Saturday, June 09, 2007

Taveuni Island, Fiji

Matei anchorage, Taveuni island, Fiji
16 degrees 41 minutes South by 179 degrees 52 minutes West.

A uneventful eighty five nm overnight passage finds us at Taveuni Island in the NE of Fiji. Any passage over Fifty nm is best made with a departure in the afternoon and a planned arrival the next morning. The reason being we always want to arrive at a new destination during day light hours. Preferably, between ten AM and two PM as the overhead sun allows is critical to eyeball navigation as we make our way into coral head strewn anchorages. Charting in many cases is very inaccurate around Fiji with the last hydro graphic survey having taken place over one hundred years ago with out the aid of precise global positioning.

The biggest event of the day is crossing the international dateline. This was Kathy's first trip across the dateline shipboard so we had a extravagant ceremony, elaborate costumes and pompous speeches... not, but we did share a beer and take a few pictures. The bad news is we had to live two Mondays back to back. The good news is I didn't know it was Monday either time!

Taveuni is the third largest of the Fijian islands and is nicknamed the "Garden island" due to the lush rain fed forests. The name was reinforced as we approached this lush green cloud topped island as flowers and leaves floated in the sea many miles from shore.

Finding some fresh food was a priority so despite having made a mostly sleepless overnight passage we were too wired to take a nap and proceeded to shore. Taking a $2 taxi ride from the main ferry pier we found a local Indian restaurant for lunch and enjoyed some roti bread and chicken curry for $10FJD or about six USD for two including a 1.5L of orange soda that is apparently included with every meal? Our appetites sated, we headed for the nearest market for some staples such as whole wheat flour, eggs and tuna fish, since I can't seem to catch a fish lately. Then to a road side vendor of fresh vegetables for some Fijian spinach, cabbage, cucumber and lemons. Not much else was available aside from egg plant and overpriced tomatoes costing $10FJD per kilo.

Back to the boat for a snorkel (i.e. bath) on a nearby reef which was clad in pink and purple soft corals along with the standard proliferation of corals. I tried to spear for dinner, but one fish I actually hit slipped off the spear and swam into a hole in the reef not to be seen again. Back at the boat we enjoyed a dinner of homemade pasta sauce and spaghetti with Fijian spinach and toasted bread. Ahhh the simple pleasures of fresh bread (Bread is hard to come by and only lasts about three days in the tropics before becoming moldy).

Waking refreshed after a great night sleep, at about 6:30 AM I chatted with a friend a few hundred miles away on the SSB radio and also listened to the hour long "rag of the air" cruisers net. Then off to shore to look for the natural water slides. We caught a Taxi (no one has cars so it's the bus or a taxi) for a $3FJD ride to the water slides. Since it was morning, school is in session and no tourists are visiting Fiji due the coup we had the place to ourselves. The only concern was that the natural water slides, about one hundred and fifty feet long, are best demonstrated by a local as it's hard to determine what will be lots of fun vs. what will kill you. I extensively scouted a long stretch of river and then just to be safe Kathy went first.... after calling me all sorts of unflattering names (since I have the lifeguard training I thought it safest she went first so I could save her). The curvy and bumpy ride was exhilarating the first time and just plain fun on subsequent rides (look for pictures and video soon).

Another fine lunch of costing nine FJD was had in town and then a bit more shopping to wrap up the time ashore. Back at the boat we tidied up and got underway to the northern most tip of Taveuni and anchored off the airport and town of Matei. Friends John and Nicole will be visiting from Seattle for a few weeks and we'll be just a short dingy ride away from the airstrip. We plan to take our time sailing toward Nadi where they fly out of, about 220nm to the SW, which should prove to be some great times and pleasant down wind sailing with incredible stops along the way.

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