Read about Passage here
Savusavu and Around
Savusavu is Vanua Levu's second largest town (the 2000 issue of South Pacific Lonely Planet reported a population of 2000). The population is predominantly Fijian and Indian. It's one main street has a number of shops including a huge open market (fresh veggies and fruit), more than one grocery store (although all smaller than those in the states), clothing and tourist shops, and even a number of restaurants. There are buses, taxis, and lots of cars. For Chris and I it actually felt large and hectic!
As we experienced across the South Pacific, the people are wonderful. BULA! BULA! (Hello! Hello!). Everyone yells as we walk along the main street. Their huge smiles are catching and you can't help but enthusiastically reply back, BULA!
Andy and Riley had 12 days before their return flight and were itching to get going. Chris and I like to unwind and relax after a passage, plus there are usually a number of maintenance tasks that have to be completed. So for the next few days Andy and Riley went off to explore the town, snorkel, and just generally do anything that would get them off the boat while Chris and I went to "work". It didn't help that on our first day there the outboard engine died and Chris found "sludge" in our diesel fuel (of the main boat engine). Nor did the constant falling ash from nearby copra fires make getting (or keeping) the boat clean easy.
Sevusevu: A welcome ceremony that plays an important role in Fijian culture. Upon arrival into a village the visitor offers a gift of Yaqona (kava) to the village chief. They then pound it up, mix it with water and you all drink it together. Basically you are asking permission to stay and visit and the chief, therefore the entire village, is welcoming you in.It wasn't all work though, on Thursday night we attended a cruiser's seminar put on by Curly of CurLiz Cruising. Having moved to Fiji (with his wife Liz) from New Zealand some 15 years ago, Curly now provides a number of useful services to cruisers. The seminar covered the logistics of cruising in Fiji, everything from the paperwork that must be completed, to proper etiquette in the villages, and how to do a Sevusevu. Following the seminar we joined a number or cruisers for a dinner out. This was great for Chris and I because for the first time in months we didn't know a single boat in the bay!
Curly later put on another great seminar on "Where to cruise in Fiji". He along with other long time Fiji cruisers reviewed charts and locations. Talked about their favorite places and places they would skip. It was our first look at just how much fun Fiji was going to be!
Halfway into last year's season I learned that a cousin of mine (to be exact my Grandpa's Cousin's son) has a house in Fiji. As Fiji wasn't in last year's plans we weren't able to hook up. When I emailed them before leaving New Zealand, they decided to fly out and try to meet up with us. As it turns out their house is just 15-20 minutes outside Savusavu. Our timing was perfect, George (my cousin) and his wife Patti arrived on the 19th. Chris and I met them for lunch on the 20th (Andy and Riley had opted to go snorkeling). The last time I had seen George I was somewhere between 10 and 13, so I really didn't remember him much. This made me a bit nervous - just because we're family didn't mean we would "gel". But it was all for not because George and Patti are Great! We had a fantastic lunch filled with non-stop conversation. Afterwards Patti introduced us to her favorite Market vendors, Kamla and Raj. We made plans to visit their house the following day and discussed all sorts of other potential things to do around the island. George and Patti would be in Fiji until June 9th and during their stay they showed us some fantastic parts of Vanua Levu.
On Saturday (21st) we all (Andy and Riley included) spent a day enjoying their amazing views while soaking in their horizon pool. Chris and I loved their house and location so much that we are now convinced that somehow, someway we MUST buy land here!
On the 23rd we had George and Patti over to the boat for appetizers and sunset drinks. It started with a good laugh, when George fell off the dinghy (into the water) while climbing aboard, but somehow in an amazing acrobatic maneuver, managed to save his video camera. I was relieved to find he was very good humored about it!
