Fiji: Exploring the north coast of Viti Levu

Sunday morning we were up really early and ashore by 9am and were met by Joe on the foreshore of Navuniivi Village. We walked up to his house and met a few visitors from other local villages who come together for Church on the first Sunday of the month. We also met their Reverend. This visit we took some simple toys for the kids and some hair slides for the girls along with some material for Mrs Joe (everyone called her that or Auntie which is clearly a term of respect). Then we headed out to wander around the village….these people are very poor but are very welcoming and happy.

We then headed to look at the original church which was damaged by Cyclone Winston. Although the Government generously supported villagers in rebuilding homes and donating food supplies for three months, all communal facilities have had to be managed by the villagers themselves. So it has taken time. But it is nearly finished and they have even decided to have proper pews rather than woven mats on the floor (as some of them are getting old and finding this a struggle). The church use drums to call villagers to service so here is Richard having a go the following day (and yes, he’s still wearing his sula).

We then went to the Community Centre (which also serves as the villagers’ cyclone shelter and the church right now) and met all the kids who were attending Sunday school. Mrs Joe had certainly worked fast giving out the hair slides as all of the girls were proudly wearing one and thanking Auntie Jan for the gift. Such wonderful children, beautifully behaved and no begging or requests for things. Truly humbling how they were so excited about very small inexpensive things.

We then returned to Joe’s house before heading to church. We were given a Methodist bible (written in English) and walked in to lots of Bulas (hello) and sat on the matted floor behind the choir who were all dressed in white. The kids were seated ahead of us and kept a close eye without getting into trouble for not paying attention LOL. One lady swiftly joined us and gave us the rundown on what was happening. When it was time for the hymns we stood up along with everyone else and listened to the beautiful harmonies. She then passed us a Fijian hymn book and showed us the words….we recognised the tune….and bravely attempted to sing along. It was surprisingly simple to follow and we were getting silent claps from the kids and approving looks from the congregation. What fun!

After the service we returned to Joes and left the other villagers to their communal feast. We had a simple but tasty lunch and we played with Joe’s nephew Ben who is five years old and showed him how to blow bubbles (part of the small gifts we had delivered). He was so excited and concentrated really hard on how to do it properly. Everyone walking past laughed and smiled enjoying Ben’s pleasure.

After lunch we said farewell and took Joe and Ben with us to visit Morphie. OMG the little boy’s face just lit up but he suddenly went really quiet and shy although that didn’t stop him trying out the helm seat. All children in the village have to board at their nearest school during the week so we were glad to be here at a weekend and got to meet them all. At the end of the visit we gave Joe some fish for his dinner (as we had returned with a local ‘pudding’ and ‘custard pie’ from Mrs Joe) and a citronella candle explaining that it deters the mosquitoes as he was fascinated by the concept. When Richard returned them to the beach he was met by all the other small boys and Ben was centre of attention regaling them with stories of the boat. We then had a quiet night onboard, feeling pretty tired from the heat of the day….not to mention our aching legs from sitting on the floor LOL.

Monday morning we returned to visit the lady from church as requested. She is Fijian (and is Joe’s sister) but worked as a missionary (with her Pastor husband) in Papua New Guinea for years and has since settled in Tasmania where her children were schooled. She built this house in her home village for her mum (who has since passed)and keeps it as her holiday home to return to her roots each year. Fascinating stories and the conversation flowed. Again it was Auntie all the way. She told us that everyone loved our singing (really?!?) and were very impressed by our pronunciation, apparently we were the talk of the village at the feast. We took tea with her (and gave her a small gift of some tea, noodles and biscuits) and had a lovely visit. We then headed over to Joe’s and chatted for a while before heading up the hill for a walk to see the view down into the bay.

Along the way we spotted ladies doing some mat weaving (which are sold elsewhere) and also spotted a baby wild pig tethered. Apparently wild pigs are a nuisance as they rut up the crops in their small plantations so the dogs are reared to kill them – and this baby must have been captured afterwards, probably to be fattened up for a special occasion. Joe had explained that the villages didn’t really eat reared pork, but they do eat wild pig.

Returning to Joes we were told that we were invited to lunch over the road with Auntie so we headed over there. To refuse was really not an option as the food had already been cooked and Mrs Joe joined us too. Afterwards we went to say goodbye to Joe, who was very sad. We promised to send photos to him and left….with Auntie and Mrs Joe in tow. We had to drag the dinghy into the water (as we had misjudged how far the tide would go out that day) and took them out to Morphie. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit and there were big hugs all round when they left. That evening we got dink up onto the arch and plotted our course to VoliVoli Beach Resort for the morning.

