Jesus, shells and cannibals

Thu 2 Aug 2018 05:24

Jesus, shells and cannibals ……..


Lying 20 miles of north of Vulaga we set sail for our next destination of Namuka-i-Lau.



The way the reef pass here is, there is a strong current that pushes between the small islands providing shelter in our anchorage and with it comes a variety of flotsam and jetsam.  Our favourite consequence of these currents is the shells.  We have spent many a happy hour poking around finding treasures – nautilus is still a fave – and we got a good collection now.




Our least favourite consequence of the currents are the sharks.  On previous trips we have been chased out of the water several times by small groups of black tips with a bad attitude about them and judging by what was left of this sunfish – the gangs are still around.



There is only one village on Namuka, and by Southern Lau standards it’s large at around 380 people.  Tongan descendants living on one side – cemetery in the middle – Fijian descendants living on the other – but everyone living together in all aspects of village life  Talking to some of the older folk, around 800 people lived here in the 1950’s and it was only recently that they dropped below 400.  It does make you wonder what the future is for these remote and isolated communities.  They do however get a supply boat from the mainland more frequently than Vulaga and after a dodgey LPG refill in Suva we were now unexpectedly low on cooking gas.  Not wanting to have to hurry due to no gas, the locals sorted out an LPG bottle to come from Suva on the next ferry. 


Fortunately we know the store owner Talanoa well from previous visits and his English (although way better than our Fijian) isn’t so good.  We never really knew until the day whether it was going to turn up – the conversation went something like this.


            Carl:                 “how big are the gas bottles?”

            Talanoa:          “6kg, 9kg, 12kg” (big smile)

            Carl:                “I’ll have a 9kg one please – hopefully it will fit in the gas locker”

            Talanoa:          “yes” (big smile)

            Carl:                “So what day does the ferry arrive”

Talanoa:          “yes” (big smile)

Carl:                “Do you know how much it will cost?”

Talanoa:          “yes” (big smile)


After much animated talking on the phone to Talanoa’s sister in law Sofaia in Suva – the deal was done. 



The village is an hours walk each way from the anchorage on a very overgrown track.  Fortunately (given the temperature) it’s pretty flat but the locals you meet along the way have the best mode of transport.  Meet Atu – complete with tools for the day going to cut down some trees.  They only practice natural horsemanship here in Namuka!!



After passing Atu on the track that day, when we got back to the dingy on the beach at the end of the day, Atu had filled it up with freshly husked drinking coconuts – he thought we looked a bit hot and bothered on the track J.  No bush knives for the kaipalangi on Navara – Mr De Walt drill does a fine job!



I think people started to feel a bit sorry for us walking hours every day or so, so occasionally there would be a whip around for the petrol and a few of the girls here drove us home.  Selepa the long boat driver here is a real hard case – we’ve had some really funny times with her and she was so pleased to see us back.  She’s very proud that she can drive just as fast as the men and you’ll be wanting to hang on I can tell you!!


 With the Lau islands being half way between Fiji and Tonga and trade winds blowing steadily from the Tongan side – there is a long history of raiding (Viking style).  Once Christianity arrived some of the Tongan “visitors” settled here and many of the people in the Lau look much more Tongan than Fijian and there’s lots of Tongan names around too.  However, prior to Jesus’s arrival these guys were full on cannibals.  People are always proud to take you to what remains of the once unwanted visitors and they have no issues what so ever handling the remains.  Joshua here is a deeply religious man, but he says these bones are just like the left overs of takeaways!!  Often with large holes in the back of their heads, there are caves full of bones all around the Lau.



Namuka is also one of the few islands that grows the paper mulberry tree.  The men cut the stalks and strip the bark, the women then soak it in seawater until it’s soft and then beat it into Masi – Fijian tapa cloth.  You hear the village long before you see it – every family has a separate hut where the woman are beating this stuff all day long. 



They send it on the ferry to Suva and along with coconuts (oil, copra and mangi mangi -rope) – this is how the people of Namuka earn their living.  Masi is also an integral part of life here where it is used extensively in any formal occasion such as weddings, funerals and significant birthdays.  Here is a piece (partly finished) being made for a wedding next month.


 Joshua is also a very good artist – and he is the islands tattooist – done the old school way with sharpened sharks teeth and wooden hammers.  He even tattooed himself which must have been a bit of an ordeal.  Last time we were here he really really really wanted to tattoo Carl, and although flattered, he couldn’t quite work up the courage for a whole lot of reasons!  We bring a variety of things to trade and gift in the islands and this year that included a rather large box of drawing pencils from Carl’s dad.  Joshua was absolutely delighted with this as he could now get smaller pieces of masi and do some sketching.  He did have a drawing pencil some years ago – but no more.  Overnight he did his first drawing with Lewis’s old “black beauty” pencil – no other that the Lord himself!!  ( with a bit of a traditional tattoo boarder J).



Trade gifts rather than money are what people really want / need out here.  One of Joshua’s boys – around 16 I think – once he saw the pencils asked us if we had a highlighter he could have.  When asked what he wanted it for he said that he would like to highlight his favourite passages in the bible so he could find them more easily.  You gotta love these guysJ - we gave him 3 different colours ( from the onboard stationary dept ) and told him to go hardJ


Remember Selepa the long boat driver?  I think we’ll give her the last say on Jesus – this explains her personality so well – she absolutely LOVES this T-shirt of hers.


 (Jesus loves you - but everyone else thinks you're a wanker)

Well as always – sailors are dictated by the weather – so re gassed – re coconuted - re-paw pawed and re-bananaed – we set off in beautiful calm conditions to sail north some more.



Navara standing by ……..


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