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"Arctracer" is about to leave Fiji after more than three months. It seems an appropriate time to write about our experiences and impressions of this country. This is a general letter, going out mostly to family members but also to a few friends who have actually read some of our long missives. A few of you have already heard bits of this, and we hope you don't mind some repeating. We feel we've been exposed to much of Fiji and have learned much about its different cultures. We've had an absolutely wonderful time here, but we are now ready to move on.
On our arrival in Savusavu in mid-June we were reunited with two Fijian Indian families that we'd met last year. We were treated to evenings in their homes complete with kava drinking and curries. I got some dahl and curry recipes from them and for the first time learned to measure things via tea mugs, serving spoons and tea spoons, as they don't have the measuring devices that we seem to have become dependent upon. Last year when we ate at Rachael and Sami's house they fed the children first and then ate with us at their table with chairs. This year the children were fed first, the women next , and then the men were served after drinking their kava. This was usually quite late. Jerry adds "most socializing focuses on the men, who sit talking, drinking kava and playing a cards as long as they want. I've demonstrated a pretty good ability to drink kava, and have learned their card game well enough to be accepted as a regular player. The women spend most of their time in the kitchen - cooking, taking care of kids, and leaving the men alone. When the men are ready, the women serve them food. We never see them all sit down together." We were always served rotis with the meal and this was used to pick up most of the food since eating utensils weren't provided. Both of these families had furniture in their homes. It was the last furniture we were to see for a long time. The Fijian homes on the outer islands usually had a cupboard for their plates and dishes, mats to sit on, fingers to eat with, and a bowl of water and a towel provided at the end of the meal to wash one's hands.
They told us that we were the first cruisers they had met who had returned for a second visit. For the first time in Fiji I made origami boxes with the 4 children in one family and 2 in the other family. This activity proved to be popular so I ended up trying it in many villages on our travels. I also made tangram puzzles for them, but discovered that they seemed too far advanced for children under about 11 years old. The mothers wanted the answers to the puzzles and with these tried forming the pieces into various shapes with their children. It wasn't nearly the success of the paper folding to make the boxes. These two families took us to the country on a Sunday to visit relatives who work on a copra plantation. We endured a one and one-half hour ride of 32 km over a road so washed out you wouldn't believe it was the main road named the "Hibiscus Highway." Sami's small truck with 14 people had to go very slowly. They put two boards in the back of the pickup for seats. Luckily I got to sit in the cab. It wasn't too comfortable there because of the bumpy roads, but it was better than being in the back! Here we had a feast cooked in a lovo (underground oven). Jerry got some good pictures on his digital camera. All the Fijians love having their pictures taken - both the indigenous Fijians and the Fijian Indians. There were 30 people there for dinner and we all sat on the floor on mats eating the food with our hands. It is traditional for them to kill something on their farm for visitors, so they killed two roosters. Jerry had bought some lamb shanks and some chickens at the market for the feast too. Other food included cake, barra, chicken curry, dahl, rice, cassava, dalo, and pooris. The men indulged in lots of kava and warm beer. It was a really big event for the copra harvesting families. We don't think they had ever had foreigners there before. They had running water (one hose) but cooked in an open kitchen over wood fires or in the lovo. Here, again, the children ate first, then the women, and finally the men. I made tangrams for LOTS of kids and got to ride their bicycle. They had never seen a woman ride a bicycle before. I also got to collect some shells from the beach nearby with lots of children helping me.
(view photos of Vanua Levu)
A couple of days later, our Fijian Indian friends visited our boat. First the women came with the children. Schools all across Fiji were closed because of the coup, so it was good for the children to get out of the house for an afternoon. The two children that had visited last year really liked the popcorn that I popped for them, so we did that again and again it was a big hit. Peanut butter and jelly also proved popular on this occasion and many later occasions. I let each of the three mothers pick out one outfit of clothes that I'd bought at rummage sales in Nelson on New Zealand's South Island. They were really excited and would have loved to take more clothing, but I explained that we meet a lot of friends and I wanted to save some clothes for others. Later, after the women and children left, the men came to "Arctracer" to drink kava and play cards in the cockpit for a couple of hours.
When we visited Sami's family last year we gave sons Mithlesh and Pranesh a magnet, magnifying glass, 4 books each, crayons and 2 notebooks each, and gave Rachael and Sami a world map, pictures of us and two National Geographic magazines. We learned this year that they had taken the world map to a friend to have a frame made for it, so it appears that it was a worthwhile gift for them. Hopefully we can find more world maps for presents as I've now run out of them. We found one for sale in New Zealand, but it seemed expensive at $10. We read in the February 2000 "National Geographic" that they have a "map machine" interactive atlas on the Internet. You should be able to check it out at www.nationalgeographic.com/mapmachine and find the places we've been talking about. We haven't had a chance to try it yet. The February issue also mentioned that you can get key geography news at www.ngnews.com/firstfinds.html (Don't you love getting this advice from people who don't have Internet access?)
(view photos of Savusavu)
We left Savusavu on June 22 and made our way east, against the trade wind, around the end of Vanua Levu. We revisited Yanuca, a small island with a traditional Fijian village. We got to know two families here quite well last year when we stayed an extra week waiting for the balolo worms to come out of the reefs. This happens on just one night each year, near the end of October or the beginning of November, and is eagerly awaited by the locals. This was a unique opportunity for us so we stayed and used strainers to help our friends scoop the swimming worms from the surface of the water. We were given a good share, and cooked them according to local recipes in a sort of omlette and in pancakes. We took the first bites rather hesitantly, but they didn't have much taste so we ate all of the eggs and pancakes. We believe we got a good deal of protein in our diet that day. It was good to be remembered by those kind folks, who were very pleased to receive photographs we took last year. They gave us all kinds of vegetables, bananas and fish, and we gave reading glasses ($2 in New Zealand), used clothes, and other stuff which was very useful to them. Jerry gave a fisherman an old pair of binoculars that were on the boat when we bought it and which we never used because we have better ones. He was VERY appreciative, and assured us that he would be using them to look for birds over the sea to find schools of fish. We were given two lobsters, one with legs as large as Alaskan King Crab legs! It was absolutely delicious and huge! We left with two bunches (different kinds) of bananas hanging from our boom gallows and plenty of other fresh food.
(view photos of Yanuca)
After anchoring at the island of Taveuni for the night, due to westerly (!) winds, we proceeded to the island of Rabi for the first time. The Banabans gave us 6 lobsters during our stay - either one or two at a time. We had so much lobster that it was the first time in my life that I was willing to make a recipe with them rather than just eating them out of the shell. We had lobster thermidor one night and lobster scampi another night! We were also given many different kinds of fish and some land crabs. It was the first time we had eaten these delicious crabs. We got to know two families quite well, and thought they were marvelous. They live in thatched huts and are subsistence farmers and fishermen like all members of small villages here.
Just before we left Rabi we printed out some pictures taken with our digital camera. Since the roofs of their thatched huts leak, I glued the pictures onto shell-bordered paper, put clear contact paper over them, and also put them in ziplock bags. We hope that this will keep them dry and in decent condition for a while. The families were very touched, and said they never had pictures of themselves before. Etina made baskets for us, to hold fruits and vegetables. They told us that our 10 day stay was longer than any other boat (since 1982 when Etina first moved there) and that they had never been on a yacht before. We think most yachts anchor there for a day or two to snorkel the nice reefs and then move on without becoming too involved with the three families. On the 4th of July, 2 other yachts from the U.S. and 1 from Canada anchored nearby and told the locals that Independence Day in the U.S. needed celebration. The crews of all four yachts were invited ashore for a party. (Any excuse is good for a kava party in Fiji!) I fried some fish to take and popped some popcorn, while others made banana bread and pineapple- upside down cake. Kava roots were pounded and the kava drinking and eating commenced. We were all given newly made pandanus star-necklaces and pandanus headbands. The people on one boat took along a U.S. flag and red, white and blue balloons. At about dusk we all decided that it was about time to leave the locals in peace. We were all given lobsters to take back to cook for dinner.
