Sunday, August 30, 2009

Around Vanua Levu

August 30, 2009—The weather on Tuesday was not good for us to leave so we decided to do some land travel instead. We found an ad for Palmlea Farm Stay on the other side of Vanua Levu close to the town of Labasa. The owners, Joe and Julie, are former cruisers who have built a nice resort, so we called and made a reservation for Wednesday night. We then went to town to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Wednesday morning we left around nine o’clock and drove to the west along the Hibiscus Highway. We are not sure where the term highway came from because the road was paved for only the first 20 miles or so and then it turned into a dirt road with a lot of rocks on it. The scenery was lovely because we were driving right along the water, but after two hours of driving along the “highway” we decided to return to Savusavu for a quick lunch.

After lunch we headed north out of town on the main highway, which was actually paved, up the hills, and through the interior of the island. The road was paved, but it still had large pot holes all along the drive. We arrived on the north side of the island and soon found the turnoff to the resort. We arrived around three in the afternoon, and Julie greeted us and showed us to our bure. The facilities were lovely and the view was amazing. We unpacked our bags and then went out to the lawn chairs to relax and take in the view. Julie and her husband Joe soon joined us, and we enjoyed talking about their cruising experiences. That evening we enjoyed a meal of grilled and blackened wahoo, potatoes, and green beans followed by apple pie with ice cream. We then called it a night and returned to our bure.

After breakfast the next morning, we said goodbye and drove into Labasa. On the way we got stuck behind an overloaded cane truck so westopped and asked the workers in the field if we could take a picture of them., and they were more than happy to strike a pose for cane us. Labasa is one of the main sugar cane towns in Fiji. Here again the trucks were lined up waiting to deliver their sugar cane.

After we got through Labasa, we wanted to drive to the Naag Temple to see the cobra rock. Unfortunately, there are no road signs or tourist signs to direct you, so after several wrong turns, we asked directions and finally found the “Snake Temple.” Inside the temple was a rock that did look like the head of a cobra that is preparing to strike.

We then walked up the "108 Steps," one step at a time and viewed a small room where a family was saying prayers.

Our plan was to drive around the northern tip of the island and make a loop back to Savusavu. The road had again become dirt with rocks so it was slow going for us. We had to stop once again for directions at a small grocery store that was owned by an Indian family. After they gave us directions, we prepared to leave; however, the man came out and asked us if we would take the older woman in the group to her home. He said that she didn’t speak English, but when we got there, she would tap Steve on the shoulder. She spoke to me along the way, but I could not understand anything that she said. We drove for quite awhile before she indicated for us to stop. When we did, she got out of the car, waved to us, and walked toward her home.

We were not sure that we wanted to continue on the very poor road, but just then we saw a sign indicating that a new road cutting across the island had just opened. We decided that we would take it because it would cut about 60 miles off our trip. We drove along a secondary road that led back up into the hills. After we passed a village we became concerned when we noticed dump trucks loading up large gravel for the roadbed. We weren’t so sure the road really was open.

A few more miles up the road we came around a corner and found that we had to take a side road around construction.

When we came over the hill, we had to stop because a section of the road was not completed. We thought that we might have to turn back; however, a construction worker indicated that we should wait. A bulldozer was working on the last section, and after about 15 minutes, he backed up to our car, and then he cut a path across the red clay (thank goodness it wasn’t raining) for us across the missing piece. We had to weave around some large earthmoving equipment, and everyone gave us a look that said, “What are you doing up here,” but we just waved at them and continued on our way.

Finally, we came over the last hill, and we could see Natewa Bay down below. We drove down and were so glad to be back by the ocean. A village was close by and everyone we passed called out “bula” (hello) to us. We met Joshua and Navuka on the road, and they asked us to come by their house for a minute. They carried out chairs for us, one of which was a recliner, and we sat on the porch and visited for about 20 minutes. Joshua had another property by the water with a bure, and he said that we could stay there for as long as we liked. We thanked them but said that we had to return to Savusavu.

We were about 20 miles out of Savusavu and still on a dirt road when our RAV 4x4 began to run poorly, so we kept our fingers crossed that it would get us back without dying. We arrived back in Savusavu around 3 o’clock and immediately went to the marina to load our things. We then returned the rental car and went out to the boat.

The trip was interesting, to say the least. We enjoyed seeing the interior of this island, which is much greener than Viti Levu, but the people are just as friendly.

