Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moce Fiji

Well the girls have flown home and left the three boys to do the blue job. We had to wait an extra few days in Lautoka for the new wind instrument to arrive in the mail, a combination of 'still day' in Suva, customs working hours, a weekend etc. We used the time well, putting the boat in a marina at Vuda Point and doing lots of preparation. Ate some more new foods, 'Drumsticks', a seed pod you can make curry with. Parcel arrived so we cleared out of Fiji, but rather than doing the correct thing and leaving straight away, we anchored at Momi Bay, just inside the reef to wait for the weather to improve. We had two sleeps there and Sam spent half a day on top of the mast fitting the new instrument. We now know why the old one fell off. It should have two clamps attaching it, but there was only one. When Matt found half a clamp in a drawer we understood. The previous owner must have dropped a bit from the mast and watched it splash overboard! The new one is very well fixed with nylock nuts and we don't expect it to go anywhere.
Weather was still a little strong but improving so we headed out through the pass and into the ocean again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lautoka Market

Some pics, mostly from the market. At the bottom you can see the wild yam from the forest we bought. It weighs about 10kg! Above that are Ivi, you boil or bake them, a bit like chestnuts but better. We caught more fish, made kimchi.
Anne and Sabine have flown home, Matt and Sam are here and hopefully we will sail tomorrow for home. First we'll have to get the anchor up, it seems to be caught on a mooring....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lautoka to Malomo Lai Lai Island, Musket Cove Resort. 19th-22nd June

We arrived at Malomo Lai Lai, our island resort of sun and fun, at first made invisible by teeming rain and fog... but once the veil parted, we could negotiate the passage through the aqua coral reefs and drop anchor. There were 20 or more anchored yachts with a backdrop of coconut palms and sandy beaches and scenes of fun, fun, fun!
Rob paid a $1 registration fee at the marina, which meant we could use all the facilities at both resorts, 'Musket Cove' and 'Plantation', the Ellida being an international yacht.
Sabine was up at sunrise the next morning ready for day one, and her mission was for her first time ever, to do some wake-boarding and Dad has to go in the boat too! So out they went, Beanie stood up on the board for 2 seconds and crash…two more tries.. the same, and then like magic she was upright and staying that way, scooting around the bay, past the Ellida and all the way back without falling, looking almost professional! Ouch! That was along squat!
It's day two and the girls have had swims in the many pools, paw paw slushies and sun-baked hours relaxing, reading books drawn from the book-swap library. It was also an exciting day because the new crew, brother Sam and friend Matt, arrived on the ferry. We have a nice crowd on board the Ellida!!
Day three and the captain sends the boys to do a mandatory snorkel on the reef before they get down to scrubbing the bottom of the boat. Sam has been dubbed the Sail Master so he tackled the job of adjusting the new furling and stays… up the mast twice in one day!
Meanwhile the girls…languishing at the beach today with iced coffees and potato wedges. Beanie played a game of volley ball and rounded up the other teenagers and kids for a game of soccer on the beach in the cool evening air. Our last day of the resort is over! Tomorrow it's back to Lautoka to get to the post office, market and customs in readiness for the boy's next adventurous crossing of the Pacific!

You can see the view from the mast, Sam loves to go up there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Suva to Lautoka, 16th-18th June

We opted to do an overnight trip and there was a full moon smiling at us all night, lighting the way through the tight and slightly scary Beqa strait. Sunrise was glorious with pink clouds over the Fijian mainland, the moon bowing at the sun's entry.
Seeing rows of crashing surf on either side of us at the entrance was sobering, and progress was slow against the strong current, until Rob found a more favourable tide stream and then it was fairly easy to get in… now we were in sailing paradise, if only that wind on our nose would stop! We stopped at Momi Bay to sleep for the night.
We reached Lautoka the next day, after a long sail with head winds but struck it lucky, despite it being a Saturday, when the boss of customs just happened to drop in to his office and he processed our clearance, for a weekend charge, then drove us into to town to the market! Sabine was smiling to have an extra day up her sleeve at the resorts!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Still at Suva, 12th to 15th June