The following day we took our friend Tamaroa and his son Ludy to Rabi's main village of Nuku on "Arctracer." A boat comes to their village every fortnight and Tamaroa's wife, Metara, had taken their other three children to Nuku a couple of days before. She needed to get their youngest son, Citana, to the doctor to have an infected finger looked at. Also they wanted to get their eldest son, Eric (age 5) to kindergarten. We did a little shopping in Nuku, but there really wasn't much available to buy. I did find some vinegar to preserve large fish that we might catch. We bought some lamp fuel for Tamaroa and Metara (about $1 worth) so that they could have a light at their bure at night and so that Tamaroa could go fishing at night. They use the light to attract the fish. In the post office I found three books for beginning readers, so I bought them for the boys (worth about $1.50 U.S.) While in town we watched son Ludy take a bus with his aunt to go to her house for a few weeks. We learned that Eric would stay with Tamaroa's parents and attend school for a few weeks and that their sons ages 1 and 3 would return to Albert Cove with us. Tamaroa and Metara were really glad to be back home together and not have to wait for the next ferry to come in about two weeks.
(view photos of Rabi)
At our next stop, Qaranivai, a small village on northern Vanua Levu, we learned that we were the first yacht to stop there since 1978. They were delighted to have us visit, and gave us a feast the first night. Later we were given a huge mangrove crab, and a local Fijian showed me how to cook it. It was delicious and we'd love to have more. We also tried a fish called Bali from the mangroves which was good. One evening the villagers got together, killed a hen and cooked it and cooked some dalo (a root similar to potatoes) then brought it to the boat to thank us for playing with the children so much when school was not in session because of the coup. It was also to thank us for entertaining 16 children on the boat for 1 and one-half hours one morning. Later, several adults came aboard. We have a Vermont folder and a world map to show where we live, pictures of our families, pictures of the fish we've caught, and an album of pictures and scenes from various islands we have visited in the Pacific. They all seem to really enjoy looking at all of the above. After one villager sees them it gets communicated throughout the village and others ask to see the pictures when they come aboard. They also like to have tea and eat banana bread or my rye bread with peanut butter and jam. Sometimes when we have extra fish I deep fry that for them and they really like that too. They don't use oil too much and mostly boil their fish. This is mostly because of the expense of oil, but also there are no stores in the villages we've been visiting and the Fijians aren't ones to plan way ahead with groceries as I do. On the Sunday that we were there one family picked us up in their boat to attend the Wesleyan Methodist church in the village across the bay. After church we were invited to attend another huge Fijian feast.
We've had a great time with kids! We've taught them the songs: "What Color is God's Skin," "Make New Friends," "The Crocodile on the Nile," and "The Hokey Pokey" (where "you put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, you put your right hand in and you shake it all about," etc.) Jerry took them on a lion hunt and they really cracked-up. They followed every move, then laughed like crazy! We made origami cubes with them and did tangram puzzles. Even the adults participated in those activities. Oh, I have also made lots of popcorn. The people in remote places absolutely love popcorn and peanut butter. I also discovered that pictures, cut out of magazines or from old calendars, are very popular with the Fijians. They use them to decorate their walls and the children use them to decorate their school notebooks. Hence, if you have any nice calendar pictures at the end of the year you might think of saving them for us.
(view photos of Qaranivai)
This season, unlike last season, we are having very good luck trolling for fish in Fiji while sailing. We caught a 3-foot long yellowfin tuna, which was so big that we gave 4 tuna steaks to a cruising sailboat with two children and still had enough for 5 meals for us. I pickled some of it in vinegar and spices so that it would last longer (5 to 7 days). It tastes good fried with a batter on it after being preserved this way. We also caught two 40-inch mahimahi and a 39-inch mahimahi. We gave one away to some locals because we had so much tuna left to eat, and gave half of another one away another time. We haven't had to fish much from the boat for smaller fish as the locals we meet give us so much food that we can barely keep up with it.
The coup has not affected us directly. We stayed far from Suva where almost all of rioting took place. In small traditional Fijian villages which do not have any roads or electricity and where the villagers are subsistence farmers and fishermen, the political situation is of mainly theoretical relevance, except for the schools. The closed schools were the most obvious sign of problems. The reason for closing the schools was that some rebels threatened violence if they were kept open. The leader of the coup, George Speight (rhymes with hate) is interested only in the welfare of indigenous Fijians, despite the fact that 43% of the population are ethnic Indians who are Fijian citizens too. He released the hostages after two months, but continued to generate problems, and was finally jailed by the military. Now a temporary government has been put in place, promising to revise the Constitution and reestablish democratic government within two years. One might well question their efforts, as the ousted Prime Minister is, given that the interim government ministers include some leading Speight supporters and all were appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs. There are no Indian Chiefs in Fiji. The ethnic Indians are opposed to constitutional changes, which they are quite sure would only reduce their status further. Democratic principles are antithetical to the "chiefly system" of Fiji, which puts control of almost all land (and hence all resources) in the hands of the hereditary chiefs. Most Indian farmers can only obtain land for farming by negotiating a lease with a Fijian Chief. We can only hope that some reasonable arrangements will be made so that all people and cultures in Fiji can prosper in peace.
We have been invited to participate in kava (yaqona) drinking several times. I usually try one bilo (a smoothed and polished half coconut shell) of kava. I don't enjoy it that much, so let the men have the amount they would be giving me. It is very common for village men (and sometimes women) to sit around for hours drinking kava. The drink has a very slight effect, but is nowhere near as intoxicating as alcohol. The drinking is spaced out so nobody gets too much too fast, and most people are still functioning normally even after a few hours of drinking. It is possible to overdo kava, and we encountered one group of men who seemed to spend all day drinking and not doing any work. Often the server gives Jerry half-full bilos, while the locals get full bilos. The bilos are filled from a tanoa that the drink has been mixed in. The drink hasn't seemed to have much effect on him. He is relaxed when we return to the boat, but that's not unusual. There are many different classes of kava. We bought roots in Savusavu (for $15US/kg) and divided them into 1/4kg bundles. We presented one bundle for sevusevu to each village chief. We finally had a chance to taste "our" kava at one village, and thought that it tasted better (stronger/more tasty) than most other kava. For much daily drinking they use the cheaper stems which aren't as flavorful or buy cheap bags of already pounded powder (usually made from stems). The kava drinking time is usually a relaxing time after work when everybody gets to know everybody else, tell stories, discuss the news, and make plans for tomorrow. It seems better than our culture's habit of spending about the same time mesmerized by the boob tube.
After spending several days in Qaranivai, we decided to sail to Labasa so that I could go out to dinner on my birthday. Most years my birthday is very memorable and it proved to be so again this year. When we were about one hour from the village a short rain squall hit us, making it impossible to see the reefs. We slowed to a crawl, but still bumped our bottom on a reef. The tide was receding, so by the time we got our dinghy in the water and rowed out our anchor to pull ourselves off, it was too late. There was nothing to do except wait until the tide rose again. So with our anchor out we settled down to read for a few hours. After about an hour the boat tipped dramatically on its side and several boats came out from the village (with several men in each one, including the chief) to see if they could help. We told them we would just wait, and they stayed with us during the four hours until we were freed. In that time we let them practice rowing our dinghy. (They all have 40 hp Yamahas, and Jerry wishes he had that franchise in Fiji). Several of the men hadn't seen the inside of "Arctracer" so they got a chance to go inside (while we were on quite a slant). We fed them cookies, and bread with peanut butter. They weren't as busy as usual that day as the weather wasn't good, so they weren't going to get the small sea cucumbers that they usually collected each day. Again, this village has very hard- working Fijians. Preparing the sea cucumbers for the Japanese market is quite time-consuming. We guess we should have talked to them before leaving - then we would have known that there might be better visibility of the reefs the following day.
As it turned out, Jone showed us a good place to anchor for the night and took Jerry night snorkeling. It was Jerry's first time to snorkel at night, and he used a waterproof light purchased in Rabi and a wet suit purchased in New Zealand. It was a great experience for him, but I doubt he'll to do it too often. On the adventure Jone collected several large sea cucumbers which are worth quite a bit more money that the smaller ones they usually collect. The villagers receive about $7 Fijian ($3.50 U.S.)/ kg for small ones (dried), and about $60 Fijian/kg for the larger. While they were on the adventure I made pizza. Jone seemed to like it. Later, other Fijians didn't care for it at all. Guess I won't fix that again for the locals here in Fiji.