During the weekend I took advantage of the lower humidity to get some varnishing done. As soon as the weather clears, we will leave Savusavu and work our way back over to Viti Levu.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yandua Island to Vanua Levu Island

August 23, 2009-Our time on Yadua Island was very relaxing; however, the wind continued to blow hard on Monday and Tuesday. Luckily, the bottom was pure mud so the anchor held with no problems.

On Monday, we went ashore to find the trail over to the village on the other side of the island, but we never did locate it. On Tuesday we decided to try one more time, and this time we did find it close to where a fish camp was located.

We left a little past noon and began the walk through the jungle. Soon we were climbing a moderate hill that took us up to a ridge that ran the length of the island. Once we were on the ridge, the trail leveled off, but it was still a bit difficult because in some spots the trail was very narrow, and there was a steep drop down a slope. The good thing was that the views were spectacular in all directions.

Our only incident was when I was walking along watching the path and never saw the huge spider web across the path. I did have my sun hat on so I just picked up some of the web and not the huge spider that was on the web. While I cleaned off my hat, Steve took a picture of "Charlotte" in her web.

After about two hours we arrived at Denimanu Village on the east side of Yadua Island. The village was lovely, and the people were all very friendly. A man named William greeted us and then took us to meet Peter. Peter informed us that the chief had left the island and would not return until Friday, so we asked Peter if we could leave our "sevusevu" or kava with him to give to the chief. He took the kava and then checked our cruising permit. He offered us some tea, but we told him that we needed to head back before it got too late. He did ask us to sign the guest book that was kept at the village.

Peter is the caretaker of Yaduatabu Island where in 1979 the crested iguana was discovered. Yaduatabu Island is separated from Yadua Island by just 200 meters. The island was turned into a sanctuary for the iguana by the National Trust for Fiji, and people are not allowed on the island, at least not yet. Peter told us that there were about 11,000 iguanas on the island.

We made a quick stop by the school so that we could drop off some supplies for it and then said goodbye. We made our way back up to the ridge and headed back to the other side. This time, I kept a sharp eye out for Charlotte or any other relatives of hers. We did pass her again, but this time we didn't disturb her web. We continued on, and it was about 5 o'clock when we got back to the boat. We were pretty tired so we showered and then relaxed for the rest of the evening.

The next morning the weather report was good so we pulled our anchor and headed toward Bua Bay on Vanua Levu Island. We motored over the north side of Yadua Island and crossed the waters between the islands with light winds right on our nose. We arrived at Bua Bay around 2 o'clock and dropped our anchor. This bay is very large, but it is shallow and well protected.

On Thursday morning, we left around 7:30 in the morning so that we could get to our next anchorage before the next piece of bad weather set in. Steve could hardly get the anchor loose because it was buried so deeply in the mud. We were lucky enough to catch an ebb tide out of the bay, which pushed our speed to 7 knots. We rounded the southwestern point of Vanua Levu and continued on along the southern shore.

Naisonisoni Passage allowed us to cut through the very large reef that was on our way to Savusavu. We arrived just past low tide and were able to clearly see the reef edges, which was good because the sky was so overcast that we could see nothing unless the tide was down. We went through the pass in calm water and light winds and then were lucky enough to pick up the flood tide all the way into Savusavu. We decided to continue all the way to Savusavu because the weather did not look good for the next few days. We arrived at 4:45 and Bill from the Copra Shed Marina led us to our mooring ball. Just as we were tying up to the ball, the rain started to fall, and it hasn't stopped since.

Savusavu is a small town, but the Copra Shed facilities are very nice, the people are very friendly, and the restaurants have good food at very reasonable prices. We plan to lrent a car and drive around the island for a couple of days.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crossing from Viti Levu Island to Vanua Levu Island

August 17, 2009--The past week has been one of unsettled weather. We did not leave Vuda Point Marina on Monday because of a poor weather forecast. Instead we went into Nadi with Christine and Jamie from sv Morning Light in order to have lunch and do a little shopping. The owner of the boat next to Morning Light, Owen, was kind enough to drive us into Nadi. We ate lunch at an upscale bistro and then caught a taxi to take us to the meat store and then to the grocery store.

Our driver was quite nice and waited while we shopped for meat. He then drove us to the Morris Hedstrom grocery store for some provisions. Just few stores away was a Hot Baked Bread Shop, so we all loaded up on fresh bread. They even had whole wheat loaves. We returned to the marina, put away our stores, and prepared to leave on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning the weather forecast still did not look great; however, we decided to just go ahead and leave. We were tired of sitting in the hot marina and not seeing more of Fiji, so we checked out and took just a short time to motor to Lautoka. We quickly anchored the boat and then got the dinghy off the deck and the outboard on it. Steve took the dinghy in to Customs to check us out of Lautoka district while I stayed on the boat. Before I knew it, he was back so we reversed the whole process--outboard off, dinghy on deck, hoist the anchor--and were on our way east inside the barrier reef headed for Nananu-i-cake.

