22 June 2017
The day we checked into Fiji the customs agent reminded us that Scotland were going to be playing Fiji in a few weeks, as part of their Southern Hemisphere tour.
Consequently we've been hanging around here, killing time until the big game on Saturday.
We knew the team were preparing locally but it's quite a long way to the ground. Despite that, we made the long hot walk around the promontory yesterday like teenagers stalking their favourite boy band.....to no avail. Too,late. Typical.
Good news is, the team came to us.
3 Years of Study For This
21 June 2017
Where are We?
A hot and sweaty 5km walk from the Royal Suva Yacht Club, off which we are at anchor, is paradise. AKA Costco.
Once inside, palletised goods reaching to the rafters as only Costco can do, armchairs and sofas sitting alongside Goober Jelly it's like you've been transported. Are we in Glasgow, South Carolina or the Pacific?
Fortunately the latter as our trundler (that's New Zealand speak for shopping trolley) full of stuff for the next month cost about half to two thirds of what it would have cost at home, as did the taxi ride back.
On the way back, we passed the FNU; the Fiji National University. A fine establishment with the cream of Fiji youth meandering around in search of their next class. Hopefully, after three or four years at the FN University they'll get an FN degree and from there, one sincerely hopes, an FN job.
17 June 2017
No, not a Fijian form of Jenga, more a peace offering.
The Fijian islands are all owned by native Fijians or the Fijian government. If you fancied buying a wee plot and building a summer But 'n Ben, forget it. You can't. Foreigners can't buy or own land, nor indeed can the Indian Fijian population and they been here since the 1800's.
Every bit of land has an owner and on the islands, before you can lay out your beach towel or set up your BBQ you have to walk about for a bit in the bush, seeking out the village chief, or one of his head honchos. Once you've tracked down the big man, you have to present your play sticks, aka Kava root, a mildly narcotic plant that grows hereabouts. It's not cheap. $20 an offering but I guess it's better than a night in a marina.
For some islanders, mostly those on the beaten track, who get a steady and slightly monotonous trail of visitors apparently it's "Thanks for the Kava. Have a nice day. See ya." For others, especially on the remote islands it's a big deal to get a visitor so there's a big welcome and a Sevusevu ceremony to formally welcome you to the village.
The chief or in our case, his MC, usually an apprentice chief, the wives and some kids sit with you in a big circle. Some ritual hollow hand clapping, incantations and bingo, you're welcomed to the village and its environs. You then might get an opportunity to buy some locally made handicrafts; locally made in the village or, possibly somewhere like Wang Peng in the People's Republic of China.
And so, we are temporary residents of Mbenga, 25 miles south west of Suva, kayaking, scrubbing months of weed and barnacles, fixing taps and partying with Villomee, Randivag and Alexandra. Been a hard few days.
Fiji. Accidental Tourists
11 June 2017
"What country are you from?"
Words spoken on every island, every continent, from Morocco to Fiji, that set alarm bells ringing in even the most hardy travellers and especially in my, perhaps, too cynical mind.
However nine times out of ten the phrase comes from a guy who, sure as eggs are oeufs, is on a mission to scam you. So far, we've escaped with just one virtually enforced $10 purchase of a couple of bits of engraved and boot polished scrap wood, well, Sven was taking the hit for the team like the man he is.
The problem with being a lifetime, fully trained and card holding cynic is that one time out of ten, you miss out on an amazing experience.
Fortunately Sven was the recipient of the magic words on Saturday and we were duly requested to show up at 3pm the next day for a ride somewhere, to something at some, as yet undeclared price.
Six into four doesn't go so another poor unsuspecting taxi was hailed and once we'd all piled into our respective rides he joined the trip to somewhere. The 15km trip seemed to take a lot longer and we had to stop for petrol and a pee stop, which at least explained why our driver was twitching in his seat.
Finally, we turned off the main drag onto a dirt road and from that, as we headed deeper into the bush, another smaller road. At last, we could see a whole bunch of cars in a field, parked outside a yellow and red Hindu temple, just in time for the annual fire walking celebration.
A crowd of over a hundred, all in saris and the male equivalent and us six whities watched agog as thirty or more guys walked barefoot across smoking, allegedly, red hot coals. Some folk couldn't get enough and did the walk several times. Or maybe they were just checking they were pure and cleansed.
Me? Call me an old cynic, but I couldn't help a) thinking my conscience does an adequate job of letting me know when I'm "pure" and b) wondering why the leaves and twigs that landed on the coals stayed nice and fresh looking until trodden into the ash.
Nonetheless, the guys with the steel barbs shoved through pretty much anything fleshy were certainly up for some unnecessary pain.
And then we were all invited to a free curry night.
05 June 2017
4am earlier today and it was just the red light of a fishing boat to port and a distant loom on the horizon that gave the first signs of approaching land, wifi and, most importantly, spas. We slipped quietly past the entrance to Bligh Passage into Kadavu Passage, following in the wake of the great navigators, Bligh and Cook.
Last night we had the loom of the lights of Suva, a chart, one of four GPS and the chart plotter to show us where to go. Quite how these guys of old got around the world more or less unscathed is simply amazing. The reefs extend hundreds of metres or even miles offshore, no lights just a faint line on the near horizon showing there might be something hard out ahead. Mind you. given last year at least seven modern day, GPS clad cruisers on our route through the atolls parked their boats on the reefs, perhaps bowling along in your barque with some wee bloke up the crosstrees, certain of a good keel hauling if he misses a rock, is the better approach.
Anyway, 10 days and 1,068 miles later we are finally anchored in Suva and have just completed and passed inspection from the five officers from customs, immigration, health and bio security who came to visit and fortunately gave us a clean bill of health.
"Has the boat been fumigated recently?"
"Oh yes, in the Galapagos." That bit of name dropping seemed to pass muster and just as we're about to hear the magic ker-clunk of the official stamp, Bruce makes his appearance. Now, Bruce has been with us since Opua. He set up home on a freshly built, comfortable looking web between the solar panel and the pushpit. He hung on grimly there for the last ten days, through wind and rain although I think I did see signs of spider puke one morning. However, despite the fact we fed him on dead flys and ants it seemed we'd lost him when yesterday, after a bit of a breeze, come daylight, the web was destroyed and no sign of Bruce. Right until the moment the bio security woman asks if we've any animals when guess who appears making busy fixing his web.
Welcome to Fiji Bruce.
Oh, and the great news. Scotland are playing Fiji here in a week or three. Better dust off my kilt.
Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow
03 June 2017
Well, not really. Just slow. The Quick Quick was pretty much restricted to the day we left Opua; under engine. Since then its been a bit of a waiting game. Waiting on the wind. O]With hindsight, having waited nearly four weeks for this weather, or non weather window, I think I'd rather have dealt with the 40 knots back then than the 4 knots we have now. So, we're just chilling with a bit of reading, a bit of scraping and, today, a big birthday party. It is getting hotter. The slash knee jeans have gone and its bare feet and simmit. The "clears" are slowly coming down, the Popemobile slowly disrobing in a PVC Dance of the Seven Veils. Its either that or we suffocate.
01 June 2017
After holding out not motoring while the "fleet" went engined past we've finally got wind. Right on the nose so windward bash for a while by the looks of it.
Blowing away the cobwebs that's for sure.
31 May 2017
Having waited weeks for too much wind to pass, predictably, we're now drifting along on the currents making barely a wake on the surface of glassy calm seas. We're thinking of it as a holiday. A kind of mini break between the flesh pots of New Zealand and Fiji.
Should be there by Christmas.