Sunday, August 25, 2013

Koroyanitu National Park

We still had a couple more days before checking in to Vuda Point marina, so we planned to head out to Musket Cove in the Mamanucas to get a taste of the cruising possibilities on this side of Fiji. But on the morning net, we heard our friends Mark and Anne on Blue Rodeo say that they were anchored in Saweni Bay, only a few miles from Lautoka. We hadn't seen them all year, so we decided to make a short detour to greet them and have a chat. When we got to Saweni, we put the hook down, and before we knew it, Anne and Mark had invited us to dinner and to join them on a hike the following day. We haven't really spent much time with other cruisers this season, so we welcomed the opportunity.

Saweni Bay turned out to be a popular spot for Lautoka residents to swim and beachwalk. We took the dinghy to shore to check it out. Once we had walked the beach, we headed inland. We were immediately in sugar cane country. There was a narrow gauge railway, and all along the line, tiny flatbed cars were being loaded up with cane. This is still by some accounts the largest industry in Fiji, and is conducted almost exclusively by Indo-Fijians like this man. After a while, a minuscule locomotive came by, presumably to gather up the flatcars and take the harvested cane to the sugar mill in Lautoka. Scattered among the canefields were small homesteads like this one, each with a well-tended garden. The next morning we joined the crews of Blue Rodeo and Evergreen (not the one that we crewed on 2 years ago) for a truck ride to the mountain village of Abaca, headquarters for a community ecotourism project called Koroyanitu National Park. The village earns income from park fees and from providing a guide service and lodging. This gives them incentive to protect the natural resources rather than cutting down the trees. This park holds one of the last patches of montane cloud forest in Fiji, and provides important habitat for endemic birds and other threatened plant and animal species. We paid our park entry fees and opted to do the hardest hike, to the top of nearby Mt. Batilamu, one of the highest peaks in Fiji. Jon and Heather from Evergreen are keen hikers, and they didn't want to take a guide along because it might slow us down. Vicki and I realized we were out of our league and probably wouldn't be able to keep up with this crew! It's hard to stay in shape on the boat, and we will have our work cut out for us getting back in shape when we get home.

The trail started off through grasslands, and at one point we got off-route by following what must have been a cattle trail. Luckily we found the route again and climbed steeply up into the cloud forest. There were some beautiful Fijian kauri trees, and some beautiful birdsong. The cloud forest lived up to its name today, and when we got to the New Zealand hut at the top of the mountain, there were only intermittent views of the landscape below. Here is a view back toward Saweni Bay, where our boats are anchored. Because we didn't have a guide, we didn't realize that the trail continued on another half a kilometer to a magnificent overlook! I'm determined to come back here next year, hopefully on a sunnier day.

When we got back down to the village, we did a sevusevu and shared a basin of grog with the villagers. They were very friendly, as usual, and made us feel very welcome.

1 comment:

David and Suzi said...

Just found your comments on our blog and had to investigate your blog. What a fabulous side trip you had; who would have thought that there was such magic just behind Lautoka and Saweni Bay! We are now in Prt Vila, Vanuatu, looking forward to doing our own exploring of these islands.We visited the islands south as we entered Vanuatu and the volcano on Tanna is incredible. What an amazing experience. We still miss Fiji and your blog entry makes us realize that after three years cruising there, there is still so much to experience. No wonder cruisers keep on returning! We may just be one of those yachties. Great to touch base and hope to see you two somewhere out here. Suzi and David ...Sidewinder