We had come this way from Levuka to Lautoka, so we had a track in our GPS to follow back to the east side. Tuesday evening we anchored behind Tavutha reef, which has a small, sandy island lined with mangrove trees, so that we could get some protection from the northeast winds. Because the weather forecast for Wednesday called for stronger winds in the afternoon, we left at dawn so that we could arrive at Nananu-i-cake by lunch. The winds were mild and the seas relatively calm for most of the trip. We went through a brief rain shower but arrived at Nananu-i-cake right after twelve o'clock. We dropped the anchor in 50 feet of water, put out as much chain as we could, and hooked up our Anchor Buddy to help keep the anchor in the mud. We were ready for the winds to pick up.

The wind blew that afternoon and evening at about 25 knots with gusts up to 35 knots or more. The boat was dancing at anchor, but the GPS showed us holding our position just fine. We did not get much sleep since the wind created noisy rigging, and the waves were slapping against the hull. Short rain showers went by several times, which made us happy as the boat was quite salty.

Thursday gave us more of the same weather. It was a good thing that we were in such a lovely anchorage. We did not go ashore as Nananu-i-cake is a private island, but we enjoyed relaxing and reading. Friday the bad weather continued. Finally on Saturday the weather started looking better. On Sunday we decided to leave for Yadua Island across the Bligh waters from our anchorage.

Yadua Island is a small island on the southwest coast of Vanua Levu Island. The trip was about 25 miles long and took us across the Bligh waters. Yes, they are named after Captain Bligh who sailed through them after being put off the Bounty. We had to leave Nananu-i-cake through a pass in the reef that turned out to be a little nerve racking. Once we were out of the pass, we were in open water and sailed on our jib across to Yadua Island. The entrance into Yadua included sailing through two small, but still dangerous, reefs that were not visible at all. We were entering at almost high tide but at least we had the sun to help us see any reefs. We got through the reefs and relieved because we were sure that once we got into the lee of the island, the wind and waves would calm right down. Boy were we wrong.

As we rounded the southwestern tip of Yadua Island, the winds actually gusted even higher, and the waves wrapped around the point and continued right on. We turned to enter Cukuvou Bay and had to steer between two reefs extending from each side. The gap in the reefs is about 100 yards wide, which is usually plenty. Unfortunately, with the wind blowing like stink and the waves pushing us to port, I had to watch carefully that we would not be pushed toward the reef to that side. We made it in with Steve directing me from the bow and dropped our anchor in 55 feet of water. Again we put out plenty of chain and the Anchor Buddy just to be sure. There was one other sailboat in the anchorage to our port side, but that was all.

The island is beautiful and deserted on this side. The water in the bay is very clear and there is a coral head that should be good for snorkeling. We tried this morning to walk across the island to the village to offer our sevusevu (giving kava to the chief); however, we looked for two hours and never could find the trail. For right now, we will simply enjoy our surroundings and be grateful that we are out at anchor again.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back at Vuda Point

August 8, 2009—After checking into the Badeera Beach Inn, we relaxed for awhile before we walked over to the Outrigger Resort to see the Hoppers. We all went out to the palapa bar to eat some dinner and catch up on things. The next morning Bob and Barbara joined us for breakfast, and we agreed to meet at the Outrigger pool after lunch. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon by the pool, which was good since Steve was still not fully recovered.

On Monday we hired a tour guide for a day of sightseeing. First we drove up to the Tuvani Village, which is actually the remains of a fort that was used by the Fijians. It sits up on the top of a hill, which created a great defensive position. The rock outlines of buildings were still in place, and we were shown the “killing stone” where enemies were executed if they were not already dead. I believe that cannibalism was practiced in Fiji until the mid 1800s, but I cannot find anything definitive about it.

After the fort, we drove to a village in which the women make pottery. Kitty met our van and gave us a tour of the Methodist church, and then she took us to the community hall where the women displayed their jewelry and pottery that was for sale. They also sang to us and even got us up to dance with them.

Our next stop was at a waterfall. We pulled into small village to park, and we were again urged into the community hall to look at souvenirs that were for sale. We were then introduced to a guide who would take us up to the waterfall. It was a good 30-minute walk, and we had to cross the shallow river nine times before we arrived at the waterfall. It was an overcast day, which was good because it was not too hot for the walk. We rested by the falls with our feet in the cool water for awhile, but then a large group of tourists appeared, so we decided to head back. When we arrived back at the van, we thanked our guide and then piled back into the van.

