Dave and crew have left North Minerva and are a day into their 360 mile sail to Levuka, and should be at Levuka on May 25th (although I'm picking they will be here even earlier as while at 5.30 last night they only had 10knots SW, here we have 25 knots and its predicted to stay a stiff breeze until Friday :-))
While they harness the breeze and digest their last crayfish I have made it to Levuka after exploring a wet (but warm) Suva and Suva Museum.
Its wonderful to be back in Levuka again. Everyone says Bula! to you as they go past and I have already seen familiar faces from our stay in Levuka and Makogai last year - including the senior Fisheries officer who taught us all about clams and turtles.
Marilyn and John (and their very vocal parrot "Bula") have made me so at home here at the Levuka Homestay (where I am their only guest -
thanks to travel warnings our governments are putting out). I will be able to see Dave sail in from the balcony. Everyone seems to know that he is coming in - and we even had a false alarm this morning. I had to explain to the lovely Fijian
man that Riada II was still a couple of days away :-)
We went to the Ovalau Club last night for the very official meeting of
the Tuesday Club - no agenda, no minutes, no speeches, just a few
yarns over a beer or two, and then we all went off to the Whales Tale Restaurant
for dinner (where "drinking, eating gambling and carousing" are all
encouraged). The expat's tales were wonderful - one lady had lived her earlier life in PNG and if you didn't have any idea about the frontier town it is now, let alone 30 years ago, you would have thought she was lying, while the 33year old man from Quebec who is writing his book about early retirement had some interesting perspectives on life. The only thing we didn't discuss was politics!
I wish you could be here - the sun is shining today and the rain has
evaporated (but there's still the stiff wind) and the local village seem to be having a drumming competition - it really feels like I am in the islands today.
I'm off to discover a little more of Levuka - to find the oldest
school in Fiji, the oldest Police station and the site where Fiji was
"ceded" to Queen Victoria.
Lots and lots of love,
19/05/2012, South Minerva Reef
We made it to South Minerva. The fishing is s..t but ...we're dining on seven big Pacific lobsters - feeding ourselves and three other boats :-). Off to North Minerva on Monday, depart for Levuka on Tuesday.
Dave and crew
A very excited Dave and crew of Brett, John and Jo, departed Auckland for Fiji, via Minerva Reef, on Thursday May 10th.
Unfortunately on Thursday night they sustained some damage to the chart plotter as a result of an uncontrolled gybe, and had to return to New Zealand waters. They arrived in Opua, Bay of Islands, on Friday afternoon.
The great news is that they were all repaired and rested by 6pm Saturday evening. They cleared Customs and farewelled New Zealand waters on Sunday morning. The conditions weren't the best for heading north but at 6pm last night they were east of North Cape, heading True north at 7 knots, and all was well on board. Phew!
We arrived in the Vavau'us on Sunday after a brisk ride up, where Dave and I saw lots of whales but thankfully a little way off - as if we were to hit them at 7-10 knots we would be in trouble! We also "almost caught" another marlin - smaller this time - and a mahi-mahi. Dave got the mahi-mahi right up near to the boat after a good fight but it got away at the last moment, while the marlin we could see but it broke the line. It may have been to do with my helming - its a challenge to stall the boat in 20-25 knots, with a swell and chop, but not to stall it too much so that the fish catches up with us, so then to gather a little speed again and steer at 180 degrees to the direction the fish takes. I am definitely an apprentice :-).
Since then we have been anchored off a little beach and village on the island of Kapa with our "neighbours" Relapse and Ruby-June. We did all our administration on Monday (clearing customs for Vavau'u and extending our visa (its hard to imagine we have been in Tonga for 5 weeks now!).
Lots to explore up here and we hope to do that seriously from today - so more to tell soon. Our new crew join us on September 3rd and then we will be here in Vava,u until September 10 - so we can watch the Tonga V NZ game on the 9th and then weather-allowing we will head to Fiji on the 10th to begin to explore the 320 islands (and we will watch the rest of the cup from there).
Since I last wrote I have also swum with a mother whale and her calf - an incredible experience - however she didn't put up with us for long and we have since learnt a lot more about whale watching and so hope to have more time to observe these majestic creatures, next time. We were also invited to a feast in a small village (100 people) in the Haapais which was a real privilige. It was to celebrate the opening of their refurbished community hall, paid for in exchange for their conservation of the nearby reef. They did the traditional dancing, food, prayers and speeches.
The people here in Tonga and fantastic it is easy to see why they are called the friendly islands. Some of the places we have visited in the Haapai Group look like they have not changed the way of life much from a 100 years ago, with the exception of the outboard motor and nylon fishing nets, and - sadly - plastic bags.
Besides these more major events, the days just seem to slip by - we have no trouble filling them in with chores, swimming, exploring nearby islands and eating :-) - for example our breakfast is a green coconut each (drink [we also enjoy it with white rum - our own fresh malibu]) - Dave has become a very adept coconut gatherer, opener and then polisher (for coconut bowls), then pawpaw and lemon juice, then banana with muesli and fresh yoghurt (I wish I had discovered Easi-yo years ago!, followed by freshly ground coffee and toast (local bread - we have yet to make our own).
