A week in Fulaga

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Fri 16 Aug 2019 09:28
Church, carvings, supply ship, laundry, cave of bones, flag hill, sandspit anchorage, Kiwi’s anchoring, picnic.

Not being good church goers we do feel that when invited, as visitors to a village, to attend church that we ought to go. Duly on Sunday again in best Sulu’s and shirts we headed ashore with just enough time to get to Mary’s house and then to the quite large Methodist church. We were welcomed at the service and it was made quite plain that our attendance was appreciated and they had a poor opinion of those who didn’t come. The singing was very loud and harmonious with the only music provided by a triangle played almost as loud as the singing. Church was followed by lunch with John and Mary, each boats crew goes to their own host. A variety of dishes were presented, curried pumpkin, tuna with sea grapes in coconut milk, octopus, bread fruit and grated cassava with coconut. The vegetables all cooked in a lovo and very tasty. A lovo is a ground oven, a pit is dug and the food, wrapped in leaves and placed in a coconut frond basket, placed in it, hot rocks are put in and the whole lot covered in sand and left to cook. After lunch on a Sunday it is normal to sleep so we made our excuses and left, Sunday’s are for church, no work and no recreation. We arranged with Mary to meet the next day to go and visit the ‘bone cave’, a cave above the village with human remains in it.

We were in need of laundry doing, having to be careful with our limited water supply, sheets and towels needed a wash. Tai, a man in the village had offered to provide a laundry service, 20$Fj for a large bag delivered back to the landing next morning. So Monday morning we walked in with a large bag, observing the scrubbing brush and clean plank of wood we were glad that we hadn’t brought anything at all delicate, no washing machine here. We met Mary at the landing who apologised that she couldn’t walk with us as they were going out clamming, everyone we met on our way to the village said they were going clamming and coconut collecting, most intriguing. When we were first in the village on Saturday we had been shown the carvings done by villagers and sold to the visiting yachties and the very occasional cruise ships, we had another look now. Anything not sold is sent to relatives in Suva to sell, carving is a way for the people to get credit for goods in the village store and also to make a small amount of cash, the work on display was excellent and we would challenge anyone to walk away without buying. The most expensive piece, a large turtle shaped bowl was 200$Fj, about £80, and absolutely stunning.

On Monday evening the supply ship arrived, this is a new ship which can come right inside the lagoon and anchor, much more convenient than the old one which had to wait outside while goods were ferried in by longboat. It only stayed a very short time before moving on to the next island.

Tuesday morning the washing was not just brought down to the landing, no doubt in a wheel barrow, but Tai used the villages sit on canoe to bring it out to Serenity along with two green coconuts and some sweet potatoes he had found on the way. He came on board for tea and biscuits and quite a long chat about village life. Tai was able to explain the clamming and coconut collecting. When the supply ship comes the villagers collect coconuts and clams to send to their relatives in Suva, the islanders have plenty but in Suva they are very expensive. We walked into the village again and this time John showed us the bone cave and the view from the top of a rock outcrop all around the lagoon. The bones are human remains but John couldn’t give an explanation of why they were there, quite intriguing. John and Mary were going out to an island to camp for a few days and to prepare for a possible village picnic, Friday, which we were all invited to. We moved anchorage out to Sandspit, careful eyeball navigation with a bit of help from google earth, the lagoon in this area is about 4-6 metres deep with occasional coral bommies and rocks, they are not accurately charted so you have to get up high on the boat with the sun above or behind you to see them. We anchored in about 5 metres with a sandy bottom off another glorious beach! Well protected from the prevailing wind and with little fetch for waves to build, important as there was an increase in wind forecast for the weekend.

Wednesday and a walk on the wildside. This part of the lagoon is sheltered by a narrow strip of land covered in trees, the other side is the windward side and clear out to the surrounding reef. Phil walked out there with Rob and Jo from Double Trouble and Peter, Marino and Michelle from Forever. At low tide it is possible to wade round from Sandspit and then walk along the beach for a mile or so. The water is crystal clear and the sand clean and soft, Peter and Michelle had reconnoitred a way through the ‘jungle and crags’ back to our side on the previous afternoon so that we didn’t have to go all the way back round the end.

We were anchored with plenty of space between us in a large bay, 7 boats, on Thursday afternoon three more boats arrived. Instead of spreading out further they slotted themselves in close to the boats already here. We have been told that this is the New Zealand herd instinct, they feel that if they’re not close together they might be missing something, actually it happens everywhere. We have noticed before that if you were just one boat in a bay and another came in to anchor it would come close!

Today, Friday, was picnic day and the weather was nearly British, it rained overnight and then heavily through till early afternoon. It was a bring and share lunch with amazing food cooked by the women, a lot of it lovo’s some of the men went spear fishing and brought back a good size tuna, the village elders sat and wove plates from coconut leaves. The food again was absolutely delicious.