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July update with James on board – part 1 Fiji

James behind the wheel

Boys and engines

We turned up at the hot and humid arrival hall of Fiji’s Nadi International Airport with at least 2 hours to spare but we were both so excited about the arrival of James that we were far too keyed up to sit around Port Denerau where the boat was moored. This would be the first time I had seen my son in 3 years and though Sue had seen him just last year on a brief visit home this was the first time he had been on the boat since well before we left. We also knew that he needed the well-earned 6 week break he was taking from his busy life.  We took a pause to purge the jet lag and reacquaint ourselves with each other. Both of us being engineers, work on the diesel’s cooling system for which James had brought some much needed new parts with him from the UK and then we were off.

Enjoying a meal together

We started with an overnight stop in Vuda point to take James to the First Landing resort and our favourite place to eat.  Our waiter friend Norman (name) found us a good table and served us with the usual delicious fare we had enjoyed before.  James agreed the food was wonderful.

 

 

Camomile at Vuda point marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James relaxing on deck

We had visited this western side of Fiji and the Yasawa group of islands twice before and were dying to take James to see all the best bits.  Having rendezvoused with Norman and Sara on their Malo 36, just before sunrise we gently motored out of a quiet bay near to Lautoka and made the day passage northwards skirting Bligh Water.  This stretch of water was named after the infamous captain who, in his open boat, was chased through here by war canoes, into the Tamasua Passage.

 

James playing football with the village children

After a long day sail we arrived at our first village anchorage at Nabukaru sheltering from the trade winds behind Sawa I Lau island. Anchoring up over night we went ashore the following morning with the traditional offering of Kava root (a pepper with a mild euphoric effect when ground and mixed with water) for the village chief. This gesture is always well received as it marks a sign of respect by the visitor for their culture and, though the days are long gone where protection is needed, grants you their blessing to freely visit their homes and territory.

The lifestyle here is basic and though the houses are often block work with corrugated iron roofing some traditional huts, made with local materials from the surrounding jungle can still be found among the overcrowded living conditions of the newer buildings.  Fijians have the readiest smiles of all the peoples we have met yet on our travels. They are fun and love you to join in. James had a blast playing football with kids on the beach and touch rugby with the men, who were keen followers of the World Cup via radio, on their improvised pitch at the school.

Inside the cave

A visit to swim one of the nearby limestone caves ducking under a flooded passage to emerge in a creepy chamber with a vertical shaft letting in just a dim vestige of sunlight to penetrate the gloom was a first for Sue. Underwater caves and spiders, well done her!

 

 

The village women cooking the dinner

Sailing south now and starting mid morning ensured that the sun was high and behind us so that we could navigate the reefs by eyeball. The charting for the outlying islands is crude, inaccurate and incomplete so this is the only reliable method to use although I have found that Google Earth with its detailed photographic images, which clearly show the reefs, is incredibly precise if you can arrange to download the area you are in.

Sani and her family

After the 11 mile hop we anchored up in Blue Lagoon named after the original movie of the same name that was filmed here.  We had come to pay a visit to Sani and her lovely family who had been so kind to us on our last visit almost 2 years ago. We all received a warm welcome though sadly Ratu Saleem, the old chief who had so impressed us before with his worldly wisdom and intellect, had passed away.

 

We joined the villagers for Sunday lunch

We stayed for Sunday and went to church which is an uplifting experience by the sublime and enthusiastic harmony of the congregation’s singing. Sunday lunch was prepared and eaten in the open air together with the whole of Sani’s extended family and James, who had been scuba diving off nearby reefs, turned up to regale us with tales of his latest adventure instantly disappearing under a host of small black bodies wanting to swing from his arms as he spun them in circles.

There was a sad goodbye to this kind and generous family, as this was likely the last time we would see them but time pressed on and we sailed another short hop south to anchor in Narewa Bay surrounded by miles of curving white sand beach against a backdrop of jungle and swooping mountainous ridges.

The view across Narewa Bay from the top of the hill James climbed.

The jungle and hills were too much for James and pack readied he made off with a machete to plough through the jungle and on up the steep slopes beyond while his old man looked on from the deck of the boat and wondered how many times he would run out of puff if he tried to do that. Across the narrow isthmus, in a lagoon, a WW2 plane wreck can be found in around 3-4 metres of water on a sandy bottom.

 

A beautiful manta ray

After we had inspected this we sailed south again to the nearby Manta Ray pass. As the name suggests the huge rays, often more than 4 meters across, are sometimes seen here. They are gentle, graceful creatures that come to feed on the small organisms carried by the currents sluicing through the pass and can be safely shadowed at a respectful distance with just a snorkel and mask. We were in luck and James was treated to the rare and exciting experience of swimming and free-diving with these amazing fish.

 

 

A birthday bonfire

Our next stop was south of the Yasawas in the Mamanutha  group, by the island of Navandra, uninhabited except for a goat. Some of Fiji’s best coral lies beneath the stunningly clear sea in the bay and exploring the deserted beach here and on the island next door was a lovely adventure. James decided to build a big fire in honour of my birthday, which we celebrated while there, but decided not to light it.  It was to be our last taste of the rustic outlying islands with our next stop being the Musket Cove resort on Malolo Leilei. With Camomile med moored stern to a modern pontoon which forms a bridge to a tiny palm covered sandy island with a bar and a range of driftwood fired BBQs we put our feet up for a few days after our recent adventures. Civilisation is welcome when it comes in this form.

