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Date: 06 Jul 2010 04:33:18
Title: Heading for Fiji 16:53.95S 178:13.58W Tuesday 6th July

 

Fai Tira Blog Tuesday 6th July

Heading for 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 Neiafu.

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 impressions then!!

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 engine.

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 days.

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 comfortable.

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 community.

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 surroundings.

 

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 Tippy.

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 and Aspen.

The evening turned out to be a really enjoyable experience with great food and gracious and entertaining company

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 roses!!!

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 Chile.

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 caves.

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 some diving.

My day, after the hospital visit, was spent relaxing, chatting and catching up via the internet...Very enjoyable.

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 friendly people.

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 engine.

 

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!!!

 

 

 


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