By now it was almost two o’clock, and we were all hungry so our driver stopped at an Indian restaurant overlooking the water where we enjoyed sweet and sour fish. After lunch we dropped Bob and Barbara at their resort, and we returned to our hotel to wait for our taxi back to the landing for Robinson Cursoe. We arrived back at the landing, caught the shuttle boat back to our boat, and then headed in to shore for dinner.

Tuesday morning we got underway early and headed out the pass on an ebb tide. We had just cleared the pass when we heard what sounded like a plane engine, but we discovered that the noise was from our transmission. Steve immediately took the engine out of gear and we hoisted our sails. Unfortunately, we had only five knots of wind so we were sailing at barely two knots. Luckily, we had enough speed to keep us moving away from the reef to our right. Steve put the transmission into reverse and forward several times, but there was still an odd sound. We decided to head back to Vuda Point Marina in case we needed to have work done. About two hours later we were approaching Navula Pass so Steve decided to try the engine one more time. We started it, then put it in gear, and everything sounded good. We motored through the pass and all the way back to the marina as well because the wind was right on our nose—again! We pull in, tied up, and were greeted by several cruising friends who were also at Vuda.

We planned to leave Vuda on Friday; however, a low was supposed to pass over the area that night and the next day so we decided to stay put for the weekend. I was able to catch up on my laundry, and Steve filled the diesel and propane tanks. On Saturday night we were invited to sv Dorothy Marie along with about ten other cruisers. Anita from sv Kind of Blue played the accordion, Glen from Dorothy Marie joined in on his saxophone, and the rest of us sang along. We had a great time, and we kept the marina entertained for the evening.

We hope to leave Vuda Point in the morning and head over to Vanua Levu Island for a couple of weeks. That island is supposed to be more remote. Unfortunately, it receives more rain than Viti Levu so we may be in for a wet trip. In closing, all is well here on sv Linda. We are thoroughly enjoying our time here in Fiji.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sea Snakes

August 3, 2009—While I have good Internet, I wanted to load a few pictures from Robinson Crusoe Island and my birthday celebration.

The Central Market in Nadi was a very interesting place.

Our snorkeling trip at Musket Cove was really lovely, and Steve took these pictures with our underwater camera.

The past week has been uneventful since Steve was unlucky enough to pick up a case of the flu from another cruiser who was in the anchorage with us. From Sunday through Thursday, Steve spent his time on the settee with a fever, chest congestion, and a bad cough. We kept all the ports and hatches open, trying to get as much air moving through the boat as possible, and some how I did not catch it from him.

Thursday afternoon we decided to go ashore to make some travel arrangements for our trip to Sigatoka to see the Hoppers. Steve got into the dinghy so that we could lower the outboard engine, and when he looked down at the floor of the dinghy, he spotted a sea snake at the back of the dinghy and underneath the inflatable floor. He high stepped it back onto the boat, and we debated how to get rid of it. Our inflatable floor leaves an air space between it and the bottom of the dinghy, which creates a lovely, warm place for the snake to warm itself.

We turned the dinghy upside down and tapped on the bottom, but the snake did not leave. We ended up deflating the floor, and then Steve started pulling it up to find the snake. All of a sudden we realized that there were actually two snakes, not one. He got back on the boat and grabbed our boat pole so that he could pick them up and put them over the side, but both snakes slithered off the dinghy by themselves. Steve then started placing the floor back into position and was amazed to find a third snake, and he did have to pick that one up with the pole and lower it into the water. Now we check very carefully before stepping down into the dinghy.

We went ashore and Ronnie at Robinson Cursoe was very helpful and made our hotel reservations for us and also arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the boat landing. We then returned to the boat so that Steve could rest up before we returned in the evening for dinner.

On Friday Steve was still not feeling great and still had a low-grade fever, so we took it easy for another day. On Saturday morning we were packed and ready to go, and the shuttle boat came by our boat to pick us up and take us up the river, which took about 30 minutes. From there the taxi picked us up and drove us to the Badeera Beach Hotel where we will stay for two nights and spend time with Bob and Barbara Hopper.

In closing I wanted to post the picture that Steve took through the binoculars of Lisa's boat, sv Magia, on the reef. On Friday, July 24, her boat was pulled off the reef, and she now has it on the hard for repairs. This story had a good ending.