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All This In 18 Days?

After our visit to Vurevure Village it was time to move on so we set out early in the morning for the southern end of Taveuni Island and a little resort known as Paradise Resort. The trip was pretty uneventful and in the early afternoon we arrived and took a mooring in front of this small dive resort. The water here is the clearest we’ve seen in all of Fiji. It’s literally like having the boat over top of our own private aquarium! Ahhh….how we love to see water like this!

The people at the resort were wonderful, warm and very welcoming and will provide you with more than enough information on what there is to see and do nearby. We, however, were only going to be there for the night because a weather front was headed our way and this is not the place to be in 25-30 knot southerly winds.

We had cocktails at the bar and later had dinner by the pool and ocean under a thatched roof hut. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to do any snorkeling but we will be back this way next year so this is definitely on our list!

The following day we all headed to Savusavu to seek protection from the coming winds and weather. Forecast was for 25-30 knot winds with lots of rain to accompany them. In Savausavu you can go up into the river to get away from the fetch and it’s very well protected.

Our arrival in Savusavu marked the end of our circumnavigation around Vanua Levu. In all we travelled 360 NM over the course of 18 days. We visited 12 anchorages and toured 7 villages. We took a five mile dinghy ride up a river to the city of Labasa and lived to tell the tale. We met 4 chiefs, gave away 5 bundles of Kava, visited 4 schools, snorkeled beautiful reefs, enjoyed savory meals aboard each other’s yachts and had an amazing and wonderful time with dear friends. We also replaced a windlass motor and diagnosed and repaired a ground wire problem that caused our engine not to start in the middle of nowhere! It was truly an adventure we will never forget.

Click on map to enlarge.

When we arrived in Savusavu the Copra Shed Marina didn’t have even one available mooring. It seems everyone had the same idea…get to a protection anchorage. Add to that the fact that the ARC Rally boats were in the area and this place was packed. No big deal for Dazzler, we just headed a little further up the river and were pleased to find an available mooring at Savusavu Marina and what a wonderful place this turned out to be.

You see, most yachties come in wanting to stay near Copra Shed because the marina and yacht club are there and it’s very centrally located along the strip where the shopping and restaurants are located. Savusavu Marina, on the other hand, is a bit further up the river and not as close to those things. But honestly, it’s still less than a five minute dinghy ride to Copra Shed so I don’t understand the big deal. We LOVED this place. It is away from all the chaos and dinghies running about and we had a wonderful breeze coming across the reef area from the bay on the other side. One afternoon we even watched a couple of whales playing in the adjoining bay at sunset. The sunsets here were absolutely spectacular! And, best of all, NO mosquitoes!!! When we stayed at Copra Shed we were eaten alive and had to keep our screens in the companionway. Here we didn’t have a one! AWESOME SAUCE!

The day after we arrived here more and more of the ARC Rally boats started coming in looking for moorings. For those who don’t know, ARC is a World Cruising Club and they organize rallies for cruisers all over the world. The rally that hit Savusavu that day was the World Rally. They take 15 months to sail around the world. Personally I’ve no interest in racing around the world in less than two years. How are you supposed to immerse yourself into the different cultures and really get to know about the people and places you’re visiting when you are in and out in a matter of days or even a couple of weeks? No, we enjoy taking our time and getting to know the locals, learning about their lives and just enjoying the places we visit.

Of course if you read about the ARC rallies you’ll see all of the “pretty, polished” events they arrange with local dancers and stuff like that.  I guess if that’s what you’re into then fine but we’ve had so many wonderful, one on one experiences with the islanders I just can’t imagine only seeing these places through the eyes of a “tourist”. What these people are seeing in their haste to circumnavigate the globe is not the real thing. It’s the commercialized, tourist experience. Nope….not our can of beer.

The day all of the ARC boats began descending upon Savusavu is also the day that I lost all respect for a vast majority of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of them are lovely people but I heard some of the most rude and nasty boaters on the radio that day. Captains were calling the marinas on the radio and demanding that they find them a mooring. Seriously, I actually heard one man say to the girl on the radio, “I’m with ARC and I demand that you find me a mooring NOW!”  Many others were rude to the people in the marinas and restaurants as well and not just on the radio but right there in person. There was this horrible entitled attitude that seemed to just permeate the air. I was literally shell shocked by how uppity and truly nasty these people were to the locals. I guess just because they spent a little over €20,000 to join this around the world rally they assume that everyone on earth must bow to them. Well, if I was one of those locals I’d have had a few words to say to those jerks and it wouldn’t have been, “Bula Vinaka” either!

These boats came in for two days, maybe three and everywhere they went they left a wake of chaos behind. They sucked up all of the resources….food, fuel, restaurant space etc.. and then off they went. I’m absolutely certain the locals had to be beyond ecstatic to see them go. Sure, the money they generate is fine but is it really worth it when there are other cruisers who come in, spend time, get to know the people and really try to assimilate into the culture? Later we found out that Savusavu had a supply shortage immediately after ARC left. Hmmmm…. Anyway, as you can see we’re not big fans of the whole ARC Rally thing and we certainly lost a tremendous amount of respect for many of the yachties we saw and heard come through the area.

