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25th, East of the Line

Once the sun was well up I headed out to say hello to some of the new arrivals in the anchorage and make sure the folks who hadn’t received my earlier email knew they were invited. I didn’t have to go too far as we ended up with a few dinghies/kayak congregated around Gerimar so I managed to get the word out.

While there, six local officials/policemen came out in a fishing skiff to inspect the paperwork of the boats here. We came to the conclusion they were bored and wanted to see the boat show in the anchorage. Only one fellow did any paperwork / inspection and all were very friendly and keen to look around.

After this unexpected interlude Helen and I went out to snorkel one of the nearby coral patches. On the outside of the reef the water was fairly clear and the coral diverse and abundant. The fish were small but colourful and we managed to see a beautiful but dangerous (to the reef) crown of thorns starfish.

After our swim we went over to the lobster pot. The only thing in it was the extremely stinky fish frame which had now collapsed and got stuck in pieces in the netting. It was a disgustingly smelly job to clean it all up. It took me a while to get the awful smell off my fingers.

In the evening we had our public anniversary party. Along came the Borees, Callistos, Dreamtimes, Gerimars, Jaranas, Kilkeas, Tahinas and True Companions for a fun evening. Bert from Boree made us all smile with a bit of a speech presenting Helen and I with hats they’d made earlier in the day appropriate for the celebration.

Quite a few of us are interested in going down the coast to the Bouma National Park, some to see the falls we’ve already seen and some to do the coastal trail. So it looks like today a crowd of us will go down on the public bus returning by taxi. Should be fun.

Hot Spring

This time we went ashore in the kayak which, later, turned out to be a very good thing. We paddled our way into the cutting through the mangrove and tied the kayak to the mangroves where the water was shallow. We then waded through the mud to the dirt track that led out of the place. With all the recent rains I found myself sinking in from time to time resulting in very muddy feet.

We made our way back to Arthur and Sandra’s place where we were able to wash ourselves. We were invited in for tea again which we welcomed. We chatted for a while. Albert mentioned they may be going fishing that evening and I asked if could go along. That was ok. They asked if I had any small fish to use as bait. This was a good excuse to get my spear gun out so I offered to bag a few in the afternoon.

Next Arthur took us for a walk down through their land then up to some properties they look after for others which had some excellent views over the harbour. From there we walked back to their house then onto the hot springs some distance away at the other end of their land. This involved a 20 minute rock hopping walk up a river. The hot springs were a natural up welling of constantly bath water hot water coming out of the ground. Rocks had been placed to form a couple of pools which then emptied into the cold river. It was nice alternating from one to the other. When the hot pool overcame us we sat in the river which at first gave us a cold shock but was soon very refreshing. When the chill from the river set in the hot pool warmed us up nicely. Arthur left us here so we had the place to ourselves. We merged with nature. We finished off in the cold river which kept us deliciously cool for the return trip down the river.

We made our way back to Dignity to have a brief lunch and relax. We discover the tide was right out and had to lug the kayak out of the mangroves over the mud. Had we brought the dinghy in this would have been very hard work. By the time we were back on the boat we were quite exhausted.

I roused myself mid-afternoon to go and catch the fish I’d promised. I could have been quite happy to do nothing at that point but I felt I should follow through. The patch I chose was a little murky and the fish more than a little skittish. They all seemed to have an innate understanding of what a spear gun looked like and did. I eventually bagged one fish. I tried using that as bait to bring others in but that didn’t work. I stuck this small fish on the end of the gun to disguise it. That sort of worked allowing me to shoot two really small fish. With these three embarrassingly small trophies I headed home. While in the water Garimar had arrived in the anchorage and Tahina was on their way in. By the time I was showered and in my hammock to relax, Tahina passed our stern and we waved our greetings.

Later I popped over to Tahina to share what we learned about the shore access and what we’d done. While I was there I saw Arthur coming out on their fishing boat so I rushed back and collected my hand line, hooks and bait. In the boat with him was his niece Mona (who we’d briefly met earlier) and Laura from the next village. We ended up out on the reef handlining for fish for about two and half hours. We chatted at times and often cajoled the fish to take our bait. Mona caught two fish and Laura one which was small and used for more bait. Arthur and I had no luck. Laura spent about 10 minutes with a large fish on her line which she eventually lost. They blamed our poor luck on the weather which wasn’t good. We were drenched with rain on a couple of occasions and lightening flashed in the mountains from time to time. For some reason the fish don’t feed when it’s raining. Perhaps they don’t want to get wet.

