Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fiji the Second Time Around

Last year's tour through Fiji was not the original "plan".  We came here to escape the relentless rain and gloom we found in Tonga.  We loved every minute here last year so it's no surprise our Fiji track this year looks like a carbon copy.  But we've stopped at some of the places we missed before to fill in the gaps.

One such place was a horseshoe bay on Matagi Island, the Eastern-most point on the track above.   It was raining when we arrived, but somehow we knew this place was going to be special.

The Island is private, owned by a resort, so people don't visit aboard yachts very often. 
We had this beautiful bay to ourselves for four days.

The sides of the horseshoe shaped ancient volcano are very steep and covered with jungle.  We could hear goats baaa-ing on the hillsides and occasionally see them venturing down onto the sand.

The steep sides protected us from trade winds just outside the bay. 

The protected bay was perfect for paddle board exploring. 

The volcano rim obscured a direct view of the sun as it set into the Koro Sea, but there was still plenty of beauty to take in.

That magic hour just before and after sunset paints every view with a special palette of rich colors...

...which are constantly changing.

This is the time to have the camera handy.

Who needs the sun when the sky looks like this?

This year's motto is "Never Miss a Sunset".

And after the sunset, we were treated with a bright full moonrise over the opposite rim of the volcanic bay.

Heading west we stopped at Viani Bay where last year it was windy and grey.  This year the weather was perfect and the sunsets were too good to miss.

Amazing what some sunshine will do for a place like Viani Bay.

Friend to all yachtsmen visiting Viani Bay, Jack Fisher came by to say hello.

Jack provided us with some fresh fruit and went away with some gas money and a new solar powered Luci Lite.

Deb knew just what to do with our bounty.

We stopped back in Savusavu for some provisions and Chinese food...

...then it was off to the west and the Yasawa Islands

And boy!  Did we have a ride.  The Trade Winds funnel between Fiji's two largest islands at 25-30 knots.  On a Westerly course in this stretch of Bligh's Water you can find some great sailing, evidence of which was recorded on our GPS chart plotter.

One stop we missed last year was the limestone island of Sawa I Lau.

The limestone presents some fascinating views of it's rugged face...

...and below there are caves.

We went ashore at the small village to meet the chief and gain his permission to swim and snorkel in his lagoon, visit the cave, and walk his village.  

The Chief welcomed us to the village and asked us to look over the hand made ware offered by the elder women, then hollered out the door in Fijian.  He turned back and explained the money the women earn helps support the village.  As we stepped out of the Chief's Bure, seven women appeared and began setting out some beautiful things on woven mats they had placed on the ground.  Deb found six very nice necklaces and a large cowrie shell,  one from each woman's display.

The village is rather small - 35 people. There's little to find here that goes beyond a subsistence lifestyle, but the Chief says they have all they need and don't have to work too hard.

Some villagers fishing while the next generation learns.  
Abraham, the Chief, is at the helm.

Our snorkel trip to a nearby motu, was one of the best this year.

The coral is healthy and prolific.

The sea creatures look pretty good too.

 Healthy coral means lots of fish, each adapted to the coral nearby.
Lots of hiding places for fish in the coral.

Which way do we go?

Lots of variety here too.

Too soon we had to end the dive.  After all it was beer o'clock.

At the next stop, Malakati Bay on Nacula Island, we were once again the only yacht at anchor.

There is a small village here but no school, so all the kids ride off in the morning and return in the late afternoon from another village further down the island.

There's always a cheerful "BULA!" and friendly waves in Fiji

With our late afternoon arrival, we thought we would visit ashore in the morning for the traditional Sevusevu ceremony, where we present kava, ask and receive permission to visit.  But when the villager came alongside Moonshadow in his panga he politely said no, we come now

Five minutes later we were sitting cross legged on the woven mat in a small, one room "bure" where the chief lived.  We presented the kava and told the chief we would like to anchor in his bay, swim and snorkel in his lagoon and walk on shore to visit his village.  In turn we were told we were welcome to stay for as long as we wanted.  

That's how it works here.  Sevusevu is required.  Ask and you shall receive.  After some consideration that seems right to us. Why shouldn't we ask first before camping in what the islanders believe is their water, eat what they consider is their fish, and hike across their land?

100 people live in Matakati Village.
In the center of the small clearing is this church surrounded by small dwellings.  
Just outside the young men play rugby. 

Back aboard Moonshadow we prepared some lobster bought from some local fishermen. 

Evidence of another lazy day.

Children arriving home from school.

Visiting small island villages in Fiji makes us ponder the vast cultural differences in our world. Outwardly it would appear some of these parts are primitive.  Maybe.  Or maybe these people are born into a world of riches beyond the dreams of those of us from across the sea.  They certainly have an abundance of natural riches; fish in the sea; fruit on the trees etc. such that nobody goes hungry. And Fijians are so kind and helpful.  But then nobody has an iPad, no Starbucks, no TV.  So deprived. Or lucky...

Speaking of primitive, a word about navigating in these parts:

Back home, we pull out a chart, find the shoals and hazards and then avoid them.  Otherwise we sail through the big blue playground without much worry.  Here in Fiji, you assume the hazards are everywhere, and only sail through known, proven good deep sections.  Take the following picture. The land sticks up above the horizontal plane of ocean, but just below the surface of that big blue playground there are thousands of hazards you can't see... this one that appears just above the surface:

So what about the charts?  Take a look at what we have to work with here: 

Some of the surveys these charts are based upon date back to Captain Bligh, or Cook, or maybe Magellan. You get the idea:  They are WRONG! 

And just look at them...a child with a crayon could do better.  I can just imagine the guy at the chart shop saying "Let's make this reef triangular.  We haven't done a triangle in a while..."

Fortunately we have waypoints from cruisers that have gone before us and thought to share their GPS based knowledge with others.  And, there are now Google Earth based Nav applications which provide visual comparisons to chart data.

Thank God!

We use our paper charts of Fiji to arrange our beach combing treasures. 

Those who do successfully navigate through the Yasawa Island Group find more and more evidence of modern civilization, the further south they go.  So you can go ashore for dinner at a small resort one day, and the next you find yourself in a small cove with a small village, or nobody at all.  

Below is the island where the Tom Hanks film "Castaway" was filmed.  You can have the tiny island all to yourself (as we did) or share it with 40 tourists as we did soon after they appeared on a large tour boat.

There are lots of long sandy beaches to explore. At one such beach, on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of our first date, we felt it necessary to leave our mark.

By the way, that first date sure has worked out well!

The beach comber's pocket change.

So what's next for Moonshadow?

  We had plenty of time to ponder that and on one long stretch of beach (at low tide) we found the perfect place to record our plans for the next year.