But, we didn’t let them spoil our time in Savusavu. We spent five days there just enjoying the people and, of course, spending our last few days with Lutz & Gabi. After traveling with them for almost three weeks it was going to be hard to see them leave so we met up for happy hours and had a couple of dinners together. One place in particular had some pretty good Asian cuisine. It was not a fancy restaurant by any means but the food was excellent. It was the Hong Kong Restaurant and we loved it.

Finally the time came to say, “Farewell” to our dear friends Lutz and Gabi. It was time for them to continue moving as their son was flying in and they needed to get to Vitu Levu. We celebrated our circumnavigation of Vanua Levu with a farewell dinner at the Captain’s Table at Copra Shed Marina. It was a bittersweet evening but we left with the knowledge that we’d meet up again in a few weeks.

For the next couple of days we worked on boat projects and just enjoyed our time in the area. We had lunches at Surf & Turf Restaurant and the Savusavu Yacht Club. We filled our fuel tanks and picked up a few veggies at the outdoor market. Dan began planning the next leg of our journey. From here we will move south toward Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. Who knows what other wonderful adventures await? That’s what I love most….never knowing what amazing things we will see in our next port. THIS truly is a blessed life out here and I’m so happy to be sharing it with Dan!

The food at Surf & Turf is amazing!

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention a great little store here in SavuSavu. It’s called Sea Lovers Wine, Spirits & Deli. This wonderful little gem has those hard to find items you’ve been missing in your travels. From international wines and spirits to gourmet cheeses and our personal favorite, Mission Tortillas, we found a lot of yummy treats in here. The owners are lovely people and we highly recommend stopping in if you make it to Savusavu. They are located on the main drag down by the Immigration Office. You can’t miss them.

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Honored Guests Of The Chief

As you know we hiked up the equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro today.  Well, not really but it sure felt that way to me. Anyway, I made it back alive, which is a real blessing. Of course it wouldn’t have happened if Dan hadn’t been using the electric prod to keep me going but then you’ve probably already read about that.

What happened after our hike is something that truly blew us away. Yesterday when we came to present sevusevu Chief Isimeli invited us to come back to their home for lunch this afternoon. When reached the visitor center at Tavoro Falls Lutz & Gabi asked if we’d mind if they walked back to the village instead of wait for John to pick us up. Sanaila was planning to walk along with them. Of course we certainly had no issue with them walking but I certainly wasn’t going walking up and down that hilly road. I’d already reached my limit. So, they went on and we waited by the river for John to pick us up.

After about a half hour or so John showed up and we headed back toward Vurevure Village. Along the way we saw Sanaila, Lutz  and Gabi walking but they refused the offer of a ride. Of course they were almost back to the village so it was understandable. 

John’s Home…First born son of Chief Isimeli.

We all arrived at the village within minutes of each other and Sanaila lead us back this his parent’s home. As we arrived and were taking off our shoes (you never enter a home here without doing that) Elizabeth, his mother, came out to greet us. She insisted that we come inside and sit down.

As we walked in the scent of a long day of cooking permeated the air and made my tummy growl a bit. I was definitely hungry after the tortuous hike and every whiff my nose encountered smelled better than the last. I couldn’t wait to see what wonderful delights Elizabeth had prepared for all of us.

She was scurrying about getting things ready and motioned for us to sit down on the couches, which were made from car bench seats and covered with colorful material. In the center of the small, tiled room was a wooden table with four chairs, four plates and four placemats.  Each chair had a beautiful red flowered cover on it, which made for a beautiful accent against the stark white tablecloth. Lutz and Gabi sat on one couch at the end of the room and we sat on another. To our left was a wooden table filled with lace and colorful printed linens.

As we sat in there chatting while Elizabeth was busy in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on lunch I started to realize something just wasn’t right with all this. Why are there only four chairs and plates? Where will the rest of the family sit to eat? Of course I’m sure this is the same question that was in all our minds at this point but no one dared speak it out loud.

Sanaila, who had left us to shower after the hike, came in and sat in the large chair on the long wall of the room. I surmised this must be the chief’s chair but since he was out Sanaila was acting as the man of the house so he commandeered it. We had a wonderful time with him discussing everything from politics to village life. He’s a exceptional young man with an amazing head on his shoulders. Elizabeth and Isimeli can be very proud of the man they have raised.

We learned some interesting information from Saniala as we sat there discussing life in the village. If a man wants to start a new village, he has to go to the chief and get permission but first, he has to acquire a whale’s tooth to present to the chief. The larger the tooth, the more likely the chief is to agree. He also has to have a plan for his new village that includes rules and codes the people there will have to live by. Once the chief gives his blessing a parcel of land will be given to the young man and he will then start his own settlement. Moving forward the young chief will be mentored by the older one. When problems arise in the new settlement the older chief will come and help settle them. Sanaila is in college now but he hopes to come back after college and begin his own village. He has some great ideas for his village and we are all certain he will make a wonderful chief someday.

