Sunday, October 13, 2019

Moalo,  Kadavu,Ono, Namari and Dravuni Islands

1st –10th August 2019

Our 120 mile sail to Moalo was uneventful. We were in loose company with two other boats but caught up with Rewa just before entering the tricky pass on the western side. Navionics, one of the navigation programs that we use was absolutely hopeless.  It’s a very good thing that we also use google maps overlaid on Open CPN, as well as a Chinese version called Ovitalmap which is just like google earth but uses different satellites for its geographical photography.

Arriving mid afternoon we had good light to enter the rather hairy S-shaped pass through the reef. Once inside we motored into the anchorage just off the  village. As the tide was at dead low we were not able to go in and do our Sevusevu as there was no way we could get the dinghy to the shore. We hoped the villagers realized that. 
Above & below villagers collecting seafood at low tide.

Later that evening around 8pm we had a knock on the hull, it was the police. The officer had been called to alert him that there were two yachts anchored in the bay and he’d driven from the other side of the island to check our papers were all in order, and to remind us to visit the village chief and present our Savusavu at 8am the following morning. The bush telegraph is alive and well in Fiji.

Following Rewa in to do our sevusevu ceromony

Next morning we did our duty and in we went. The tide was high so we made it to the seawall without a problem.

The village appeared less orderly than our visit to Susui. The buildings were not as neat and tidy and the yards rather unkempt  but the people were as friendly as ever.

 We met the chief after waiting over an hour. He was very old and frail and was still in bed so his daughter took us through the sevusevu ceremony. We had a quick walk through the village just to be polite and then the rain came down so we hightailed back home. 

The village fuel depot

Liam and Dave walking through the village

This chap was copping up kava root to store until it dried out

Fijians are always happy, these people were going out fishing

We left the anchorage that afternoon for another overnight passage this time to Kadavu, some 78 miles further west.

Along the way we passed many Chinese fishing trawlers as well as longline trawlers that, lucky for us, had flashing lights on the ends of there lines. Often the trawler is a mile or two away from the flashing light which makes it very difficult to know which side of the net to pass.
We arrived at Kavala bay  on Kadavu amidst torrential rain, and that’s how it stayed for the next two days. 

There are several islands that fall under the banner of Kadavu and they all are encompassed by the southern part of the Great Astrolabe Reef. We would be visiting three before we left the area.  Apparently the reef is a divers’ delight but we didn’t get to experience any of it due to the weather and strong eastly winds. We had good Digicel coverage so Liam was able to order a new motherboard for our quickly failing Mase generator.

Moving north we had an overnight stop at Nabouwalu bay, Ono island, where we were serenaded by a boat load of children on their way home from school. It was lovely to have them stop by and break into song. 

The children stopped by both Gwtw and also Rewa on their way home to the village.

The film crew arriving to sus out the island

We also stopped for a few nights at Namari Island where the filming of Swedish survivor series was about to start later in the week. 

We got to talk to the production crew who arrived en masse one afternoon, and having never watch any of the survivor series it was interesting to hear what the contestants have to do to win fishing hooks or tins of food etc..

The island was off limits to cruising boats for two months from the start of filming, so good thing we were there when we were.
Home sweet home for the survior contestemts

Above & below the the crew daytime accomodation & eating tents

Our final island in this group was Dravuni. A drop dead gorgeous island fronted by aqua waters a long stretch of white sand, and a regular stop on the P&O cruise ship circuit. This was a very prosperous village indeed. The ship comes once a month and the village is invaded by up to a thousand tourists looking for that “ special” island experience. And they have come to the right place.

View from the top of the island while looking for the chief

Our first task along with two other boats was to locate the Chief and engage in sevusevu, a tradition previously outlined and essential in all villages we visit.

 However, finding the Chief proved difficult, we were told he was working in his garden. 

So with what seemed pretty clear instructions  as in “just follow the track you’ll find him”, off we trekked only to take the wrong fork in the road, there had been no mention of a fork in the instructions, and we took the right hand track ending up at the highest point on the island. 

Nice view and excellent cell phone reception, but no garden and no Chief.

