Today, we were up early yet again. We had our coffee and breakfast and set out to get one last snorkel in at Waya. After trolling around in the dinghy, Tom and Monica picked a most excellent spot and off we went. Again, the coral was just beautiful. There were fish but, not as many as we had seen at some of the other locations. While under water, Tom did point out, what I would learn later to be, a Crown of Thorns. After a little investigation, I found that a Crown of Thorns is actually a type of starfish that eats all living coral. They easily multiply and are a great danger to all coral reef, especially those found in the Pacific ocean where they are predominant.
We were able to finish up our morning snorkel and get underway by noon and are now headed to the island of Naviti which is also known as Manta Ray Bay. Upon arrival, Tom picked out a protected spot and Monica set the anchor. We slathered on sunscreen and took off to hopefully find some manta rays. This particular location is known for Manta Ray sightings because of the way the current flows through the channel. It is a swift current and the water is filled with plankton. The Manta Rays are able to just hover in the water with their mouths open and the current brings the food right to their mouths. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. We didn't get to see any rays but, were inundated with fish and bait balls! We also saw a sea plane, up close and personal.
After tiring ourselves out snorkeling, it was decided that we would head over to one of the backpacker's resorts on Naviti. The resort is called Manta Ray Bay Resort. It was just as described, a "backpacker's resort". There were a lot of young people there and small bures with community restrooms equipped with vault toilets. A toilet is a toilet and we ALL took advantage of having one. That's all about that.
They had a bar on the beach as well as a brick oven for pizzas so, we ordered drinks and pizzas and picked out a picnic table to wait. While at the bar, Monica inquired if it would be possible for us to purchase some ice from them. The bartender told her he would check but, didn't think it would be a problem. While waiting for our pizzas, we enjoyed watching a volleyball game and many of the resort employees heading home after work. It's amazing to see the number of people they can pack on those boats. We were also privy to a man vs. goat wrestling match. First, before anyone gets too excited, the goat was not harmed. In fact, the goat seemed to be as much a part of the comradery of the workers and island as anyone else. While the volleyball game was going on, we watched the goat meander up the beach, around the outer edge of the court and over to the trees. After the game was over, he approached one of the guys in a very playful manner. The guy would push on the goat's head and in response, the goat would try to ram the guy with his head. This went on and on and when the guy would try to walk away, the goat would come from behind and try to butt the guy. It was really sweet and fun to watch. You could tell it was their playful way with each other. We had yummy pizza and when it was time for another round of drinks, Monica went back and checked with the bartender about the ice. She was told they would sell us some ice and wanted to know how much we wanted. After seeing the guys walking around with buckets of ice, she said "a bucket?" and when the guy said "okay", Monica asked, "could we get two?" to which he replied "sure". Now the buckets Monica had seen being carried around were not 5 gallon buckets and were not full so imagine our surprise when they walk out with a 20 gallon sized trash bag half full of ice!!!!! I think Monica had to pay $15FJ and we weren't about to tell them we didn't have room for all of that after they were so gracious to share but, we got a good laugh from the situation AFTER we made it back to Tanga. In the dingy. In the dark. 4 people on board and this huge bag of ice!!! It still gives me a chuckle.
Once we and the ice were on board Tanga, we did our best to fill up as much as we could with ice. We put as many beers and drinks as we could get in a 5 gallon bucket and covered them with ice as well. Once we ran out of places to put the ice, Monica and I filled a cup with ice and had, what was for me, the best glass of ice water I have had in my life!!! It was sent straight from heaven. Tom had some Jack Daniels on the rocks and after a relaxing time in the cockpit, we were all ready for bed.
Today, we would practice our Seal Team maneuvers.
We were up early again. Farmer's hours are the best! Had coffee and breakfast and off we went to try and spot manta rays. On the way to the pass, we saw a sea snake in the water. It was the LARGEST sea snake Steve and I had ever seen. Had he been in the actual area where we were planning to snorkel, I MAY have opted to stay in the boat but, since he was really kind of small AND we saw him as we were traveling TO our snorkel spot, I decided not to give him another thought. It also helped that Tom explained that even though they are extremely poisonous, their mouths are so small, they can't really bite you. Whew!
