Friday, August 23, 2013

Over the top (of Viti Levu)

We might have stayed longer at Makongai to snorkel among the giant clams, but we awoke to rain showers, so decided to push on. It was an easy sail to Naigani, where we anchored in "Picnic Cove" on the northeastern side of the island. We dinghied around to the other side of the island to visit the Naigani Island resort. We thought about doing a dive or an excursion to Ovalau from here, but the weather remained rather stinky, so the next morning we sailed on again, this time reaching Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. As we sailed north along the coast, we arrived at the rain shadow which makes the northern and western coasts so inviting to tourists. Not only did it get sunnier, but smoother as well, as we passed into the protection of an extensive barrier reef. Glad there are a few channel markers along the way to keep us out of trouble. Most of them are just old iron rails like the one pictured here. Floating nav aids would be destroyed by cyclones on a regular basis. Our next stop was the difficult to pronounce island of Nananu-i-ra. There are several small resorts here, and the diving is reputedly quite good, so we expected to see some other yachts here. But we had the place to ourselves the first night. The next day, a charter boat came into the bay, and one of the crew soon dinghied over to say hi. Peter asked us if we wanted any fresh fish, and proceeded to fillet out an entire mahi mahi for us! He wouldn't take anything for it, either; he just wanted a break from the boat and to have some conversation. Another example of the friendly welcome that has been extended to us wherever we go in this beautiful country. Before leaving, we went ashore for a hike. We met a number of friendly locals, climbed a very gnarly tree, and saw some very nice vacation homes, mostly owned by Australians. On our way back to the boat, we were invited in for tea by Jane and Charles. They divide their time between London, St. Martin in the Caribbean, and their recently acquired home here. That's a lot of travel! They also keep a sailboat in the Caribbean, and two more here! That's at least two boats too many, in my book. The next morning we set out along the northern coast of Viti Levu. There was very little wind, as you can see from this picture. The smoke in the background is from a canefield being burned after harvest. From here west, we are in the land of sugar cane. Following a recommendation from Jane, we stopped for the evening in the lee of a small motu. The water was like glass, perfectly reflecting the sunset. The next day brought rain, but no wind, so we motored most of the way to Lautoka. Along the way, a tiny bird came aboard for a rest. It clung to the shrouds for awhile, then found a more comfortable perch on a ratline. It wasn't bothered when I came near to furl the sail. We tentatively identified it as a female red avadavat, yet another introduced species. As it finally flitted off toward Viti Levu, I marveled at how such a small bird could find its way so far from land, and back again. How, and why...? Our next visit was from a colorful local fishing boat. We often get asked for cigarettes, lures, hooks, or other small items, but these guys only wanted to get close enough to snap our picture with their cell phone! Turned the tables on us tourists! As we approached Lautoka, one of Fiji's largest cities, we decided to anchor across the channel from town, where we had a nice view of a 3-masted schooner and several other fine yachts anchored along the town front. We dinghied across the channel and walked into town. Way more busy and crowded than Savusavu! It was a bit of a shock after 6 weeks in the outer islands. We had a nice Indian thali lunch before heading back to the boat.

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