Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fabulous Fiji

Highlights of our year were once again the great people we met, locals and cruisers, the diving in Fiji - and the curries! We liked Fiji so much that we decided to not go on to Australia this year, but to return to New Zealand to make it easier (theoretically) to sail back to Fiji for another season. Maybe more....
As we post this, reports of the terrible damage caused by Evan, a category 4 cyclone, are reaching us.  We are awaiting responses to emails sent to friends who remained in Fiji.  We seriously considered staying in Fiji for the season.  It was a fortunate decision to come south.

Here are a few pics from the 6 months since our last post. There are some gaps due to the crash ("catastrophic failure", flashing on the screen) of our laptop hard drive. 

  Neiutoputapu, the remote northernmost island of Tonga, still recovering from a devastating tsunami in 2009. The boys in their Sunday best on the way to church. This flatbed truck is our transportation to church with young and old hanging on tightly around the bends.  The woven pandanus mats are formal wear for men and women.  Lovely to be invited to the Catholic service, sit amid the soaring voices and share their morning.

Wallis Island - another small French Island in the middle of the South Pacific. Amazingly friendly people and lots of churches.

 Crater lake on Wallis Island, site of our picnic lunch during a day trip around the Island.  It included the ruins of an extensive walled fort - the final defensive position when neighboring islanders attack.

Looking for our dinghy. It escaped one dark and stormy night. Not stolen, but drifted away over or sank into the ragged encircling reef. Possibly in the Solomon Islands by now. 

Lucy and Jamie, off 'Bamboozle' to the rescue. Delivering their spare dinghy, "Spot", for our use on arrival in Savusavu Fiji. They made it possible for us to get around for the 2 months it took to get a replacement shipped in - thanks guys!

Anchorage at Savusavu.  The half Indo-Fijian and Fijian community was home for 6 weeks and many curries.

The Copra Shed Marina, Savusavu. Great service with a big Fiji smile.

 Cruisers giving a helping tow in the Savusavu rain.  Communal 'rafts', really just a few poles of bamboo loosely tied together and paddled with a stick, are used to move back and forth to the nearby island.

Savusavu sunset.

 Viani Bay, southeast side of Vanua Levu. Pre-dive briefing from Jack with friends on board 'Idyll Island'. 

 Dive time with friends Matt and Elizabeth of s/v Rubicon. A perfect day at Rainbow Reef. A top ten for us.

 Jack, the Uncle of Viani Bay. He provided great local knowledge, guided us to the right sites and made sure that there was a boat waiting for us when we surfaced. And many entertaining stories. All for $6 per day per person, (and his lunch - a big one)!

 Fabulous Fiji Coral. Clear, warm water. Masses of fish.

Tiger flatworm. About 3cm long. We like to look for the small stuff under ledges, in the nooks and crannies.

 Another perfect day diving at Rainbow Reef and still time for a snorkel.

 And another one...

 Dancing Mahi-Mahi. Very tasty.

 Makongi Island. The chief showing us the giant clam hatchery. When mature enough, about 4 inches in length, they are resettled on reefs around Fiji.  In past, the Island was a leper colony - there are many  ruins and poignant reminders in the cemetery.

 Fiji market. Good fresh fruit and veggies. And big Bula! smiles.

 Market at Raki Raki, Fiji. Never did get into those "brown root crops"...

 Cathy cruisin' on the reef.

Manta ray cruisin' on the reef. About 3m across.

Sea snake cruisin' on the reef. About 1.5m long. Highly venomous but non aggressive and their mouths are too small to get a bite - at least that's the rumour...

 Fiji is known for its beautiful soft corals.  They like high current areas and often cover walls in purples, whites, pinks... The Rainbow Reef.

 Cathy entering a tunnel which runs through the base of a pinnacle at 25m. depth.

 A bundle of dried kava, known locally as yangona.  It's a mildly anesthetic root that is pounded and made into a mud-like drink. It's a key part of the sevusevu ceremony which welcomes visitors to a village and ensures their protection.  The newspaper and string wrappings are customary. Derek's view of the taste is evident.

 Cathy's Clown Fish.

 Derek receiving a fishy pedicure. The reef fish at Musket Cove are used to being fed but if you don't have any bread, they are quite happy to nibble the dead skin off your feet.

Cathy with the ladies at the Blue Lagoon in the Yasawa island group. She has given them some supplies while Iris brought books for the local school.  This is our last adventure with Iris and Graeme of 'Pelagic' for some time, as they sailed home to Oz shortly after, completing their 9 year circumnavigation. It's been a fabulous 10,000 nm together.

 Beach days.

 Derek and Matt BBQ'n at Musket Cove. We have never encountered a more cruiser friendly resort. Easy to just hang for weeks.

 Sunset on Fiji - pleasant for Cathy and Elizabeth while the boys cook.

 Cathy's birthday dinner. Half way between Fiji and New Zealand. Its calm. We had very little wind, motoring 6 days out of the 8 it took us to make the 1200 nm passage. Last year we sailed the whole way in under 6 days. The group who left 10 days before us this year encountered days of 40+ knot head winds and 5-6m seas. Yachts leaving from Tonga encountered much worse conditions, up tp 65 knots and 10 m seas. One boat was lost and many were seriously damaged.  On this trip we were OK with burning the diesel.....

 Sunrise in the middle of the South Pacific listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Priceless.
Safely back in New Zealand. Although colder (a lot) than where we've been for the past 6 months, we were warmly welcomed back by the friendly Customs and Quarantine officers at Marsden Cove. After the first week of cloud and drizzle, we've had lots of lovely summer days.  More to come!

Sadly, one of our Kiwi cruising friends didn't make it home.  Just 2 hours from the end of their first season in the islands, John of the yacht "Raj", suffered a fatal heart attack.  Sue, his partner, administered CPR while sailing Raj in 30 knots of wind and coordinating assistance from the NZ Coast Guard.