On July 20th we left again, but this time we decided to go out the pass that we'd come in. We already knew where the reefs were on the way to the pass and it would be much easier to get to the open ocean, even though it was a longer route. As it turned out there wasn't much wind and we found we couldn't get to the next anchorage before dark, so I brought in my birthday at sea doing a night watch. At 3:15 p.m. on my birthday we put our anchor down at the village of Malau, several miles via bus to Labasa where we had hoped to have dinner. It was too late to get a return bus, so we decided to go into Labasa the following day. It was great to get to a town on July 22nd after several weeks. We treated ourselves to a dinner out, making phone calls to family members, looking in vain for an e-mail facility, and buying lots of fresh vegetables. Salads sure are wonderful when you haven't had one for a long time! In Labasa we also bought new swim fins for Jerry as his were splitting at the heel, bought a new portable tape recorder, got some film developed, called our Fijian Indian friends in Savusavu, saw two Fijians that we'd met in other villages, bought squares of paper at the post office to make origami cubes, faxed a letter to our friends Pat and Jan in New Zealand who thought they might join us for a while in Fiji, got cash from a teller machine, bought kerosene for our anchor light, a newspaper and bread. What a productive trip to town at less than $1US each round-trip. We were also able to get three propane tanks filled in Malau. We were down to our last tank of gas for the stove. After getting things accomplished in town we moved to an anchorage off a mangrove island for a few days of rest and relaxation and boat work. The anchorage at Malau was quite noisy with a large timber mill always in operation.
After a few days of fishing, exploring in the dinghy, reading, printing out pictures from the digital camera, writing letters to accompany pictures to many friends in the various villages, we were ready to interact with another village. The people in Qaranivai have relatives at the island of Kia, north of the large island of Vanua Levu and thought we would really like that village, so we headed to Kia on August 1st. When a rain squall came, we found a place with just 50 feet of water and anchored until it passed. The last encounter with a reef was still fresh in our memories. Once the squall passed we could see the reefs again and continued on our way. Fiji waters are infested with reefs so good visibility is a real plus.
We caught a saku (skinny 3-foot billfish) on the way to the village of Ligau. Since we'd never caught one before we didn't know if it was good to eat so Jerry took it ashore when he went to present our yagona to the chief for sevusevu. It is good to eat and he found a very willing local to take it for his family to eat. If we catch another one we'll see what it tastes like.
The following day we met Brian and Save when they brought drinking coconuts to the boat. Their families were the ones that we spent a good deal of our time with while there for 12 days. Brian, his wife Sabina, and their 8 year old son invited us to lunch so we went ashore for curried fish, rice and lemon leaf tea (my favorite). After lunch they found a couple of boys to take us on a walk to the top of the ridge to see a cannon that was hauled up there many years ago for some unknown reason. About half way up the hill, with no trail, one of the boys climbed a tree to get drinking nuts for us. We never fail to be amazed at how agile these Fijians are at climbing coconut palms! After the walk we invited our three teenage guides to the boat. Later four of the villagers brought papayas to the boat. We learned that two other boats had visited Kia this year, but only stayed for 2-3 days.
The following day we had a local boat stop to visit us with 11 people on board. They were on their way to go fishing and stopped to say hello. Jerry invited them on board to look around and we served them some pumpkin bread that was just out of the oven. They liked it even though it had spices they aren't used to - cinnamon and allspice. After lunch we went to Daku, one of the other two villages. Invited into one of the houses, we noticed a man taking bark off a "soni" root to prepare Fijian medicine to numb his gums from a toothache. Most of the Fijians we've encountered are missing some or all of their front teeth. We believe this is probably due to diet and the way they use their teeth to get their seafood - pulling some of the chitons from rocks, etc. Later we went to the village gathering place, under a roof on poles in the center of the small village. As ususal the conversation was nil at times and occasionally they asked us questions about our travels. One of the villagers suddenly had a grand mal seizure and another was really upset in a house nearby. We later learned that the noisy person was very handicapped and apparently they didn't want her to join our gathering. We met her later that day, and the following day she was allowed to join our group. Teca invited us back to the village the following day for a meke and for lunch. After a while we suggested going for a walk to see the lighthouse on the northern tip of the island. It was about low tide so we walked along the beach. Three teenage boys escorted us. When we got back to our dinghy at Ligau several villagers wanted to visit "Arctracer," so Jerry ferried them all out. We sure had a lot of visitors that day.
The next day, after rowing the dinghy to Daku, we watched six women prepare for the meke. They put hibiscus flowers behind their ears and tied leaves around their wrists. They had a lot of fun performing, and then many other women joined them to sing Fijian songs. Teca served us lunch - boiled cassava, fried cassava, tadruku (chitons) in lolo (coconut cream) with onions and chilies, silasila fish, and fried eggs. They also served a juice made with water and syrup from a supermarket in Labasa. Upon arrival back at the boat, we were visited by three teenagers who had poled out in a rather large wooden boat. They were Save's nephews whom we got to know quite well. Kipa invited us to church on Sunday and offered to provide Jerry with a sulu (wrap- around) and a tie. This offer never came to fruition, so I still wonder if Jerry would have worn them. He ended up wearing long pants and a "Sunday" shirt. Jerry went to the village with them when they left to see Save about going to Labasa in a local boat the following day to get supplies and mail letters.
At 6:15 on August 5th, the local launch arrived to pick up Jerry for the hour and one-half trip to Labasa. They told him they'd be leaving about 7:00, so he was fortunate to be awake even if he never got a chance to finish his coffee. He did some shopping, then enjoyed watching all the bustle of the big market and Kia's fish sale. The people in Kia are known as great fisher-people. A large reef surrounds their island and they spend a good deal of time, day and night, fishing to raise money. Fuel is expensive, but they have to go to Labasa to sell their fish.
I had told Teca that she could visit the boat while Jerry was away. She talked about 6 people coming for a visit, so I said I would prepare lunch for them after rowing them out to the boat. On shore I found that she had 11 people to bring out, so we had her brother row out the second load. Then things got out of control as more and more people came. It turned out that 26 people were on the boat for lunch and for many hours after! I sure got exhausted, and learned that I need to control the number of visitors. This was hopefully a one and only one time event. I learn quickly and our boat is too small for so many people at one time. Since there were so many people I decided to fix sesame noodles. Luckily Fijians eat with their hands, as we don't have enough silverware for that many people. I did find enough plates (3 different sizes) and bowls (3 different sizes) so that everyone had their own dish. What a lot of dishes there were to do later! The papayas we had been given were ripe, so I was also able to offer bite-sized pieces of papaya to them. They seemed to like that better than the noodles. When the last people were ready to be taken ashore I went with them, as I had told Sabina I would show her and others how to make origami cubes. About 20 of us sat on mats outside making boxes, and everyone really enjoyed making them. Sabina made papaya cake and buns, so I joined her and a few of her friends for tea. After tea I was given several presents - three shell necklaces, two corsages and a fresh flower lei. Save's sister Emily wanted to return with me to the boat, so her son Philipe and the school teacher went out, with me rowing. There was an onshore wind, the waves were fairly large, and it took me about 20 minutes to row to "Arctracer." They were all very frightened and didn't want to return to shore with the large waves. (We've rowed in much larger waves in the Galapagos.) Emily refused to go, but Philipe and the school teacher put on our life jackets and returned home. Emily was ready to stay the night, unless the local boat returned in the adverse conditions with Jerry and she could go ashore on that big, stable boat. When Jerry arrived at 8:30, he unloaded the groceries, Emily jumped aboard the boat and Jerry went ashore to bring back our dinghy. What a long day! Jerry was amazed at the Kia men who navigated the narrow, twisting channels between reefs at high speed in the dark. We didn't get the multitude of dishes washed until the following day.
