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Wow! Robinson Crusoe Island

A friend and follower checked in on us because it’s bee three weeks since our last entry. It’s nice to know we have people out there who think about us. Thanks Jim! Turns out there is so much to do here in Fiji we are having a hard time finding any free time to write or create videos. But we do have a treat here and another one that is scheduled to go up later this week.

As you know we’ve crossed over from Vanua Levu to Viti Levu and there’s a lot of really nice stuff here. Along the way we stopped in Suva, the Capital of Fiji. It was just a one night stop to get some provisions. We’d heard there is a Cost-U-Less there. This is a store sort of like Costco in the states but it is not nearly as good as the Costlo we found in Tonga. We were actually pretty disappointed as we didn’t really find anything we were hoping to find. The only bonus was that we did find Blue Diamond Smoked Almonds. It’s been a very long time since we’ve had this treat. YUMMY!

Suva is a big city relatively speaking and it was very hectic. The port there was just filled with commercial ships and all sorts of vessels coming and going at all hours of the day and night. We anchored just off the shore near the Suva Yacht Club. The water here is green, murky and not very attractive. It’s definitely not a place you want to spend much time so we bolted the moment our provisioning was complete.

From there we made an overnight stop near the Pearl Resort and Marina. We didn’t even go into shore because it was late in the afternoon when we arrived and the wind was howling. The following day we headed to a magical place called Robinson Crusoe Island. It’s a very cool place to visit. There’s a huge barrier reef that surrounds the bay where this little island is located. Getting through it is, like always, a bit unsettling. After all, there’s this giant ocean thousands of feet deep and it’s pushing itself into the shallow bay. The big rolling waves come crashing over the reef making it a bit rocky on Dazzler. As usual Captain Dan threads the needle perfectly and we come out on the inside of the reef where we are greeted by a most beautiful sight.

It is early afternoon as we drop the hook. The sun is bright and the sky is clear and the tall green palms are swaying in the tradewinds. Yes, this is going to be a great place to hang out for a couple of days.

With our anchor set and the dinghy motor on we head to shore and we are not at all disappointed. It costs $10 FJD per person to go ashore. We pay it only when we arrive and don’t have to pay again unless we leave the anchorage and come back. Turns out, that’s a bargain to have access to this little gem.Of course we could just tell you about it but better yet….we can show you so check out the link at the bottom of this article for a short video tour of the resort. And make sure you check back later this week to see the video of the Island Dinner Show we attended one evening. It was a fantastic show that included fire walking and eating as well as some spectacular island dancing.

We ended up spending three days here and are delighted we did. This is an unforgettable island full of great people. Oh, well I guess there’s another reason this place is so unforgettable. The day we were leaving we bumped the reef with Dazzler. Yes, it finally happened. We’ve been told over and over again that it’s virtually impossible to sail the South Pacific and not hit the reef at least once. They all tell you… “everyone does it sooner or later so just be prepared and hope it’s not too bad.” Well let me tell you something. Knowing that “everyone” does it sooner or later doesn’t make it any less stressful when it finally happens. 

We were making our way through the pass that morning and Dan had Dazzler on the line we used coming in. I was on the bow and told him I thought we were a little too close to the right side of the channel. He was listening but was looking at the plotter and was on that line from our entrance so he thought I was being a little overly cautious. He did start moving more port anyway but all of the sudden we went from 10 meters of water to less than 2 meters and as Dazzler came down from the swell we heard the sound no sailor ever wants to hear…..that thunk sound of rock against the keel. I still get sick to my stomach just thinking of it. Dan reacted as quickly as he could but the water got too shallow too quick. I was on the bowsprit and grabbed the rail to keep from going overboard. Yes, it was a bit of a jolt. We bumped two more times before we made it away from the coral. Needless to say we were both a bit shaky after that. Don’t think I’ve ever seen Dan like that and honestly I hope never to see him like that again. As a rule we do not drink underway but after this incident we were both so shaken that we did drink a beer to calm our nerves a bit.

The good news is that we did just bump on top of the coral rather than run into it at five knots. And, the better news is that we’ve checked the bottom and all that happened was a little paint was scraped off the bottom of the keel. Yes, we were lucky. We know of others who weren’t so lucky.

So the question you probably have right now is why did this happen? After all, he was traveling on the exact same line we came into the anchorage on so theoretically everything should have been just fine. Two factors played into this. The first is that the water here is very murky due to the river that feeds the bay. On the bow it was hard to see what was under us. I kept asking for depth information from Dan because I had no way to judge it. Shallow or deep the water was all that murky green color. And the second, more important factor is that we came in at high tide and were leaving at close to low tide. This channel isn’t all that wide so by just being a few feet too far to the right we were in the wrong spot. Again, it happens. You just have to pray that when it does you can react quick enough and prevent serious damage.

We are always very cautious coming into and leaving places where there are reefs and this only makes us that more cautious. It also cemented in our minds the reason we never come and go after dark. These reefs are nothing to mess with. We’ve seen too many boats that didn’t quite make it so we will continue to be uber cautious. Anyway, it’s all part of the adventure I guess.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

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Lepers & Giant Clams, Oh My!

The time has come to continue moving throughout this beautiful country. We’ve seen so much here at Vanua Levu that we feel we are ready to start making our way south and west. Today we said goodbye to the local friends we’ve made here in Savusavu and headed out. 