Finally we got to do our shortened version of sevusevu
After nearly three hours of walking in the heat in our sevusevu approved attire we did eventually locate him by taking the other fork in the trail and  then the eight of us and the chief, with a hoe slung over his shoulder, happily strolled back to the village for him to accept our offerings of kava.

Now this guy was poles apart from the other chiefs we’d met so far. 
He sure didn't beat around the bush, in fact the whole thing was done and dusted in no more than a record braking three minutes. 

No village headman to assist in the ceremony, no  hand clapping, just a “pass me the kava, ok the place is yours, have a nice stay”.

 You can tell when a village has the spoils of money on tap and the villagers of Dravuni are sorted, big time. They have an elaborate modular dock they assemble to accommodate the incoming launches from the mothership.

No beach landings or wet feet happening here, no way.

Nice soft grass where the tourists spend their time & wooden massage stalls

Along the foreshore were numerous wooden stalls that  when the ship is in sell anything from local crafts to full-on massages.

We are talking dozens of these enterprises. And the thing we all noticed instantly…beautiful, lush grass and soft underfoot. Can’t have those tourist tootsies stepping on stones.

Theses young girls are playing with phones and tablets

Also well manicured.and well defined pathways lined with borders of shells and plants. Another standout was the use of mobile phones and tablets.

Yes, these kids were into modern technology enjoying  games on their gizmos just like kids back home. In fact we  hardly saw any kids outdoors except  for some small boys tossing around a tennis ball, though we suspect we simply didn’t witness all the outdoor activities during our brief stay.

Most of the homes were modest and modern.

The one in this photo looked to be very upmarket with nice curtains and furniture as well as glass windows, something you don't see much of in the villages

As is often been the case, the women appeared to be the workers, busily weaving mats or baskets for the next load ship load of tourists. 

Very few men seem to be actively at work, though they no doubt fish quite often.

The island is very walkable and we had some exercise checking out the sights, ranging from the local cemetery to the veggie gardens and on to the windswept eastern side of the island. Pretty much every island in Fiji the village is  on the western side, away from the dominant trade winds.

These pigs are destined for the dinner table at some point

Kids just being kids, no Tablets or phones involved in this game

Sunset drinks on the beach with the Rewa crew

Crown of thorns starfish found while snorkeling

Rarely seen green corals

Graves covered with sarongs, some also had  plates and bowls

Above & below the village church

Walking through the veggie gardens

A local pulling down  a few papaya for us

From what I’ve written it may sound as if we didn’t enjoy this island very much but really we did. We just couldn’t get our heads around how vastly different this village was compared to others we’d visited.
Believe me, this is a  beautiful place and well worth spending time here. Just check the P&O schedule before you come!

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Northern Lau, Vanua Balavu, Part Two

25th -31st June 2019
Rain rain go away

Our next stop on the island was a visit to the village of Susui just a few miles across the bay from Lomaloma. With strong winds and rain forecast a gaggle of boats began arriving into the protected anchorage.

Back tracking for a minute, the day that we were in Lomaloma, Dave from S/V Rewa who is a regular visitor to these islands each year, caught up with Jacob, the 2IC for the chief of Susui village. Dave mentioned that if a few yachts came to the village could Jacob ask the chief if a  traditional pig on a spit dinner could be arranged for Saturday night. His answer was that it would be no problem, consider it done, Jacob said.

The very tidy village

Nine boats in total arrived in the anchorage as the word had spread about the roast pig dinner on Saturday night and everyone wanted to partake. 
As Rewa, GWTW and Starlet were the first  into the anchorage we hurriedly went ashore to meet the village chief and present our gifts of Kava for the traditional Sevusevu ceremony. I briefly mentioned this in a previous post but will explain more about it now.

Sevusevu is a part of daily life in Fijian villages. The ceremony marks respect and acceptance for all occasions from community meetings to healing ceremonies. It is an ancient ritual where the root of the kava or yaqona plant is pummeled into fine grains and then mixed with water to become what looks like muddy water and tastes about the same. It is a relaxant and often induces sleep if overindulged.

L-R Dave from Rewa, Jacob &  Liam before the Sevusevu ceremony

For cruisers like us the ceremony is an absolute must when anchored near most villages.  Here’s what happens next.
You arrive in the village and ask for the Turaga ni Koro, the village headman who will escort you and your kava bundle to the chief’s house. After a few words from the headman explaining why we are there, we are then invited inside to sit cross legged on the woven mats on the floor.