On the first Sunday of every month the three villages of Kia get together for church. Two of the villages have churches (Methodist) so they take turns sponsoring the service. On this first Sunday the combined service was in Yaro so Brian and Sabina picked us up to go to the other side of the island. Since the Fijians are not allowed to work on Sundays they go to church and the women prepare quite a feast for lunch. This particular Sunday we were invited to eat with about 8 family members at Kesa's house rather than with the whole group of two villages at the church. She served fish soup with lolo in half- coconut shells set on rings cut from plastic tubes on the tablecloth on the mat. We also had cassava, chinese cabbage cooked with fish, and boiled fish. After lunch we sat around for a while, doing mostly nothing and saying mostly nothing. Finally we asked if it was okay to take a walk along the beach. It was, and about 50 children joined us on the walk. Jerry wanted to play, but it is not allowed on Sundays, so we did lots of singing and walking. We sang mostly religious songs and learned some Fijian words to familiar tunes. The children found tivi nuts on the beach and cracked them for us. It was the first time we'd eaten them. Also, one of the girls gave me a bag of shells, including some quite large ones. While we were gone for 2-3 hours the locals rested, drank kava, and had another church meeting/service. We learned that we would be in the village until the tide came up some, so that Brian and Sabina could get their boat (with its 40 hp Yamaha) over the reef next to shore. During this time we also learned that one of the shells given to us was a small turtle shell, so we had to return that. About 6 p.m. we were served another meal at Kesa's house, then the generator came on. Kesa's family has one of the few televisions we've seen in Fiji, and they turned it on even during the meal. Since the typical times for generators to be on is from 6-10 p.m. one doesn't want to miss anything that might be on T.V. It was rather interesting to listen to the Fijian news (in English), but the sit-com on afterwards didn't seem like an appropriate choice for televising in Fiji. It was about high school and SAT's in a city in the U.S. After another long day we returned to "Arctracer" about 8:30.
I realize that I have gone into more detail on our days in Kia, but the above two paragraphs indicate how busy we are when we get involved with Fijian villagers. We find this very tiring after 10-12 days and generally move on and look for a remote anchorage where we can recoup. (That last word does not mean "have another coup.") We enjoy the villages, but it is a lot of work entertaining and being entertained in the Fijian style. These people are so relaxed that I envy them.
The day after church Siga said I could do my laundry near her house. We didn't have enough water aboard to do it there. We hadn't gotten rain for a long time. Two women helped me lug my 4 pails of water about half a km from a brackish well. Emily had planned to actually do my laundry for me but I absolutely refused to let her. She did her laundry while I did mine. The women were quite amused that I used a soap powder. They all used big bars of soap. Emily also used my antique scrub board as it wouldn't fit in my pails very well. They scrub their clothes on small boards. Kia gets so little rain during the dry season that they sometimes have to get water shipped in from Labasa, so it was very generous of them to allow me to use some of their water. The people on the British yacht "Lazy Jack" are heroes on Kia because two years ago they stayed for two weeks, making water with their water-maker for the village.
As I was finishing my laundry one of the villagers came to Siga's with a lobster and a huge grouper. They invited us to lunch. Jerry was busy fixing a pump and didn't want to go, but I convinced him to go with me. It is a good thing we both went as they had prepared quite an elaborate meal. The villagers were providing the school committee a special lunch for all of their volunteer work keeping the school grounds clean, the outhouses clean, and the buildings in good repair. We were served grouper that was fried and some that was curried. We also had the lobster, rice and cassava. There is always plenty of food served, but we must always be aware that the cooks eat last and some food needs to be saved for them. Also, the food is often served in shifts. Once the first group has eaten, the women wash the dishes in a pan of water, dry them and set the "table" again. They do call their tablecloths on mats "tables." Later in the day, after school, we went ashore again. We had promised the children we would play since it was no longer Sunday. We took popcorn ashore to share with everyone, did the "Hokey Pokey," went on a "Lion Hunt," and sang songs. It is always fun to play with the children of the villages. They are very eager and enthusiastic to learn new songs and to share the songs they already know.
On Tuesday Siga and her sister Alici came to visit. Siga is one of the larger Fijian women and needed to be in the dinghy with only one other person. Generally these larger women sit on the floor of the dinghy for more stability. When we took them back to shore about 5pm we took more popcorn. When it got dark, the outside mat on the ground was taken inside and a kerosene lamp was lighted. The village had run out of diesel for their generator a few days before. People whose houses have wiring in this village are supposed to pay $5 Fijian a week towards the diesel to run the generator, but they can't always afford to pay. In many villages we've seen bright lights one night and none for days after. The villages we've been spending extended periods of time in are far from the towns where the diesel can be purchased, so once they run out they have to wait until someone goes to town to purchase more (if there is enough money in the kitty). There is also the problem of saving enough petrol for the 40 hp Yamahas to get back to town. Not everyone is capable of reserving enough fuel, with all the fishing they do, to get to the market to sell their fish. Luckily all Fijians seem to share what they have and everyone gets to sell their fish at the market one way or another.
As I was working on the computer the following day, typing words to songs, Kipa and two friends came for another visit. Usually we put the computer up when anyone arrives, but this day I had Kipa help me with some Fijian words for sea creatures. They were the first to sing Fijian songs on a tape on our newly acquired portable tape player/recorder (our other one rusted a long time ago). They loved hearing themselves played back after recording, so they kept singing more songs. This gave me the idea of taking the tape player ashore and having the children sing the Fijian words to some songs that I knew in English. They had a great time doing this, and especially enjoyed hearing themselves after the recording. 11-year old Losalini wrote the Fijian words for me. Jerry took the digital camera ashore and took lots of pictures. It is very difficult in Fiji to take pictures of a family, as others are always sneaking into the picture, but he managed to do it by promising to take more pictures after he got the one he wanted. It is amazing to us that many people want to put on their Sunday clothes for the photos. They also like to have a flower in their hair if there is a bush nearby. We think that often they never even get to see any of the pictures.
We were given special presents that evening. The chief's wife, Akanisi, made a necklace, earrings, and a broach of (dyed) natural materials. The chief's sister, Ane, made wall hangings in the forms of a turtle and a reef fish out of pandanus. We really like these and have them hanging on our walls. Ane told us later that her brother, Chief Emosi (cousin of one of our good friends in Kia - the principal of the school) had suggested that they make presents for us. The craftsmanship shows that it took them a good deal of time and we really appreciated it. Of course the conversation turned to the possibility of visiting "Arctracer" after the presentation of the gifts, so we made arrangements for them to visit the following day.
On August 10th Save had to go to Labasa to get petrol and to Malau to get some posts to make a decorative fence around the school. When Jerry asked him if he would get some diesel for us he said he didn't mind. I also asked if he would have time to get a film developed for me and he thought he would, so took that along. He even used one of his large diesel jugs to get extra diesel for us. We are down to one jug after our last trip north from New Zealand. The gales were responsible for us losing one of our jugs, and there are none available to buy in Fiji. When he returned later in the day he had the diesel and empty barrels for water storage , but hadn't had time to get the film developed. I really liked the fact that he didn't attempt to get it developed when obviously there was too much else for him to do within the hours he had! About 10:00 I went ashore to get Akanisi and her son, Emosi Jr. Jerry had strained his back and wasn't in great condition for rowing. Reverend Semi also came to the boat. He'd been wanting to visit, but hadn't had the time. Akanisi brought me fresh flowers and we made origami cubes. She was having difficulty seeing and when her son pointed this out I offered her a pair of reading glasses which she gladly accepted. This was about the 6th pair I'd given away in Fiji. I'll have to try to find more when we get to Australia if we're going to be visiting remote areas in Vanuatu and other island nations the following season. When I returned our guests to shore we had 6 others waiting to come for a visit, so I rowed them out in threes. These people included the man who gave the sermon at church on Sunday (his mother is the head teacher in Ligau), Jonasa (the chief's brother who had been very kind to us), Penina (daughter of Kesa from Yaro Village, who had cooked us two meals on Sunday at their house in Yaro), and Vika (Alici's daughter and Alici is the sister of Siga). They all had a cup of tea with banana bread and then I cooked some popcorn for them too. The girls sang a couple of songs on tape for us, and again liked hearing the replay. Later when we went ashore to sing again with the kids after school, Emily made me a lei that smelled very nice and Ane gave us a cassava/coconut pie. Siga's daughter Losalini had started recording the words to the Fijian songs for me and I used them to sing along in Fijian. It was a lot of fun! Sabina gave us another papaya and her son Manasa tried to insist that we use their umbrella to get back to the boat since it was raining a little.
