“Buulaa!” is the first word we heard here, a happy Fijian “hello” that just about everyone greets you with. It started with the customs, immigration, health and biosecurity officials who boarded the boat to clear us in, and what a pleasant experience it was. Right then and there we knew we’d like it here.
And what a difference a day makes. The day of our arrival was overcast and raining, but the next day it looked like the paradise we were hoping for. Sunshine and warmth at last. It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I washed and packed away all our winter clothes and blankets. And finally we got to test out the new sun awnings I made in Whangarei. They work a treat!
Savusavu is a one-street town. There are two so-called marinas (in reality just docks) Copra Shed Marina and Waitui Marina. Jolene at Waitui was extremely helpful and friendly, and she organized a mooring ball for us conveniently close to the dinghy dock. The town itself is an eclectic mix of higgledy-piggledy stores (mostly Indian-run) with some particularly interesting combinations of goods on offer…
Marce and Jack on “Escape Velocity” arrived a couple of days after us, equally relieved to be here after the relentless winds on passage, and we enjoyed a ‘welcome’ drink with them at the Savusavu Yacht Club, which also served as a ‘farewell’ drink for Geoff, who was leaving us on Friday for a few days of well-deserved R & R in Nadi before flying home. What a trooper he’s been, hanging in there all that time while we waited for a so-called weather window out of New Zealand. It was great to have his help on passage – a third person aboard makes all the difference in getting enough ‘off-watch’ time. Many thanks once again, Sherm, we’re indebted to you (and Mia, of course!).
Last week was also carnival week in Savusavu – no-one seemed to have much information beyond the fact that there would be a police band parade and some food stalls and a ferris-wheel. In fact, that was pretty much the extent of it, but us cruisers are always up for a parade so we went along to watch, enjoying the somewhat unorthodox dance moves and their own version of the ubiquitous “Macarena”. In fact we got two separate parades on two days, both police bands, just different uniforms! We discovered it was a police initiative as a campaign against domestic violence and drug abuse, involving the local school communities. It’s sad to think that even in these beautiful islands, these issues need addressing.
On Monday we did a taxi-tour of the island in company with Jack & Marce, and Cindy and David from “Full Circle”. Vanua Levu is the second largest island of Fiji, and has a vast, largely untouched interior of rugged mountain ranges and lush forests.
On the north side of the island we visited the capital, Labasa, which had little appeal except for the markets.
This side of the island is drier and dustier, with a large sugar-cane industry, and a greater Indian population than Savusavu. We’d packed a picnic lunch, but there was a distinct lack of suitable picnic spots. About to expire from hunger, we settled for a practical option – a roadside bus shelter, alongside the sugar cane train track!
In the afternoon, Mehendra, our taxi-driver, took us to the Hindu “Snake God” temple, where we watched local families present offerings of fruit and milk, in exchange for good fortune. Apparently the temple was built around the rock (which vaguely resembles a cobra-head) and the roof has had to be raised three times as the rock inexplicably grows. Must be all that fruit and milk….
Our final stop was to a local village, Vuadomo, where we had our first experience of “Sevusevu” – the ceremony of presenting kava root to the chief in return for being allowed access to the village and it’s surrounds. Our ceremony was a little perfunctory, and we were also asked to cough up $10 per person to visit the nearby waterfall. But we didn’t begrudge it – they live a very simple life, and I’m sure they could do with the extra income. Everyone in the village was very friendly and welcoming, and the waterfall was a delight, nestled in a little amphitheatre of greenery.
In a couple of days we’ll head out to Taveuni, a neighbouring island. When we arrived here we helped distribute goods donated to the Sea Mercy organization to various other boats who were travelling to the easternmost Lau group of islands, as part of the cyclone relief operation. We now have several bags of tinned foods (as one wag commented, we’re now known as 101cans), a 25kg bag of rice and a bilge pump to deliver to Taveuni, so that will be our first stop. On the way we hope to call into the southernmost part of the island, Paradise Resort, for a quiet little birthday celebration for the first mate. What a top-rate skipper I have!