From the 'real' Fiji to resort Fiji

Tue 21 Jul 2009 04:02
Position,  17.38S  177.23E
I'm writing this is a windy bay between Lautoka and Nadi, with one of our cruising companions stuck fast on a reef .With a big wind shift, other  cruising mates saved another catamaran that had dragged at anchor--all while most people had gone to the market. Luckily the boat that had dragged had  the keys in its ignition so our mates were able to save it.How ironic that these boats managed to negotiate the reefs in the most remote areas only to go on a reef (uncharted) so close to civilisation. The amazing thing was that when we came in with the sun in front of us, the reef was invisible, while with the sun 'over our shoulders' this morning we could see the reef very clearly.,  So instead of going into the marina at Denarau to meet up with the family we're sticking around to see if our power will be needed to pull the catamaran off the reef. We'll try to send a photo of the drama when we have internet access.
Since Sue Alexander wrote our last blog about our trip to north eastern Fiji, we've covered many miles and presented many bunches of kava in the traditional sevsevu ceremony. We didn't see a road or a car, nor handled money, for over a week.
We left Savusavu, everybody's favourite town in Fiji in pouring rain.  We headed south to the island of Koro, not much visited by yachts.  The only downside of Savusavu was the ranting and railing of a local evangelical pastor who began at his microphone at 7 30 am on Sundays and let up again until dark.( Since the Speight coup, the 'born against have become very strong in Fiji--yesterday we saw in Latouka a modern van with a sign on it 'Is your child ready for Eternity?' Hideous.)
At Koro we were the only boat in the bay--apart from two groups of village women fishing from kayaks--singing to attract the fish. We had a lovely talk with them, then at dusk a man paddled out, bringing us fruit and vegetables. There was nothing for it, next morning we had to lower the dinghy and go ashore to present our sevusevu.After meeting various spokesmen for the chief, and our sponsor, we sat on a grass mat in the chief's house,while he conducted our welcome ceremony in Fijian. I was actually chastised by the spokesman for wearing long trousers instead of a sulu--not that easy when climbing in and out of dinghies! This ceremony gives you the freedom of the village and the right to snorkel and dive.After a quick visit to the local kindergarten and school--kids all in neat uniforms- we hauled up the dinghy and set off to our next destination, about 40 kilometres away for yet another sevusevu ceremony.In all these remote places we have been very impressed by the cleanliness and tidiness of the villages and the dignity of the indigenous Fijian people. The lawns are always freshly mown and there is no litter--possibly because there are no shops and no packaged food. There's also no obesity.With hereditary chiefs in charge you've got to say that democracy is somewhat irrelevant in these parts. Every village has its rugby team and footy socks and jerseys hanging on the line are a common sight. All Blacks and Wallabies are a good topic of conversation.
Our next stop was the remote island of Makongai which housed two leper colonies until the mid 1960's. One took patients from across the Pacific and the other was for Indo Fijians. It has a beautiful and well protected anchorage but the derelict buildings and the knowledge 1400 people are buried in the local cemetery made it slightly spooky. Interestingly, some of the buildings were being used to house the administration for a giant clam breeding program which had been financed and run by the Australian Govt. Unfortunately giant clams, like turtles are a delicacy in the islands and have been almost wiped out. The idea was to reseed them in protected marine parks. However, following the coupe our Govt pulled the pin on financing the project. There was great snorkelling in the bay and with lots of giant clams. Still hard to escape the tragic history as old hospital beds are used as underwater racks to protect the young clams.  Sue and our friends from Harmonie and Lady Kay took the 10km each-way walk over to the other side of the island--a stiff walk that the school kids do every day. No wonder there's no obesity.
Leaving Makongai we threaded our way through a maze of reefs to the North Eastern- most point of the Viti Levu.  Without any particular expectations we were delighted to find a range of protected anchorages and a number of small resorts ranging from wildly expensive to backpacker. The reef diving in this area is world famous and attracts many young Europeans who must find it inexpensive. We had parted from our rally mates a week earlier and were surprised to see them anchored in the bay ,having arrived only an hour earlier. A bonus was that one of the boats had landed a large marlin, which they shared with the other boats. We didn't bother swimming as the giant fish was being cleaned! The crews from the 7 yachts went ashore for their happy hour but soon came hurtling back as the place was infested with mosquitoes. Instead everyone came up to our flybridge which easily hosted 20 people.hh
Taking the inside passage through the reefs to Lautoka was ideal for the motor boat. The water was flat and from the flybridge we could see the reefs clearly. We all had lures out, but no luck with the fishing.
Now we are waiting for 30kt winds to ease so we can enter the marina at Port Denarau... the first marina since leaving Opua. I am sure the trusty generator will enjoy a rest when we can plug into shore power. Paddy, Sally and the children and Marg and Rob Bucket are enjoying the delights of the resort hotels and we look forward to joining them tomorrow