Fiji - from Savusavu to Beqa
From Savusavu to Nabouwalu
We are back in Savusavu, the little village on Vanua Levu in Fiji. There are always a lot of sailing boats in this safe, deep bay, and it's a fun place to stay. During our trip from the Marshall Islands to Fiji we have decided to spend the next hurricane season, from November to May, in Fiji, and here, at Waitui Marina, we make a reservation for a hurricane-proof mooring.
Hans goes scuba diving a couple of times with Pete from the boat the French Kiss. We are having a great time surrounded by all these sailors and we are feeling very much at home. But we also need to roll up our sleeves, because there are still rotten thru hull connections in Happy's hull which need to be replaced. We plan to sail to Port Denarau in about three weeks, with five stops, so we can take Happy out of the water there.
It's completely windless when we arrive at our first anchorage, and the green bay without a visible village is plunged into perfect silence. We stay for a day, on our boat, and enjoy the peace. The next day, we sail on to Nabouwalu with a good tail wind. We read somewhere that we have to drop our anchor a short way from the pier, because a ferry passes each day, but there isn't a lot of room. The next day at around ten we see the ferry approach in the distance, and we anxiously wait to see whether it can pass. We are ready to start the engine. Fortunately, it can easily pass and, like everywhere in Fiji, the people on the ferry enthusiastically wave at our little sailing boat.
We have already inflated our Mini Monster and as soon as the ferry has passed, we go on shore. It's incredibly busy around the pier and in the village we find two small supermarkets. A couple of days ago a group of American youngsters has arrived, who are busy working at the school in Nabouwalu. When we go and take a look, there's a lot of activity: they are painting and one class is filled with books for which they are building a bookcase. All sorts of games are being organised on the sports field. It is great to see people helping each other. We show a slide show of our trip and give the kids an inflatable globe which is inspected with a lot of enthusiasm.
We walk around the village and meet Lute and her husband. They are having lunch in front of their house and we end up talking. They invite us to attend church on Sunday. The next Sunday, the bells are ringing while we walk to the church. All spruced up we sit in the church, waiting for the service to begin. It takes ages, and people keep coming in. Even after the service has started, many people walk in and out of the church. After we have sat there for two hours, Lute and her husband suggest we leave, because the service will last for hours. We are glad to be relieved of the wooden benches and the endless readings in Fijian. But the singing was beautiful: lovely part-singing of the kind you never hear in a boring Dutch church.
From Nabouwalu to Vuda Point
As soon as the wind is favourable, we decide to cross the Bligh Water to Viti Levu, the southern island of Fiji. We arrive in Nananu Bay, a beautiful bay where we have been before. It's a safe anchorage, but going on shore isn't easy.The next day the wind is favourable enough to continue. We raise the anchor, sail all day long, and at the end of the day we drop the anchor again in a small bay near Vatia Point. The bay is surrounded by mangroves, with rolling green hills and a couple of houses above them. In the evening, we sit on the deck and have a beer. It really is deathly quiet around here and the star-spangled sky is impressive. We think of which friends we would like to have with us for a couple of days to experience this with us. We wished we had Harry Potter's magic to make our wish come true.
The next morning we sail around the bay in our Mini Monster and look for a passageway through the mangroves to go on shore. After some searching we find a small channel in the thickly grown shore and we can safely go on shore.
At the first house, we meet Alitia and her husband Ralulu. Alitia is heavily pregnant with her third child. They have only lived here for eight months and they grow their own food. They mainly live off whatever nature provides them with. There are four other families nearby and the nearest village is more than an hour's walk away. They use a horse to take their son to school every day. Because the tide is coming out and we have to sail back in our dinghy, we only stay for a short time, but we promise to come back tomorrow. The next day it turns out that Alitia is preparing a feast especially for us, because we are their first guests in eight months. We are very honoured and we are happy to be able to give them some things we bought on the Marshall Islands.The meal consists of cassava, a potato-like root which is eaten like bread, tarot leaves cooked in coconut milk which looks like spinach, crab and fish. In addition, people here eat a lot of coconuts, papaya and bananas. On a little island nearby a couple of goats are wandering around. On special occasions, one of them will be slaughtered. As a present we receive a life crab, cassava and papaya to take back with us to our boat. When we later cook the crab, we can hear the poor animal moving in the pan. It gives us both the creeps and we decide to never do this again. The crab's meat tastes good, but because of our clumsy fumbling with the legs and the hard shield we don't get to eat a lot of it.