Two nights later Chris and I were going to join George and Patti at a local carnival, but due to rain opted for dinner out instead (Andy and Riley had decided to take the ferry over to Taveuni for a two night adventure). Chris and I spent the following night up at their house where we enjoyed local Indian cuisine (prepared by their "house girl", Rada), endless amounts of power (we watched a movie), and a real shower! The next day we went off-roading (dusty, unpaved roads) into some remote locations in search of "the waterfall" that I had read about. Luckily George and Patti had asked around and gotten some general directions ... although had two small boys not guided us in, we would've probably walked aimlessly for hours!
On Saturday (now May 28th) they took the four of us (Andy and Riley were back from Taveuni) to one of the nearby villages. The visit was especially unique to Andy and Riley who had only seen the larger towns of Fiji. The minute we pulled up twenty pairs of little eyes peered out at us from within houses and behind trees; the children are always the first to arrive. We waited for Satari to come out and meet us (George and Patti know her through friends of theirs and they had arranged our visit through her). She took us to her house, many of the children following curiously behind. Her husband, Joshua, is second man to the chief and he came to greet us shortly after. George and Patti had previously visited the village and had been welcomed through the Sevusevu ceremony. Because of this, they will always be welcomed, as was apparent when Joshua said, "Welcome Home" to them. Although no Sevusevu was required, we still presented a gift of Yuqona roots (Kava) along with rice and sugar. Joshua walked us around the village. While villagers don't have much in material possessions, they have a lot of pride and big hearts. The villages are clean and well groomed, and everywhere we walked people came out to say hello, shake our hands, or offer us food. After our tour we took a refreshing swim in the river. This type of activity is always a favorite of ours, because we get to play with the children. This time it was cannon balls, king of the raft, and tossing kids through the air. As always their smiles and laughter were infectious. After the swim, Satari treated us to some kind of cooked, smoky flavored banana dish. I swear I really really tried to like it, but between the slimy texture and the strong flavor, every bite I took triggered a gag reflection. I was determined to eat it, I wouldn't dare waste something as important as food, but was luckily saved by Chris who after seeing the desperation in my eyes finished mine for me! We took some final pictures and said our thank you's (Vanaka Vakalevu, thank you very much) and drove away with those same twenty eyes watching after us!
Next we met up with George and Patti for a Sunday lovo lunch.
A traditional Fijian feast that is prepared in an earth oven (lovo) over hot rocks. The food is wrapped in banana leaves, placed in the oven, then covered with leaves and soil giving it a smoky flavor.
During lunch we learned to play a pool like game called Snooker. The game itself is fun, but it is even more entertaining to play with the local kids (who kick-ass at it). On the 31st I joined George and Patti for another lunch out (Chris was working on our outboard again, and Andy and Riley had departed on the 30th). We had George and Patti out to the boat again on Saturday (June 4th), this time for a relaxing day anchored away from town (more on this below, under Weekend Away). On Monday, itching to play some more Snooker, we brought Doodlebug along and joined George and Patti at the Planter's Club for too many beers and two of the longest games in snooker history (since we all sucked and didn't have any locals playing to help speed the game along).
Finally, on Wednesday June 8th, we joined up for one last dinner out. George and Patti would be flying out on the 9th. We had an excellent Lovo dinner at a local restaurant and then bid each other farewell (as it turns out they were delayed due to rain, so we actually some them one more time).
I am so happy that George and Patti came out. They really showed us a great time and we immensely enjoyed their company. Although, they did also make me a bit homesick with all our conversations about family and with George's resemblance to my brother! We are also grateful that they introduced us to so many locals - as it really makes for a better island experience.
Vacations vs. Cruising
A number of people have asked us how it was having two extra people on board for almost a month. One of the things that stands out to us, and that we always end up discussing, as well as something that we hadn't really thought about ahead of time, is the difference between vacationers and cruisers.