The following day the children had no school as all the teachers were going to Labasa to do their monthly shopping. We bet they picked up their pay checks there too. Once a month the teachers do this. Jonasa was taking them in his boat, so he volunteered to get my film developed while the teachers were doing their shopping. When Jerry put the diesel in our tanks to fill them we had a couple of gallons in Save's jug that wouldn't fit, so we put the jug on his boat with the leftover diesel. When we got ashore to go to Rev. Sami's house we found that he had been called to go to Labasa and couldn't entertain us at his home. He had arranged for Ane and Emily to prepare tea and snacks for us and Save. While in the village I took in quite a few clothes to give to the kids and some shirts for Brian and Save. I also took pencils, rulers and notebooks for the 4 kids we'd seen the most of. Their families had invited us into their homes several times by now. About noon Emily (Save's sister who had visited when the seas were rough), Ane (the chief's sister) and her daughter Joana came to the boat for a couple of hours. Jerry was able to use our scanner to make copies of a song for Emily. It was then that I realized Fijian music doesn't use notes as we do. Their system for recording notes is very different. Ane and Emily told me to massage Jerry's legs to help his back and showed me how to do it. I tried, but I guess my technique wasn't too good as it didn't seem to help much. I've always wanted to take a workshop in massage, so perhaps the next time I hear about one I'll attend. Emily had been up all night fishing, so she got rather tired on the visit and rested for a while. I got out peanut butter and crackers after we finished the banana bread and I couldn't believe how many of these little Joana ate. It was amazing! Emily also opened her eyes a few times so that she could have some. In the afternoon when we went ashore for our now daily "sing-along" we took lots of popcorn. Emily and Ane had asked us to take some to them too, so I make a zip-lock bag full for each of their families. They ended up sharing the general supply of popcorn and saved their bags of it for later!? About 6 p.m. Jonasa returned with the teachers and brought me my film which actually had decent pictures (my camera hadn't been working properly). Since I always get double prints, I gave one copy to the families that were in the pictures. This of course was a big hit.
At 7:00 Siga's family provided Jerry with a sulu and we went to the chief's house, where the women of the village had invited the women of Yaro Village for tea, cakes, kava, and a meke. They had done this to raise money to buy decorations for their church. The previous day they had invited us and when I asked about the donation of money they said that each woman would give about $10 Fijian ($5 US), so I gave them my $10 at that point. While everyone was drinking kava they collected the donations. Since I had given my money the previous day, mine was presented first, followed by many others. The procedure was someone taking their money to the collector who then yelled the person's name and the amount. A person outside the house proceeded to yell the same information throughout the village while the recorder recorded the name and the amount of the donation. This system is amazing to us. It is used in church too, where on the first Sunday of each month a person calls out the name of each family. A representative of that family goes to the front of the church and presents their money. A person records the amount and yells out the amount to the congregation. What a system! It appears that these people give more money to the church than they keep for their own personal use. Siga (Save's sister-in-law) and Akanisi (the chief's wife) performed a long meke and did a wonderful job. They sure can sing well. They did their meke sitting down, with leis around their necks and leaves around their wrists. All kinds of things happened to them while they were performing - powder put all over them, perfume sprayed on them, etc. They were also given presents from some people. Alici explained that this is traditional. We had never seen this before, but this was a village "thing" and not a meke for tourists. Amazingly enough Ane, Siga, Emily and Teca also wanted me to do the "Hokey Pokey" with them for the women of Yaro who hadn't seen us playing and singing with the kids in Ligau every day. We did it and everyone seemed to really think it was great. After this, since it was late and we'd been in the village a long time, we thanked everyone formally and said that we would be leaving the next day. The following day Siga said that they wanted them to do the "Hokey Pokey" again after I left, but they said I wasn't there so they wouldn't do it again that evening.
On Saturday we went in to the village to say good-bye and to get some pictures on our digital camera of people that we'd neglected to get pictures of so that we could send them later to Kia. I also had some pictures that Jonasa had gotten developed for me that had people I didn't know the names of, so I got their names. About 10 am when the sun was high and the reefs would be most clearly visible for the next 4 hours we returned to the boat. Before we left, Save had us stop on the beach where all the children were standing. They sang us a farewell song in Fijian. We actually got tears in our eyes. It was truly moving! Then Save let all the kids get into a large boat and he rowed them out to Arctracer for a final farewell. Jerry's back was still tender so I attempted to bring in the anchor. It was difficult for me so Save hopped on board to help. It took him quite a while as the anchor was in about 50-60 feet of water and we had about 250-300 feet of chain out. When the anchor was up he got back in the village boat and rowed toward shore. We all waved for a long time - until the figures of the villagers were very small in the background. What a magnificent experience this was! You can bet that if and when we return to Fiji we'll be revisiting Ligau Village on Kia. What terrific people!
(view photos of Kia)
About 2 hours after leaving Kia I got out two large plastic containers that I had used to take popcorn ashore at Kia. I had forgotten to bring them back to the boat on Friday night, so we picked them up just before we left Saturday. They were in a large plastic bag and we hadn't looked at them. In one of the containers I found a nice letter from Losalini. It was very touching too. I have since answered her letter and sent her a self- addressed stamped envelope to write back to us at our address in the U.S. I also bought 3 more stamps so that if she answers I can send her 3 more self-addressed stamped envelopes. I wonder if she'll write, but it would be really neat if she does. She wants to be a school teacher too, so I hope she gets the chance for the necessary education. I think she will have to get scholarships.
After Kia, we anchored off the Nukubati Resort, the only resort on the north coast of Vanua Levu. We hadn't eaten in a restaurant for a long time and were looking forward to a relatively luxurious evening out. Jerry rowed ashore to make reservations, but was told we were not allowed to eat there or to visit the island. The reason given was that people had paid over $800/night Fijian money to stay there and one of the reasons they chose that resort was privacy. We were disappointed, but had to accept their policy. Our guidebook said that the manager was a "yachtie" and liked "yachties" so it was possible to have dinner. Must be the management has changed since the book was written. About half an hour after Jerry returned to the boat, two Fijians, Site and Bogi (son of the man who owns the island and leases part of it to the resort) brought their launch with its 40 hp Yamaha alongside and invited us to their bure for kava. We were ashore from 8-10 p.m., after eating dinner, to share stories, and we had a nice time. The owner of the island (Jacob of German and Fijian ancestry) and his Fijian wife (Sera) gave us some vakasoso to take back to the boat when we left. Vakasoso is a very sweet papaya/coconut dessert which Jerry loved.
From August 13th to 16th we found a quiet cove to anchor in, with no resort guests on beaches, and relaxed for a few days. We organized pictures, updated our "Islanders met" book, printed out pictures from the digital camera of the people in Kia to send to them at some later date, read, played backgammon and cribbage and had time to enjoy each others' company rather than dealing with lots of other people. I needed this after all the visiting and being visited that we'd been through. I love the islanders, but it is a lot of work entertaining and being entertained sometimes. From this anchorage we moved slowly along the coast of Vanua Levu until we got to Koroinasolo.
We stayed at Koroinasolo for 4 days, but I never went ashore. We did have two groups of people visit the boat for short periods of time, but didn't get involved with the villagers as we had been doing previously. Reasons for this were that Jerry found the men much different than the men we'd met in other villages, someone took something off our boat when visiting (which hadn't happened before in Fiji and hasn't happened since), no villager invited us ashore to visit their home and I didn't have the energy to do a lot more socializing. The land around Koroinasolo is good for growing kava so the men don't have to buy it thus they have the means to consume much more than the other villages we'd visited. They have good soil and get enough rain to grow plenty of food. The men were well-dressed, wore watches, smoked ready-made cigarettes, and had portable radios and CD players. When Jerry went to the chief's house about 4 p.m. to present our kava for sevusevu he found that the men had been drinking kava since 10 that morning. Most of the 20 or so men drinking kava didn't speak English so one young person, about 20 years old, interpreted for the villagers and for Jerry. Many of the men were in much more of a stupor than Jerry had ever seen before. Jerry learned that the village had just had a money-raising day, but had done nothing to promote it, simply asked each family for money. They had only collected $200 Fijian and, citing this as proof that theirs was a poor village, asked Jerry if he would help them out. He didn't have any money on him, but said he would think about it. The next day when he went ashore to tour the village the local reverend (son of the chief and in line to be the next chief) met him and walked around with him. The reverend had not partaken of the kava on either day, but at one point he said that the chief was waiting for Jerry to join him again for some kava. Jerry said he wasn't interested in drinking kava in the morning and that at most villages the men didn't drink kava until after a days work was done. Jerry had decided on an amount of money to donate to the village if he was again asked for a donation, but the subject wasn't brought up again, so we never did contribute to the fund. We saw three motor boats with 40 hp Yamahas on them, but in the 4 days we were there no one took them out to go fishing. We did see many women every day go out on the nearby reefs at low tide to collect food and to fish with hand lines, but we never saw the men participating. Every night we heard the pounding of kava well into the night. Yes, there is a distinctive sound for the pounding of kava, especially when they use a metal rod in a metal container (a rather larger mortar and pestle). In some villages they use wooden containers and rods so the sound effects aren't the same. We read and rested a lot here and I tried out some of the Fijian recipes I'd been given. My meals weren't as good as the Fijian cooks, but perhaps with practice I'll improve. I really want to make dahl as well as the Fijian Indians and I want to make fish soup with coconut milk as well as the indigenous Fijians. One set of visitors here took our trash. One bag had a few wine bottles and another bag had some Ocean Navigator magazines that we'd taken apart to keep articles we might like to go back to. They use the wine bottles for drinking water and we've heard that they use magazines, newspapers and paperback books for toilet tissue. I think when they run out of these they must use leaves, because we've never seen toilet tissue in any of the "latrines" we've been in. Generally I try not to have to use them because the people usually feel they have to clean them first and a few people think that perhaps they should have a flush toilet for us and get embarrassed, but some of the Sundays that we've spent on land after church have been very long and I haven't been able to make it back to the boat before having to relieve myself.
