We were up with the alarm clock yesterday morning to get through emails, have breakfast and be onshore in time for our boat tour. We'd made the decision to take one of the resort tours up to Yasawa Island rather than take Paw Paw and, given the wind and seastate that awaited us, we're glad we did. Visiting Sawa-i-Lau was definitely worth the effort though.
The limestone grottos, owned by the people of Tokatoka Koro, were carved by the surrounding ocean, leaving sheer rock walls, beautiful turquoise waters and a foundation in ancient Fijian history.
On arrival, we were warned about the slippery rocks forming the "beach" and to tread carefully. Fortunately Elaine was armed with her ankle brace. So, after transversing the rocks without incident, we made our way up a series of steps before entering the first open dome cave. We then descended another series of steps, before taking the plunge into the freezing waters and exploring the cave. Not only the size of the cave, but the walls towering above us, were breathtaking. With the assistance of the guides, Roy was brave enough to dive under the curtain in order to reach the second, smaller and enclosed cave, reportedly the resting place of "Ulutini", the ancient ten-headed Fijian god.
Other legends tell the story of a young chief and his lover taking refuge in the limestone atrium after the woman's family promised her to a rival chief. With his beloved safely hidden behind the rocky curtain, the young chief would swim in and out of the cave with food and water for her until they were able to escape and settle on another island, together forever.
The caves are not only a tourist attraction, but a jewel close to the hearts of many Fijians. It is with gratitude that the people of the Yassawas allowed us a glimpse into the resting place of their "mana" or their "magic".
We returned in time for lunch and an afternoon nap, before heading back to shore for happy hour, a buffet style dinner and a "meke" at the Nanuya Island Resort, where everything presented on the buffet consisted of locally grown ingredients.
Pounding on the "lali", a hollowed out hardwood gong, signified the start of the meal. Dishes like "kokoda", a local fish cured in lemon juice and vinegar before it is rinsed and combined with coconut cream, curried cassava, a dish similar to a potato salad, tampura vegetables and spanish mackerel, just to mention a few, were amongst the favourites.
Over desserts, we enjoyed the "meke", performed by the villagers from Metacawa Levu Island. While music is an integral part of the Fijian culture, the "meke" embraces traditional song and dance to conjure up legends, love stories, spirits and history through symbolic movements. There are two distinct groups of performers, where the first are the "vakatara", the singers / orchestra and are seated on the ground on a woven mat, while the second group are the "Mata Ni Meke" or "matana", the dancers.
Traditional instruments are all percussion with the "lali" being the tempo regulator and the "derua", a bamboo tube, the rhythm instrument, which produces a hollow tone to complement the Fijian style of singing.
In traditional dress, the woman wear "salusalu", garlands of flowers, which were also presented to all of us attending the "meke", while the men wear full warrior dress.
A wonderful evening was topped off with a "shell market" and the performers singing "Isa Lei", a beautiful song that signifies a goodbye blessing, a bon vogage and a wish for all who hear it to never forget the precious moments experienced in Fiji, with the hope that they will, some day, return!
After a wonderful, eventful day yesterday, we spent most of the day onboard today, taking a break for a coffee and walk along the beach before the rain set in.
This morning was much the same as every other morning that we've had over the past few weeks, in that the day started with having to deal with various emails requiring our attention, but, doing the "same ol', same ol'" in paradise definitely has its nuiances. For example, while Elaine was doing her daily exercises this morning on the stern deck, she was constantly entertained by a large school of tiny, brightly coloured fish circling Paw Paw and who were clearly visible, given the clarity of the water. Then, every so often she'd hear some splashing under the swim platform and see the school scurrying as they were chased by a few larger fish.
After a breakfast of freshly baked crumpets, we were able to catch up with Keenan who was back at base and between flights.
By then it was approaching low tide and we could go and "play". So, we dinghied ashore for a coffee and some socialising at the Nanuya Island Resort, enjoyed a long walk on the beach and then took the dinghy to Savuti Point to do some snorkeling. It was a rather unusual snorkel in that many of the fish were amongst the sea grass, but the ones at the coral reef were certainly different. Some looked like a cross between a Parrotfish and a Sergeant Major and, although there wasn't a large variety of reef fish, the size of the fish we saw was certainly larger than what we've seen at other snorkeling locations around Fiji. Definitely a worthwhile outing.
A few cold beverages at the Boathouse while watching the sunset, followed by a barbecue aboard wrapped up the day. Thirsty work, all this activity!
After a rather windy and lumpy night, we woke to clear, sunny skies. It wasn't long though, before the anchorage emptied out, so we decided to move Paw Paw a little closer to shore to get more protection from the curvature of Nanuya-Sewa island, which also allowed us to let out more chain to increase our scope, given the stronger winds forecasted for later this week.
Once that was done, we spent a few hours reviewing and completing various sales and title company forms which took us into the early afternoon.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading, with the only excitement for the day being the South Seas ferry arriving, after which we headed ashore for Happy Hour. We were delighted to meet a young couple staying at the Nanuya Island Resort who were from the Wirral and Manchester area, but living in Australia now - Small world.
