Makogai Island

Lars Alfredson
Sun 14 Jul 2013 08:51

Pos 17:26.41S 178:57.15E


20130711 Thursday – The Old Leper Colony – Day 1


Breakfast, a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and were off once more. Moving out from the anchorage the wind picks up as we leave the shelter of the bay. We’re soon racing along under full main and Nr2 jib and ticking along nicely at 8 knots with the seas somewhat flatter than yesterday with just a metre or so of swell.


As we leave the island we can see our destination some 26 nmiles distant. We’re now running around 9knots plus and though the fishing line is out perceived wisdom says were going to fast to catch anything.


Zing! So much for perceived wisdom we got a golden rainbow on our line in the form of a Mahi Mahi. This morning Lars had been sharpening his fish knife and now he has an opportunity to try it out, as clutching his kit, he jumps down onto the sugar-scoop to commence operations.


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              Sharpening the tools                                                                             In action


Having read his handy book “From hook to table” he decides to skin it as described and is suitably impressed when it works and the fish is rapidly reduced to two large filets, leaving the head, backbone and tail to be returned to the sea.


Our destination is the island of Makogai, once a leper colony of some 5000 souls now taken over by a government “Mari culture” scheme to grow and produce turtles and giant clams to restock the seas around Fiji.


Arriving in the early afternoon we find a sloop and a catamaran already at anchor in the bay. Once we have anchored we pop across to the cat and find an American family on board. They tell us they are going ashore in an hour or so to visit the chief and take Kava root for Sevusevu and we agree to join forces.



                      Gigi and Morning Glory


Landing on the jetty we are besieged by the local children who run up the beach to greet us and take us to the Chiefs house where we’re all invited in. Sitting in a circle on the floor we both present our bundles of Kava root.


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Speaking in Fijian he gives his thanks accompanied by the appropriate hand clapping...


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                    Chiefs house outside                                                                                                                Inside


First we have a trip around the Mari culture tanks holding 3 centimetre clams that will eventually turn into 1 metre monsters. In others they are growing turtles for eventual release. Then he then takes us on a tour of the village which consists of the remains of the leper colony, pointing the sites of the old cinema and other buildings, now slowly disappearing, their ruins being reclaimed by the jungle.


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             Giant clam breeding   


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                             Turtle breeding                                                                                      How big they grow


Following a grassy track that was originally a road, we stop at the generator house, still running its original Lister diesel engine and providing power to village. After a trek through the trees and encroaching shrubbery we finally end up at an abandoned graveyard slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.


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                          On tour                                                                                                     The generator


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                          Journeys end


During the course of our tour he mentions the Australian rally when some 20 boats came to call. Tonton remarks that he must have plenty of Kava but he says with some bitterness that they only brought one package between them and he was not best amused.


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                       Kava pounding                                                            Traditional Kava bowl


At the end of our visit he tells us where the best snorkelling and diving sites are and gives us permission to visit them and the freedom to visit the island. Returning to our respective yachts we invite Arthur, Amy his wife and Rivers the daughter and Steven to come over for “Sundowners”.


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                      Arthur and Amy join us                                                                                  for sun downers.


Just as the sun starts to set Arthur and Amy arrive bearing nibbles and alcohol. Tonton has prepared a curried tuna and biscuits plate and soon the drinks and conversation is flowing. The kids have been left behind; they like their space and this adult time were informed.


Nibbles and the hour’s progress so they are invited to stay for dinner, Mahi Mahi with onions and capers wrapped in foil and bar-b-qued. It's been a great day and a fine evening in very pleasant company.


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