Finally, on Sunday, August 20th we left Koroinasolo and the large northern island of Vanua Levu. We'd been on its northern coast since leaving Rabi on July 11th. We were really surprised to find our cruising friends Becky and Lach of Xephyr at our next anchorage on Yadua Island. We first met them in Tauranga, NZ, then in Tonga and Fiji last year. We thought they had gone to Tonga for this season, but they were still making their way east against the trade winds. They had left their boat in Fiji while they went back to Seattle for the northern summer. Their boat developed mildew and a few geckos while they were gone, and required a thorough cleaning. It was great to share our experiences since last seeing them, taking the 2-hour walk to the one village on the island to do sevusevu, going snorkeling on gorgeous reefs, and having dinner on each others boats. Because their boat had been left in Fiji for so long they needed to get it out of the country soon to avoid costly fees. After a couple of days they came alongside Arctracer and gave us 60-70 gallons of water that they had made with their watermaker (which can desalinate 35 gallons/hour), before heading east again. We planned to cruise down through the Yasawa Islands, which are especially dry at this time of year, and this transfusion of drinking water would last us more than a month, so it was greatly appreciated.
As our water tanks were filling we heard Maikeli and his wife Mili calling from shore. They shared their lunch the previous day with all 4 of us. There was one piece of fish the size of what each of us would eat after just catching a fresh fish. We had arrived to do sevusevu just at lunch time and in typical Fijian fashion they shared what they had. After eating lunch, Maikeli asked Becky and Jerry if they would take a picture of Mili with some huge mangrove crabs she had found. They took the pictures and as we were leaving Maikeli and Mili said they would come to visit Arctracer the following day. Since they were making the long trek to the boat, I told Mili that if she found any more mangrove crabs (gari) at low tide that day that I would like to buy one. Up to this time we had only had one that was given to us at Qaranivai. When I asked her the price she told me that at the village she came from they charged $10/kg. This sounded expensive, but I'm willing to do anything once if I like the people. Also, Mili and Maikeli were trying to raise money through the church to attend the annual church conference in Suva during school vacation. They are very hard-working people and earn almost all their money by fishing.. Mili brought a crab, already cooked. I had prepared a pizza for lunch to share with them, and now cooked some rice to go with the crab. I told them they could try the pizza, but that they should not eat it if they didn't like it. We all really enjoyed the crab and it really was large enough for 4 people. They each tried the pizza after the crab, but didn't seem to care too much for it. Maikeli ate his, but had no seconds (and I had cut the pieces very small), while Mili didn't finish her small piece. Again, I'm glad the Fijians that we've met don't eat what they don't like.
We stayed anchored at Yadua until the 31st of August. It is a beautiful place, away from the one village on the island, quiet and peaceful. We decided that it was a perfect place to do some varnishing and boat work. In between tasks on the boat we went beach combing, bush walking, fishing, and snorkeling. We watched turtles swimming nearby and Humpback whales cavorting out beyond the anchorage (saw many fins and flukes). We saw some green flashes at sunsets, played backgammon and cribbage, listened to Australian news on short-wave radio, ate food from our stores (some of which had been on the boat since we left the States 3 years ago), and ate giant clams from the reefs (first time) on the catamaran "Crystal Harmony" from Tauranga, NZ. We also did lots of reading. I read more than half of the Lonely Planet guidebook for Australia that I'd bought in New Zealand, and all of the Lonely Planet guidebook about New Caledonia. Besides doing a lot of reading, Jerry made Turks-head bracelets and painted operculums for necklaces and earrings.
Our cruising guide said nautilus shells were found on the windward side of the island. We searched for them three times and had good luck each time, getting 8 in all. The one in best condition I found in the surf on an incoming tide. The shell is fairly fragile, so if they get to the high tide mark they often get hit by other things and get broken. We also found cuttlefish shells, which are internal to the living animal. A few other sailboats came and went. Two boats that were traveling together invited us ashore one night for a bonfire and barbeque. We had a nice time while we ate delicious coral trout for the first time, put coconuts in the fire to roast them in their own coconut water before eating them (another first) and learned a little about the two families - one from Hawaii (now with dual citizenship in New Zealand) and one from Tauranga, New Zealand (with a 12-year-old on board). We took lobsters to the barbeque. A local boat had asked if we wanted to buy some for $5 Fijian each. I bought them and then discovered that they were female lobsters with eggs. I looked everywhere and decided that Fiji doesn't have laws/rules against taking these lobsters. We shared them at the barbeque, but the next time we were asked if we wanted lobsters I said I didn't. At this rate I wonder how long their supply of lobsters will last. In many places it isn't a problem as there aren't that many villagers, but at some point it may be.
I don't think we've mentioned that fishing rights are owned by villages just like land. If someone wants to fish in an area that doesn't belong to his own village, he must go to the owning village, do sevusevu, and ask the chief for permission. Once we do sevusevu we have implicit permission to fish off the boat, since acceptance of our sevusevu makes us temporary members of the local village. I imagine if we dove for lobsters we would have permission to do that too. Up to now we've always been given plenty of lobsters in trade for other favors or been asked if we want to buy them at a very decent price. Since the Fijians in the outer islands get their kerosene and church money by taking fish/lobsters/roots to market I'm usually more than willing to make purchases directly from the source. We always know the seafood is fresh too since they come to our boat before going back to the village after fishing.
(view photos of Yadua & Koroinasolo)
On the 31st of August we raised our anchor and headed to more touristy places. We mostly motored in flat calm conditions (slowly with our engine) 47 miles to an anchorage in the Yasawa group of islands. We got our anchor down just after the sun had set. We were really glad we didn't have to stay up all night keeping watches this trip. We don't mind the watches on long passages, but we do like to be able to go 50 miles in a day without having to worry if the trip can be made in the day time. With Arctracer this isn't always guaranteed - especially when there is no wind. Jerry put a fiberglass patch on our dinghy the next morning, and then we moved to the Sawa-I-Lau Cave anchorage. Touring the large limestone caves there was interesting, but not fantastic. One of the cruise ship companies apparently built the elaborate cement stairs to get up to the cave entrance and back down into the water inside them. This is a place for fins and masks and waterproof flashlights. The spot is written up in all the guidebooks. Jerry did find the entrance into a large but very dark chamber off to the right after entering the second cave. I didn't choose to dive into it, so he didn't stay in there too long. Before visiting the caves Jerry went to the village to pay our entrance fees ($2 Fijian each), bought onions and eggs, and gave money instead of yagona for sevusevu. We weren't planning to stay there long and wanted to save our last bunch of yaqona roots for a village where we planned to stay a while. It didn't seem to be a big problem of being out of (low on) kava roots here. It was great to have eggs and onions again! Women came around selling mangrove crabs in this anchorage. They had a dugout canoe and used kayak paddles (the first we'd seen in Fiji and signs of more contact with tourism). They wanted to sell us three crabs so we didn't buy any because we have no fridge and they are large. The price wasn't bad - 3 for $25 Fijian. While we were in this anchorage a boat we'd been invited to while at Rabi island anchored near us. We invited them aboard for fish curry in tortillas that I'd made and had good talks about cruising. The fish curry was made with fish I'd put in my vinegar solution after catching it the day we sailed from Yadua to the Yasawas. Of course we had a couple of meals of fresh fish before preserving the rest of it.