As we watched the sun dip below the horizon, we'd hoped to see another "green flash", but no luck on this occasion, so we headed back to Paw Paw before it got too late. We definitely did not want to be negotiating the reefs in the dark again, especially since we were both still sober!
This morning we woke to overcast skies and rain, postponing our planned hike, our first since our hike from Opua to Paihia in New Zealand, nearly nine months ago.
After spending part of the morning on board, the skies cleared a little and the rain stopped, so, with that, we headed ashore. After securing the dinghy in a spot where we knew we could get it back in the water at low tide - Lesson learnt from Sunday night - and Elaine's ankle secured with her brace, we commenced our hike to Lo's Tea Room, a walk over the top off Nanuya-Sewa Island from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. We had been told by Knockando (Claire and Darren) that it had taken them forty-five minutes one way, so, based on Elaine's pace, we banked on twice that time. We were, not only delighted to arrive an hour and fifteen minutes later, having stopped along the way to enjoy the fabulous views, but also that Elaine had actually managed her first hike.
On our arrival we were greeted with a great big "bula" from Lo, who was in the midst of serving a few other sailors who had arrived ahead of us. Over a cup of coffee and a few home-baked goods, including doughnuts and banana bread covered in chocolate sauce, we enjoyed a chat before heading back. It was a great relief though to hitch a ride from a passing golf cart, owned by the Nanuya Island Resort, and whose staff were returning to the resort.
On our return to Paw Paw, Elaine decided to ice her ankle, do her stretches and rest her foot, to be sure, to be sure, she didn't encounter any issues and with that the day was over.
We did, however, have a visit from a native Fijian family in a little sailing yacht selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Although we didn't need anything, we couldn't help but admire the entrepreneurial spirit of this little family, so we purchased some bok choy, the sweetest tomatoes we've ever tasted and some brinjal, all for $5FJD, about $2.50USD and freshly picked - Simply amazing!
Today we spent the day aboard. This morning we got a few administrative tasks and boat chores out of the way, including running the watermaker to take advantage of the clear water here. Then, while Elaine started work on our next website article and baked a banana loaf, Roy got to work on our wind generator, again. Armed with an orbital sander and a hacksaw, he modified the wind turbine blades after a 30 minute crash course in turbine areodynamics, thanks to google, and our "pig" is no longer a "pig"! Not only is it generating electricity to supplement our solar energy, it is now running much quieter and there are no more vibrations. His tenacity eventually paid off.
By then it was time for a late after swim, which included a few exercise laps around Paw Paw for Elaine. However, we had no sooner got out of the water, dried ourselves off, when Elaine spotted one of the venomous black and white Fijian water snakes swimming along the surface at Paw Paw's starboard hull. Not sure we'll be getting back in this water again!
After breakfast and catching up with the family in Ireland, it was time to explore. Getting ashore was a little more precarious than we had expected though, since, strangely enough, there was no dinghy dock, although the Nanuya Island resort is "cruiser friendly".
With no other alternative, we beached the dinghy, miraculously ensuring Elaine did not get the strapping on her leg wet. We then explored the resort and amenities, enjoyed a morning coffee and went for a lovely long walk along the white sandy beach on Nanuya-Sewa island.
By then it was time to return to Paw Paw for a well deserved and much needed swim. Thankfully it was also time to take the strapping off Elaine's leg. While Roy paddleboarded, Elaine enjoyed her first "unassisted" swim (aka no swimming aids to keep her afloat).
This evening we headed ashore again for sundowners at the Boathouse, where we bumped into Knockando (Claire and Darren), whom we met briefly while in Soso Bay. It turned into a very enjoyable evening over dinner at the resort - lobster tails (Elaine), braised beef ribs (Roy) and grilled walu, a local white fleshy fish (Clair and Darren), while being serenaded by a Fijian choir.
Unfortunately we had such a good evening that, by the time we left the restaurant or, more aptly, got "kicked out", it was low tide and our dinghies were miles from the water's edge. Fortunately Roy and Darren were able to get them back in the water, but making our way through the reef in the dark at low tide was certainly an adventure. Of course it didn't help matters that we were all slightly intoxicated, but no harm, no foul!
We also forgot to attach two photographs from our visit to the Fijian village in Soso Bay, so we've attached them to this article instead - the "kava" bundle we presented to the chief and the gifts we received.
This morning we were up bright and early, had breakfast and weighed anchor - Our destination - the bay at the centre of Metacawa Levu, Nanuya-Sewa, Nanuya-Levu and Tavewa islands, commonly referred to as "The Blue Lagoon", made famous by Brooke Shields in the 1980s movie of the same name and the one destination Roy wanted to visit in Fiji.
At the tender age of 14, Brooke also became the youngest fashion model to appear on the cover of vogue and modelled in the controversial print and TV advertisement for Kelvin Klein that same year, which is believed to have rocketed Klein's career to super-designer status.
For us, however, we're just enjoying the fabulous scenery along with a few other yachts in the anchorage - Beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, blue sunny skies and the Nanuya Island Resort, whose staff came out to greet us as we were anchoring and provided us with the dinner menu for this evening. It's Roy's new "happy place"!