Had a great day on the Queen's birthday, thanks Qweenie! We caught a bus up to the Colo (pronounced tholo) Suva National Park and strolled through the lush rainforest and heard the dog-barking pidgin and spotted the horror-inducing giant millipedes clinging to the tree trunks. The path took us past the upper pools where boys were attempting to jump from heady heights off branches into the water and followed the waterfalls and swim holes down to the lowest and most popular pool. Here the kids and families were all noisily gathered. We jumped into the cool water in our clothes like everyone else and watched the teenagers play tag around the pool and in the waterfall, all very friendly to chat with and we were asked a few times to have our photos taken with them. A great day!
Next morning the furler arrived in it's many boxes, so it was a busy-bee day on the decks, also had house battery failure that night, so the following morning was devoted to replacing the house batteries with new locally made ones. We were at last ready to go to the west to Lautoka for custom clearance for one of the resort meccas of Fiji, Malomo Islands…got to keep our teenager happy!

Some pics of the market too, including the pickled Wi fruit that we so love.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back in Suva

We're back in Suva to collect our new roller furler. I was very excited when the web tracking said I had signed for it, as that suggested it might be here in Fiji. After three days of phone calls and waiting, a security guard told me the man who looks after the shed containing my box lost a daughter this week, funeral was yesterday and I should come back after the Queen's Birthday weekend. So we are still relaxing in Suva.
There is the view from the yacht club over the volleyball carpark to the Naughty Corner, and me getting my first professional haircut in memory.

More Food

Here is the Ota, fern shoots. We cooked them in 'Lolo' as instructed. Actually, if you ask how to cook anything at the market it is mostly 'cook in lolo', which is coconut cream.
then green coconut, grapefruit and soursop,
Kava to give to chiefs,
a 'Grinner'
and 'wi?', not sure how to spell it....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kulu Bay, Beqa Island, Fiji

Kulu Bay..a visit to the village.

We met Sera at the beach in front of the deserted resort in the late morning and because it was already high tide, she'd decided we wouldn't walk along the shore to the village but to go inland instead. She would take us through the jungle, up and over the first hill and down again to the village in the next bay.

The forest was cool and silent once we were inside it's cathedral canopy, thick with broad green leaves and vines but only seen in snatched glimpses.. the steep track being muddy and treacherous with tangled roots. Sera walked at a fast, easy pace in her thongs, barely looking to her feet. She stopped occasionally to check we were keeping up and to tell us the manners for the Sevu-Sevu ceremony. At the saddle the leafy walls opened up to reveal a view of the Pacific Ocean smashing onto the reef some kilometres out from the shore, in a foamy, rolling line of surf.
On our descent we sensed we were close to the village when the sweet musky air of the forest gave way to the unpleasant odour and sounds of the pigs. Sera's dog was ahead of us, picking a fight with another village dog.

We crossed a creek littered with broken plastic refuse and followed Sera in single file along the narrow concrete path between small grey brick houses. All the slatted windows and doors were opened in an air of permanency and inside we could see woven pandanus mats lining the floors and no sign of any furniture.
We were led first to the Kindergarten room within the school and a wave of sweet, smiling children pushed and squeezed into the doorway to see us, greeting us with cries of "bula, bula!" Once we were seated on the smoothed matting, the children sat opposite us and sang two songs of welcome, clapping and grinning. Then without further ado, Sera whisked us away up to the primary school rooms where hastily the largest room was prepared for an impromptu concert.
The head teacher decided that we would alternate between the children's songs and ours, so they began with a traditional welcome song and then the most exciting version of 'Jolly Swagman' we had ever heard! They'd obviously performed this many times for Australian visitors. Some of the boys jumped up and danced with comical wiggling and sat back down again to give others a turn of the lime-light. The children belted their version out in three part harmony with complicated clapping patterns. We were hit by a wall of vibrant voices and extreme kid energy!
It was our turn, so we pulled out our instruments, the gaida and davul from their cases and the children fell to curious silence. As soon as we began to play they picked up the beat of the drum and clapped loudly with us, very sure of the rhythm even though it was completely foreign to them. After the applause, a girl sang a tone and all the children broke into 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot', another upbeat rendition with more clapping and harmonies, the highest voices powerful and edgy. This time we sang along with them.
We played 'Tseniv Se Upopa' and Sabine sang, the children all focusing on her….how does the girl from Australia sing? By now every window along the room framed the curious faces of the men who had been gathered at the school for the day to do some repairs.
It was announced that the children would sing 'Old Mac Donald had a Farm'. Five boys lined themselves up along the wall at the front and once they had finished jostling for positions the tone-keeper sang her note and the children burst into song, clapping rhythms as one, at a fast and furious tempo, barely pausing between verses in breathless cycles! Each time an animal was introduced, the boy at the front of the line would dance across the stage to us, confidently pulling the animal face, doing comical actions, then run out of the door to the other side. Screams of laughter peeled through the room. Cow, Frog, Duck, Pig and Snake, all made a repeat performance, running back to the stage at the end. It was very funny and I thought if only the children in Australia could see this on Playschool!
Sabine sang one last song, 'Buka Ere' with the gaida and davul and the children clapped along enthusiastically.
It was lunch time, so we finished the concert by thanking each other…we were truly inspired by the children's vitality and open spirit.
Sera led us to the school office where we signed the visitor's book which was placed on top of the donation box and we gave some books for the school library. The principal said that all the Australians bring books and she was grateful because last summer they lost their entire collection in the hurricane. We were sure they would have preferred a straight money donation!