After about a half hour Elizabeth began filling the table with food….lots and lots of food. It all smelled so incredible and even though we had no idea what some of it was, it looked wonderful too! Once she had placed all of the dishes on the table she motioned for us to sit. Finally we couldn’t take it any longer and Dan asked where everyone else was sitting. Sanaila informed us that we were the guests and would be eating at the table. They would not eat now but later. What? Seriously? You invited us here to eat and Elizabeth spent the entire day in the kitchen working yet you aren’t eating with us? Sanaila went on to explain that guests such as ourselves are not all that common in their village. This makes us very special and the way Fijians so their appreciation is to present us with a grand meal. WOW! This is something we never expected and it did feel a bit odd. After all, Elizabeth worked so hard and Sanaila had been so kind as to escort us through the mountain to the waterfalls. But, as we know, this is not our country or our culture so we must conform and so we sat down.

The meal Elizabeth prepared was extraordinary. There was green curry chicken that had potatoes in it. No, not your traditional style of curry but so delicious! Sanaila told us that is his favorite meal and we could see why. She also prepared deep fried eggplant, cassava, homemade roti and taro leaves. Now, the taro leaves were something I would have been certain I wouldn’t like but they had this cream sauce on them and oh my heavens….they were magnificent! I fell in love! Elizabeth also brought out some hot tea served with milk like the Brits drink.

To say this meal was amazing is such an understatement. The food had so much flavor; and was so different from anything I’ve ever eaten in my life. Honestly, there was a time in my life that I was so picky about food I’d have probably turned my nose up at all of this but I’m glad I’m not that way now because I’d have missed an exquisite culinary feast.

Elizabeth finally sat down with us and talked a bit as we were finishing our meal. I’m sure she wondered if we truly liked it because there was so much left but we all ate until we couldn’t eat another bite. I can’t remember the last time I ate so much at one sitting. She’s a delightful hostess and we all enjoyed our time eating, talking and learning about her and her family.

Shanaila and Dan discussing the wood they use for construction.

After we rested from the magnificent banquet Sanaila offered to take us on a tour of their village. The walk was well needed by this point. We all offered to assist Elizabeth in cleaning up but she wouldn’t have it. She insisted that we go with Sanaila so off we went. As we started the tour of this very small village it began to mist a bit but not enough to deter us. We met Louis, the pastor, and saw their current church which is just a covered, outdoor patio with benches and a small makeshift pulpit. We were told a new church is being built and they hope to have it done by December.

Along the way we saw the colorful houses with open windows and some with no doors rather brightly colored prints hanging in the doorway. We saw a couple of homes that were under construction, which was very interesting. One belongs to Pele. We stopped to chat with him for a bit and learn about how they construct their homes. At this point they only had the concrete footers and some of the slab installed for his home. It’s a village event when a home is being constructed. All the men participate in whatever way they can. Pele was a very cool guy and we all enjoyed our stop.

Here, as in many villages we’ve seen, they have communal kitchens and outdoor showers. Of course some of the homes also have their own kitchens, like Isimeli and Elizabeth’s place. As we walked along we saw dogs, ducks, cats and piglets. Everyone stopped to say, “Bula” and make us feel welcome. We even saw where one family was drying Kava.

Kava being dried and processed.

Vurevure Village is not very large. There are probably only twenty homes there but it’s a beautiful village and very clean too. There are dirt footpaths that lead all throughout and the brightly colored homes that stand out against the lush green grass and foliage of the forest. It was such a treat to have a personal tour by a young man who is so proud of his people and his village.

Our tour took about forty-five minutes and we ended up back at Isimeli’s home. When we arrived Isimeli was outside and welcomed us back in to sit at the table. Here we chatted with him about our hike, the amazing meal Elizabeth made and their village as we drank orange drink. Isimeli is one of the most talkative chiefs we’ve met during our trip so we learned much from him. He offered lots of information and was also very curious about all of us. We spent a half hour or so with him and then excused ourselves. The tide was going down and it would be getting dark soon. We needed to get back to our boats while we could still see to navigate over the reef.

Chief Isimeli, Elizabeth and Me! Such wonderful and amazing people! So grateful to know you!

This has been the most extraordinary day in our circumnaviation. The hike to the top of the world was amazing and the lunch and company at Isimeli’s home was something we will never forget. We will always be grateful to the entire family for showing us such a warm and wonderful welcome. I only hope we are able to come back and visit them again next year!

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Elizabeth, if you ever get to read this I hope you know how much we truly loved the brilliant meal you served us. Next time, however, we will insist that you and the family join us! Vinaka vakalevu, noqu itau