Just about 27 NM south of Savusavu is the small island of Koro. There are a couple of resorts on the west side of the island and there’s a nice little cove you can tuck into where they have mooring balls. We arrived late in the afternoon and picked up a mooring. We were the only boat there so we had the entire place to ourselves. NICE!

From what we understand a few years ago the Kepalangi (white people) began buying up property here to build their vacation and retirement homes. Let’s be clear. Non-Fijians can’t actually buy property here but you can purchase a 99-year lease. It’s pretty obvious when you see the homes dotting the shore and scattered across the hill that the people buying up the property were planning a very well to do resort like atmosphere. Apparently, however, their love of island living didn’t last as long as they expected and many of them have vacated their homes so there are many standing empty. Even one of the resorts is currently on the market so if you have an extra $2.5M lying around maybe you could get a good deal.

Anyway, we only stayed for the night and no one ever came out to collect any money for the mooring. Quite frankly the place looked all but deserted. We saw a small fishing boat out fishing the reef and a couple of kayaks but that’s it. There were no people walking the beach nor was there any noise from generators for that matter. 

The following morning we set out for Makogai Island. (prounonced Mako’nai) I was so excited to get to this place. This place is known for their giant clams. Yes, clams as big as people! It’s the stuff movies are made of and I couldn’t wait to get there to see these things. But, there is a lot more to Makogai Island than giant clams. 

Approaching Makogai.

Makogai actually has a very interesting past. From 1911 to 1969 it was a Leper Colony. They brought Lepers here from all over the world. As we entered the bay I had to kind of chuckle as I remember my Daddy always saying, “Well, it could be worse you could be living in a leper colony.” My guess is that Daddy never saw one because this is one amazing and beautiful island! 😄

After arriving and partaking in some anchor down libations we put the dinghy in the water and prepared to head to shore. No longer a leper colony, Makogai is now a government island with a marine research station and even though this is a government village and not a traditional one, sevusevu is still expected. Once again I donned my layers of clothes to cover my knees and shoulders. Within seconds every inch of my skin began to glisten as all of my sweetness started oozing out from every pore. But, it’s a tradition and we must do the right thing. So, onward Christian soldiers…onward!

It was a bit tricky to get to shore as the tide was low and coral surrounds the beaches. After a bit of searching we found a very narrow channel through the coral next to the concrete pier. Dan pulled the anchor onto the coral sand beach and we made our way up the beach. We started to look for someone to lead us to the man who runs the village. There was a young man in his late 20’s or early 30’s mowing the grass. He stopped and came over to introduce himself.

The man’s name is Seru. He’s sort of like the Taraga Ni Koro for this village. I say sort of because as I mentioned, this is a government island. The village where we anchored is full of government workers and Seru is one of them. These people are part of the marine research station here. Only some live here full time. Most, like Seru, come in for two weeks each month. Here they are cultivating giant clams, coral and they even have a sea turtle hatchery. They are very devoted to protecting the marine environment.

Us with Seru.

Seru led us across the lawn to some plastic chairs that sat under a tin roofed structure. After presenting our kava, Seru offered to give us a tour of the island. First up was the marine facility. Now, when I say facility you’re probably thinking of a place with large tanks and things like that. Well, that’s not really what we saw. There are several long concrete wells and a couple of round tanks too. Only a few of these tanks/wells had water in them.

One of the round tanks had about a dozen baby sea turtles in it. Another tank had a dozen or so juvenile clams that were about a four or five inches long. Each one had a different colored mantel (lips). Also inside this tank was a really odd looking blue spotted stingray. Neither of us had ever seen on before so that was a bit of a treat in itself.

Blue spotted stingray

Since the marine facility is rather small the tour only took about fifteen minutes. Afterward Seru took us through the jungle to see the Leper Stones. These are the gravesites of many of the Lepers who died here. Along the way we saw remnants of buildings that were once part of the hospital including part of a movie theater. The jungle, however, is an unrelenting beast that takes over every stationary object in its path so very little of the buildings are still visible. Even so, it was a wonderful and FLAT walk through the village and jungle.

When we returned from our hike we were treated to our very first kava ceremony. This is typically a part of the sevusevu but we’ve found at many of the villages they they don’t seem to want to share the kava we bring to them. Here it was much different. They invited us to sit on a large woven mat in the grass. Here one man had a large bowl sitting on the ground, he poured water out of a bucket into the bowl. Then he had a muslin bag about 5” x 10” that had the ground kava inside. He soaked the bag in the water then squeezed it. Similar to what happens when you squeeze a tea bag, the muddy colored water would ooze out of the bag. It looked like muddy water from a dirty river. He did this for quite some time as we chatted. Then it was time to drink. He filled a half of a coconut shell with the liquid and handed it to Dan. Dan was told to to clap once, say “Bula” then drink the entire contents of the shell in one gulp. Then he was told to clap three times, as do we all, and he handed the cup back to the guy mixing the kava. Next it was served to the Taraga Ni Koro with the same things occurring. Then it came to me. Each time everyone clapped and followed the ceremonial tradition.

The kava looks awful and doesn’t really taste great but it’s not that bad either. It makes your tongue and lips feel numb. We had many cups of kava with them over the course of an hour and a half or so. Eventually we started to feel uber relaxed and kind of jelly like. That’s when we decided it was time to return to Dazzler. Of course before standing it’s tradition to ask permission. With permission granted we knelt before the men, shook their hands and said our goodbyes. All in all it was a very cool afternoon with some amazing people. They treated us just like family and just until you hear about our next trip ashore with these fabulous people!

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan