Fri 29 Aug 2008 07:53
Friday 29th August
Position 16:56S 177:21.9W  The Blue Lagoon, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Alone, again, after a wonderful succession of family visitors over the last few months. My sincere thanks to you all for putting up with me, my cranky old ways, and the cramped quarters! I enjoyed every minute, especially those precious moments spent clearing hairs from the washbasin and shower drains! (NB Thanks for the shower pump spares, Vicky. These have worked like a charm: ever since they came on board the old pump has been sucking for England!!)
The Blue Lagoon is a ridiculously picture postcard perfect spot in this Island chain to the northwest of Viti Levu, Fiji's main Island. The scenary is just awesome. Sadly the local village has sold off the best stretch of beach to a cruise ship operator. The ships, with maybe thirty cabins, anchor off and the passengers are ferried ashore to the sun loungers. So sad, but it's a big lagoon and you soon learn to look the other way. Moreover, by Fijian standards, the village is looking pretty damned affluent!  Progress is unstopable. Holiday makers in Fiji are mostly from New Zealand. Its interresting that many Brits want to start a new life in NZ, whilst the New Zealanders themselves are dreaming of second homes in Fiji!! The swimming and snorkeling here is fabulous, and today I found a little blue flower to paint. It would be easy to stay for three months, which is exactly what Ted, in the only other yacht here today, has done. His wife however is on board, so I must really get on back to Lautoka, check out early next week, and head for Vanuata, New Caledonia, Brisbane and Blighty. As the rabbit on the other side of the looking glass so rightly observed, there is not much time.
Well, back to the diary. We (Olivia and Hannah and I) arrived in Suva Harbour nearly three weeks ago; we arrived at the weekend, so couldn't clear in till Monday. We took a chance and explored downtown as illegals. Seem to have got away with it, unless the authorities intercept this blog!  Suva is big, and developing very fast. The Indian influence  (50% of the population, they were imported to sew and harvest sugar cane for the wonderful British Empire!) is everywhere. There is serious ongoing racial tension, with an interim government that can do no right in the eyes of most of the poeple that I talked to, especially the native Melanesian Fijians, and no sign of elections. For the tourist the multicultural background is colourful, and of course I felt quite at home, to the astonishment of those Kiwis who havn't been back to the UK for the last hundred years or so! We spent time researching the best Indian restaurants, voting Ashiyana a cut above most of the Bromsgrove Balti Houses. Hannah, generally a food fad of the highest order, was keen to sample the streetside Indian sweet stalls. She found that she didn't like the brightly coloured ones, but loved some that looked like small sticks, and we were always going back for more.
There was a wonderful rambling fresh food market, overspilling into the raucous oily Bus Station. The whole area was surrounded by Chinese owned 'Supermarkets': large open warehouses with a good variety of foodstuffs, but light on hygiene and decoration. On Saturdays the modus operandi became apparent: Out of town villagers arrive by bus, start shopping, and pick up a boy with a wheelbarrow. When the barrows are full the boys empty them into/onto the returning buses for a very small fee. Foodstalls pacify the queues of poeple waiting for the return trip home; the fact that many of the foodstalls are set up in the bus lanes adds both colour and chaos. Further downtown there were malls with up to the minute coffee houses, and Waitrose style supermarkets for the well heeled.
We were based out of Town, anchored off the Royal Suva Yacht Club. This was a convivial place, with friendly staff, and a successful bar. There was not a great deal of boating activity, and the Club seemed to have seen better days. With Fleck secured on a pontoon for a couple of days we rented a car and set off up the Coral Coast towards the Airport. A notable lunch stop at a resort where villas were for sale at 3M NZ$. The salt and pepper squid was a much better bargain. We stayed at the Toka Toka Resort with a swimming pool and a water slide: Hannah in seventh heaven! Olivia and I appreciated the hot showers. Next morning we bid farewell to Olivia at 7am. Unfortunatley she didn't fare as well as we hoped: her flight to Sydney was delayed, so she diverted to Auckland. When she got there no one was expecting her, but of course these gap year girls can deal with that sort of thing in their sleep, and I believe that she has finally arrived home!! Next day, 7am again, Conny arrived via Tokyo. She was in good shape, and no jet lag either. After a day of R and R poolside, and a visit to the exquisite orchid collection at the Gardens of the Sleeping Giant we travelled back to Suva. Another curry at Ashiyana, and next morning we set off for the sailing part of the holiday. We sailed via Benga Island and Momi Bay to the Mamanucas. Conny had her first taste (and probably her last, despite aquitting herself very well!) of night sailing, even she had to admit that it is a special experience, just how special I shall leave to her to tell!
We also put out the fishing line, complete with a Russells Hall flying fish (blue and white surgical glove strips). This was Hannah's idea. I was explaining that we would catch nothing in the bright sun and calm sea when the reel suddenly screamed, and line was pulled off at an alarming rate. Conny got the boat up into the wind to slow us down and we struggled to regain some line, to no avail. I was about to cut the line off, to save the rod and reel, when a torpedo with a spike on its snout surfaced about 150 yards away. A magnificent blue marlin. For sveral seconds it 'tailed' over the sea like a speedboat, and then dived deep. The rod bent double, the line snapped. Of course the one that gets away is always big, but this was really big; we could never have got it aboard, and even if we had, I think that we would have been in even more danger than the fish! I just hope that it has managed to throw the hook and recover.
Our destination was Malolo Lailai, a small Island in the Mamanuca Group, to the West of Viti Levu. Not just a pretty Island, but the home of Musket Bay Resort and Marina: just what the doctor ordered: a pool and a friend for Hannah (Nina, from 'Kliene Bar'), an endless supply of Pina Coladas, and a bar for us yachties to keep us away from the expensive end of the resort, complete with DIY BBQ's. I guess we must be getting close to Australia!  All too soon we were back on the Mainland in Vuda Point Marina. Yet another friend for Hannah, Cara, from the yacht 'Magnum'. Her dad, Uve from San Fransisco, was originally from Germany, and so there was much for our families to discuss! Once again the Marina provided well for our creature comforts with an excellent restaurant overlooking the ocean, and a coffee shop which opened early in the morning, and provided Hannah with chocholate brownies for breakfast!
We had a final mainland trip in a very cheap rental car to Sigatoka. We ducked out of an 'authentic' river village visit on a jet speedboat (Sue: shades of our 'Roots' trip up the Gambia years ago!), and settled for a wildlife park instead. I was the bravest with the boa constrictor, but we all tolerated green iguannas in our hair! We also found a great place, Natadola beach, with horse riding for Hannah: galloping two up with a local boy, Levi. We ended up at the Sentai Seafood Restaurant in downtown Nadi: a real locals dive, but excellent chinese food. Next morning, 7am, we were back at the airport yet again, and Conny and Hannah were soon on their way to Hong Kong.