by Christine Kling
Every day I think to myself, nothing can top this. But the next day does. Fiji truly is a land of exceptional beauty.
This evening we are anchored out far from it all and off the grid again. I will have to post this blog with our Iridium-Go satellite communicator again, so sadly, I cannot include any photos. We are anchored in Mbavatu Harbor off the northeast coast of Vanua Balavu in the Lau group of islands. There is one other boat anchored in another arm of this big bay, but we cannot see him. We can only see the impressive sheer cliff of gray, black and reddish rock on our starboard side and the thick green jungle-clad hillside on our starboard. The deep water (anchored in about 75 feet) is an amazing sea green. The rocks around us are under-cut and the sound of the wavelets lapping at the underside of the rock is startlingly loud. Off in the jungle some sort of animal (a bird I think) is making a noise like a cross between a bark and a hoot.
We left Vurevure Bay in the Tasman Strait’s corner of Taveuni Tuesday night at midnight and we crossed the 60 miles to the Lau group overnight. The weather window called for NE winds, but in fact they were so light we motored almost all the way and at one point we saw 5 boats other than ourselves on the AIS. Everyone else decided to come across at the same time. We made it through the pass and proceeded down to the village of Dalconi where we had to take a bundle of kava to the chief in an Traditional ceremony called sevusevu. I wrote before that most of the land in Fiji belongs to the village clans. Each village oversees a certain area — that is called its vanua. You must go to the head man and ask for permission to visit any of the bays or lands that come under his authority. To not ask permission would be comparable to having some strangers pitch their tent in your backyard without permission. As Fiji transitions into more of a western nation, these traditions can seem silly to some, but I hope that people here will continue to observe them. There were at least 6 boats that had to do this when we arrived, and we were glad to be the first ashore. Already the chief, who did not speak English, seemed pretty bored as he said the words of the traditional thank you and welcome. I guess this island will see about 200 boats or more this season. But, that doesn’t change that we are in his backyard. The woman who was translating for us also told us that they were requesting a donation for the village. We had heard about this before — they had started several years ago asking for a $30 Fijian per person anchoring fee, and many yachts had grumbled loudly. They now make it voluntary which is much better all around, however, I think that these out of the way islands that mostly live off the land and the sea have every right to ask yachties to contribute to the village. If that money pays for better schools, sports equipment, medicine for the clinic, fishing equipment, etc. I am happy to pay that modest amount.
We spent our first several days at the Bay of Islands. It is another beautiful spot. Hopefully, when we next get Internet I can share some photos of all the cut-away limestone islands. Our first evening there we saw these large fruit bats go airborne right at dusk. The next day we had a great time in the inflatable kayak exploring through all the little islands and bays and we found a tree full of fruit bats hanging upside down. We had the dogs with us and they heard the noise of the bats flapping their wings, but they didn’t know to look up. That’s probably a good thing since they would have gone nuts if they’d seen them.
One of the challenging things about navigating here is that the Navionics charts we have on the Raymarine chart plotter and in the apps on the iPads have this island set about half a mile out of its charted position. Today we moved around to this bay using a combination of Google Earth and the captured Bing charts on the Navionics app that managed to update one of the iPads. Mostly, the best navigational tool is the old eyeballs, but with chop and cloud cover even that can fail.
The temperature here continues to amaze us. To us, it’s cold! We’re sleeping under a blanket and when showering on deck or jumping into the water there is lots of shreiking (on my part). Overnight lows have dipped below 70 and that’s just not what we expect in Fiji. Even the locals are commenting on how cold it is this year.
Tomorrow we plan to hike up to the top of the hill across the bay where there are supposed to be impressive views of all the lagoon surrounding this island and down into the Bay of Islands. It’s difficult to believe that anything could be as beautiful as what we’ve seen so far, but every day it just keeps on getting better.