Monday afternoon finds us finally motoring away from Viania Bay after a delightful 3 1/2 week's stay. Presently heading north up the Somosomo strait which runs between Vanu Levu and Taveuni Islands. We timed our departure to coincide with mid day, low tide and slack water, but even so, the constriction of coral in the straits caused some very strrange eddy lines and whirlpools. One would definitley not want to do this against the tide, with a strong wind against you, or at night. We are heading for the north end of Taveuni Island where our freinds Sylvie & David (PuddyTat) reported a good anchorage. But back to Viani Bay - 3/12 weeks in one spot is a long time for us. We must have had good reasons. We did. Namely Frank, and his
lady friend Lugi, their good friend Claudius, and Frank's young borther Andrew. They made us feel most welcome in the bay, invited us into their home, took us snorkeling & diving, brought us fresh fruit & sugarcane, and generally included us in their very laid back lifestyle. We reciprocated by introducing them to stand up paddleboarding, giving them use of our dive tanks so they could spear fish and hunt for sea cucumbers (which can bring $180 FJ a kilo for the rare varieties- it would seem the Chinese will eat almost anything!) and last night having them and their cousin Charlene and her 2 year old son, aboard for movie night. We don't think "The Italian Job" has ever been enjoyed so much. It was a delightful evening and a wonderful way to end our stay in the bay. However, undoubtedly our highlight was Frank's invitation to join in the celebration / wake/ send off for his recently departed uncle.The 3 days festivities were held on their little Island (Fisher Island), which at times held upwards of 150 people. Frank informed us that the final meat bill was 4 cows and 6 pigs (it was supposed to be 8, but two escaped and ran free on the island. See attached photos for this morning's recapture ). We were made to feel very welcome during the festivities. Colin even got to try his hand at pounding Kava, the mildly intoxicating beverage that the locals make from the roots of the pepper plant. We politely abastainsed from the field dressing of the cow & pig carcasses however! The men seemed to be contantly preparing meat and tending the lovo, while the women turned out huge numbers of dishes of many variesities, including Bele (spinach), soups, casava root, & taro. On the day beffore his before his burial, the recently departed uncle was brought ashore to much fanfare to spend one last night resting on the ground of his ancestral home. The following day after an early morning service, he was ferried the short distance to the mainland and buried halfway up the hillside in the family plot, with a beautiful view of Viani Bay and the Fisher homesite. The deceased's elder brother Vincent took us under his wing and at various stages during the proceedings explained to us the significance of what was occurring. All in all, it was a fascinating insight in what is a significant event in any culture. We certainly came to respect how death & bereavement is handled in traditional Fijian style. The lunch following the burial concluded the 3 day mourning period, after which most of the guests quietly departed. Even so, it was still 2 more days before all the stragglers had finally departed, and Frank & Lugi finally had their island home to themselves again. It was with some reluctance that we said our final goodbyes and departed just as the local police showed up to ask about our travel permit. Colin summoned up his usual charming patter, avoiding a full scale boarding and checkout. Without further ado, we were on our way.
We enjoyed 3 days at anchor within the coral reef at the northern end of Taveuni; beautiful crystal clear turquoise waters, and some very pleasant snorkeling, kayaking & paddleboarding. However it must be recorded that the highlight for us was the presence of a small but very well stocked Indian grocery store, where we provisioned for the first time in over a month. That re-provisioning included such staples as wine, chocolate, butter, eggs, and oh yes, ice cream. Julia Child eat your heart out! Despite the very pleasant surroundings, after a few days, the rolling chop in the exposed anchorage became too much for us, and we motor sailed around the east side of Taveuni to anchor in a hurricane hole on the west side of the island of NgGamea.
During the season, and during any kind of heavy weather, this anchorage would be quite busy. Right now, however, we have it to ourselves. On one of our paddleboard excursions we ended up at the $1,000 per night Quamea resort, and stopped in thinking we might get ice cream or refreshments. Despite our sweaty paddleboard outfits and lack of shoes, we were made to feel very welcome, and spent a very enjoyable evening drinking beers & Pina Coladas while being serenaded by traditional Fijian musicians and the local dance group. Typical show put on for the tourists, and not something we'd usually engage in, but certainly fun for an evening. Far more engaging for us has been the time spend with George (one of the resort's musicians) and his lovely wife Millie, whom we'd met earlier that afternoon, and with whom we've spent much of the past two days. They have a lovely home tucked up on the hillside which is only accessible via a circuitous route through the mangroves ..... a paddle boarder's dream. After two false starts, firstly because we thought we had to walk up the hill and secondly because Colin took us on a magical mystery tour outside the main channel and deep into the heart of the swamp, we finally managed to paddle right up to their front door. We then spent most of the rest of the day learning how to open drinking coconuts, had a lesson in preparing cassava chips, and how to make a traditional Fijian meal. Today, Millie invited us to join them at their local church service, in the village high on the hillside overlooking our anchorage. There where met Moses the local headman, and listened to sweet voices of the Fijian children raised in song. We didn't understand much of what was sung, since it was all in Fijiiian, although they did sing one song for us in English "Telephone Jesus", a modern exhortation to communicate with your higher power. We did think Susan made quite the missionary figure- see the photos. The remainder of the day was spent onboard TabbyCat, entertaining our two new friends, including curried chicken for lunch, teaching Millie to bake her very first cake (banana bread), & listening to music. Millie has quite the soft spot for Bob Marley! Tomorrow we are hoping to go around the island by boat to visit Millie's village, and do a spot of fishing for supper. However, despite our wonderful experiences here, we're cognizant of the calendar, and are watching the weather for a suitable window to make the 8+ day passage back to Opua NZ. Before too long it will be back to SavuSavau for our checkout and our long trip south of the southern cyclone zone. Until our next update, "Mothe" from Fiji. click here for the latest photos