Fai Tira Blog
Tuesday 6th July
Fiji 16:53.95S 178:13.58W
Eventually Sunday morning arrived and at about 7am we
slipped our mooring after an illegal night, having cleared out the previous day.
We crept slowly and quietly past the rows of silent yachts with their
still-slumbering crews, and aimed the bow at the transit posts in a clearing
high on the hillside above the bay. With them now to our stern, we looked around
and headed out towards the open sea and our next destination of Fiji, a trip
that should take us about four days.
No wistful over-the-shoulder glances this time though,
in fact as far as I was concerned, no glances at all. Not really sure of the
reasons why. It certainly wasn’t due to any dislike of the place; I think that
it’s probably just down to the fact that it wasn’t singularly inspiring, but
having said that, I also realise that this is a huge Island group and we were
just visiting the one known as Vava’u and in particular its main town of
So what are the impressions of this place that will
accompany us for the rest of our trip?
Well, firstly our arrival was somewhat dominated by
concerns about the yacht Lucy Alice. They’d been hanging on to a tow rope off
our stern for the last few hours and we needed to ensure that they were now in
the position to pick up a mooring buoy. Once she was secured we looked up. The
town and shore line were just there, not really much chance for first
However, I do remember an overriding sense of busyness
(something almost bound to be present after the places we’d just left). It
wasn’t just down to the large number of boats on the moorings though, but also
the general level of activity combined with the density and location of the
buildings overlooking the water.
Early proceedings were once more dominated by paper work
and, in particular, clearing in. Pete quickly disappeared, making the most of a
lift in the dinghy of Enchantress, while Jeremy and I took care of the tidying
up before launching our own dinghy and installing the
This was one of the BWR supported stops attended by
Richard, one of the directors and as usual, as is the case on these occasions, a
full programme of events was on offer.
Our mooring was close to the town and within a short
dinghy ride from the timber staging belonging to the Aquarium cafe and bar, a
venue that remained pretty much a focal point for us for the next few
Almost from the beginning, the town absorbed you into a
cloak of comfort, although the reasons are quite difficult to pinpoint.
It wasn’t architecturally pretty although, from its high
vantage point, a very large and imposing church dominated the skyline. It wasn’t very inspirational and it
certainly wasn’t clean or tidy, but it was....well....very
Sounds a bit boring, I suppose, but it wasn’t. How can a
place with a huge population of pigs running lose everywhere, including the main
street, ever be boring? The interaction between the bars and cafes, of which
there were loads, mostly run by expats, made it very easy to integrate and feel
part, even if only temporarily, of a fairly vibrant
Every morning at 8.30 the VHF radio would spring to life
with a local net call. It was again run by expats and acted like a verbal notice
board for information and current affairs, with slots for everyone including us
if we’d wanted. It seemed to generate a sense of community, acting like cement
between the bricks of a social wall and was always well supported. The cafes and
bars, in particular, making sure that everyone knew where they were located and
what delights they had on offer.
I don’t think I can recall seeing such a small area
offering such a wide range of food, served by such obliging and friendly people
in such attractive, tasteful and, in many cases, simple
The organised events would leave little time for
anything else, unless you were selective. The two main ones were the welcoming
party taking place in part of the large hotel in an area next to the water; and
also a sail and overnight stop at Ano Beach where a combined traditional Tongan
feast and dancing was laid on. The following day, on the return journey, there
was another exotic beach stop for a lunch time barbeque. And as it happened
birthday celebrations for the now teenage Charlie off Miss
We took part in both, although a trip to the hospital,
to check out my urchin attacked hand, meant I missed the birthday
celebrations..... Luckily the hand’s ok though.
We also attended the curry evening at The Crows Nest
where selections of dishes, prepared earlier by some of the crews at a cooking
workshop, were served.
We shared a table with the guys off the boats Simandarel
The evening turned out to be a really enjoyable
experience with great food and gracious and entertaining
It transpired that I’d received an individually prepared
vegetarian dish. Special treatment yet again!!.
An interesting conversation followed at the end of the
evening with our hosts and patrons.
Tess, a lovely lady of Indian descent, in particular
giving us a rundown on their background, how they met and some of the decisions
and research that enticed them to Tonga; whilst Steve, her partner, gave some
indication of life on the other side of the jolly facade of co-operation and
camaraderie between them and their rivals, and the harsh reality of operating in
a very competitive environment and paying all those bills that still exist even
in paradise. Just goes to show it ain’t all a bed of
They also told us of their future business ambitions.
The Crows Nest is on the market
(don’t all rush!) and apparently, after much
deliberation, they see themselves doing something similar in
Fascinating the desires that fire people and how this
delightful, strong willed Indian lady and her determined husband are prepared to
go to such lengths to fulfil their aspirations
I suppose that somewhere lurking in the background,
hidden amongst all those superficial desires, is the mundane need for security
that most of us have. If it is, then their ambitious talk made a good job of
disguising it ...Best of luck you two.
The trip to Ano Beach was short, uneventful and smooth,
carried out under power, and took in the sights of Mariners and Swallow
The first event, when we arrived, was the dinghy sailing
race over a course devised by BWR’s Richard Bolt. There weren’t many rules
except that we were only allowed to use wind power, so there was a spate of
feverish activity as everyone hunted for bits of canvas and spare poles to rig
up a mast. Most took it quite seriously, that is until they realised they
weren’t going to win. It then transpired that they hadn’t been really trying
after all, ourselves included......We came third!!
The Tongan feast must be unique. We’d certainly never
experienced anything like it.
Exotic food in all sorts of traditional ‘dishes’
(coconut halves to name one) were piled haphazardly onto a long table, under a
rudimentary roof of palm leaves supported on sticks. Just beyond were rows of
benches used for seating to watch the dances. When the entertainment was over
the benches were carried across and placed round the table. Everyone then sat
down and dived in (could have been a great venue for a food fight). There seemed
to be stacks left, but before long the children of the craft vendors who greeted
us on our arrival also tucked in....Nothing was wasted.
Pete and Jeremy raved about the beach and barbeque the
following day. They also took a diversion to the caves so Pete could indulge in
My day, after the hospital visit, was spent relaxing,
chatting and catching up via the internet...Very
My fascination with the internal combustion engine is a
thing of the past. Pete’s on the other hand still dances around merrily in his
mind. Right opposite the Aquarium, under a shed roof and lined up, were loads of
bits of bent metal resembling bedsteads. Each had a roof and a wheel at each
corner, the two rear ones being propelled by a noisy bit of machinery operating
close behind your head and just inches from your ears.
The idea was to strap yourself and passenger, in a
recumbent position, into this framework and then go charging round the country;
dancing off dusty potholes following a guy on a quad bike. Every now and then
you get to glance at the scenery whilst, all the time, hoping that on arrival
back the actions haven’t had the effect of shortening the onset of whole body
arthritis by a few years.
You won’t be surprised to know that I opted for a bike
ride. Pete and J forked out the money and set out on their three hour whirlwind
spin. To be truthful, they said it was brilliant, they travelled through the
little villages, with children waving and running after them, before heading
onto the dirt roads that crisscrossed the east side of the island. The first
stop had stunning views of the coast and beaches. They drove through the country
side, through woods and thickets until they eventually stopped and were treated
to the sight of a large flying fox soaring over the cliffs just below them. That
has to be worth the money!!.
Back on the staging I prepared my bike whilst at the
same time having an interesting conversation with a couple of guys off the yacht
Zulu. He was an American called Mike and she a South African lady called
Marilyn. I guess that they were about my age and had been sailing for the last
two years without any set plans or desire to stop.... Great characters and very
With my tyres now blown up to bursting point, courtesy
of a guy from the Aquarium and his compressed air cylinder, I rolled down into
the town and glanced at the map given to me by Marilyn.
I decided to make the short ascent and then drop down to
the adjacent bay, shown as the Old Harbour and wharf. What I saw was to set the
pattern for the rest of the ride. Quite scruffy urban sprawl where rubbish and
litter seem to be an accepted part of daily life. Villages predominately full of
primitive accommodation, where the only shops seemed to be roadside sheds, whose
prime function was to sell Digicel top ups for mobile phones. There were,
however, long stretches of green open countryside, quiet apart from the sounds
of exotic birds. Along one of these stretches I encountered a guy called John,
just emerging from a field with an armful of coconuts. His car was parked on the
verge and he deposited the load into an already crammed boot. I requested
directions and he asked where I’d come from. I gratefully declined his offer of
fresh coconut juice (tried it, don’t like it) but it was the start of another
welcome friendly interlude......This is fun!!
The ride was quite short and although lacking in any
particular highlight, still very enjoyable. However, without a proper map, I was
always aware of the potential for ending up in some obscure direction and unable
to get back in time. I eventually arrived with time to spare and deposited
myself outside the local ice-cream parlour, demolishing a very generous chocolate cone whilst
talking to a couple of local guys. The relaxation continued when I was joined by
Carolyn off Gaultine, and another hour or so passed whilst we immersed ourselves
in frivolous but entertaining conversation.
We’ve now been at sea for some time. Managed a bit of
sailing with a variety of sail settings but mostly goose winged. However lack of
wind has meant more work for the poor overstretched
Oh yes those parting impressions:
Looking back at some of the descriptions, apart from the
big rock in the middle, I could almost have been referring to Bora Bora. One
exception though, this place isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is
and that makes it feel good!!!
It was enjoyable, relaxing, comfortable, but didn’t
quite fire the imagination!!!