A day or two after seeing the caves we sailed to Nanuya Sewa where the Blue Lagoon Cruise Ships anchor and have a place ashore for their guests. Because of the coup and lack of tourists arriving in Fiji these days we didn't see any cruise ships while we were there. We did take a dinghy ride (row) to Nanuya Levu (Turtle Island). This is where both the 1935 and the 1980 films named "The Blue Lagoon" (the last starring Brooke Shields) were filmed. It is also one of the islands where there were problems of land occupation/ownership/leasing earlier this season and after the coup. All tourists were forced off the island until the situation was straightened out. When we were there the Fijian workers said they had about 5 couples (6- night minimum stay and about $650 Fijian dollars/night) and that tourism was starting to pick up again. We weren't allowed at the resort, but we went to the part of the island where the Fijian resort workers live. At a store there we asked if it was possible to buy kava. They had none at the store, but tourists are allowed to buy kava at the gift shop to take home. The price quoted to us was $60 Fijian/ kilogram. This was double the price at the markets in the larger towns. When we hesitated they said we could buy it for $45. We finally decided we didn't need that much and asked how much 1/2 kilogram would be. When they said $20 we were surprised (since usually it is more/kg when you buy less than a whole kg) and said we'd take it. We've learned that it is proper to give 1/4 kg to a village for sevusevu, so we now would have enough yaqona for two villages. We went outside the store to wait for a person from the gift shop to deliver our yaqona. Imagine our surprise when we saw a Fijian walking towards us with a plastic bag of yaqona that had already been pounded. We knew that the villages prefer the roots, but we accepted what we got. The reason they like the roots is because kava pounded from the stems isn't as tasty or potent from what we hear. When the chiefs get the actual roots they know what they are getting for quality. Oh well, at least we had kava now for sevusevu.
While we were in the Blue Lagoon there were four other cruising boats at anchor. The day we arrived a local boat stopped at our boat and invited us to their place on Turtle Island. It was amazing to us that they picked our boat to visit, so we asked them how they happened to stop. They said that it was because our boat was different (not a white-hulled sloop or ketch). Since I had just made fresh bread we shared some and learned about their lives and working and living at the resort. One of them was the beekeeper. The bees had left Turtle Island and were now on the island we were anchored next to. The beekeeper collects the honeycombs and extracts the honey for use at the resort. They are trying to reestablish the hives back on Turtle Island. Our other two guests were a gardener and a boat man. The boat man takes the tourists to the reefs to snorkel, takes them fishing, and takes them on sunset cruises in the resort's small boats. This resort, along with many others in the Yasawas and the Mamanucas has a fast boat to pick their guests up near the Nadi airport. The guests also have the option of chartering a seaplane for quicker arrivals and departures.
On the 5th of September we sailed about 20 miles amongst reefs to Soso Bay at Naviti Island. We had originally planned to travel farther, but the clouds were building and we wanted to be able to see reefs. Unfortunately or fortunately this anchorage was at a village. I still wasn't ready for more in-depth relationships with Fijian villages, but I was more than willing to anchor there because of the weather conditions. The following day Jerry went to the village with the last bunch of yaqona roots to do sevusevu. He was shown the unusual church in the village, built by a Catholic priest for a Methodist congregation. The builder had made many wooden carvings in the church - perhaps attempting to "save" some of the Methodists by putting symbols of more significance to Catholics? Jerry was invited to Net and Andi's house for tea. They invited us to dinner too, but Jerry said I was resting and we wouldn't be able to go that night. Jerry mentioned that we hadn't had any fresh fruit for a long time and Net asked if he wanted to buy some. When Jerry said he didn't bring any money ashore Net suggested bartering 6 papayas and a bunch of bananas for some canned goods. When Jerry asked how many cans the answer was at first "whatever you want," but when pressed Net said 5 or 6 would be fine.
I was surprised that I wanted to go ashore with Jerry to Nat and Andi's house, but I found myself wanting to be polite and friendly towards the villagers. It is very difficult to turn down invitations to these people's homes. One ashore, we found them at their house and traded tins of corned beef, corned mutton, tomato sauce and beans. They were extremely happy with the tins, and gave us a whole stalk of bananas instead of the expected "hand." Andi also gave me a pandanus fan that she had made. Jerry took pictures with the digital camera and showed them the results. They had never seen a digital camera so were quite amused. Jerry even let Net take a picture of their son Vilame (age 10). We also met one of the schoolteachers, a Fijian Indian who learned to speak Fijian after taking the position on this island. We also met their other son, Paliasi (age 18). Before leaving their house we were invited to dinner the following evening. They suggested that I make something and they make something. I wasn't quite ready to try to figure out what to take as we didn't have any fresh vegetables or fish, so I said I couldn't think what to bring. This was when they told us that other visitors had made chicken dishes. I told them that we didn't have a refrigerator (of course they don't have them either) and therefore I didn't have any chicken. They said not to worry, but to come to dinner anyway. Since I needed to make bread the following day I told them I would bring bread. We had just heard the schoolteacher say that he had bought several loaves of bread in Lautoka and had intended to give them one, but too many others wanted the loaves before he got to their house so he didn't have any left.
Since the above family seemed to be doing a lot for us we decided to print their photos and give them out at dinner. We also promised their young son some popcorn. It is great that popcorn is so easy to pop and so appreciated by the Fijians. They would rather have it popped since they don't have the oil to pop it themselves. I think if/when we return I'll buy some bottles of cooking oil and bags of popcorn for exchange items. I imagine the use of oil for popcorn will seem too extravagant and it will be used for fish, but....
At 5:30 we returned to shore with popcorn, 2 loaves of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a Turks-head bracelet that Jerry made especially for Andi (she had tried mine on the previous day and it was too small), and pictures of the family (glued on paper with seashell borders and put in zip-lock bags or covered with clear contact paper). While Andi and her nieces were putting the finishing touches on the preparation of the meal, Jerry and I talked with Net and Vilame. I asked Net if I should give Vilame the popcorn before or after the meal and he told me to wait until after. They were surprised that we brought a jar of peanut butter to accompany the bread. They hadn't had it for some time. Andi has high blood pressure, but couldn't think of not having peanut butter on her bread in the morning. With her high blood pressure she should be really watching her diet, but it appears that she isn't. We're quite worried about her health.
Net fixed a bowl of kava for everyone I had one bilo while he and Jerry had several bilos prior to the meal. After a while I got out one of the pages of pictures we'd printed out. On the back of the page I'd pasted a picture of Arctracer with our address. I handed this picture to Nat and told him he could keep it if he wanted to (he was only looking at our boat's picture). He said he would like that. Then I told him that he should turn it over. Tears came to his eyes when he saw the 4 pictures of his family on the page. He was overwhelmed and extremely moved by the whole thing. What a sensitive, sincere person. Then I got out the second page of pictures including the one he had taken. At this point, realizing that he could get more pictures, he asked Jerry to bring his camera ashore the following day. Since they had been so kind to us we didn't mind taking a few more pictures. Sometimes these requests seem too much, but this time we didn't have a problem. We told them we would not print the photos immediately but would mail them later.
Both Net and Andi and two of their teenage nieces had worked on our dinner. When the table cloth was put on the mat in their house we realized that several people would be sharing the meal with us. As it turned out there weren't enough spaces/plates so people ate in two shifts. We were at the end with the pressure lamp, which was placed on a box above the floor. They had prepared quite a feast and I was embarrassed that I hadn't come up with anything to share at the meal (they saved the bread for breakfast the following morning.) The dishes included bele (greens) with corned beef, land crabs (cooked with onions and tomatoes from their plantation), cucumber slices decorating the edges of plates, fish cooked two different ways, sweet potatoes, boiled cassava, fried grated cassava with sugar added (Fijians love their sugar!), cooking bananas, and regular bananas. It was all I could do to finish eating what was on my plate. As we passed our plates to Andi to be washed for the next people she served us HUGE plates of vakalolo (papaya cooked over a wood fire with coconut cream). Jerry managed to finish his, but I had absolutely no room for any more food, so said I would have a couple of tastes of Jerry's. I think that they like this dessert VERY much, don't fix it frequently, and had prepared it especially for us, but I just couldn't do it. Next time I'll have to save room when I see such a dish on the table. Since it was on the table I thought it was to be eaten, if we wanted, with the rest of the meal. I hadn't grasped the significance of the whole thing. Luckily I learn quickly. About 8:30, soon after we'd eaten we asked if it was polite to leave (since others were still eating). They said yes, so we headed back through the village with our flashlights to the dinghy.
