Waiting On A Friend
26 July 2011 | Yasawas, Fiji
We have had a great time since leaving Viani Bay and the Fisher family. We made a short sail over to Taveuni Island, on the eastern side of the Fiji islands and anchored there for a few days. We had heard that the eastern side of Taveuni was filled with lush forests and waterfalls, so we thought it would be a great bicycle ride, until we realized that dirt roads, plus lots of rain, equals MUD! There is always rain on the eastern side due to the trade winds blowing the warm ocean air across the Pacific. As the warm trade winds reach the island, the warm air rises up, starts to cool and then starts dumping the rain. A lot of rain! We ended up riding over six hours that day. My ass was killing me but it was worth it. The waterfalls and the scenery were spectacular along the way. We passed many small villages along the way and were entertained by the small children, running out ahead of us towards the village, yelling palangi, palangi! White man, white man! All the little children would run out to see. It was as if we were the ice cream truck coming through, but they don't see many white people over that side of the island, as tourism is almost non-existent, so I guess it was just as entertaining for them as it was for us. When we got back to Matei, the local town where we were anchored, we decided that after all of that exercise, we deserved cold beer and pizza. As we were enjoying our first cold beer, overlooking the Somosomo strait and the beautiful sunset, another couple entered the restaurant. We had seen them walking around the village the day before and we asked them to join us. We struck up conversation and soon learned that they had sold their flat in London a few months back, and had decided to take a year or so off and just travel the world. We each had lots of questions about where each had been and also shared stories of things we had seen along the way. It was a great evening and we decided to invite them to spend a few days onboard Pursuit with us, sailing around the island and then up to Budd Reef for some great snorkeling. It was a very enjoyable time and I'm sure that Charlie and Maggie are quite intrigued with the cruising lifestyle now. Maybe we will meet them along the way sometime with a sailboat of their own. With the types of questions they were asking, I wouldn't be surprised.
After dropping off Charlie and Maggie, we had to start moving towards Nadi on the western side of Viti Levu as Tara's friend Kirstin was arriving in a little over a week and I wanted to do a bit of work to Pursuit before she arrived. I had been thinking about lifting Pursuit out of the water in New Zealand and putting a fresh coat of antifouling on the hull, but knowing that I was coming to Fiji and that things were so much cheaper here, I decided to get it done here instead. I made arrangements with a local marina to get hauled out to do the work and then stay in the marina for a few days to clean and provision the boat in preparation of Kirstin's arrival. I had called the Vuda Point Marina to make an appointment for the haul-out and then a marina reservation a couple of weeks earlier. I had it all figured out, (so I thought); too bad that the "Fiji Factor" was alive and well at the marina. I called the day before to confirm everything and was told that they were able to haul me out the next day, no problem. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least that there were no hiccups, until they added the part that they had no stands for the boat once pulled out. Then how am I going to stay in the work yard I thought? Balance the damn boat? Lay the boat on its side? Right. There was the Port Denarau marina on the other side of the bay, but I thought it was for mega yachts and was sure that the prices would reflect that. Not so. They were actually cheaper in the end and they were able to pull me out the next day, arrange for workers and then give me a berth in their marina afterwards, not to mention it is a super clean and fancy place. The marina is in the Denarau Island Resort area. The Denarau Island is like an artificial enclave of fancy resorts, manicured gardens, heavenly pools, and professionally run tourist facilities all at ridiculous tourist prices. It bears little resemblance to the rest of Fiji, but it was a great stop for a week or so. I even managed to get in a round of golf at the Denarau Island Golf and Racquet Club, with their bunkers in the shape of sea creatures and incredible holes overlooking the ocean. While in the marina, we found that we would often walk to the golf course in the evenings for a few beers, as they were the cheapest beers on the Island and the view was very nice. It was a great area and being able to drop into all the five-star resorts and drink by their pools, while enjoying the sunset didn't suck either. I wouldn't have minded staying a bit longer. Maybe when we drop Kirstin off, and before sailing off to New Caledonia, we will spend a couple of days in the marina again?
The actual work done at the marina yard went great and the workers in the yard were fantastic. I got to know them well and they were a great bunch of guys. While working on the boat, I met a local named Jona Ratu. He comes from the village of Soso, on the island of Naviti in the Yasawa Group. He gave us the name of his sister and brother and told us to drop in on them when we are anchored there. We bought some things to give to his family upon arriving, as some things are harder to get on the outer islands.
Everything got done just in time when Kirstin arrived. Tara was excited to see Kirstin again and it was great to have her once again on Pursuit. She had visited us in Colombia and then sailed to Panama with us two years ago. So, with the local tour boats coming in and out of the marina daily, picking up huge groups of pasty white people in order to deliver them to the numerous resorts throughout the island chains, while at the same time disgorging an equal amount of lobster skinned, exhausted-looking tourists, who would look more than ready to be heading home for a rest, we figured it was time to get going. We provisioned up and set sail for the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island groups. There are many anchorages along the way, as well as many islands made famous from TV and movies, such as Castaway with Tom Hanks, Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields and of course Survivor, to see and explore. These are the island chains that make up the western side of the Fiji chain and also the islands that the tourism brochures show. Sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and palm trees.