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This morning, after breakfast and getting a few chores out the way, we thought we'd dinghy ashore, present our "kava", have a snoop around the village, visit the school, enjoy a walk on the beach and return to Paw Paw for a relaxing afternoon.

Well, what transpired was definitely not what we expected or what the sailors off the other two yachts in the anchorage had experienced the day before. We put it down to the rather large, expensive bundle of "kava" we presented to the chief.

By the time we were ready to go ashore though, it was low tide and finding a way onto the beach looked a little precarious with all the rocks sticking out of the water, so we decided to wait.  Then we saw a few local boats arrive and make their way through a cut in the reef. With that we set off with "kava" in hand and a few supplies for the school.

We were met on the beach by Ronnie, the "Turaga Ni Koro" of the village, a few minutes after securing the dinghy and were informed that it was lunch time.  Apologising perfusely, we offered to wait under the palm trees on the beach, but we were told that that would not be necessary and to follow him to the chief.

Arriving at a newly constructed ceremonial area, we were asked to remove our shoes and enter, where the chief was waiting for us. Once directed on where to sit on the woven palm tree mats that covered the floor, which meant Roy having to help Elaine down, the ceremony began.  It wasnt a "sevusevu",  but it involved Ronnie and another gentleman each providing a blessing and welcome in Fijian, accompanied by hand clapping at various points, which we joined. The "kava" was then presented to the chief and, at that stage of the proceedings, Roy was asked to address the chief. At first we had no clue what that meant, but soon figured out that he had to shuffle forward on his butt, sit in front of the chief and shake the chief's hand, following which the conversation continued in English. Then the chief approached Elaine in a similar way,  shook her hand and return to his position. With that, a rather formal conversation began. We were asked all sorts of questions regarding our adventures and given some background to the Fijian village lifestyle. Afterwards a formal goodbye was conducted and we then left the building.

Our next stop was the local church, with its beautiful wood carvings. We were informed that the denomination was Methodist, that services take place every Monday, Saturday and Sunday and that the minister, who resides in the village, is replaced every five years.

After leaving the church we received a tour around the village and gardens, receiving explanations of what fruit trees grow on the island, what vegetables are grown and the use of various plants. In particular, a tree where the bark sells for $3000FJD per kilogram once it reaches 20 years old and the price increases with age.  Apparently the bark is a sought after ingredient in perfumes.

By now we were thinking that our tour was over, we'd visit the school and then be left to our own devices, but that was not the case.

After following Ronnie along the pathways that meandered between the village homes, we stopped outside one home, which Ronnie proclaimed to be his. He asked us to remove our shoes again and to enter. Once inside,  we were introduced to his wife, Mary, informed that we had been invited for lunch and per the "Fijian Way" we were to rest. Fortunately, this time in a very comfortable and brightly coloured lounge seat, while lunch was prepared. 

During this time we learnt all sorts of facts about village life - The communal village meetings take place on a Monday evening, all the homes are solar powered, supplied with an inverter and batteries, fresh water is obtained from a borehole and supplemented with rainwater, the chidren that don't attend school are looked after by the grandparents while their parents work and live away at the resorts, returning to the village on their days off. We leant that they have four grown children and ten grandchildren, of which we meet the two sons, home from the resort, four granddaughters and one grandson.  We learnt that Ronnie was 63 years old and felt that the village life was a good, healthy one, consisting of a stable diet of fish and whatever fruit and vegetables grew on the island, eaten once a day as the main meal. Fruits are consumed for the other meals.

By then lunch was ready and we were escorted into the dining area. Again we sat on woven palm mats on the floor at a low table.  It was at this point that Roy thought Elaine was going to "park her groceries all over the table"  at the sight on the whole boiled fish chopped up - Head, tail, fins, skin, eyes, the lot - accompanied by tapioca, which is the root of the cassava tree, and fish stock as a drink. Lemon and limes are then squeezed over the meal before consumed. Regardless of the presentation, Elaine was determined to savour the experience of being invited to eat with a native Fijian family, and, savour she did! Roy later admitted that sharing the tail of the fish with Elaine rather than the head, prevented him from throwing up everywhere.

