We just loved Fiji! We travelled around for 2 months and loved every minute of it. From villages to cities, from mud and mangroves to white beaches and frangipanis, dusty roads to verdant subsistence farms……EVERYWHERE we went we met the friendliest people imaginable. And so, inevitably, leaving Fiji was a little emotional. I think it must feel the same for everyone who has spent any time there – the Fijian Farewell song alone is enough to bring a tear to your eyes! And the sailing, well we actually had a ripping sail out of Fiji – but a couple of days of big seas initially. (Meaning a mute and sea sick first mate.)
According to our experience, if you come away from Fiji without making a friend you must be doing something wrong. We could not walk down a quiet dusty road without people calling greetings and inviting us to “take a break” and offering us water or a coconut to drink. At first this was a surprise because often we assumed we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere when we were startled by a friendly voice emanating from the shade of a tree or a house. People were genuinely curious about where we were from, and it was easy to have a friendly chat. These impromptu conversations as we walked together or sat in bus stops have helped us to get to know a bit about how life is in Fiji, and make ongoing friendships. This feeling began the moment we arrived in Fiji at the new and rather swanky Nawi Island Marina in Savusavu, and continued throughout the islands from big towns to tiny villages.
ISLANDS VISITED: 6 of 330
Vanua Levu – Savusavu, Labasa, Dakuniba, Viani Bay, Buca Bay; Loa, Buca, Tukavesi.
Taveuni – Korovou, Somosomo.
Ovalau – Wainoloka, Levuka, Bureta, Nasaga.
Viti Levu – Volivoli, Rakiraki, Tavua, Lautoka, Viseisei, Vuda Point.
Mamamutha group; Malolo Island – Musket Cove
- Celebrating sailing halfway around the world! Somewhere between Tonga and Fiji we passed our halfway mark after leaving Barcelona in 2019. We’ve sailed over 17,000nm. (Equivalent to 27,000 km – like driving across Australia 7 times…) I would say we’ve had a good mix of joy, tears, hard yards, wonder, exhilaration, and the occasional moment of quiet terror. And we’re still a couple! Not bad for a rookie and an old bloke!
- Doing a Sevu sevu ceremony as a practical and customary request to visit a village, and subsequent acceptance and welcome by the chief. We did this several times, but never in the big “resort” style. After the ceremonies we really felt welcome and accepted by the people that we met. People know who you are and why you’re there, and definitely go out of their way to befriend and assist you in any way.
- Watching a rugby game in a small village at 3am. The whole village was crowded around a large TV screen on the floor and outside, looking through the windows and doors. It was a lively atmosphere with lots of cheering, commentating, and whooping. Fiji v Australia, Fiji won convincingly. We watched a couple of games in people’s houses – after being kindly invited to join them, along with everybody else. To get there we had to leave the boat in the dark by dinghy. (Once we went quite a long way through a mangrove tunnel which separated the town from the sea.) Low tide was a trap – we missed the start of a game after getting the dinghy stuck in the mud. We eventually freed ourselves, and after a very muddy climb to land, arrived at the village wearing long mud “socks.” Some people pay a lot of money for a mud foot bath – not us – it’s a daily ritual! (The WC Rugby was quite a highlight of our time in Fiji – and we found the Fijian people we met to be the epitome of good sportspeople.)
- Doing a “speech” at church. This was unexpected. During the course of the service, I realised that something was up when the whole congregation turned towards me, smiling encouragingly. I tried to ascertain what was imminently expected of me from my companions – but their expressions did not sufficiently clarify the situation. Afterwards I realised that my nods and smiles of thanks were not really enough – the minister had been asking if I would like to say a few words. Mortified by my apparent indifference, I accosted the minister after the service, who immediately stopped the whole congregation so they could listen to my latent speech of introduction and gratitude. They were quite amused that I was not accompanied by my “husband” because he was having a cooking lesson with some village ladies!
- Meeting friendly, welcoming, and sometimes inspiring people to chat with, learn from, and share meals and stories with. We have experienced incredible generosity – meals prepared for us, celebrations shared with us, fruit given by the kilo, a beautiful woven mat given as a gift, and best of all time…. time to talk, to listen, to learn. Our friend Mes in particular comes to mind.
- Going to Church. We attended a couple of Church services in small villages and were warmly welcomed, as mentioned above. Mostly I enjoyed just being there with everyone else – and the singing! Angelic. (And after the first time, I was on high alert, ever prepared to make a short speech if the need arose.)
- Experiencing the caring and inclusive nature of Fijian people. If ever we looked unsure at a bus stop, or anywhere for that matter, there would invariably be a Fijian beckoning us, pointing us in the right direction, or calling us to sit down on a bus when there appeared to be not an inch more squeeze room. Once we got off the bus a stop too early – and a kind man with a baby in a pram walked back from the correct bus stop to find us and give us a tour of the town – the historic capital of Fiji. He had come to town for his baby girl’s check up at the Health Clinic, and then acted as our tour guide for the rest of the morning. We later met his wife and other children in the village we had both travelled from.