I mentioned "chores". Riada II is going really well. Dave often has things to fix or repair but nothing major and nothing he can't sort out with ease and while he does that I do our "housework", look after our (now daily) communications, "weather-forecasting" etc.. We can confirm working is over rated for anyone working and wondering if they shouldn't be.
Okay, I'd better go as we are off to do some fishing and hopefully to explore nearby Swallows Cave - an underwater cave.
Carolyn and Dave
Guess what today Dave swam with whales - it was amazing. We tracked a mother and her calf for quite some time in the dinghy and then Dave slid overboard while I was on camera duty (my turn next time :-)). We also saw two huge turtles.
We are at the eastern Hapais - at an island on the "Barrier Reef" called Uiha. We hope to go and find more painted lobsters tomorrow at a nearby island and catch some more mahi mahi en route - we have "only" had tuna lately. We will be here for a few days - using it as a base while we explore the area - and will then probably head north to the Vavau'us.
Carolyn and Dave
The highlights of the last month would have to be...Duff Reef and the islands of Makogai, Ovalau and nearby Naigani.
Duff Reef is 20nm north of Vanua Balavu, which is in the Lau Group (and is where we went by horseback to watch the RWC final!) and is a turtle breeding spot, with them laying at new moon/high tide - and our timing was perfect. Its a teeny weeny sandy cay on a huge reef and we arrived to find the cay surrounded by huge turtles - males there to mate and females to mate and then lay their batches of eggs - all at least 30 years old which is when they become fertile, (although from the size of the tracks the females left to their nest a Fisheries expert we met felt they may have been 80-100 years old).
We set ourselves up to overnight on the cay - cooking our dinner on an open fire - but we weren't lucky enough to see a turtle laying before we decided we were too cold at 1am. However we saw one leaving the cay in the early morning so they must have waited for us to leave :-)
Early the next day we sailed back to the truly gorgeous "Bay of Islands" at Vanua Balavu to rest up, before heading off the next day on a 24 hour sail to Makogai.
Makogai is a marine reserve, plus a turtle and clam breeding/sanctuary area all of which means the coral outcrops and reefs are teeming with fish. We certainly could have stayed for days more, as it was we had 5 days there. Makogai was also the leper colony for the South Pacific for 60 odd years and is a Fiji heritage site - all in all a very special island.
One day we walked to the other side of the island and on the way we found numerous ruins - especially of the quarters, cooking facilities, temples (Indian) and halls for the staff who worked at the 5000-strong leper colony.
The other days we filled with lots of snorkelling - often finding HUGE clams, swimming with turtles, being special guests at a meke performed by the children of the village, BBQs and pot luck dinners on shore with a 79-year old German man sailing single-handed and two other boats whom we are now sailing around with (one family is from Canada, the other from Alaska and both are thinking they will head for New Zealand with us).
From Makogai we all sailed to Levuka, Ovalau. Levuka is the old capital and another heritage site. It is truly a lovely, historic town. We spent two days exploring the town and having the best curries since our first full day in Fiji, in Lambasa :-)
Then we discovered the little island of Naigani, which looked just ike all the brochure shots - where the water was like being in a swimming pool and the sand golden.
We reluctantly left Naigani to travel through Bligh Water to make our way to Lautoka and to prepare to collect Dave's boys and their friend Chris - which we were very excited about.
As much as it was wonderful to be in Lautoka again for me, it had been so nice being away from civilization and commercial city/towns. Dave made sure I helmed us into Lautoka harbour so that I could see all the familiar land marks again for the first time.
We took a taxi ride to my old school and house, we had lunch at the old social club - the Northern Club - and afterwards we wandered around the shops - including meeting a older shop owner who remembered my Dad and shopped till we dropped at the teeming market, rounding the day off by having a great curry meal. Then we picked up Dave's son Liam and friend Chris in Nadi last Friday and we haven't stopped since - and then Dave's older son Matt joined us at Waya Island in the Yasawas on Wednesday and the pace picked up just a little bit more.
We had one night at Malololailai/Musket Cove and then on to Wayasewa - one of the first islands in the Yasawas - where we have spent most of our time in the Yasawas as we met a very generous Fijian man who took us all out for several fantastic dives. He also took us all for a daylong tramp over to the other side of Wayasewa where we saw amazing vistas and rock formations.
Two days ago we left Wayasewa and headed for Nanuya Balavu where we had hoped to swim with manta rays, but the season had finished, and then yesterday we came onto Soso Bay and village. Last night we went in to do sevusevu - the kava ceremony we have done when we arrive at
every village - and to have a village tour.
Liam leaves Fiji tomorrow morning and that means our time here is almost over!
We aren't sure of our ETD from Fiji and ETA New Zealand just yet - we need to make it back to Lautoka, consider the weather reports, clear customs and immigration, provision etc. However, you can be sure that we will see you soon! Lots of love, Carolyn and Dave