The plan was for Tom to stay in the dinghy and drop us off at the beginning of the channel and we would float with the current to a point and then we would hang on to the boat seal team style and he would haul us back to the beginning. Well, I'll be the first one to admit that I would really push the "no man left behind" motto. I didn't really have a problem holding on to the dinghy. My issue was keeping my lower body aligned with my upper body. I have no idea what the issue was but, thank goodness my sister in law is strong and didn't mind keeping me from pushing both of us under the propeller. It was fun and I now know I can scratch Navy Seal off of my bucket list.
Anyway, back to the rays. We still didn't see any. We saw plenty of fish again, more beautiful coral but, no rays. After two or three (it may as well have been a dozen) trips hanging onto the dingy and Tom telling us 45 more seconds or 10 more feet, we were all exhausted and decided to give up on the rays and head back to Tanga. Once we were back on board, we had a quick lunch and discussed the options of making our way back to Musket Cove for our impending departure. We had the choice of staying in Naviti and doing a power ride the following day or motoring back over to Waya and leaving really early the next morning from there. By breaking the trip up, it would keep us from spending a whole day traveling. We opted to break the trip up and we headed back to Waya and anchored where we were before, just off of Naulauwaki village.
Once we were back in "our cove" in Waya, Tom set out to fish again, Steve and I grabbed life jackets and beer and floated in the water and Monica decided to give the paddle board a try. We soaked in the water until almost dusk. Once back on board Tanga, imagine our surprise when we see a makeshift kayak heading towards our boat. We saw this kayak or one like it a few days before when we were anchored here. It looked like a sheet of corrugated metal that had been bent and cut and fashioned into a boat. Wood had been fashioned to fit along the edges and the paddle was nothing more than a large stick.
As the boat continued to move closer, we were all so surprised to hear a familiar voice yelling to us "Skipper Steve, Skipper Steve". It was John. The village spokesman. He pulled alongside Tanga and spoke to Steve about where we had been and how long we would be staying. John also reminded Steve of a conversation they had had regarding papayas. (Background: When we were at the village, John asked Steve if he would like to buy some papaya. John's daughter grows and sells them. Steve let him know we were interested but, in all of the commotion while we were leaving, kids on the dinghy, villagers thinking we were childnappers and all of that, Steve had forgotten to purchase papaya.) So Steve let him know that we were still interested in purchasing some papaya. John told Steve that he was going to fish for a bit but, he would bring the papaya back to the boat after he was finished. I for one felt terrible because, here is this man in this little manmade boat that he's having to periodically dip water from using a Folger's container. He's already rowed out to us and now he's going to row around and fish. Then, he's going to row BACK to the village, go GET the papaya AND row back out to us! His word is golden. We were in the salon finishing up dinner when we hear a light knock on the side of the boat and a voice calling Skipper Steve. Steve goes up and there is John and he has papayas. It is dark. Steve has a handful of coins. John hoists a bag of papayas up to Steve and Steve asked how much he owes him. John tells Steve again that this is for his daughter and whatever he would like to give is fine. So Steve hands him a handful of coins. He still doesn't know just how much he gave him and it doesn't even matter. These papayas were the size of small watermelons and there were 5 to 10. FAR MORE than we could eat! We gave our Thanks to John and said our goodbyes. We would be off in the morning before the sun was up.
Today we got to actually SAIL!!!! It was only for a little while but, we sailed!!! We started our day before the sun was up. I took one last look towards the village and could see one lone light. Leaving was sad for me, because for some reason, these people already had a special place in my heart. Still today I think of them and pray they are well and safe. Monica brought the anchor up and we were off. It would be a long day on the water but, by making the partial trek yesterday, Tom's calculations had us getting back into Musket Cove somewhere around 2pm. We watched the moon set and the sun rise over the water. Spectacular! At one point during our journey back, Tom felt there was enough wind and we put out the Jib and the Mainsail. We had just enough wind to turn off the engine (Ethel) and sail. The only sounds were the sails and the water...oh and the radio blaring Metallica. I'm kidding. Sort of. I think Tom did turn the radio off long enough for us to actually hear the sounds of sailing. It was a beautiful experience. It wasn't too long before the gods of the air decided enough was enough. They must like Ethel's song more than their own. The engine was turned back on and true to his calculations, we arrived in Musket Cove around 2pm.