As vacationers, Andy and Riley only had 26 days. If you take away the waiting time in NZ and the passage, they were left with twelve days in Fiji. As with most people on vacation, they wanted to utilize every minute of that time. Andy would be up at the crack of dawn and off to walk around. By 9(am) he'd be back on Billabong urging Riley to get ready so they could get off the boat. They might go snorkeling, might walk around the island just off our stern, or might walk about town -- really anything was fine as long as they got off the boat. There was even a night or two where Andy went in to check out the "night life".
This constant flurry of activity is quite different from a cruiser's lifestyle. Chris and I enjoy our lazy mornings over coffee. And while we like adventure and exploring, relaxing (or doing nothing one might say) is just as fun! There might be days when we feel no need or desire to leave the boat at all. Sure, Chris and I have more time, so we don't have to rush around trying to see everything at once. But what I've discovered about ourselves as well as other cruisers is that when we do run short of time, we tend to opt to skip stuff (or places) rather than up our pace. After a month with Andy and Riley, I have realized (again), how lucky we are to have learned to live this way. One of the things I'm most worried about on our return home (still a few years off) is being thrown back into a go-go-go lifestyle. I worry that I'll forget how to sit back, relax and enjoy my surroundings. And in doing that I worry that I'll lose all those little enjoyments of life that are so easy to overlook. I hope that we'll be able to hang on to a slower pace and remember the enjoyment we found from "quiet time" or a good book.
People might read our journals and think how cool it is that we've snorkeled with whales, dove with sharks, hiked a volcano, bonded with stingrays, and so on, while I agree, I would also add that one of the greatest things about cruising is learning to slow down, relax, and potentially do nothing! I would encourage everyone to give it a try, and the next time you go on vacation take some time to just sit around, read, or let your mind wonder. Listen to sounds around you, take a deep breathe and truly RELAX!
After two loud weekends in the bay, we decided that should we be around for another weekend we would get away. So come Friday (June 3rd), we motored out to "split rock point" (about 5nm or 1 hour away). The only downside to the point is that we had to anchor in 50-60 feet of water, not ideal, but manageable. There were a few interesting moments anchoring, especially when I misunderstood a few of Chris's hand signals. Here I was so proud because I [thought] was backing down in the EXACT direction Chris had asked me to ... turns out he had said/signaled NOT to go in THAT direction! OOPS! After setting the hook I could feel my entire being relax. There is something so serene about the stillness when anchored far away from any towns. I took a quick dip, checking our anchor and peering in on a few fish. There were some microscopic jelly fish in the water and it didn't take long for their small stings to becoming annoying.
That evening we rowed over to Doodlebug for sundowners. We had briefly met Annette and Ed the previous year in the Marquesas, but had not had the opportunity to get to know them. We had a fantastic time, staying up way past my bed time (till 11:30pm if you can believe that!). We learned about Ed's cruiser categories;
- Category1: Dirt poor cruising, barely making it by, working as they cruise.
- Category2: Taking a sabbatical from work. They will someday have to return to land and jobs.
- Category3: Retired. Hopefully they will never have to return to work or land again!
The next day George and Patti drove out to the point and we dinghied them to Billabong. As we sat around enjoying the sun and light breeze, they asked us what we would be doing if they weren't there. "This is it" we said, "relaxing!". Maybe a dip in the ocean if we got hot, or potentially a quick chore if something came to mind.
For lunch I whipped up some Philly Rolls (sushi), partly because I had a craving and the ingredients, and partly, I'll admit, because as Chris says, "I wanted to show off"! They were both quite impressed that our boat was so well stocked and that we would indulge on sushi!
After George and Patti left, Chris and I had a quiet and early night. On Sunday Doodlebug picked us up and we went to "Split Rock" for some fantastic snorkeling (this is the spot Andy and Riley visited frequently during their stay). Even in the poor lighting (clouds were rolling in) I was amazed at the varying colors of the soft corals. The fish were extremely friendly, swarming around and even going after our held out fingers hoping for food! We spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoyed another beautiful sunset.
On Monday (June 6th) we headed back into town - it was time to start making preparations to leave .. if only we could get the weather to cooperate!