We’re running a bit late
When we set off from England, we genuinely thought we would be back home after five years with our feet up and the telly on – adventure done and some salty yarns in our repertoire to share with anyone with open ears. So sure were we of our timings that we drew up our expected dates in each country on a world map for everyone to see at a party at our home six months before we left. According to that map, we should have been on our sofa glaring at a widescreen in 2022.
Six years on, somewhere between Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, we made it halfway around the world. We have been idling along at less than half speed. If we carry on at this rate, we won’t be back until 2029. But who knows? We certainly don’t. There could be another pandemic; it might be challenging to transit some areas because of political instability, or the weather could become even more unpredictable. Or it might be that we like somewhere so much that we want to stay longer, as with French Polynesia. Or we might get a move on.
We have met people who have taken twenty years to complete their circumnavigation and some who have whizzed around in three. We stand a fair chance of being somewhere between the two. But as long as we enjoy it and can do it, we will continue blundering our way around the world.
In the meantime, we have been exploring more of Fiji with a visit to major towns and the Manuca and Yasawa islands, where we met a couple of village chiefs and participated in Sevusevu ceremonies.
The wind howled for days until we arrived at Lautoka, where, as you can see from the photos below, it dropped away to almost nothing. Lautoka isn’t the flashiest of places to park your dinghy. The route is via a narrow channel shared with a ferry shuffling passengers back and forth between the holiday island of Bekana and the mainland. Because of that, the dinghy parking options are somewhat limited – and shallow. But it’s safe enough. The people who operate the ferry also watch over your dinghy for FJD 5 per day.
We didn’t need anything much apart from the essentials such as veg, eggs and beer. And Lautoka is an excellent place to buy all of that. The market is fantastic.
Bekana Island probably looks better on the inside than on the outside. I looked at their website, and it seems that way – either that or they used an excellent photographer.
On our way out of here towards the west under sail, the Reef Endeavour cruise ship came straight for us. It had just left Lautoka and was also on its way west. I thought he would run us down until I heard two blasts booming out of his ship’s horn, followed by a change of direction to port. At least the captain did it with a cheery wave.
We stopped at Denarua for a few days, but that was more of a functional visit – the more interesting stuff was in the Yasawas. And that started in Waya, where our old friend, the Reef Endeavour, is in the photo below.
Inevitably, the wind wasn’t cooperative, so we soon headed north and anchored at Nalauwaki Bay, where our friends Jim and Kate kindly picked us up in their dinghy so that we could participate in the sevusevu ceremony with the other cruisers who had arrived earlier – also sheltering from the wild wind.
The ceremony (and this explanation is highly simplified) consists of handing a gift of kava root to the Chief and asking permission, via his spokesperson, to anchor in the village’s waters and to visit the village. He will then grant you permission to stay and put you under the village’s protection. Effectively, you become part of the village community.
After the ceremony, we were invited to look around the village. Maria and I had some exercise books, pens, and pencils to give away, so our guide escorted us to the village school.
We also said goodbye to Kate and Jim, at least for now. They are heading to Australia for cyclone season, so we may pick up with them again in Indonesia.
While we were spending time at the school, the villagers put together a shell market, selling much more than shells – a good way of bringing cash into the village. We bought a mat.
We were invited to a show in the evening. For FJD 20 per person, we were treated to a couple of hours of dancing, singing and a bowl of kava. The latter tastes like water infused with tree bark and, at least for me, has little effect apart from a slightly numb tongue. Traditionally, the kava would be made in the village by pounding the yaqona root and infusing it in water. But this was the powdered stuff that could be bought in bulk at any market. Probably not as strong, but that’s possibly not a bad thing.
Our next destination was further north to Somosomo on Naviti island, where we again participated in a sevusevu ceremony – this time just Maria and I. We have no photographs of that, but I can tell you that the Chief is 74 years old and doesn’t look bad on it.
While we were with the Chief, the village women were busy putting together a shell market. I bought a new skirt because the only one I have is a bit garish for a formal session. Fabric with blue flowers on a white background tends to stand out, so I bought some muted sand-coloured material that looks much less camp in the village. Marrian, in the photo below, is holding up a similar mat to the one we bought at the last place. Most of the products on sale are not locally created – they can be purchased at any gift store on the main island – but it’s an experience that provides the village with extra income.
After we had finished with the Chief and the shell market, Marrian invited us to have breakfast with her and her family the next day. How could we refuse? So at 0900 the next day, we zipped over to the village on the dinghy and parked on the beach. There, we were greeted by Marrian, who took us to meet her family and sit us down to stuff our faces with the Fijian bun she had just cooked on a wood fire (the technique cooks it from the top and the bottom), and it is delicious.
We had been lugging around a large bottle containing a little refrigerant gas for a long time, so I took it along to the village just in case it was of any use. And it was. Watti, Marrian’s father-in-law, looked like it was his birthday.
Denarau and Nadi
With strong winds again forecast for the Yasawas, we decided to run away to the main island and anchor outside Denarau, figuring we could at least get off the boat and do something. And one of those somethings was a bus ride to Nadi. The yellow bus regularly runs between Nadi and Denarau, and the fare works out at around 55p per person each way. Not bad.
Nadi has a rough charm and a huge market. Shops seem to be organised in clusters according to the type of product sold. So there are streets of automotive shops, a street of electrical shops etc.
Denarau Marina has everything you might need as a cruiser: fuel, showers, chandlery, booze and food, clearance facilities and laundry. And in the laundry room, we met up with the Fortalezas.
After the wind eventually calmed down, we sailed to Musket Cove, just a few hours from Denarau. Here we met up again with the lovely Northern Rose people, Glenn and Pat, with whom we will be sharing a marina in New Zealand; the equally lovely Catweasle people, Russ and Harriet, who are leaving for Australia – and our bonkers friends on Fortaleza who are also headed to Australia.
And when the wind wasn’t blowing, out came the number 8.
On another calm day, we took the dinghy over to Musket Cove resort, where this little fella interviewed me.
Then, we took possession of a cabana by the pool.
And took a walk to the airport.
And that was that for our visit to the Manuca islands. We booked a mooring ball at Denarau Marina so that I could finish cleaning the hull and then take some photographs in preparation for arriving in New Zealand. But that didn’t quite go to plan…