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 VANUA LEVU AND TAVEUNI                                                                                        

The northern island of Vanua Levu and Taveuni are known as the "real" Fiji. Savusavu and Labasa have 5000 and 25,000 people respectively. The other centres are small villages with little or no public facilities.

Our main stops were at Nananu-I-Ra, Yadua Island, Savusavu, Fawn Harbour, Viani Bay, Taveuni, Makogai and Naigani.


July 22
Finally....the weather improved enough to leave Musket Cove and head to Nadi to pick up a new arm for Gord's broken glasses and provision for our journey east. Anchored outside Denareau Point Marina and took the long ride by dinghy to the dock at the marina. We hopped on a bus into Nadi and soon found the Eyewear Store where, after some persuasion, we were able to get a replacement part and Gord could see again! We wandered around Nadi, trying to cross items off my long list and finished by buying $350 worth of groceries and heading back to the marina by taxi.

We made it back to the boat just as it was getting dark which was a good thing because we would have had an impossible time finding our boat without a light on in the large dark bay.

July 25
We set off for Lautoka early and anchored near the customs dock. Our first order of business was to check out and get our paperwork in order for the next leg of our trip. Then we headed to Lautoka town and stocked up with more provisions and food, ticking off a few more items on my list.
We had an Indian taxi driver, whose name was Vije, take us back to the custom's dock and on the way we quickly got to be friends. He invited us to dinner at his house, and said he would teach us how to make roti. (Roti is the Indian equivalent of Mexican tortillas). Since we were leaving the following morning, we took a rain check on the invitation.

That evening we decided to experiment and see if we could make roti on our own. We had learned that the ingredients were flour (a combination of white and Adda), boiling water and Ghee (clarified butter). We had bought a roti pan and a rolling pin at one of the discount stores in Lautoka so thought we were in business.

It was a combined effort and between Gord and I we managed to make some incredibly great rotis! And edible too! These will definitely become a staple when we run out of bread.

July 26
It took us almost 12 hours of motoring along the Northern coast of Vita Levu through reefs, both marked and unmarked on the charts, before the onset of darkness forced us to anchor on the Leeward side of a little island called Malake. We were a few miles short of our planned destination where we knew that several of our friends were anchored. The anchorage was calm and quiet and we had a good night's sleep.

 
 

July 28 Great to Have Friends!!!

ASCENSION'S ANCHORING DANCE
We continued on toward the pass into Bligh Waters and saw Stardust, Freebird and Babalona anchored at NANANU-I-RA. So we decided to drop the hook there too and visit with our friends.

However, the water was very deep, almost 70 feet. Gord told me to let out all of our anchor chain. Unfortunately that's exactly what I did and screamed in horror as I watched the end of the chain skid through the windlass and disappear into the murky water!

Of course, everyone in the anchorage was curious about the commotion and it wasn't long before our friends came to the rescue. We rafted Ascension to Stardust while Freebird got out their divegear and came to Ascension with a float and lines and the optimism that we could retrieve the anchor. Gord also geared up and headed back to the point where they thought the anchor and chain had gone down.

But an hour later, after discovering that the visibility was about 2 feet at most and the depth around 70 feet, they came up out of air and empty handed. They loaded the tanks into the dinghy and headed for a nearby dive resort to buy some more air.

Time to regroup. Now Judy and Bob were going to join in the search and we were going to formulate a plan of attack. First, Stardust and Ascension, still rafted, moved to the spot (according to MaxSea Navigation) where we first attempted to anchor. Stardust dropped her hook as close to that position as possible. Then the diver's descended, tying a line to Stardust's anchor and positioning themselves evenly along that line outward, and searching in a circular sweep around the anchor.

Exactly 8 minutes later, there was the joyful report that Gord had found the anchor! Then came the arduous chore of getting it back to the boat. But the feat was finally accomplished and that called for a celebration dinner on Stardust. We all brought dishes to accompany the fantastic Dogtooth Tuna that Becky cooked up.


Click here for Becky's ditty of Ascension's Anchoring Dance!

Note: File takes time to load

July 29
Because the day was gray, rainy and blah!, we mostly stayed on the boat. I copied some DVD movies and Gord worked on trying to fix the Wind Speed instruments and the Autohelm. He was successful with the Autohelm but we will now have to live without instruments that tell us wind direction, wind speed, and boat speed because it looks like the circuit board has failed. It means replacing all the units (they all connect to each other), which are not available in Fiji.

July 30
Still a gusty day and we did not get organized to leave so will stay here another day. We said goodbye to Stardust who was headed back to Lautoka to check out and go to Vanuatu.

