It’s the end of the season: the first tropical low is starting to spin up to the northeast of us, heralding cyclone season, so it’s time to head south, back to New Zealand. We started looking for a weather window a week or so ago and now, as we sit here in Musket Cove, dabbling in ‘analysis paralysis’ – the cruising yachtie’s affliction brought on by looking at weather maps for too long, trying to decide the ideal time to leave – it’s an opportunity to finally catch up on the blog. It’s been a while…
I last wrote from Blue Lagoon, where the name ‘Brooke Shields’ is still on everyone’s lips, though just where and how much of the film was shot on location there is not really clear. It’s not so much a ‘lagoon’ as a sheltered waterway between several quite substantial islands, but on a sunny day, it lives up to its name, when the water practically glows in every shade of blue.
We anchored off one of the sheltering islands, Nanuya Lailai (or Nanuya Sewa), which nestles up against the very upmarket and yachtie-intolerant Turtle Island, and circumnavigated both islands by kayak.
As we hugged the edge of the beautiful white-sand beach on Nanuya Lailai, a young whippet-sized dog, that we’d met the day before, trotted down to the shore to say hello, and followed us around the shoreline. When we got to a patch of mangroves, we thought she’d turn back, but she jumped in and swam after us.
There was no dissuading her, but there was nowhere for her to land, either, so when she eventually tired, I hauled her up on my kayak. She fell off a couple of times as she squirmed and tried to stand up, but then she settled down and happily sat between my knees as we headed out into the open water on the windward side of the island.
It took us an hour or so to get around, and it was a bit choppy at times, with waves coming over the kayak, but she seemed to quite enjoy it and only jumped off and swam ashore when we were rounding the last corner and headed for home.
A week or so later, we were further north in Sawa-i-Lau and I was talking to Abraham, the village chief, and I mentioned we’d been kayaking in Blue Lagoon. He suddenly stopped and said, “Was that you with a dog on your kayak?”
He’d happened to be on the windward side of the island the day we’d paddled past and laughed his head off when I admitted that yes, I was the crazy white woman who takes stray dogs on open water sightseeing cruises.
Meeting Abraham was yet another slightly baffling sevusevu experience. We’d arrived the day before and had been taken to see the ‘chief’ of the village, and were introduced to a smiling elderly lady who spoke no English. She took our kava and thanked us, but once again there was no suggestion of doing the full ceremony.
I was impressed that the chief was a woman, but next day, we met Abraham and heard that, in fact, he was the chief and he asked us to advise our fellow cruisers that they were obliged to do sevusevu with him, rather than with the caretakers of the ‘famous’ caves, which are the main attraction of Sawa-i-Lau.
Seems there is a bit of competition for cruisers’ kava…
The Lady Chief at Sawa-i-Lau
The village at Sawa-i-Lau
Bread baked to order, Sawa-i-Lau
Hanging with the Tarts at Sawa-i-Lau
To date, we haven’t done a full sevusevu ceremony anywhere, despite presenting bunches of kava to village chiefs on half a dozen occasions. It seems the locals in this part of Fiji are happy to receive the grog, but aren’t that fussed about ‘tradition’. In fact, our friends Di and Graham even did a ‘drive by’ sevusevu, when the said cave caretakers came up to their boat in a panga, asked for the kava to be handed over and then sped off.
So much for our fear of breaching protocol…
The ‘famous’ flooded limestone caves at Sawa-i-Lau were decidedly underwhelming, but the bay they are in is lovely, and we spent a hedonistic afternoon lolling about in gin clear water on the edge of a golden beach, drinking chilled wine with the Citrus Tarts.
The Mamanuca and Yasawa chain of islands extends for around 80 miles, south to north. We didn’t make it all the way to northern end of Yasawa, the top island, but we did find plenty of lovely anchorages along the way, quite a few of which we had to ourselves, including the beautiful, broad bay of Somosomo, on Naviti Island.
One of my favourites was just off Yalobi village on the south side of Waya Island, which lies about halfway up the chain. Waya is geographically the most dramatic island in the Yasawas, with steep green hills rising from the shoreline and crowned with massive basalt outcrops – the eroded evidence of its volcanic provenance.
Yalobi village sits on an arc of golden beach, embraced by rugged hills and fronted by a clear aqua bay. We hiked up above the village from where we could see all the way down the island chain – and look down on Sel Citron looking like a rubber ducky in a bathtub.
Yalobi village, Waya Island
Smoking reef fish
Our village guides, at Yalobi school
Looking along the Mamanuca chain of islands
Sel Citron as bath toy
We spent several relaxing days kayaking and snorkelling, then we headed back to Denarau, with the intention of leaving for NZ to be back in time for friends Ian and Sue’s wedding on Pittwater. But once again, it was just as well we’re on the No Plan Plan…
Of course, there’s never a dull moment in our lives… In the course of a game of golf seven weeks ago when my family was here, Damian came a cropper while retrieving a ball from the beach ‘bunker’ at Musket Cove. He fell on a sharp rock on the shoreline and gouged a divot out of his shin. He went to the nurse at nearby Plantation Island Resort, who cleaned it, dressed it, and dosed him with antibiotics.
He stayed out of the water for three weeks, kept it clean, had more antibiotics and three penicillin jabs in his derriere – basically did all the right things. But it stubbornly refused to heal, developing an infection/abscess as coral-type cuts infuriatingly tend to do.
To cut a long story short, he eventually had to go to the doctor in Nadi, who took to it with a scalpel and ‘debrided’ the wound, leaving him with an elliptical hole the size of a 20 cent piece and about an inch deep. Even the doctor admitted it looked just like a bullet wound (he was worried about osteomyelitis, but an x-ray proved negative).
Since then, we’ve been hanging out in Musket Cove, while Damian has had to make weekly trips back to the doctor in Nadi to have it checked and dressed, which has rather stymied our travel plans, both here in Fiji and for heading back to NZ.
Who knew golf was an extreme sport??
It’s still a long way from healed (it’s probably only about a centimetre deep now!) but he’s been given the all-clear to travel. So we’re off to NZ!
This time we have a friend and extra crew member, Peter Verdon (Verdo) along for the ride – very experienced sailor and all-round good guy. The weather forecast is looking good, so we’re hoping (just for a change) for a nice, easy trip!
We are already underway, en route. I’m typing this as fast as I can before we lose internet, so might have to ‘edit’ it at the other end… We should be in Marsden Cove by next Friday.
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