When lunch was completed a bowl of water was passed around for all of us to wash our hands and we then returned to the living area to rest, once again. It was during this time that we were both presented with a gift. Roy received a shark's tooth on a neckless and Elaine received a neckless with a matching bracelet. By this stage we were simply in awe of the experience we are having and invited Ronnie back to Paw Paw so that we could return the generosity in some small way - a Paw Paw polo shirt for Ronnie and a perfumed Body Soap and Lotion set for Mary - Gifts that seemed so inadequate, but it was all we had on board.

Then it was time to visit the local school.  Escorted by Ronnie once again, we were introduced to the principal who gave us a little background on the school and to whom we handed over our gift of school supplies. We learnt that the school catered for 84 children  from kindergarten to 8th Grade, following which the children attend boarding school, all of which was compulsory in Fiji.

With that our visit to a native Fijian village came to a close and it truly was a memorable and humbling experience.  We haven't experienced hospitality like that since our visit to Nuiatoputapu in Tonga and it will be fondly remembered in the same way, especially all the youngsters who helped get our dinghy back in the water as we returned to Paw Paw.

Our day was still not over though.  En route back to Paw Paw we were invited to go aboard Storm Dancer (Del and Craig) to enjoy sundowners with them and their visitors from Germany and with that new friends were made! A more diverse day we could not have imagined!

Sailing in the South Pacific has taught us many things, but, as far as the weather is concerned, it is always "feast or famine".

Last night our anchorage in Port Denarau was the quietest we have ever seen it, with absolutely no wind and a sea as smooth as glass. It was still like that when we made our early morning departure for the Yasawa Islands.

We left under motor, but it wasn't long before the wind filled our single-reefed main and we were pulling out the head sail. We can't remember the last time we enjoyed a fabulous beam to close reach sail at 8.5 to 9.0 Kts, in beautiful flat seas, with winds out of the north. Of course, it didn't take long for the winds to steadily strenghten beyond what was forecast and for the seas to kick up, but, although we were down to double reefs in both sails, we were still romping along nicely. Having to turn northwards, however, put the wind on the nose, so it was a beat for the last hour or so, before we arrived at our chosen anchorage for the night, Soso Bay on Naviti Island, which is definitely anything but mediocre or "so so".

It is home to the largest village in the Yassawas, bordering a long sandy beach trimmed with palm trees. Apparently it is also very welcoming, based on the feedback we received from the sailors off the other two yachts with whom we're sharing the anchorage tonight, Storm Dancer and Knockando, and who all ended up on Paw Paw this afternoon soon after our arrival, to introduce themselves and say hi. Both yachts made their "kava" presentations this afternoon, following their arrival in the bay this morning, but after a very long sail today, we opted to make our presentation tomorrow.

Tonight, under a spectacular starry sky, no moon and the Southern Cross hanging above us, it's exceptionally dark without any light pollution. Besides the stars to light up the night sky, all we can see is the anchor lights of the other two yachts and a few village lights ashore - Peaceful indeed!

Being back in Port Denarau always means busier days than normal and this time was no exception. We've spent the past two days getting up to an alarm clock and runnung errands from morning till night.

 

Yesterday we took two different local buses to get to Nadi International Airport, since we were eventually able to post our Power of Attorney documents, given that we'd received the Addendum from the US Embassy. Our return trip was rather fun on a "bula" bus, with no windows and music pumping. It certainly brought back fond memories of our time in the Samoan Islands.

 

Once we were back in Nadi, we tried out a different coffee shop, the Coffee Museum, and we were pleasantly surprised to find the coffee, not only tasty, but half the price of the other cafés we've frequented of late. Of course, we had to throw in a freshly baked doughnut as well. Then it was a trip to one of the supermarkets, another visit to the Fresh Produce Market and finally a tour around a few shops to find a replacement starter battery for our starboard engine. We didn't find exactly what we were looking for, but what we did find is far better than wondering whether or not our starboard engine is actually going to start the next time we need it.