Shari (Babalona) is trained in bio-mechanics of the feet. She is a sport's therapist and offered to help me with the foot problem I have been having since the Marquesas. She actually gave my condition a name...Sesamoiditis. After watching my gait and examining my feet and x-rays, she built me some orthopedic insoles for my sandals. They are so comfortable and it's nice to know that the prognosis is not what I had accepted as constant foot pain after all.


July 31 - August 1

YADUA ISLAND

Our crossing to Yadua Island was very rough and the visibility was extremely bad. It was difficult to see the reefs bordering the pass and we came uncomfortably close to a dangerous situation as a result. The wind was on our nose (again) and the seas high and confused.

We arrived at Yadua and anchored in Cukuvou Harbor. The bay is protected by a surrounding reef and we immediately felt the boat settle into a secure sand bottom holding. We were the only ones in the anchorage and there were no signs of habitation on land. There were however, ruminants of what we thought was a tiny fishing camp. We later found out that the locals often organize here to harvest sea cucumbers for the Japanese Market. The huge worms bring top dollar ($10 ea) for the Fijians. Unfortunately the Europeans have supplied the local villages with second rate scuba equipment without the proper training, in hopes to collect a bounty of sea cucumbers. As a result many Fijians die each year because of their lack of knowledge of dive tables, etc.

Protected anchorage at Yadua

Windy Anchorage
That evening the wind was really honking and although we no longer have wind instruments, the wind generator shuts off at 35 knots and it was mostly off! We didn't get much sleep that night as the wind gusts were strong enough to heel the boat over in the anchorage.

We were unable to get weather info by email but the wind was still blowing strong so we stayed with the boat all day.

Beautiful Shells
August 2
The winds settled a bit so we Went to shore to burn our garbage, then Walked along the beach searching for nautilus shells. A path over the rocks took us to another beach, adjacent to the island that is the sanctuary for the green crested iguana. This island is off limits to visitors. It was not long before we were rewarded by 2 really beautiful nautilus shells! Perfect specimens.

During the whole time on shore, we did not see a sole. On the trip back to the boat over the reef we saw a couple of fairly large black tip shark. Later that afternoon several other boats pulled in to share the anchorage.


Aug 3 Since it was too windy to leave the boat and go ashore, we just stayed onboard.

Journey to a very Remote & Friendly Village
Aug 4

Walked to Denimanu Village which was about 3 miles each way along a steep and rough trail. The scenery along the way was quite spectacular, and the village very remote once we got there. Everyone gave us a friendly "Bula" and welcomed us warmly.

Elise greeted us right away and invited us into her bure for tea. We had some photos for her that we were delivering for Stardust, who had visited a week earlier. The ladies got a real kick out of seeing the photos of themselves and the children.

Later they took us to the chief. His bure, like the others, was totally sparse, no furniture or any possessions to speak of. We presented our kava, the Chief clapped twice, gave us our permission to anchor, fish and swim in the bay and that was it. No further ceremony. But we had a nice visit with him afterward, then walked around the village before starting the long tedious trek back to the boat.

Pictured right is what the kava looks like, bundled in 1/3 kilo portions,
ready for presentation.

Aug 5
We left Yadua and experienced a lumpy ride with strong winds, and hence we were making no headway. So we altered our course and went North, hoping to find a sheltered anchorage and perhaps meet up with Billabong. It turned out that we were only able to talk to Billabong on the radio but we found a very sheltered dead quiet anchorage and had a good sleep.

Aug 6
The wind up the nose (again) to Nabouwalu Wharf. But when we got there it proved to be very protected and we weren't disturbed by any ships.  Left early the next morn.

Aug 7
It was a tiring beat to weather. We worked hard to get to Savusavu before dark. As is usual when the conditions are adverse to dealing with a fish, we caught a Walu. Just before dusk, we tied up to a mooring ball in the anchorage at Savusavu in front of the Yacht Club.

SAVUSAVU
Aug 8
Savusavu proved to be a pretty spot with a nice little one street town that had lots to offer. The Copra Shed Marina was a great source of information and really caters to the yachties. After a relaxed check-in, I dropped off laundry, and went shopping. We enjoyed a  curry Indian lunch, much cheaper than in Lautoka or Suva. To Gord's delight, beer was $2.50 or less! ($1.75 Cnd)

As we were cruising the street downtown, we noticed a crowd gathered near the sidewalk gazing into a trench being dug for a waterline only a few meters from the main road. Upon closer inspection we realized that the workers had uncovered the remains of 2 humans along with other miscellaneous bones. We watched as they carefully unveiled a skull that had been lying for years only a few feet under the hustle and bustle of Savusavu in a very shallow grave.

