Monday, June 9, 2008

CYAN Cruising the Lau Group, Fiji

Visiting the Lau Group of islands is a special privilege because we needed a specific government cruising permit and they only give a few to those who really want to go....it was like a job interview. They don't want folks corrupting the traditional, tight-knit villages there. They are very religious, {mostly Methodist} emphasize education {many of the leaders and officials come from there}, and, what we like; the Fiji handicrafts are made on these islands and there is no tourism. Also, of course, there are few charts and no navigation aids like reef markers either. This is gonna be another step up in navigation having only to come inside the reef that surrounds most of the islands by sight alone with good overhead sunshine. The islands are hills in a circular shape made by the remains of a volcanic rim with coral reefs near the green hills and another circle reef outside.

We have known of 3 boats, who were lost crashing into reefs in several locations....gotta be worth the risk. These 12+ islands are some of the best in the Pacific and have the nicest folks, from what we have read by other boats who have gone there in the last few years. In the last few months have they been a bit more lenient with permits.

Lynn got a haircut in a shop in Suva, owned by a nice lady, Tai, whose brother works up in the Government there and they are from the Lau Group. They got us a formal invitation to one of the islands...Thithia...where their relatives are expecting us....this makes our visit more special and helped us qualify for a permit.

Now...for the entry formalities...We have to wear long skirts and Chuck wears a "sulu" [pareau, in French Poly, Lavalava in Samoa, etc] a sarong wrap made for men...he got one in Tonga. Also, we have on board 4 bunches of wrapped Kava root...look like butt-ugly bouquets!!! We are required to greet the Chief of each island.

We have brought school supplies, 10 pairs of reading glasses [$4 ea at chinese shop], fish hooks, line, teeshirts for kids, craft activity, games and other stuff to share. Fiji has over 300 islands of all sizes and we have several weeks to wander around before on going to Vanuatu....even further into the third world, if possible.

The weather window was flat calm for the trip...which is good because we had to motor east 200 miles from Suva [2 days and nights] into what is usually 15+ knots of tradewinds from the SE. The sea looked like a mirror reflecting the stars!!

We arrived in Fulanga, at the south of the Lau chain, on Monday, Sunday in US. The pass through the reef was narrow and shallow with in incoming tide and it all went well but was touchy while we were there. Depth goes from 600' deep to 30' like a snap and was 14' deep in the channel. No info said that. We skirted a huge coral head right about 5' under water just inside the entry channel and right before the lagoon where the water becomes a deeper blue, cyan actually, and has more dept...35-60' throughout. It has many huge limestone rocks carved by the sea, scattered around that are easy to see. The aqua water allows easy sight of any shallow areas, coral reefs or rocks. We haven't been in aqua water for a long while...Bora Bora we think.

We saw a village directly across the 3 mile wide lagoon when we got out in the middle...Navindamu, and decided to anchor in 20' just outside the low, 100' wide coral and grass reef in front of the houses [at 19 07.3W, 178 35.6S for any followers]. Any other cruisers can write us for the record of GPS locations we are keeping.

On with the entry formalities to the village.

We came ashore with our Kava bouquet and were brought to the Chief and his assistant did the job of laying it at his feet and formally chanting our arrival and welcome, complete with responses from the gathering of folks...now he allows us stay in his anchorage, swim, fish and wander around. They read our permit letter in Fijian while we sat on hand woven matts with crossed legs.

Another fellow pounded our gift of Kava inside an old WW II artillery shell and then we had had a sevesevu [kava drinking] ceremony where we got to drink this funky stuff with all the group. We'd tried it in Tonga...looks and tastes like dishwater and makes your lips and mouth numb but makes you not care too much!!! [Like 2-3 glasses of wine]. After we drink the whole contents of each coconut half-shell cup we are to clap 3 times and they say something like bula bula [but not here...that's only for a high Chief]...like 3 cheers for the new guys!!! Apparently they really welcome us "Yachties" as we are called in these old British empire places like here.

We were given a village tour of the church [altar rail decorated with tools carved by the chief himself], gardens of cassava and kumara, and met a wood carver who carves dolphins very well [are buying 2]. They are having an island church conference today, Tuesday, so we are going fishing and we will give them some gifts and change anchorages tomorrow. There is a low pressure system passing us late in the week, so we won't leave the security here until Saturday.

Pictures coming in a few weeks when we get to Savusavu. They don't even have electricity here. The supply ship comes only every month or two. The store here is smaller than an average USA middle class pantry!! Wish we had brought more gifts now. We have about 5 more islands to cover.

Lynn and Chuck on CYAN.

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1 comment:

Ruth said...

What a wonderful experience! It sounds like you are treated like visiting Royalty.