On September 8th two boys, Makeli & Paliasi, ages 17 & 18 came to visit the boat. We sang and recorded Fijian songs, ate some of the Fijians' favorite snacks, looked at our clear-page folders that interest most Fijians (Vermont, photos of islanders we've met, the Panama Canal, etc.), made origami (paper- folding) boxes, played with tangram puzzles, and Jerry put antibiotic cream and new bandages on Makeli's three fingers that he had cut badly with a machete the previous day. He'll have scars from that mishap! There is no nurse in the village so he appreciated our help. Paliasi thought he saw an octopus in the water, and jumped in with Jerry's fins and mask to get it, but it was just a huge brown jellyfish. We thought it was acting strangely for an octopus, but figured he must know better. Octopus usually stay hidden in the rocks or coral during the day. They might have stayed aboard all day, but after 4 hours Jerry rowed them ashore and they showed him where to buy eggs.
From 4-6:30 we walked around the village. I saw the church and we saw about a dozen women weaving a huge mat. Then we went to Net and Andi's house for a cup of tea and some coconut rotis. We took more popcorn with us and Andi handed it out very sparingly. Jerry took more pictures of their family, as Net requested. We all sang some Fijian songs. Before leaving their house we planned a picnic for the following day. They wondered if we wanted to go to one of the little islands that their village owns to gather food. We had never done this with a Fijian family so it sounded like a good opportunity for a first- time adventure. The indigenous Fijians spend every Saturday getting food since they can't work on Sundays because of their religious beliefs. Sunday is only for attending church, eating, drinking kava and laying around with family and friends.
I made corned beef hash for the picnic, knowing that the Fijians like corned beef and we would have 7 guests on board. At 8:00 in the morning Jerry started to ferry people to the boat. Net and Andi brought their two sons Paliasi and Vilame and Andi's sister Rapi with her young daughter (also named Andi). Net's nephew, Jeramiah also joined us. It was breezy, and we used the foresail and jib to give them a taste of sailing. After about an hour we anchored the boat in the lee of a small islet. Some swam to shore while others went in the dinghy. Little Andi and I went last. She showed me how to find and get tandruku (chitons) off the rocks. Luckily I had taken a very strong knife with me. We later found her mother and aunt gathering large clams from the reef and small crabs in the sea near the rocks on shore. We collected a lot of chitons and went swimming and snorkeling. We saw quite a few colorful fish and several sea cucumbers. They also collected the sea cucumbers to sell to the Japanese market. Net and the boys each had a spear and went looking for fish. They collected several strings of them. They also collected some small ones so that we could each have one of these with our lunch. While Jerry was snorkeling with them he saw a white-tipped shark swim quickly past, and about one minute later one of the boys asked if he'd like to hold the string of fish. He said "No!" It isn't a good idea to have dead fish around your waist when there are sharks around, but the locals weren't worried.
Andi had cooked some cassava to go with the small fish. With the food they brought and the hash (which they liked so well that it was gone before I got outside where the food was) and papayas we all had plenty to eat. About 3 p.m. we headed back to the village with our fish line out. Jerry pulled in a tuna, which Andi gutted and cleaned. She cut off enough for our supper and took the rest home with her. We don't think that they get a chance to eat tuna too often so it was great that Jerry had good luck fishing. They took our trash ashore for us, hoping something would be worth recycling. They said they would burn it. We don't like to see plastic wrappers in the ocean and this is the way many Fijians dispose of their trash. They also took our old engine oil. Net was making more room for crops on his plantation and said the oil would help burn the trees he was cutting.
(view photos of Soso)
They wanted us to attend church on Sunday and go to their house for a big Sunday dinner, but we decided that it was time to move on. We sailed down through the Yasawas for a few more days. The first night we anchored near a deserted resort but the following day we anchored off a village so Jerry went in to do sevusevu with our ground kava. At this village, with lots of visiting tourists, they said they didn't mind that we didn't have the kava roots. The Yasawas became more touristy as we went south and the people had more exposure to the outside world. We stayed anchored off this one village for 5 days and never visited it or had people come to visit us on board. Twice small children paddled small tin (roofing material) canoes out asking for chocolate, but they didn't stay long when we didn't have any. We had never been asked for chocolate before. Usually if the children ask for anything they ask for lollies (lollies are hard candies, not necessarily on a stick and the word is used widely in New Zealand too). The women of this particular village were very busy making things to sell to the cruise ship passengers that arrive every Monday. They also do mekes in elaborate costumes for people from dive boats and resorts.
Rugby is a national passion, which accounts for Fiji's very high standing in the world in this sport. Most villages have a touch rugby game every day from about 4-6 p.m. This village had a rugby field with goal posts, and even had a whistle! We'd not seen goal posts nor heard whistles in any other small village. Here, in addition to the evening game they had practice every morning as soon as there was light. They were true fanatics!
We did go beach combing a couple of times and found a couple of neat shells, but this didn't involve going to the village. Jerry sailed the dinghy one day to troll for fish and came home with fish for dinner. He got back to the boat quite late because the wind died, he was far away and didn't have oars with him. Most of the time we did small maintenance jobs on the boat, read, wrote letters, and relaxed. After a couple of days contending with a very rolly anchorage because of a change in wind direction, we headed to Lautoka to send letters and email, get water and diesel, go out to dinner, and get ready to sail to New Caledonia.
The anchorage here in Lautoka leaves a lot to be desired. It is a well-protected anchorage but the sugar mill burns the cane stalks to heat their huge boilers where the water is removed from the sugar. We have had huge amounts of black soot all over the boat. We couldn't even collect good rain water. We collected some, but the amount of soot in it was amazing. Every time the wind comes from the huge pile of wood chips or from the sugar factory with its molasses we get those smells. There could be much worse smells than these so we won't complain too much. Jerry is building muscles lugging fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, other groceries, varnish & turpentine, engine oil, and jugs of water & diesel. We've tried to buy things here that are cheaper than in New Caledonia. However, we've tried not to buy too many of the things we aren't allowed to take into Australia. After about 3 days here Jerry got me off the boat by taking me to dinner. We couldn't find any relaxing places to eat, so finally had curry at an open-air place off the central streets. Most of the eating establishments here are small, crowded and noisy (from what we saw).
Sugar cane gets to the mill either in farm trucks, or wagons drawn by tractors, or on the little narrow-gauge railway. The engines are tiny, the flatbed cars hold about as much as a farm truck, and the whistles shriek at every street crossing, day and night. After a while we got used to these whistles, just as city dwellers get used to emergency vehicle sirens.
We're still trying to celebrate the 21st of each month, so this month we took a bus trip to Nadi, a little over an hour away by a local bus that made many stops. On the way we saw flowering trees just starting to come into bloom (it's Spring here), huge areas of growing sugar cane, many rail cars and trucks with wide loads of sugarcane, and grazing bullocks which move the train cars to the access point of the locomotive. In Nadi we found a "goodish" place to eat. The meals cost twice as much as we'd seen anywhere else in Fiji last year or this year, but Nadi is right next to their international airport and gets flocks of tourists. After lunch we talked with a 12-year old whose family owns the restaurant. They actually have a "tourist" menu and a "local" menu. Most of the locals eat in a dining room separate from the tourist dining room. We bet they pay less than 1/4 the price too. Oh well, it made us realize again that we generally like staying away from the real "touristy" places. We visited a couple of Fijian-made craft places and saw carvings and other craft items that were much better made than any we'd seen elsewhere in Fiji. We walked around the town some and went to the local produce market. We had a good day and realized that we don't care for crowds and traffic very much anymore (not that anyone likes this). We've definitely been spoiled with lots of secluded bays and the noise of the surf breaking on the beaches. Perhaps you can tell from this that we're still having fun and will continue exploring by boat for a while longer anyway.
It has been a great learning experience here and we've met many of the wonderful Fijian people. Now it's time for new adventures in New Caledonia.
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