Fiji 7: Savusavu and Taveuni

June 28, 2019

We have continued to enjoy Fiji. We left the Bay of Islands after some fantastic snorkeling, bat watching, and climbing. Next we traveled with Aurora B to Taveuni. We had some interesting experiences there and then left for the island of Vanua Levu where we are now moored, just outside of the town of Savusavu. For some reason, the Fijians seem to like repetition in their names – we have now been in Lomaloma, Somosomo, and now Savusavu.

We had heard great things about Taveuni, including that there was good provisioning there. For some reason, my version of reality never quite matches up with actual reality. I still picture USA-like grocery stores when I hear “good provisioning” and am almost always disappointed. In this case, it meant that there were about 3 – 4 different grocery stores that carried basically the same things that we’ve been seeing for a while. One of the stores did have actual shopping carts and more than two aisles which is pretty major. There has been no fresh meat for a long time and the frozen has gone slowly downhill. Looking back, the Tuamotos was a provisioning paradise, with roasts from New Zealand and meatballs from France. Now, the frozen meats consist of limited options – whole frozen chickens, chicken livers, frozen shrimp or “Sizzlers” – some kind of sausage.

I was so excited to see any kind of food that I bought some eggs, boxes of milk, paper towels, and junk food for the kids at the first store but realized I only had 50 Fijian that Ed had lent me since there have been no banks yet. It turns out it was actually only 32 because I had spent some in Lomolomo so I had just enough to cover everything. Thankfully there was a bank down the street. Then I went to buy a few cucumbers and tomatoes from a lady at a roadside stand but only had my fresh, crisp 100 bills from the machine. So I had to go to another store and buy a few more things to break my 100 and go back to pay the lady. I had all three of our kids with us plus the two kids from Aurora B so I had plenty of help to carry things.

It was a bit tricky getting to shore – there was a breaking wave where the river met the sea which was also the best place to leave the dinghy. Thankfully, it was shallow and we were able to pole/paddle in. The kids played on the beach/river area for a while and caught and released a few frogs while I went to ask at the nearby houses if it was OK to leave the dinghies and figure out how to get to the store. We basically landed at the back of a small neighborhood, complete with scads of kids playing marbles, soccer and running around and older kids/young adults playing volleyball. Adults were sitting around on porches and everyone said, “Bula” (Hello) and greeted us as we passed through to go to the stores.

We passed Ed and Gemma on the way back to the dinghy. They told us they had seen some kids playing on the dinghies and had offered them a bag of cookies if they left the dinghies alone and “kept an eye on them” instead. By the time we returned, there was a little gang of about six boys, aged 9 and under that were running crazy on the beach. 

I was trailing behind our kids and when I arrived, I saw Marin running around, with a handful of boys chasing her, Cobin wiping down the dinghy, and Eva holding a bag in one hand and fending off small local boys with the other. It was chaos. The boys were yelling about cookies, Eva and Cobin were yelling at the boys, Marin was yelling at everyone and Tully and Henry were sort of milling about, happy they weren’t being yelled at. 

I saw the boys throwing trash into the water (there was a disappointingly large amount of trash in this area – more trash than we’ve seen in a long time). I had brought a garbage bag, thinking we might do a cleanup but it would not have made a dent. I did get it out and told the boys to throw the trash in the bag, not in the water. They then made a game of it and started running around, gathering all kinds of things (rocks, sand, etc) to throw in my bag. I decided to end the game and take the bag with me so it didn’t end up back on the beach. We started pushing the dinghy into the water and all the kids helped, with our kids jumping in the dinghy and the local boys jumping on the dinghy and laughing, as if they were going with us. Then our kids got all agitated and started telling the local boys to get off which led to them jumping off and splashing us, tackling each other, etc. 

