job as any in converting the people of Wallis to Christianity. The island is ringed with grand churches, all facing the sea. They are made from local basalt and styled on the churches and cathedrals of Europe with many local flourishes. A huge effort and expression of faith for such a small population. Here are a few examples.

 

Original mission church ceiling panels

Original Mission Church stained glass

Carved Lectern

Interior decorations for priest’s “frocking”

The “Cake Church”

 

 

Land Ho! (again)

After a night full of squalls and liquid lumps the sun has come out and the weather settled back to pleasant tradewind conditions. Apparently we have seen two tropic birds and one hundred and fourteen flying fish!

Our route takes us through the islands and reefs east of Vanua Levu. A few moments ago we raised the first of these, Qelelevu or Naqelelevu Island. It’s nice to make landfall during daylight. From here it’s another 110 miles via the Somosomo Strait to Savusavu, our port of entry. By six tomorrow evening we should be cleared, cleaned and well on the way to being fed and watered.

Dinah s feeling much better with the help of Paihia Bombs and crackers.

D & B

All about Wallis

Wallis or Uvea has turned out to be a gem. A gem hidden away in the South Pacific and protected by an indulgent France from the harsh economic realities of a small island. Without tourists to bother them the 10,000 Wallisians go about life much as always but with cash in their pockets and with most modern conveniences close to hand.

For us it didn’t give up its secrets easily. The town of Matu Utu is spread along unsignposted roads with businesses scattered between the houses and often hidden by verdant vegetation and there is barely a sign between them. Despite our stumbling French and nonexistent Wallisian the locals are universally friendly and helpful and several go out of their way to give us a lift to our next destination including Adrianna, an Australian married to a local. Alas the BWF, their one GAB (ATM) included, can’t give us cash on our cards. Trekking back to Margarita we return with our motley collection of cash. We try $US. They won’t exchange our $US100’s. We finally hit the jackpot with our stray $NZ. Mobile roaming doesn’t seem to work so we investigate a local sim at La Poste. Its too expensive for a short stay and we decide to slum it with the satellite phone.

Basics covered we rent a car and go exploring. Out of town the trend continues. Is it a house or a that restaurant? The turnoff to the Tongan Fort or the 4WD track to someone’s garden? We take the nautical chart in the rental car – BA 896 “Islands and reefs between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga”. It seems more reliable than the rental agency map. BA 896 details Wallis, Futuna, Niuatoputapu, Niua Fo’Ou and the Minerva Reefs. A collection of left over and nearly left out bits of the South Pacific. After many u-turns we reach the Tongan Fort a huge stone fortress built by the Tongans in the 16th century … To be continued.

This morning we set sail for Savusavu in Fiji 350 miles away. For now it’s a bit squally and a bit lumpy and Dinah isn’t enjoying it much. However we make good progress and look forward to the pleasures of Savusavu on Thursday.

D & B

Wallia / Uvea Island

Slowly revealed its self, a series of rolling hills, volcanic in origin, as we motored towards the pass. There we meet several tinnies their occupants fishing or diving at slack water. Even with the calmest sea, the crystal blue waves were curling along the reef then smashing into shards of crystal. If you painted it people would think it was overdone.

An hour on across a very pretty lagoon we anchored off the main wharf and main town – Mata’utu, the centre of everything Wallisian. First the Gendarmerie, smiles all round and another stamp in the passports. Next the cathedral, tres magnifique, Next Douane (Customs), ferme. Next La Poste, ferme. Next the corner store to enquire about a rental car. The obliging assistant called her Fijian boyfriend who came and translated. Maybe there is a car available on Friday. He and his Fijian mate had the afternoon off for a rugby meeting. There is a mini cup for Sevens in the Pacific in December. These Fijians are leading the charge for Wallis.

Enough for a mellow puff we reckoned so back onboard for a swim, a sundowner and dinner.
And the fishermen who had been walking on the reef up to their necks in water were still there. As we settled in to watch the sunset they finally swam to shore, towing their laundry baskets of catch behind them.

A speck of France in the middle of the Pacific. Who would have thought.