Out of the water
After having spent a couple of days in this beautiful bay it is time to go to Vuda Point and report to customs in Lautoka, where we also visit the market and do a lot of grocery shopping. After our visit to Vuda Point we go to Port Denarau, where Happy will be lifted on shore. We reconfirm the costs at the office. No, everything is included. The stands as well?, we ask again.Yes, they guarantee us, the stands are included. So we don't have to pay extra for the stands?Yes, of course you have to pay extra for the stands. Sigh, that doubles the costs of having Happy on shore. We call Vuda Point and make an appointment there to have Happy lifted out of the water.
For ten days we work hard in all sorts of impossible positions. We feel all our muscles and our backs hurt. But we manage to successfully complete everything we planned to do. The thru hull connections come out easily and now the bronze valves shine like mirrors. The hull has been cleaned and we have applied four layers of anti-fouling to the underwater boat.
It's always exciting to lift the boat back in the water, especially when you have replaced the thru hull connections. Is everything really waterproof? Happy is still hanging from the crane when it turns out that the new hoses on the valves are still leaking, but it's nothing serious. Some hose clamps haven't been tightened properly and in some places we can still replace the cheap tape between the screw thread of the valves. It's still leaking, but it's just the occasional small drop. For now it's good enough and it seems to be getting better.
Hans is having back problems (again), so Dory replaces another part of the reversing clutch. We reattach the sails, scrub the carpet and slowly but surely the boat is turning into our little house again, instead of a workshop.After a month everything is finished and we sail back to Port Denarau to meet two Dutch boats, Coby and Arnold's Drifter and Ans and Gerjan's Spirit. We haven't seen these boats for four years and it's a fun reunion. We celebrate Coby's birthday, a typically Dutch party with cheese cubes decorated with Dutch flags and liquorice. We have a lot of fun together and it is always sad when we have to say goodbye again, but that is an inevitable part of the life we are living.
For the first time, we see the tourist side of Fiji. Port Denarau is close to the airport and there are dozens of luxury resorts and a golf course. Every day hundreds of tourists depart from here to other resorts on the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands on the western side of Fiji. There are also several restaurants and bars here where you can easily spend a lot of money. We decide not to stay for too long and on a beautiful day we sail to Likuri Harbour.
The south side of Viti Levu
During the last part of our trip we had to sail heavily against the wind and in the afternoon we arrive at the Robinson Crusoe Island Resort. This resort welcomes sailors and offers lunch or dinner at a reasonable price. You can become a lifetime member of their yacht club for just 1 dollar, and this will give you a 10 percent discount on everything. Every day, small boats ferry groups of tourists to the island, who are entertained with silly games, such as a crab race and finding a turtle.In addition, they have an excellent daily show with traditional dancing and a fire dance from Samoa. The torches flying through the air offer a spectacular sight, especially in the evening. We have a lovely time here and it gets even better when Coby and Arnold arrive with their Drifter.
After almost a week we say goodbye again and sail to Cuvu Harbour, a beautiful, quiet bay with a small village. At least, that's what we thought. It turns out nothing is farther from the truth. The closer we get, the better we can distinguish the contours of an enormous hotel. We sail into the bay and see a beach with dozens of deck chairs, children playing in the sand and tourists baking in the sun. We don't realise until later that we dropped our anchor in front of one of the biggest resorts in Fiji. David, an Australian with a Scottish accent, paddles past our Happy in a canoe. He tells us that the Bilo Bar is a fun place to spend the evening. The Bilo Bar turns out to be a great place indeed, apart from the fact that a beer costs more than eight dollars. During the kava ceremony, which is held every evening, Hans plays the guitar. Slowly but surely we are starting to get used to the taste of kava, a muddy, numbing traditional drink made of roots from the yaqona plant. Here we meet David, Christine, Paul and Sue, Australians who are on holiday. They treat us almost every day to beers, nibbles and even breakfast.
After five days it is time to say goodbye again and we sail to the next bay, which doesn't have a huge resort. The wind remains favourable and the next day we sail on to Beqa Island. More about that next time.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)