24 May 2010 | Budd Reef
Michael and Jackie
The hurricane hit hardest the islands on the North East of Fiji. We left Rabi island and wended our way through the reefs to the North of Rabi, and then cut across to a narrow gap in Budd reef. Budd reef is a massive circular reef system to the North of Taveuni. In the centre of the reef there are three small islands, one of which is inhabited, Yanuca, (Yanutha) We spent our first night at another small island, Cobia, (Thombia). This is a glorious volcanic island with sandy beeches and basking turtles. Its centre is a lagoon. The island itself a perfect caldera, within a larger caldera.
At Yanuca we anchored off the village school, or what was left of it. Neat gardens stretch down to the sea, four white red cross tents sit on the lawn, each one precisely pitched at an equal distance from the next one. Behind the tents what remains of the school. Four walls, no roof, gutted classrooms and smashed posters. We met the headteacher's wife who confirmed that the tents were unused. They are far too hot to function as classrooms. Instead the 38 pupils of the school are using the community hall in the nearby village as a temporary school. The village is a 30 minute walk along a rocky shore and over a promontory. The school was built in the neighbouring bay because there is a much better water supply there than in the village. The community hall has had a rough partition put up to create three improvised classrooms. Apparently the EU has agreed to fund a new school, but in the meantime schooling continues in the hall and the four pristine red cross tents remain unused.
The village itself is remarkably attractive. It has a beautiful airy setting with modern houses set in grassland around a perfect semi circular bay. There are no traditional houses. People seem relatively prosperous with large boats with big outboards used for collecting beche de mer, sea slugs. These are sold to the Chinese, the locals refer to it as easy money. A brand new photocopier for the school was waiting to be installed. But by contrast there was little paper, or exercise books. People were obviously still shaken by the hurricane, although the village was relatively unscathed. A couple of roofs had been lost, but the main damage was to the school. The locals told us that the biggest tragedy was that a yachtie had anchored in Viani bay and had lost his boat and all his possessions and committed suicide as a result.
We only stayed at the anchorage off the school overnight because it was quite rolly and relatively exposed to the wind.