29 August 2013 | Underway to Vanuatu
We left Fiji a couple of days ago (boo hoo) and are presently underway to Vanuatu, having a great sail. It's about 500 miles and we expect to pull in tomorrow. We're very excited for Vanuatu and have both read & heard great things about it. There are active volcanoes to climb, some interesting dive sites including the USS Coolidge wreck and opportunities to experience a unique culture as well. The fact that men still wear traditional penis sheathes has got Jon intrigued and I read in Lonely Planet that the last cannibalism ritual was in 1969, the year I was born. So that means there are people living there that might know something first hand about it.... yuck! I hope to swim with a dugong which is Vanuatu's own special manatee. I think we'll spend the rest of this cruising season touring there and then head straight to NZ. We're still traveling with a great group of friends although there have been some farewell's and a few more yet to come as people peel off to other parts of the world.
It was hard to say goodbye to Fiji after such a great experience there but at least Jon had a parting gift of the “Fiji Foxtrot” as Mark on Blue Rodeo named it, since he got it too. They blame the communal kava bowl that they drank out of the day before we left Fiji but I'm more suspect of the many handshakes that occur everywhere you go. Six of us rented a cab for the day to get up into the highlands above Lautoka for a hike. The trail starts at a village named Abaca where you need to do a Sevusevu. It was a nice hike & village experience but we're all pretty burned out on sevusevu at this point. While the village is noted to still be using the same kava bowl for the past 200 years, we feel that that just adds up to 200 years worth of “goodness” that one can acquire from drinking out of it! The bowl had a coffee cup supporting one leg and some kind of stiff plastic supporting another leg... it was in a pretty sad state. In any event, Jon is feeling better and I'm hoping I'll be spared the fun.
Speaking of fun, we've had a lot of it recently. We really enjoyed the time we spent in the Yasawa Islands. The weather held out as beautiful as ever and that made the long beach walks, diving, cockpit socializing and snorkeling expeditions really enjoyable. On one of the sailing days between islands we saw a breaching humpback whale, a pod of dolphin and then finished out the day swimming with manta rays! The Yasawas were also great for fishing while underway. We continue to have great luck with the Big Mac lure. We've had this lure kicking around in the fishing gear box for YEARS and when Jon looked it up online to see if we could order more, it turns out this is a vintage lure, not being made anymore. Whoa! Now this has got us worried since we will inevitably lose this precious piece of equipment. We dug around some more and pulled out another oldie but goodie- a “Bomber” but it hasn't put any food on the table yet. The nice thing about these lures is they are made to sink a bit so you can troll deeper. We've gotten trevally, walu and a tuna on the Big Mac, all of which have been delicious. A couple of the anchorages including one called Navadra were some of the most beautiful we've ever been in. Another had a casual resort that welcomed cruisers so we all went in for pizza on the beach one night. They had a pet baby goat named Jack who was an orphan. He peed in someone's purse while we were there, but he was otherwise a real hoot to watch.
While it's unusual for us to have any real deadlines, we all headed back to Musket Cove Marina for a surprise birthday party on the 18th for a friend- Jean on the boat Superted. It was just as well to have this commitment since we really needed to get moving and it was a good excuse to bring everyone together again. I made a birthday cake with pink frosting using good 'ol USA baking powder that a friend brought me and I am pleased to report that it actually rose to a normal cake height this time!
The following day, Jon gathered up some non-golf players and scheduled us a tee time for 12:30pm, for peak hotness. Musket Cove has a 9 hole golf course where the price is right and there's no lines-no waiting which is precisely what we needed. Not being golfers, it took us just over 4 hours to “play” the course which only counted one beer stop. The man working there came out to us in a golf cart, took our order and then returned with ice cold beers. Not sure if this is commonplace, but it was certainly appreciated. The rest of the time was spent knocking our balls from one sand pit, pond, beach or adjacent fairway to another and occasional romps in the sprinklers to cool off. The only green spots on the course were the greens themselves next to the holes, the rest was brown like us from all the sun. The thing is, the six of us had a great time. We all stunk but we cheered each other on faithfully till the end, even when Anne just picked up her ball one time and threw it toward the green rather than use clubs- I think she got it further that way! This has been a real eye opener for us, since we never thought we'd like golf but we can see that there is promise here for more fun if not actually learning how to play the game right! Newport, Vermont golf course, here we come!
We moved over to an anchorage on the mainland named Saweni Beach in order to get ready to check out of Fiji and to explore the Lautoka area some. The interesting thing about this anchorage is that the sugar cane train tracks run right along side it. They harvest the sugar cane, pile it on rickety cars and then transport it to the factory in Lautoka with a miniature engine car. I found the whole thing really neat. I've never seen such a thing, so inefficient and labor intensive. We walked and then biked along most of the track and saw the graveyard of cars that had skipped the tracks at one point or another, the litter of sugar cane alongside for the whole length of it and the friendly workers we met along the way. While we were anchored at Sawena, we spent a day in town with Blue Rodeo provisioning, another day doing the hike in the mountains and Jon & I spent another day biking to an orchid garden near Nadi. Apparently the old house of Perry Mason, this place was called the “Garden of the Sleeping Giant” and it houses an impressive collection of orchids and a real oasis of tropical foliage, views and shady spots. After a scorcher of a bike ride to get there, they greeted us with a glass of tropical punch as part of the admission fee and then we just relaxed in these gardens & walked the trails. When we got back to the boat, we joined a potluck dinner on Blue Rodeo. It was such a nice day!
So, the verdict is in for Fiji- it's a big 10 for us. Never have we felt more welcome in a country. You can't go anywhere without an enthusiastic “Bula!” (Fijian hello) coming from someone, somewhere. On our bikeride, we got Bula's from the tops of telephone poles, from behind bushes, from windows, from kids, adults and old people. Many a Fijian has told us that this is the Fijian way. They are taught from an early age that visitors are guests of honor and we have witnessed nothing less. The cruising experience, officials, anchorages, diving, snorkeling, beach walking and the villages made a great impression on us and once we got some balance to the weather on the western side of the group, we got less frustrated about being cheated out of the sun & warmth we were expecting. To me, Fiji has an innocence about it. The kids, the traditions, the overall feeling. It's sweet. If we have any chance of it, we'd return here in a heartbeat.
Well, I just narrowly missed being slapped by a flying fish. Fortunately for both of us, the weather cloth blocked his way into the cockpit and he is back in the water. Last night, a bird was not so fortunate. He tried twice to land on the solar panels on the arch. We are in constant motion and the solar panels are slippery. On the second attempt, he caught the blades of the wind generator as he tried to abort his attempt, got shoved down to hit the windvane and then splashed into the water. I could make out what happened in the moonlight. Now we have a wobble in the bearings of the wind gen. I don't know why these pelagic birds try so hard to land on our moving boat when they're supposed to be happy at sea. But then I don't know why flying fish launch themselves onto our decks either. It's sad. Other than this it is a quiet night so far. The stars are lighting up the water. We are sluicing along in pretty calm seas and a good SE breeze. A welcome interval between countries. All is well.