 

Today was no different. We were up early again for Elaine's physiotherapy appointment, a visit to the local butcher, the South Pacific Butchering Company and a visit to one of the material shops to purchase mosquito netting, in order to enclose the entire cockpit area. This is in preparation for our time in Vanuatu which, unfortunately, is a malaria area. Since it'll be the dry season when we arrive and we plan on only visiting the southern islands, where malaria is less prevalent and, therefore, a lower risk, we'd rather be safe than sorry though. Since Elaine is in the final stages of her physiotherapy, her ankle and knee is strapped to correct the alignment and hopefully iron out the last of the issues causing the pain when she walks. We also stumbled upon a wall muriel that depicted all the areas of the foot that are used in reflexology to heal other areas of the body, so if all else fails, we're going alternative!

 

This afternoon involved getting petrol for the dinghy and getting a load of laundry done.

 

In between all of this running around, we also enjoyed a late seafood lunch at Lulu's Bar and Restaurant, accompanied by a few cold beverages, yesterday afternoon and freshly baked pies from the Bread Kitchen for lunch today.

 

With that we're ready for our early morning departure for the Yasawa Islands again, with the plan to sail around the central and northern areas. Let's hope the weather cooperates this time round!

 

Yesterday was a rather uneventful day and more of the same in paradise, with two exceptions - Roy completed all his hard work on our new website and launched it this morning. Hope you all like the new look and feel - And, given that the weather settled a little during the day, we headed ashore for a coffee and Elaine's exercise walk which was another record - All the way to the Plantation Resort and back.

 

This morning we were both awake early enough to enjoy a spectacular sunrise, but then went straight back to sleep. By the time we woke up again, the sun was shining brightly and it was time to make our way back to Port Denarau. It was hard to believe that almost two weeks had slipped by.

 

We had originally decided to spend the night in Wailoaloa Bay, but once we got there and discovered that getting ashore in the dinghy was going to be very precarious without the jetty that was supposed to be present and a delightful onshore swell, we did a u-turn and headed back to Port Denarau.

 

Once anchored we had a chat to Keenan after his longest flight and a numb bum - Coast to coast, 6 hours and 13 minutes - Not that he was counting.

 

Then we headed ashore to collect our long awaited addendum to the Power of Attorney document which the staff at the US Embassy had managed to complete incorrectly when notarising it the first time, all after we had hired a car, driven to Suva, got charged $200USD and had endured the experience of entering a parallel universe for a few hours. Fortunately the addendum was completed and notarised without incident and was waiting for us at the marina office. The Embassy had the audacity though, to courier the envelope reverse charge, even though we had incurred all the expense the first time and, needing an addendum, was due to their mistake in the first place. Things must be bad if the US government can't even afford a postage stamp costing the equivalent of $1USD!

 

On another note entirely, our congratulations go out to Roger Federer for becoming the first man in tennis history to reach the finals of a singles grand slam 11 times and the first man at Wimbledon to win 8 singles titles, as well as the first man since 1976 to win the title without dropping a set. A superstar indeed!

 

The past two days have been rather uneventful, mostly due to the unpleasant weather that has arrived and has produced a very lumpy sea, strong winds and cooler temperatures. However, "cooler" in this context still means shorts and t- shirt weather during the day, but requires something slightly warner at night.

 

After heading ashore yesterday morning to purchase some fresh produce to tide us over for the next few days, we returned to Paw Paw and prepared her for the strong winds. Primarily that involves stowing everything in the cockpit like the cushions, swimming towels, snorkel gear, paddleboard, etc as well as tying up the wind generator so it doesn't spin out of control.

By then it was time for an afternoon nap for Elaine, while Roy completed the data migration from our existing website to the new one. We're almost ready to reveal the "face-lift"!

We wrapped up the day facetiming Brooke, Capri and William, since the twins were already in bed and eventually managed to get William to say "grandpa".

Today was just a tad more exciting. We woke to some good news regarding our landlubber affairs, Elaine caught up with family in Ireland, we had a quick chat to Keenan and then we were boarded by the New Zealand navy and Fiji customs officials to check that all our paperwork was in order.