Jacob presenting our Kava bundles to the village chief
More words in Fijian and the headman collects our Kava placing it on the floor in front of the chief.
To cut to the chase, more words and clapping are exchanged between the chief and the headman and we are then given permission to anchor in the village waters, to visit freely in the village and partake in village life and to swim, snorkel and catch fish in their waters.
Mark, Liam, Nick & Jacob, the village headman
If you do not present yourself for Sevusevu it is akin to some stranger pitching a tent in your front yard, using your water and tramping around your gardens without so much as a hello to the occupants of the house. A big no no in other words.

With Sevusevu completed we were then besieged by a group of village children who showed us around and walked us to the beach on the opposite side of the island. 

They all spoke excellent English as this is the main laungage of Fiji and are taught it at school from an early age. The kids had a old soccer ball and wanted us all to play with them.

Above & below beach games with the kids

I tell you these youngsters need to be cloned and sent out to first world countries to demonstrate that you can have fun without the aid of games on your phone or computer or spend hours watching television, and  that you don’t need to burst into tears and say its not fair when someone else is playing with the only ball around.

They have the most genuine personalities and biggest smiles and play outside whether it’s glorious sunshine or pouring rain. They are happy because they have uncomplicated lives. They captured our hearts.

The village school was the dinner venue
Saturday night rocked around and the whole village had pitched in to cook dinner for the 33 cruisers who had turned up. It cost $FJ 50 pp and there was more food than you could poke a stick at.

The feast included the roast pig, lobster, a variety of fish dishes, chicken, curries and a variety of vegetables cooked in an earthen oven called a Lovo.

The village ladies and children wore their Sunday best while the men were all dressed in the sulu’s.

Dinner was held in the school and the 23 children who attend the school put on dancing and singing to entertain us.

All the cruisers were invited to join in the kava ceremony but one by one we ladies excused ourselves leaving the men folk to it.

The ladies with baskets of cooked veggies and the pig

Cruisre's join in singing with the children

Dinner ready to be served

All the men sitting and drinking Kava. Can you spot the non locals?

Note the big Kava bowl in the centre, Everyone uses a small communal  bowl to drink from.

Outside the church with some of the kids. The church is the grey building on the left

The following day, Sunday, about ten cruisers fronted up for church. 

Unlike churches we've seen throughout the south pacific this one was just a small corrugated iron building. 

Actually it was more like a big garden shed, but if that's all you have then that will do.

The service was all in Fijian but the even so the singing was lovely.  Afterwards we were split into two groups. 

One of the school teaches took one group to her home while we were invited to have Sunday lunch with Jacob’s family. Another great meal was consumed and we felt it was a real privilege to be included in their family life.
Sunday lunch with Jacob's family

Our host family, just missing Jacob's brother and grandfather who had gone fora after lunch nap

Over the next few days the village ladies baked bread for us and gathered fruits and vegetables for our dwindling stocks. Liam and Dave from Rewa set about fixing some plumbing and electrical issues at the school.

All good things come to and end would soon be time to move on again. But before we did  we made one last trip into the village, we’d found a Fuji Film logoed soccer ball buried in our storage area in the bow and deservedly gave it to the kids, now they would have two balls to play with. Their eyes lit up.  

As we pulled up the anchor all the kids and the adults lined the beach and waved and shouted goodbyes. In return we waved madly, blew kisses and honked our air horn. It was a teary moment for all.

We'd had a wonderful time interacting with this small village over the past six days and the friendliness and kindness of the people of Susui will remain in our hearts for a very long time.

Susui village nestled among the trees

Next stop for just one night was at the island of Avea roughly half way up the east side of the Island.

We went ashore  with the crew from Rewa to a delightful spot in a semi enclosed lagoon. Sundowners and beach frisbee  made for  a very relaxing afternoon'

From here we retraced our track around to the Bay of Islands on the western side. Here were found a particularly good snorkel spot with amazing fish life and stunning bright orange fan corals.

Rocky outcrops in the Bay of Islands

Sadly we could only afford to spend a few hours here before leaving the northern Lau group for an overnight passage to the next island of Moala, some 120 miles to the south west.

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