Koro, New Zealand, Savusavu and back to Koro
This is a continuation of Fiji, from Beqa to Savusavu
Land? What do we need land for? We have a boat which we love living and sailing on. But it has made us think: there will be a time in the future when we no longer want to sail. Where would we like to settle then, in Fiji? On our own piece of land with our own house on the island of Koro? We talk about it a lot on our boat, we spend hours thinking and calculating, and eventually we take the plunge. We're going for it!
But then the next plunge we need to take crops up. What piece of land would we like to buy and, more importantly, can we afford it? We are soon suffering from aching muscles from walking up all those steep hills to inspect all the available lots. We climb over rocks, fight our way through shrubs and study the light on different times of the day. In the end we think we are ready to take a decision. Hans wants lot 92, but Dory likes lot 249. The view of the ocean from lot 92 and its location on a thoroughfare, with at least three cars a day, settle it. It's a relatively steep lot, about 30 metres wide and 90 metres long, with a level area in the middle, perfect to build a house on. Tired but happy with our decision we sail back to Savusavu in a day. There we wait for the call from Dietmar and Suzanne to leave on their boat to New Zealand.
The trip to New Zealand
On Monday 14 November we receive a message that Dietmar wants to leave this week. We leave our boat behind, all prepared for possible hurricanes. Everything that can come loose has been taken inside and even the wind generator has had its blades removed. With a backpack and a bag with an extra bag inside for all the stuff we want to take back with us we take the evening ferry from Suvasuva to Suva. We are lucky, because they have one cabin left. We sleep for most of the crossing and the next morning we arrive in Suva, fully rested. Before we travel on to Nadi on a small minibus we drink a cup of our favourite cappuccino at Gloria Jeans. Around noon we arrive in Nadi, where we take a taxi to Port Denarau. There we board the catamaran "Carinthia", a 44-foot long Lagoon. It's a beautiful boat, the port side hull is entirely ours, including two bathrooms and two bedrooms.
After the necessary preparations we depart, and we feel how tense Dietmar and Suzanne are. We are not tense at all this time, we are just crew and we don't have the same responsibility as the captain. That is a huge difference.
The crossing to New Zealand is always tough and as soon as we have left the reefs of Fiji behind us, we experience a heavy head wind. The sound of the waves slamming against the bottom of the boat between the two hulls is deafening. It's as if a giant swimming along with us bangs his fist against the bottom of our boat every now and then. The movements are disturbing as well, despite (or maybe thanks to) the fact that the boat doesn't list. We are seasick, as usual, but we manage well: we eat our meals and get enough sleep. Suzanne and Dietmar, who normally never suffer from seasickness, are worse off and hardly eat at all. After three days the wind subsides, as does the seasickness. Dietmar starts the engine and Suzanne starts cooking, something which she is really good at. The boat is still noisy, but we enjoy the most delicious meals on the terrace at the back of the boat in the middle of the ocean. On Thanksgiving we are served a true feast. During the latter part of our crossing there is more wind, the engine is switched off and after seven days we reach Opua. What a treat to see all those familiar faces again!
Opua, Auckland and again Opua and Auckland
Dietmar wants to sail on to Auckland, but the wind is too strong. This is why we stay in Opua for two days before we sail on during the night and arrive in Auckland. We complete our last night watch and this time we make sure they overlap, so we can watch a film together on one of those small portable DVD players. Once in Auckland it's quite a hassle to get dog Vienna through quarantine, but once that has finally been arranged, we safely anchor the "Carinthia" in the marina and our task has been successfully completed.
We have ten days in New Zealand ahead of us and we want to rent a cheap minibus for camping, so we take the bus to the airport. Surely that's where we can find something. Two very kind girls from the tourist office make a lot of phone calls and eventually find the cheapest bus for us. We are, after all, Dutch and therefore thrifty. We buy our return tickets for twelve days from now, because that was cheaper than going back in ten days, and once back in the city we have to drag our luggage along for another 15 minutes before we finally arrive at the rental company.
In our minibus we find everything we need for the next couple of days. We rent a table, two chairs and a cooler and drive into familiar Auckland in good spirits. We take the motorway south and drive to the area of Pukekohe, where we lived for a while two years ago. When we arrive at Ali and Henrik's, there's a lot of commotion because their daughter Jessica has managed to make one of their cars topple at the side of the road. Fortunately, she is not hurt and it's just the car that is heavily damaged; it is towed away later that day.