Once that was all out of the way, we took advantage of a break in the weather to head ashore for a coffee and an exercise walk to stretch our legs, following which we spent the rest of the afternoon researching our next destinations of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. A beautiful sunset wrapped up today with the hope that the weather is clearing from the west.

 

Having spent two years in the Caribbean as full-time cruisers, we were never disappointed when a French flagged yacht entered the anchorage and anchored on top of us or another yacht. Elaine was constantly out on deck using her "teapot" stance and waving a figure to indicate "I don't think so", following which they would inevitably lift their anchor and move. We had one Frenchman who thought, since he was only going to be away from his yacht for an hour or two, that staying on top of us was completely acceptable. Needless to say, he grossly underestimated the first mate he was dealing with and promptly moved.

 This phenomena became a bit of a joke amongst sailors of other nations and if someone did complain, one always received the response: "must have been French".

 Elaine also spent numerous hours "directing traffic" in an anchorage in order to help the more inexperienced charter sailors get anchored safely so we could all have a good night's sleep. In fact, Roy has gone as far as getting onto another yacht at the request of the owners to help them anchor.

 Well, sailing in the South Pacific has a few different nationalities that we all have to deal with and to be honest, they are worse than the French, as they will attempt to completely ignore you while continuing to anchor, even though they will have to short scope so as not to end up hitting your bow, a definite "no no", given the strong winds in this part of the world. In a huff and a puff they will eventually move, once confronted or when the camera is hauled out to have photographs as evidence in the event of a potential accident.

 For this reason, we spent the day onboard yesterday as yacht after yacht arrived in Musket Cove ahead of the strong winds predicted for this weekend. Although we had re-anchored to increase our scope (aka put out more chain) and are right at the front of the anchorage on the edge of the channel and adjacent to the mooring field, which is completely full as well, we still had a few bright sparks that thought they could squeeze in in front of us. So, our apologies to the French. It seems there is just a specific elk of sailor who will attempt to chance their luck at the expense of their fellow sailors, regardless of the consequence.

 By early evening every safe and reasonable spot had been taken around Paw Paw, indicating that we had the all clear to go ashore to enjoy our Pig Roast dinner which we'd been looking forward to for almost a week and we weren't disappointed. In fact, Roy went back for a second serving. Fortunately when we returned to Paw Paw, surprisingly, everything was as we had left it! It is fair to say, we were both relieved at not having to have yet another confrontation after a very pleasant outing.

 

This morning started with another round of landlubber activities which ended up taking most of the morning. For those of you who have been wondering what all this activity is about, well, we're in the process of selling propertiy, but trying to work with the property management company to get repairs completed is expecting something just short of a miracle. Also, dealing with the local utility companies has demonstrated the stark contrast between the friendly, helpful and humble Fijians which we have grown to admire versus the rude, abrupt and arrogant individuals on the other end of the phone, who have complete disregard for a paying customer. The day wasn't a total loss though. After lunch aboard we enjoyed an afternoon coffee ashore and, while Roy settled himself at Trader's Café to continue work on our new website, Elaine enjoyed a Fijian cooking lesson. Fortunately it didn't involve heat of any description. We made a traditional Fijian salad called "Ota" which is only served at special Fijian ceremonies like a wedding, etc. and cannot be ordered in a restaurant. The basis of the salad is wild fern that grows everywhere in Fiji. The fern is chopped and blanched then chopped / diced tomatoes, onions, red peppers, cilantro and chillies are added, following which a dressing of fresh coconut cream and freshly squeezed lemon juice is added. Spinach or bok choy can be used as an alternative, but the wild fern definitely gave it a unique flavour - Delicious! An interesting titbit that popped up during conversation with the young chef, Suli, who directed us, was that he is from the village where the famous Fiji Water is sourced and was very proud of the fact, with just cause indeed. Afterwards Elaine had a very pleasant chat to an Australian family who are here on holiday, but were fascinated after introductions were made at the start of the lesson when Elaine announced that we lived on a yacht. Needless to say, they had a myriad of questions. It's times like these that we realise just how fortunate we are for the experiences of our lifestyle and adventure.
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