This morning we’re taking the bus into Savusavu to meet our friends from Napier in NZ and bring them back to the boat this afternoon. They have no idea how they’re going to have to get to the boat. We think we’ll leave the dinghy where we first landed by the river and find a way through the nearby property. If that fails we’ll cross the same barbed wire fence that we did on our first day here.

Feet on the ground

First full day on land after a hefty passage is always a nice experience and Monday was no exception. Shortly after breakfast I dinghied over to the Jacksters who had arrived the evening before to say hello and give them the low down on greeting the officials. Once back on the boat, we gathered our things and we all dinghied ashore. Paul headed off to do his own thing and sort out his next steps.

Helen and I went to the Copra Shed office to announce ourselves and order our Fiji cruising permit. We then made our way down the high street (the only one of consequence) to explore Savusavu and find the various places we had to pay our bills. Helen, as usual, visited most of the Supermarkets to case out what foods are available and the prices. Most items are available at a very good price so once we’ve depleted our vast New Zealand stores we know we have plenty here.

We bought a SIM card for our phone so now we can make local calls. My phone is discharging it’s battery rather quickly so I may have to do something about that but for now it will do. Sorting out an internet connection became somewhat more awkward. The Fiji Vodafone website claims they have 3G services in a lot of places and 2G for a lot of the rest but this is not the case in Savusavu. I can’t use my phone to bridge data services and need a data card for the USB stick given to us in New Zealand. However, the store that sells the data cards wasn’t sure if the stick would work and asked us to wait for their tech guy who will be here Tuesday or Wednesday. No rush on getting connected is ok.

We bumped into Frank on Tahina who was also on similar errands to us and we walked together to the hospital to pay for the health inspection. We parted company with Frank when we reached town as we had different ideas about where to eat. Helen and I ended up eating at a restaurant quite close to the Copra Shed which served an excellent chicken curry. During lunch the heavens opened. May is usually the onset of the dry season and that hasn’t happened yet.

After lunch we explored the high street in the opposite direction before returning to the boat for the afternoon. Not long after, Paul was dropped off at the boat by John and Pam from Passages and we invited them aboard for a beer and a chat. Paul has now worked out his plans for the rest of his stay in Fiji. He’ll be leaving us on Wednesday to start a very well priced Scuba Certification course here in Savusavu before heading to the mainland on the Sunday night ferry. He’s going to sort out his flight today and once those details are ironed out we can officially disembark him from the boat.

Later in the afternoon I went back ashore with Paul to drop off some laundry. The services here are very cheap and we have many loads to do so we’re splitting the effort. It turned out our cruising permit was already prepared (we had been told it could take days) so I collected that and set about obtaining a permit to visit the Lau group to the east. As we were heading back to the dinghy I bumped into Bert from Boree who was not looking overly happy. He mentioned he was having trouble connecting his PC to his TV again (I’ve already helped him out once before with this) and I said I’d be happy to help out again. The real reason for his discontent is he’d just been given an outrageous price for a ventilation fan for his engine room to replace the one that had failed in passage. I looked at the spec sheet he had in his hand and gave him the good news. Ages ago I’d erroneously ordered a wrong sized fan for a spare and had exactly the part he needed. What a coincidence. He dinghied over to our boat to check it out and it was just the right thing. We did a deal which was good for both of us then headed over to Boree to fix his TV. It took about 10 seconds to find the problem.

By the time I was back at the boat it was time to head back to the Copra Shed to hang out. Brian and Jodon from El Regalo were there having just arrived and soon more piled in. After a couple of beers we all headed to the restaurant over the road where Helen and I had eaten earlier. We ended up joining all the tables in one section of the restaurant. Apart from us, we had the True Companions, El Regalos, Tahinas, Garimas, Jacksters and Kilkeas at the table.

The evening turned out cool and dry. Did we just witness the start of the dry season?

We’ll be here in Savusavu for a few more days to sort things out and recuperate from our passage. We need to fill a propane tank and there’s our internet to sort out. We also need to disembark Paul. If we stay too long we’ll get fat, particularly if we keep on eating two meals per day. If the weather stays good we’ll probably hike to the top of a nearby hill where there is supposed to be a good look out.