Eastward to Taveuni
20 September 2016
The last few weeks have been fabulous as we continue cruising the Fiji Islands at a "no-rush" pace. We left Nananu-i-ra after several days of hiking, bottom cleaning, and enjoying the back-packer resorts there and continued eastward along the inside-the-reef pass around Viti Levu (the mainland) to Naigani. This is a small island just east of the mainland with a wonderfully protected and very remote anchorage. There was little ashore there as venturing off the beach meant bush-whacking through the jungle, but the beach and the reef near the anchorage was absolutely beautiful.
After two days in Naigani, we decided to sail to Levuka on the island of Ovalau. Levuka was the colonial capital of Fiji and as a National Heritage site, it has been kept in its original, 100+ year old architectural look. This was where Fiji handed over the Islands to Great Britain to be a colony in 1874 and where independence was handed back to Fiji in 1970. The main street looks like something a wild west town only on the sea. Very interesting to see, however, since Cyclone Winston Damaged much of the town rebuilding has unfortunately been delayed by the need to find local hardwood. The other detractor was just up wind and slightly out of town was a Tuna factory which gave the anchorage a not-so-pleasant odor. Sooooo, we decided to make this a day stop and we continued on to Makogai.
It was fun to get back to Makogai where, back in June, we stopped to help the Sea Mercy Organization rebuild a school. Our efforts back then were mostly in support of cleaning of the remnants of the old school, preparing the site for the new build and moving the lumber and supplies into place to start building. As we returned, the project had just completed and the dedication ceremony had taken place just the day before. This is the first school in Fiji to be rebuild and reopened since Cyclone Winston and it was all accomplished with donated funds and volunteer (passing-through cruisers) labor. The end result, the completed school was really neat to see. After a few days, we continued our bumpy ride north-eastward course across the Koro Sea to the Island of Koro on a close reach in 25 knots of wind.
We stopped in Tulani Harbor (Dere Bay) on the North-West side of Koro. This area had also been impacted by Winston and the two resorts on the beach had been badly damaged and rebuilding efforts had not yet begun. Ashore, we found a resilient local community as well as an ex-pat community of folks from all over the world who had decided to buy a lot on the northern part of the island and build their dream home. With no running water (other than private cisterns that collect rain form their roofs) and no electricity (other than what solar collection they might have to charge their batteries) this is as remote a place to settle down as we have seen. A trip to the grocery store in Suva could take several days as the ferry travels to and from Koro as needed and not on a regular schedule.
From Koro, we continued our windward bash to Taveuni and Paradise Resort. This resort is unique in how welcoming it is to cruisers. Free mooring balls, showers, use of their pool and facilities, etc. We had only planned to spend a few days here, but Kate got intrigued with an opportunity to do an intro to scuba diving course with Alan, the local PADI instructor who also is the resort owner. After this, she was TOTALLY hooked and decided to continue on with her basic Scuba certification. Alan also re-certified my now 37 year old NAUI Scuba Card (from senior year at the Academy) so we could both dive on the spectacular Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Strait. Alan and Terri, the owners of Paradise Resort were continuing to rebuild after their resort that was demolished by Winston and were looking for an electrical engineer to help rewire their dive boat. Kate and I decided to help and for almost a week, we would go to work on this 43 foot aluminum dive boat at 8am and work through 4-5pm with a short lunch break. The end result was a fully powered boat that was ready to launch. Launching from the beach ramp was incredible as the boat was lowered onto logs by an excavator and then pushed/rolled into the water. It was great to see the boat floating after 6 months of repairs and is was especially fun to see the reactions and cheering of the many employees of the resort who came out to the ramp to watch the launching. Alan very nicely treated us to a 2 tank dive on Rainbow Reef, and a very special lobster dinner. After two weeks at Paradise Resort (our longest time an any one spot since leaving the Chesapeake Bay in Nov 2015) we headed to Savusavu for a few days of re-provisioning.