Tuesday morning we picked up our anchor and blasted our horn (as requested) as we left around 10 am. People popped out from lots of village doors and we got a royal send off. Felt quiet emotional, these warm and welcoming people had really touched my heart. The sun was up so we could see the reefs along the route. We arrived at the resort at just gone 1pm (it was only 15 miles away) and tried to anchor in the 30 knot wind that had suddenly blown up out of nowhere. We weren’t happy and couldn’t really get set properly in the 20m depths in very windy conditions so decided to retrace our steps to Nananu-I-Thake where the anchorage was more sheltered. We got a great set in mud in this remote uninhabited bay and had a quiet afternoon and evening watching the sun going down. I was disappointed though not to get that promised dip in the pool!

Wednesday morning we picked up anchor and headed out towards Vatia Point. Again eyeball navigation through the reefs was necessary. We had our anchor down by 2.30 pm. There was whistling onshore from people trying to get our attention so we dropped dink and went ashore.

Although this is an Eco Lodge there wasn’t any services that day as there were no guests and people mainly use the facilities for picnics on the beach.. Richard found out that there was a store nearby (30 mins allegedly) so headed out with his minders, Joe, Joe and Jim (who all worked at the resort for their Auntie). I took a seat in the shade and enjoyed watching the kids play in the sea but only after the eldest had scoured the water for jelly fish and given them the all clear.

Eventually Richard returned, laden with beer supplies having persuaded a NZ guy to give them all a lift back as the walk there was actually almost an hour and he was concerned to get back before dark. So we all sat on the beach chatting and watching the sun going down having a cold long neck each (that’s the name for the larger size bottled Fiji Gold beer). It was a lovely day and we had met some really nice people.

Thursday morning we picked up anchor around 9am and headed out again through the reefs. Destination was Saweni Bay almost 30 miles away which was another eyeball navigation passage and with no wind, we were motoring again. There was a strange contraption along our route which, apparently, is dredging for material to make magnets. Would have thought that a hazard to shipping like this would at least have had AIS? We enjoyed the sights along the way of the barren hills fronted by mangrove with the occasional village and resort dotted along the foreshore.

We arrived at Lautoka and sailed through the commercial port, checking out the dry dock as we went through, and then into Saweni Bay.

We anchored in mud and got a good set. I went to have a wash and found no water coming out of the taps. What the heck? Checked the tank and it was down to 45% from 90% the day before. So we checked everything and realised that the pump was continuously working and where had all the water gone as the bilges were dry?!? So we swapped the main water pump out (in another pretty inaccessible area under the back of the stern cabin berth) and the taps worked again, but we were now down to 10%. OMG what now? Richard checked all the system and found a loose hose to the new hot water tank so fixed that. Everything was then working as it should but virtually a whole tank had been pumped out – but why hadn’t we heard the bilge pump?!? All we can think of was that as we were motor sailing all day with Richard on the helm and me on the deck spotting the reefs and markers, we were so engrossed we didn’t hear it. Certainly that’s the only explanation at this stage but it was clear we needed to go into a marina while we trouble shoot it (and fill up of course). There are three nearby but two were full because of the World ARC boats so we rang Vuda Point marina to get a berth. Thankfully they could fit us in so that was that. No hot showers for us just strip washes – of course we could have had a salt-water shower but didn’t fancy that as there are huge purple jellyfish around (and a few turtles too as that is their favourite food). Another reason to love turtles LOL.

So we had a quiet night in this peaceful anchorage and admit to having a few long necks before bed.

Friday morning we had breakfast, picked up our anchor, and motored around to Vuda Marina where we’ll stay for a little while. If you have been checking the tracker you’ll see that we have crossed the top of Viti Levu and it all looks so simple – see the image below.

Now compare this with the image from Ovitalmap showing our route through the reefs. Pretty scary or what?!?

At Vuda we went straight through the narrow channel (having been told it was clear) and was taken to our berth. Bows to a tiny dock with two long stern lines tied to lazy lines. Kind of Mediterranean mooring with a Fiji twist! The space was relatively small but we got in easily enough between two unoccupied boats so we were all set. I checked us in and Richard got the water hose sorted. He started to fill the now almost empty tank (but no further leakage thankfully) and we then connected to the power. Afterwards I headed to the laundry area laden down while Richard continued to check out the plumbing….finding a leaky connection to the new pump and changed an o-ring which completely solved the problem. Yay!

We then washed Morphie down and climbed off her (which isn’t easy at any stage of the tide) and having had a busy day we went out for sundowners and had an enjoyable dinner in the marina’s Boatshed bar and restaurant. There was live music too which was nice.

This morning, Saturday, we were up early and headed to the resort next door for the weekly market hoping for fresh fruit and vegetables. But it was really an ‘artisan’ market more aligned to a visiting cruise ship than for cruisers. Never mind…. We then returned to Morphie and I’m blogging while Richard is cleaning the transom. This afternoon we are heading to the bar to watch the rugby – the Fijians are playing the Maori All Blacks (here in Fiji but sadly too far away for us to get to see the game live). So that should be a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Bye for now