Meanwhile, Cobin was walking the dinghy out in knee-deep water and I was deciding if we should paddle or start the engine. We were quickly approaching the breaking wave that Cobin couldn’t see and I was trying to get the motor in beach mode (higher out of the water so it doesn’t hit the ground) and not maim any of the local boys still trailing the dinghy. Somehow we got it all worked out and made it back to Charm with nothing but a dirty dinghy and a bunch of boys still yelling from shore about cookies (we tried to explain that others were paying the cookie bribe but it got lost in translation).

This kid chaos took the charm out of what was quite a pleasant excursion. Fijian people are incredibly kind and curious. One man watering his beautiful flower garden stopped us on our way back from the store and wanted to hear all about where we came from, where we were going, etc. The streets were full of other people, always stepping aside for us and greeting us with “Bula” and warm smiles.

Ed and Gemma paid their debt to the boys with cookies but we all agreed we would find another place to land the dinghies if we went to shore again. 

The next day, we all piled into Aurora B’s dinghy and left it in someone’s yard, quite a bit away from the garbage dump by the river. We caught a taxi and went to a local attraction we had read about – a natural water slide. We had a great day at this lovely spot, sliding down the rocks and enjoying the beautiful Fijian countryside. Then we took taxis to the Taveuni Dive Resort, about 15 minutes away. An American couple (from Colorado Springs!) owns the resort and have been in Fiji for about 18 years. We had a very nice lunch and they let the kids swim in the pool while we were there. Then we headed back to our boats and decided that, based on the weather, we would leave for Suvasuva the next morning.

We arrived in Suvasuva after leaving Taveuni early this morning and motorsailing for about 6-7 hours. Many boats have made their way here to wait out some strong winds that were forecast to arrive but now appear to be moving elsewhere. There was a line of boats at the entrance to a river-like area where all the moorings, marinas, and anchorages are. A barge was trying to make its way into the channel but too many boats were in the way. We milled about with all the other boats until we got a call on the radio asking an ARC boat to contact Tumi because they were blocking the barge’s path. I called Tumi but got no response. Someone else radioed in to say they had rented a car and were on the other side of the island. 

I confirmed with the mooring company that they definitely needed Tumi moved and Joe and I decided that I would drive Charm while he moved Tumi. I have driven Charm on multiple occasions but only rarely without Joe (or another capable adult) on board. My original plan was just to circle around until Joe was done but I realized that by offering to move Tumi, we had effectively moved in front of the barge and I didn’t want to go back and get stuck behind it. So Cobin went on the bow and we followed two other ARC boats down the channel.

I will spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that I had a crash course in maneuvering a catamaran in relatively tight quarters with some wind, complicated channel markers, lots of rapidly shallow areas, and many boats. In the 45 minutes I had Charm with the kids, I managed to scout an anchor location, drop the anchor, then raise the anchor and move the boat to a mooring, where Cobin and Marin worked with a man in a dinghy to get the boat attached to two (!) mooring buoys (we normally only have one). 

I also scraped the bottom on some coral but we don’t need to dwell on that. Joe said later that it was barely a flesh wound. It was definitely stressful and I was happy to see Joe when he got back on board about five minutes after we were finally secured. Tumi had driven back to town for lunch, only to see their boat moving down the channel without them! They were happy that Joe was the one to move their boat, rather than someone they didn’t know.

We are in a lovely spot, far away from the crowded mess of the channel, and Aurora B was eventually able to join us here, along with several other ARC boats. We went to shore, had more success with provisioning, and found a school that will let the kids attend on Monday. Cobin is putting up some resistance but I have told him that he should look at it as an opportunity to practice the fine art of negotiating. He has taken that to heart and is crafting his “demands.”

Whew. Sailing is hard work! Did I mention that when I took over the helm, we were in the middle of a math lesson? Hopefully all these bonus skills the kids are learning (e.g. drop everything and help out with navigation) will benefit them someday. I hope I find a way to use them too!

In looking back through my photos, I realize we did so many other things! Walked by a beautiful prison, found a flock of adorable baby goats and chickens, and met the local chief who granted us permission to use the anchorage on Taveuni.

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