We are lucky, because that evening the band practises, so Hans gets to play with them. After Hans left two years ago, Mike and Henrik found a new bass player, but on this occasion he plays the guitar. We make an appointment to come back before we leave and they promise to organise a party.
We also visit Karin and Cees and their two daughters, and they give us a warm welcome. After we have promised to visit them again as well before we fly back to Fiji, we leave for Whangarei to pick up a water pump we ordered for our engine. Then we drive on to Opua, where we visit more old friends. Here we buy everything we can't get in Fiji. After all the fun of renewing friendships we board the plane with our heavy bags, only just escaping having to pay for extra luggage. Once back in Savusavu we find Happy Monster in good condition, apart from a bit of mould.
Happy Monster escapes
At about an hour's sailing there's a beautiful place to anchor. It's been a couple of weeks since we got back from New Zealand, so it's high time for another trip. We drop our anchor on a slope with beautiful sand and a couple of hours later Jim and Alice join us with their boat "Intension". Almost every day we play Puerto Rico, we swim and snorkel and we enjoy the beautiful environment. The wind is picking up, at night we switch on an anchor alarm and everything is going well.
Jim and Alice invite us for dinner on their boat. We are sitting inside, because their cockpit is not that big. Then we hear someone knocking on the hull. It's Steve from the "Jemellie". Happy Monster has been spotted floating in the bay two miles from here! How could that have happened? Fifteen minutes ago Happy was still happily bobbing next to us. But it's true: we can see our little home, with everything we own, floating away on its own in the distance. Fortunately, Steve has a big dinghy with a fast outboard motor and within ten minutes we have reached Happy and climb on board. Dory starts the engine and Hans tries to manually pull in forty metres of anchor chain. "Is it always that heavy?" asks Steve. He doesn't realise that forty metres of anchor chain with an anchor hanging straight down weighs a ton. His boat has an electrical anchor winch. "Just let me do this," Steve says, but he soon gives the winch handle back to Hans. Eventually everything is hoisted on deck and we sail back to Savusavu and anchor Happy safely on a ball. We were planning to sail back the next morning anyway. So what did we learn? If you drop your anchor on a slope, you need to veer out a lot of chain, especially when the wind picks up.
It's busy on the pier where we wait for the ferry to Koro. People are looking at us strangely, as if we are aliens from outer space. We soon realise it's because of the trees we are carrying. A couple of days ago we went to see Jim Valentine. He has a wonderful botanical garden near Savusavu and we bought five young fruit trees to plant on our piece of land on Koro. But the people here in Fiji don't understand: why on earth should you spend money on trees when natures provides for everything? We couldn't care less and travel to Koro with our cacao, Surinam cherry, Meyer lemon, mandarin and soursop trees.
We stay with Xavier and Kelly in a big house near our piece of land. Since there are no shops near here, we brought all our food and everything else we need for the next two weeks with us.
Our piece of land
We hire a couple of young men to clear our land so the ground is visible and we can walk around without having to crawl or fight our way through shrubs. Fortunately, this also helps to reduce the number of mosquitoes, because there are usually a lot of them around here. From then on we work every day, sometimes in the pouring rain, to drag our tiny trees up and put them in the ground. Ever tried carrying trees with 20-litre bags up a steep slope? It's very hard work, but we manage to plant all the trees. We put up a fence to prevent the wild horses from eating our chocolate tree. After about ten days we are finished and we use the remaining time to get to know our future neighbours. Pleased with everything we've achieved we return to Savusavu.
Working on Happy
By the time we've been back for almost a week Dory has put together another to do list. The new automatic pilot and the parts we bought in New Zealand are installed and we dig up the sails from the forecabin so Happy is all ready to start sailing again. Usually Hans plays music about twice a week. It's a real treat when Brian is there with his keyboard and Andy with his saxophone. Once the boat is in tip-top condition we want to go sailing for a couple of days, but we have to stay in Savusavu because Hans has a nasty infection in his foot. Fortunately he manages to beat it without antibiotics. Now we are ready for new adventures.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)