Sera asked us if we would like to see the village's art and craft and took us to a large house by the water, pink walls with maroon trims. We were invited to sit on possibly the only lounge suite in the village, while a tarp was laid over the large pandanis mats on the floor. Many carvings and woven goods were presented before us with the expectation that we would buy something. Oh no.. not more artefacts for home!! We dutifully chose some jewellery for gifts and politely passed on the black shiny carvings of turtles, cannibal forks, clubs and kava bowls, all brought from other villages and less impressive than the ones we'd seen from the Lau islands at a shop in Suva.
Sera's aunt Levou, was weaving a mat at the end of the room and she told us how they prepare the pandanus by cutting off the spiky edges first and then boiling it. Next they leave them to dry in the sun, then straighten them by scraping the full length of the fronds. They blacken the contrasting fronds by soaking them in mud first before boiling. Levou works every day making the mats to sell. We decided to buy the mat she was working on, her price was only AUS $45 for a week's work!
We had one last place to visit and that was to present to the village Chief the kava for the Sevu-Sevu ceremony. We were taken to a small house and seated cross-legged opposite the Chief and the Spokesman in a formal way. (Quite challenging in a tightly wrapped sulu!) We were welcomed by the Spokesman and he introduced Joel the Chief whose hand we shook, giving our names. We were told it was now the time to present the kava, so Rob pulled it out of the bag and put it on the floor before the Chief. At this point anyone who walks between the Chief and the kava must face pain of death! Visitors are not officially welcomed until the Chief picks up the kava, so this is an important moment. The Chief clapped once and the others clapped a different rhythm, the Spokesman said a passage of ceremonial words and clapped. Everyone responded with a final clap and the Chief picked up the kava and thanked us for it and welcomed us again to his village. After some awkward silences, cicadas audible, the Spokesman asked to look at the gaida, wanting to know what the animal skin was and I pulled it out of the case, explained the parts and played for a bit.
The Spokesman asked, "do you smoke?" We told him "no". We were relieved when he said the Chief could not do the kava tasting without smoking tobacco… we were luckily reprieved! Normally visitors would be expected to drain a whole coconut cup each, children included! The lazy Chief had found a way out of the kava tasting so everyone was happy. We thanked the Chief "vinaka" and said goodbye "moce" and followed Sera to her parent's house by the water's edge. We sat on a platform under the breadfruit tree and her father picked us three of the fruits to take with us. Sera's mother gave us a taste of some from the kitchen that was already cooked…soft, spongy, starchy, perfumey and faintly smokey!

The tide had fallen enough for us to pick our way around the shore back to the next bay where the Ellida was patiently waiting….Sera was well in the lead again, setting a challenging pace yet looking like she was strolling in that relaxed Fijian way!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Malamu Bay, Beqa Island, Fiji

Here we are in Malamu Bay, a few fish including the barracuda Anne caught! And look at the incredible super stereo-vision crab! His eyes are on stalks that reach to the extreme of his elongated shell. There are grooves along the front to sit the stalks in.
Saw a big shark on our way here, Sabine was quite excited! There are turtles and lots of other life in the water.