Once we were tied to our mooring ball, we gathered our toiletries, clean clothes and made a trip to the main island. While we were there, we ordered bbq packs for the evening. We all ordered the Surf & Turf for about $39.95FJ. Included in the pack was a small steak, a chicken thigh, prawns and skewered mahi mahi. Also included was bread and a salad. DELICIOUS!!! Much to the chagrin of the local yachties, the wood bbq pits have been replaced with stainless grill tops that cost $2FJ for 20 minutes of cook time. Never fear! We had Chef Steve with us and he cooked up all of the meat to perfection!!! We ate, drank, hung out and chatted. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Fiji.
Well, first let me say that I didn't realize we were there 8 days. LOL! We really weren't so somewhere along the way, the days got lumped together but, the adventures were the same regardless of which "day" they actually happened. Today we would visit the world famous Cloud9. This is a floating bar anchored about 2 miles off shore.
For whatever reason, the water here was the MOST BEAUTIFUL. It was clear and the most gorgeous turquoise I had ever seen. We took Tanga over and got as close as Tom and Monica felt safe and anchored. We filled our bags with sunscreen and took off for the bar. It was 11am and the music was blaring. There were only a few people there when we got there so we got drinks and picked out couches to lounge on. Steve being the adventurer, used his ninja skills and slipped away to the top level of the bar. I've been around him long enough to know that he wanted to jump off the top first. By himself. His first jump would not be with a group. And that's JUST what he did!!! LOL!!! From the bar we could see a surf break in the distance, called Desperations. It looked plenty big to me but, Tom said it was nothing compared to some of the others he had seen AND surfed! We took pictures around the bar and then it was time.
Steve and I went to the second level. This time, together. We climbed up onto the rail and after being sweetly informed that we weren't holding hands...off we went. Should a picture of our jump find its way to this blog post, yes, I DID indeed hold my nose!!! We swam back up to the bar, climbed up and hung out to dry off a bit. We had a wet but totally fun dinghy ride back to Tanga and proceeded back to Musket Cove.
Steve and I got all packed up and went to the island to take showers. We would be taking the ferry back to Port Denarau. We gathered all of our bags and moved to the ferry loading zone and waited. Ernie and his wife Charlene came to see us off. They are such sweethearts. We all sat around and chatted while we were waiting to buy our tickets. Tom and Monica were gracious enough to let us use their Yacht Club Cards to purchase our fare for the ferry. The dreaded time came when it was time to say goodbye. Off we went on the ferry. The skies were dark and we just knew we were going to get rained on. The seas were really rough and we were glad we were on the ferry instead of Tanga. We had made the whole trip without being seasick but, I think these rough seas may have done us in if we had been on her. While on board the ferry, we did have one anxious moment. One of the guys on the ferry came up to us and asked us about our fare and how it was purchased. Steve played as dumb as he could and told him we were Tom and Monica. THEN, he asked to see our Yacht Club Cards!!!! EEEEKKKKK!!!! Steve continued to answer his questions with confusing answers and I don't know if the guy just gave up and thought the language barrier was too much or if he just didn't want to be bothered but, Steve and I had both convinced ourselves we might not be leaving Fiji and were wondering if there was even an opportunity to post bail, how much that might be!!!! Everything was just fine. We were VERY HAPPY to be off the ferry WITH our luggage.
We hit Jack's in Port Denarau and bought tons of souvenirs. After making our purchases, we found a taxi and made our way to the airport. The flight home was pretty uneventful. All in all, it was a trip of a lifetime and I am so glad we took the opportunity to visit while we had the chance.
I hope I never forget the sing song tone in the voices of the people of Fiji. The genuine smiles of people, who by our standards, seem to have so little. We NEVER met anyone along the way that did not say Bula and did not say it first. They didn't wait to be spoken to, it wasn't necessary. I hope I never forget John and the way it felt to fall in love with a group of people in such a very short time. Yes, this was a trip of a lifetime but, I feel like it has given me a new outlook on life. Be happy. Be happy with what you have. Love the people you are fortunate to call family. Seize opportunities when they are presented. I guess I can sum it all up by saying.... Live. Laugh. Love.