 

Sue and James on the local bus

We returned to Vuda point where Sue and James decided to go into town on a local bus, windows aren’t necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final meal at First Landing

We had a final meal at First Landing followed by a dance show performed by some locals with a wonderful photo opportunity afterwards for James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James with the dancers

Time was moving on and so should we. Sadly it was time to bid a fond farewell for probably the last time to Fiji’s shores, one of the most beautiful countries on our travels so far.

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Fiji

June Update

I haven’t had a chance to write anything on the website for ages so here is a summary of June. (This has taken 2 days on a wifi hotspot to just post!)

Trying to get the dinghy ashore

We left Vanua Balavu on 1st June and headed for Taveuni which is an island on the eastern side of Fiji.  There were some  nice restaurants where you could take the dinghy to.  Unfortunately on this day it was low tide and we struggled to get it ashore.

 

 

 

 

The next day Sara and I went ashore to try and get some much needed fresh veggies.  We got a few bits but also met a really nice lady who organised for someone to take us to visit the Bouma national park and waterfall, which was where the last Blue lagoon film was shot.

Sara and I walking along the jungle path

 

 

 

The next morning we went ashore to meet the car and after a 2 hour drive we arrived at the national park.  We had a lovely walk to the waterfall, which took another 2 hours.

The ladies from the village doing their washing in the stream

 

 

 

 

The path took us through a village and these ladies were using the water from one of the streams to do their washing.  I wished I’d brought mine so I could have joined them.

The top of the river led to the inner pool with the waterfall in it.

 

 

 

 

We reached the waterfall only to discover we had to wade and swim to the inner pool to see it, lucky we had brought our swimmers.  We got in and discovered the water was really cold, although we were grateful for the cool down.

Bill jumping into a smaller waterfall

 

 

 

We had the pool to ourselves and Bill climbed the rocks several times to jump into this smaller waterfall. We tried to swim under the main fall but the force was too strong, it was like being hit by a hammer.  We dried off and ate our picnic and walked back to the park entrance where our driver was waiting patiently in the car.

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The GPS changed from west …….

 

 

 

 

 

On 6th June we motored south.  The island of Taveuni is the only place in the world that the 180 degree meridian line crosses.  It’s possible to stand with one foot either side of the ‘line’.  We really wanted to go ashore and do that but the wind picked up and we couldn’t anchor.

… to east

 

Instead we watched the GPS change from west to east.  We’ve been crossing the Meridian line back and forth over the last year or two but this is the last time.  As the Red sea is now a no go area the next time we see the GPS change back from east to west will probably be off the coast of South Africa.

We continued down to Viani bay on the south east corner of the Northern island of Fiji.  We met up with Aurora B an English boat we met in NZ at the end of 2010.  Camomile and Norsa were invited on board for drinks.  The next day we snorkeled the Rainbow reef and can honestly say we have never seen such a beautiful reef with so many fish swimming around it.  We drifted over the reef with the current and the scenery below us was spectacular.

Beautiful blue water

 

 

The 8th June saw us motoring without a breathe of wind to Savu Savu.  I took this unusual photo on the way.  It’s me looking into the calm water over our bow. The water was like a millpond.

Camomile moored at the Copra Shed marina

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Savu Savu on the 8th June (Happy Birthday Thomas) and caught up with lots of boats we had met in NZ.  We feel we have come full circle in the South Pacific because Savu Savu is where we checked into Fiji with the Blue water rally 2 years ago and having crossed the meridian line for the last time we are now on our way home.

We stayed in Savu Savu over a week with Norsa enjoying a few nice meals together and restocking the boat after our stay in the outer islands.

We left on Saturday 16th on the inner passage between the reefs south of the North island, across Bligh water, then north of the South island, with Norsa following us.

Lifting Camomile at Vuda point marina

 

 

Tuesday 19th we arrived at Vuda point marina ready to lift Camomile.  Bill wanted to repair some patches on the Cuprotect and also we wanted to check the keel after hitting the reef in Kadavu.  We lifted Camomile at Vuda point two years ago and found them very reliable but we were still a bit apprehensive.

The scrapped keel

 

 

 

The damage to the keel wasn’t that bad, just a bit of the antifoul scrapped off.

Boat maintenance in the sun

We were put next to some beautiful palm trees for a few days while Bill and Norma worked on the boat.  Sara and I went into town to sort out the Australian visas and more shopping in Lautoka.  Vuda Point is next to First Landing resort which has a fantastic restaurant.  We had some nice meals while we were there.  It was too hot to cook on board while we were on the side – that’s my excuse any way.

Camomile among the Superyachts

 

 

 

 

 

We went back into the water on 22nd and on Saturday 23rd we motored across to Port Denerau where we motored among the superyachts.  Port Denerau is only a short drive to the airport where we eagarly waited for our son James to arrive on Sunday 24th.

If I can get the wifi to stay online I can post James in Figi blog.

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