Before long some police arrived but they encouraged passer-bys to duck under the 'crime scene' tape to have a look. One official we talked to thought that the bodies likely belonged to an ancient village that was once located on the site where Savusavu is now. Someone else theorized that the remains were as a result of a measles epidemic many years ago.

August 9
Curly's Cruising offers all sorts of organized activities and seminars for the cruisers. They are a great source of info and give lots of ideas on what to see and do around Savusavu. After a couple of hours on the internet ($10/hr) to catch up on the website, we took in a seminar about navigating the reefs around Savusavu.

August 10

Wild Bus ride to Labosa
We hoped on a Bus to join in on a trip to Labosa with 55 other cruisers from the NZ-Tonga-Fiji rally. There were really a crazy bunch. Curly took us inland across Vita Levu along a rough and bumpy road, stopping every so often to give us stories about the history, culture, fauna and economic situations in Fiji.

We stopped at a coconut plantation and processing plant. Apparently because the coconuts do not bring enough money to warrant maintaining the plantations, Fiji does not export as many coconut products as they once did and the economy is suffering as a result. Hybrid trees have been introduced but fail to meet production requirements.

The vegetation was very interesting and we noted that the island was covered with vines, brought to Fiji by US armed forces for camouflage. They now threaten to choke out the native growth in Fiji.

South side of the island, the cloud and drizzle kept me from photographing much scenery. We climbed to 3500 feet where pine trees dominated the countryside, yielding to a drier climate as we descended into the north side of the island. There, an abundance of abandoned sugarcane fields made reminder of the 2005 Coo when the hard working Indians either fled Fiji or were not renewed their leases to work the farms. As the Fijians themselves are not all that inclined to work the land, the country has suffered considerably.

Several hours later we reached Labosa, where we got the chance to walk around the city. We did a bit of shopping then had lunch at an Oriental Restaurant with another couple we had met on the bus.


Trucks line up for days waiting to unload the cane.

  Sugar Cane Lane
On our way back, the bus swung by the Sugar Mill where miles and miles of trucks loaded with sugarcane waited for their turn to unload. We were told that this wait was often 2 days, where the drivers would eat and sleep in their tractors or truck to be assured of their place in line. It seems that the sugarcare industry is not any more lucrative than the coconut industry. It takes 4 workers a day to cut and load one truck. They are each paid $10. Then after the long drive to the mill (sometimes from neighboring islands by barge) and a 2 day wait, the cane is unloaded for a price of about $150F per ton (a truck holds between 3 and 5 tons).

Pictured here is an original Sugar Train. The miniature tracks still crisscross the country and the train chugs along transporting the cane in overloaded flat decks from the fields to the Mills

The bus made a stop at one point and the men were instructed to get out and pick some wildflowers for the ladies. They all came back and proudly presented their partners with a grand display of wilting weeds that trickled out an army of ants all the way back.

August 11
We took the dinghy to Cousteau Resort and snorkeled around and over the "Split Rock" where lots of fish abound in soft and hard coral including "fire coral"
 

August 12
I took the cooking class offered by Bosuns Locker, taught by a Fijian lady. We learned how to make curried pumpkin and I was introduced to all kinds of Indian spices that I have not heard of before. Then we took a trip to the market where she showed us some of the cooking methods and uses for the local fruits and vegetables.

FAWN HARBOUR

August 14
It was a hard grind into headwinds and rough seas to get to Fawn Harbour but we were treated to a sighting of  some Pilot Whales and caught a Waloo coming out of the pass. We managed to arrive just before dusk and found ourselves the only boat in the rather large protected harbour.


August 15
At half tide we headed to shore where we landed the dinghy between the mangroves in front of a beautiful house built by a couple from California who had been living in Fiji for several years. They invited us in for coffee and coconut cake and a great visit.



 

Too Hot Hot Pools

We walked down the road to the plantation where we got permission to visit the Hot Pools. A nice young Fijian boy guided us to the trail and we walked through a bamboo forest, over the creek and finally found a series of pools.


 

One was too hot to even put my feet in, another warm and another cool, before the water cascaded into the creek. It was a delightful spot.

All around the pools there were beautiful flowers including wild ginger and bird of paradise

Before we returned to our boat, we were loaded up with fresh lettuce, herbs and fruit picked right out of the garden. I also got a great recipe for cooking green papayas.

PHOTO ALBUM  

next.....VIANI BAY>>>>>

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