Bavatu Harbour hill climb
Tuesday 14th July 2015
Distance run: 7 nmiles
Having enjoyed the scenery and peace and quiet of the Bay of Islands for a couple of days, we decided to head around the top of the island to Bavatu Harbour, where we had heard there is a boat landing from which to hike up the hill for a good view over the Bay of Islands. We motored round in good light and had no difficulty seeing and avoiding the shallow patches inside the outer reef, and anchored in a small bay off the larger and deeper harbour, where we had good all-round shelter from both the wind and the swell.
Anchored in calm, protected waters in Bavatu harbour.
That evening we joined Bear & Pepe on Beez for a belated birthday meal of lamb shanks with roast tatties, veggies and lashings of gravy – delicious! My contribution was a banana cake which turned out to be very popular and might have been finished altogether had we not had the bright idea of saving some for our hike up the hill the next day.
The fast disappearing banana cake. Pepe demonstrates her special mosquito hat. Very Special...
The next day we took the dinghy over to the boat landing in the corner of the main harbour, where there is a flight of 271 wooden steps up the hillside. These were built by the plantation workers for easier access to the plantation and to their village. There is also a dirt road leading up there, but it is longer and much harder work according to a couple of the villagers who were at the boat landing. So off we set up the steps.
Skipper all ready for the challenge – 56 seconds the sign says – though doesn’t specify if that’s up or down!
Won’t beat the record if you keep stopping to admire the view! Uh-oh, he’s on his knees by the time we get to the top!
At the top of the steps we followed a path which led us to the plantation workers’ village, through which we needed to pass to get to the viewpoint. We went in through the gate and to the first house to ask if we might be allowed to walk through the village. The lady was, believe it or not, busy on her mobile phone, so we waited for her to finish, and then asked. She said it was fine, but could we sign her book first. So we did, and she pointed out where the path continued through a gate and up the hillside. We had been told there was no need to do sevusevu at this village as the land is freehold and owned by the plantation owners.
The small plantation workers village. Very neat houses, all the same.
This closed up building amused us – “The Sometime Store”.
We continued through the village and along the path that led gently uphill most of the way with just the odd steep bit, until we came to a headstone. Here we turned and walked to the edge of the cliff, and there below us was the Bay of Islands. The view was well worth the walk.
Nature’s interesting shapes and patterns along the path. These guys were too busy basking in the sun to run off.
This fallen tree looked like a monster! The headstone of Kenneth Allardyce of Aberdeen, presumably a former plantation owner.
Looking down over the Bay of Islands – stunning!
Many shades of blue and purple. Looking down on the reef near the shore below.
We sat for a breather at the viewpoint, and finished off the banana cake – what more could we ask? Finally we reluctantly set off back towards the village and the steps back down to the landing. Here we met Geoff and Penny from ‘Paws Time’ coming ashore to do the hill walk. As cruisers do, we were soon deep in conversation, and it turned out that they had come up from Fulaga in the Southern Lau, which is our next stop.
Fulaga is a small island at the southern end of the Lau group, about 200 nmiles from the main island of Viti Levu. Until five years ago, yachts were not allowed to visit these outer islands as the Fijian Government wanted to keep their culture intact. The only boat that went there was the monthly cargo boat from Suva which visits four islands bringing supplies. Under the present Government, the Lau islands have been opened up to yachts, and the villagers of Fulaga welcome cruisers as one of their main contacts with the outside world.
The pass through the reef into Fulaga is narrow, shallow, and rocky, and although we had Curly’s waypoints in, we also knew that Sue and Bob on ‘Mawari’ had some problems entering last year, so when Geoff invited us over for drinks that evening to share his waypoints with us, we were eager to accept. Geoff and Penny are Brits who have settled in New Zealand, and for the last ten years have spent their winters cruising Fiji. Before the Lau islands were opened up, they spent several years cruising the Yasawas, where we hope to go after the Lau, and Geoff’s information on those islands would also be invaluable. So we spent a very enjoyable evening on board ‘Paws Time’ chatting and going through charts.
Today we have done some exploring by dinghy and some small boat jobs while we wait for the wind to come round more to the east and to ease a bit so that we can set off for Fulaga. It is 130 nmiles southsoutheast from here, another passage into the wind, and a full 24-hour sail. With the wind just south of east as forecast, we should be able to sail the first 100 nmiles or so as they are more or less due south. The last 30nm or so we will have to see where the wind is, as that is directly to the south east, so it will either mean tacking or motoring. We shall see.