Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Malau Point / Labasa

Malau Point / Labasa  (July 27th – 30th)

Black Jack's Bay

After a final goodbye with Lepsi (who rowed out to the boat early in the morning to deliver a few goodbye gifts), we left Also Island Wednesday, July 27th, heading towards Labasa.  We made a one night stop at Black Jack’s Bay, where we nearly ran Billabong into a reef!  The water was murky and it was unclear exactly where we were supposed to anchor, so we slowly made our way inland. Thinking we found a good spot in 20 feet of water, Chris set about getting the anchor ready.  In a matter of seconds the depth reader jumped from 20 to 18 to 12.5 to 7.2 … just as I was yelling to Chris, he happened to look over and could finally see through the murky water … REEF!  Now the trick was to back up without going port (left) … which is the way our boat ‘walks’ in reverse, and also the location of the current reef we’d prefer not to hit.  We threw it in hard reverse to get some backward movement, and then back to neutral (to eliminate the prop walk), then we anxiously watched the depth meter and is teetered between 6.6 and 7.0 feet (we draw 6.5 feet).  Finally, after what felt like minutes, although I’m sure it was only seconds, the depth began rising just a quickly as it had fallen, and we were safe.  Phew!  What a heart stopper that was.  Needless to say, we picked a different stop to anchor and all was well.

For our nightly entertainment Chris got out the spotlight and lit up the waters, which caused hundreds (no exaggeration) of fish to began sporadically leaping out the water in mass chaos. (We had discovered this light enamored fish in Albert’s cove a few weeks earlier).  Hey, what else do we have to do?

Malau Point
The next day we moved on to Malau Point.  From here we could catch the bus for a 20 minute ride into Labasa.  And what a bus ride it is.  After the seclusion of the past few months it was quite a shock to the system.  The bus came clattering down the road, with its windowless-windows (basically just wide openings with the wood beams sticking down and cloth flaps that can be unrolled when it's raining), and mostly American music blaring out.  We paid our buck-twenty Fijian and hopped aboard.  You could barely talk over the music, dust flew in through the open windows, and the potholes made for some vicious bumps, but the view was terrific.  We went through a number of villages (stopping at each), which we noticed seemed to alternate between Fijian & Indian homes.  Fields upon fields of sugar cane surrounded us, with oxen & tractors working away.  Just outside of Labasa the sugar factory came into view … and waiting outside were over a hundred trucks & tractors filled to the gill with sugar cane, waiting in line for their turn to drop off the cane.  It seemed like the line went on for miles as we stared in amazement.  Labasa itself really is one long, crowded main street.  There is a HUGE open market (fresh fruit & veggies) and three good size “supermarkets”.  The open market is amazing, pile upon pile of vegetables stacked into one or two dollar piles.  Sometimes the pile was so big that I’d think for sure I was missing something … all that for one buck???  Having never cooked an eggplant in my life (and not even knowing if Chris liked eggplant), I bought a pile just because it was such a good deal … about 50 small to medium sized eggplants for a dollar!  Clothing also seems to be huge here, a number of fabric stores lined the main street and quite a few seamstress worked away in tiny closest-like rooms.  I had a dress made for $7 Fijian (about 4.20 US) plus material.  Granted not the best sewing I’ve ever seen, but geez … FOUR TWENTY!!!  And we were thrilled to find FAST internet, for only $3 an hour!!!  Labasa seemed to be filled with good deals for us!

We stayed at Malau Point for 3 nights, riding into Labasa every day to run errands, provision, and use the internet.  If we thought it was crowded when we went in on Thursday, we didn’t know what was coming … Friday and Saturday are the big shopping days … it was shoulder to shoulder walking on Saturday!  By Sunday we were ready for some quiet, ready to get back to ‘nowhere’ and out of the city!  With Billabong bulging at the seams with fresh vegetables we continued west.  We stopped in Nukubati, but after a really windy night decided to move on down the coast to see if we could find a more protected anchorage.  After poking our nose into a couple of anchorages we were running out potential anchoring spots reachable that day.  With one possible bay left, we were going by a spot that wasn’t on our charts as an anchorage, and with a large extending reef didn’t look like it would be calm, however from our current point of few it looked dead flat … so we headed in to check it out.  Depth was good and sure enough it was flat & calm.  Good enough for us .. we stayed.

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