- Great cruiser friendships. I say this all the time, but the other people on boats that we travel with, share meals with, learn from, celebrate with, trade with, give and receive help from, are just amazing. We’ve met new cruisers and strengthened existing friendships. We support each other. There have been many enjoyable evenings spent on each other’s boats, or BBQing, or having a sundowner. Savusavu, Musket Cove, and Vuda Marina were especially social. The closeness and care extend to worry – there have been two cyclones too close for comfort already. People we care about were in their path – everyone is OK, but it’s time to get out of this cyclone belt.
- Seeing Fiji in many different lights. We anchored near tiny villages and posh resorts. We’ve stayed in marinas with bathrooms like the Hilton, and eaten in cafes for $4 for two people. Friendliness pervades. Nawi Island Resort, Buca Bay, Wainaloka, Musket Cove…. all different, all the same.
- Waiting out bad weather – it is an El Nino year, and the wind is unusually strong, and we have spent longer than intended at several places, and not visited others due to weather conditions. This year the cyclones have started early and the risk is always there. We will be very happy to arrive safely to Australia.
- The KIDS! Swinging machetes around with abandon (expertly I must say), throwing machetes, Fighting, singing, LAUGHING! Staring at us – we were the first white people that some of the children had ever seen – and it was easy to understand their close inspection of our faces and hair. On foot we were often heralded by kids shouting “kaivalagi, kaivalagi!” (white people!) and running around excitedly responding to our “Bula” with giggles and a wave. Magnus’s hairy arms were carefully physically investigated by school kids sitting next to him on the carrier. (bus/truck) Also on the carrier, kids cheekily “woke me up” with a loud clap when they noticed I had nodded off. Later they fell asleep on our shoulders. At Viani Bay, a small troupe of kids joined us as we walked past their house and proceeded to act as guides, teaching us the Fijian names for fruits that they picked for us on the way, expertly clambering up the trees like monkeys. The girls held my hands and tested out my (very strong) prescription sunglasses. One small boy expertly carved a gun for himself and one for Magnus using large machete that he wielded like a pro. They joyfully accepted a cake we brought them the next day and delighted in seeing photos of our children and grandchildren. Their curiosity felt warm, and a nice introduction to get to know others in the village.
- We caught the carriers and buses frequently, and enjoyed the warm courtesy people display to one another, and a glimpse into daily life. One man carried a tame rooster in his shirt. (We had seen the rooster tethered outside a house in town – and I would have liked to learn more about him. Was he dinner or a pet? Both? I’ll never know.) If the carrier seats were full, a mat was rolled out so people could sit on the floor. I had deep and uncomfortable checker plate impressions on my feet after kneeling on the floor, on a VERY potholed gravel road for an hour. I was very happy to sit in the floor – but hadn’t perfected the most comfortable sitting position, obviously! I was somewhat hampered by the knee length skirt I had worn to ensure my knees were covered but was also trying not to expose the soles of my feet. Mediocre success on both counts on this occasion I think.
- In Wainaloka on Ovalau we had a guided tour by Georgie and his friend after presenting our sevesevu to a village headman. These young boys continued to look out for us during the week we stayed in the bay nearby. They helped us with our dinghy in the mud on several occasions. Once they ran down the road as we approached to warn us that our dinghy was left behind by the tide, and then proceeded to help us to carry it the twenty metres back to the water. This meant that we were all mid calf deep in sticky, slippery mud. When we got to the water, several of the boys tumbled high spiritedly into the dinghy, their mud-covered legs flailing wildly. It was a job well done, and we had to laugh. We were all covered in mud, and better friends after our shared endeavor.
- Visiting a Mud Springs! We had the most friendly and caring hostess to take care of us, and also solve a problem; I had left my phone in some one’s car. We did not know who this person was, apart from being a sugar cane farmer from down the road who had given us a lift as he passed us walking. Our hostess tracked him down from my hazy description of him and his wife, and a close enough approximation of their names. She started to phone around, and sure enough, it was someone’s aunty’s cousin’s brother in law or similar! A neighbor found him out in the paddock, and kindly checked the backseat of his dual cab ute, Sure enough – phone returned. AND the mud was a fun experience, and our lovely hostess quite a photographer! It was somewhat disconcerting wandering around in bathers and being photographed A LOT while waiting for the mud to dry – but I had to get over myself and embrace the experience.
- Having a haircut. I loooove having a haircut when possible, mostly because usually it is a great opportunity for conversation, and often an occasion full of surprises. This time was no exception. The lovely lady man who did my hair was ultra friendly, and very diplomatic about my boat cut hair, exclaiming warmly, “Oh my gawddd, its only one one siiide!” (Thus glossing over the fact that I had cut a whole chunk of dry ends off, leaving fringe on one side, and the other side pretty much bereft of hair). A few quick snips and it was sorted. BUT… the funny bit on this occasion was when my friend Betsy began to cough, probably due to the amount of hairspray flying around. The ever hospitable staff offered her a drink of water, which Betsy accepted. The vessel in which the water was provided was the surprise! A large thick cut glass vase was hurriedly emptied of flowers, washed, and handed kindly to Betsy. I think her cough was overtaken by giggles as she drank from the heavy vase. Lucky she is a strong girl! I still giggle thinking about this hospitality!
FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:
There are sooooo many…. Mostly shared meals, some cooked as well as eaten together with local people.
- Waci Poki – Taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, (sometimes rolled or folded into packages filled with noodles, tuna or whatever is at hand) and various spices. The creaminess of the coconut milk and the soft silky texture of the cooked taro leaves created a perfect flavour and texture combination, and fillings were a bonus. We first ate these at a large family lunch celebrating the funeral of an older man, and the next day Magnus learned how to prepare this dish with the local ladies, further refined by another shared cooking experience with Mes’ lovely family in Buca, where we visited to share dinner and talk. Mes and his family had a beautiful tract of land where they grew everything they needed to eat. We went with Mes while he picked the taro leaves, and scraped the coconuts, and watched as his daughter prepared the dish for us all to eat. It was truly delicious, and a very nice evening spent together.
- Magnus’ cooking lesson with some ladies from Loa, preparing a feast for a large extended family as part of a funeral celebration. The women cooked in massive pots of almost a meter in diameter, sitting on iron railway lines over fire/coals.
- A delicious dumpling dessert made from cassava and plantains and coconut. Magnus learned this recipe in his cooking session with the Loa ladies, and we had middling success when cooking it later on the boat. A key to it was the constant stirring, so that the mixture became gummy. When preparing it on a large scale, the ladies used pots the size of small cars (almost!) and used the wide end of a stripped coconut front as an oar like stirring paddle.
- Becoming adept at opening and scraping coconuts. We watched many times, and then bought a coconut scraper at the supermarket, just like you would buy a wooden spoon. Ours is portable – you sit on a long flat piece of wood to anchor it while you scrape the coconut hard down on the round serrated disk attached at the end, effectively grating the coconut flesh into a bowl placed at your feet. We saw stools equipped for this purpose, as well as a mechanical version. Magnus is quite an expert.
- Markets! Fruit and veggies were often on plates in about half kilo amounts, and all the requisite fresh ingredients for curry easily purchased together in this way. The smells and sights in the large market halls provided a sensory feast, even before we ate anything.
- Eating papaya straight from the tree, served cut in half, seeds scooped out, to be eaten from the skin with a spoon. And a just picked coconut, top sliced off, and handed over for us to slurp out the water. People were so generous and hospitable. Island life!
- A fantastically rich spaghetti bolognaise prepared for us by our friends on Gemma – fed to us after a long and difficult passage. They greeted us on the dock, and then after we had showered, gave us a glass of wine and a warm meal. Extremely thoughtful, and certainly appreciated!
- Indo Fijian restaurants were common, and ranged from small simple establishments where people ate lunch when working, to bigger and more fancy serves enough for 2, at $4. Roti, mango chutney, green chutney, tomato chutney, sometimes a raita, curry and rice.
- Indian snack stalls/tables in the street. You could buy filled roti and an assortment of fried Indian snacks like samosa, masala vada, batata vada, banana balls and other unidentified tasty morsels. These were cheap and delicious, and pretty common lunch stops I think.
- Indian sweets, notably barfi/burfi. I loved the ginger variety of this cloying fudge like sweet, and the chocolate and coconut gained a fan as well.
- Kava. Magnus sat with some village men one evening, and I stayed vigilant on the boat, wondering if I may need to assist his safe passage home in the dinghy after several hours of drinking kava. 6 bilos! But he arrived safely, unassisted, apparently unaffected. We bought our own to try on the boat – and apart from a tingly tongue and maaaybe a slight feeling of relaxation, suffered no ill effects.
- We also had a few meals out, and we particularly enjoyed The Planter’s Club at Savusavu. It was originally where farmers bringing their produce to town to sell would refresh themselves and has a nice colonial feel with louvred windows and greenery, but now is frequented by members who are not necessarily farmers. As a visiting yacht we could become temporary members and enjoyed the very reasonably priced food and good company.
- Meals out included a roast pig feast at Divers Resort Viani Bay, Volivoli, Nawi Island, Labasa, and Levuka.
- Engine service.
- Thorough clean of all cupboards, lockers, the bilge, and engine in preparation for arrival in Australia.
- Hull cleaning – we’ve done this three times in the last month, we don’t want any growth present when we enter Australia.
- Started work to back up the autopilot.
- Rigging checked.
- Water heater TLC – very important, because it has become too chilly to enjoy a cold shower anymore.
- Fixed halyard deflector.
- Steering check.
Skamset finns det inget att rapportera. Det franska språket har dock fått ett uppsving!