BULA! That is hello in the friendly country of Fiji and easily the best greeting we have come across yet. Everywhere you go locals are yelling out “Bula!” to you. Sometimes they say it so loud and quick you think they are trying to startle you but you just give them your best “Bula!” back and everyone is left smiling. As I write this we are on route to Australia and the last official port of call that I will see. It’s been a ridiculously amazing 9 months aboard Ruby. Seeing some of the most beautiful islands and meeting some of the most wonderful, friendly, energetic, and interesting people in the world. Except that boat Saltbreaker…they were pretty lame. But for the time being, lets step back in time….
We left Tonga on October 9th as the sun was setting behind a pink and blue sky. With the wind in our favour we trimmed the sails to point us right for the capital city of Suva in Fiji. Over the next two days the weather, wind, and fishing gods all treated us well. We quickly landed 2 Mahi Mahi both over 20lbs and sushi was thankfully back on the menu. Our luck ran out a bit on the 3rd day as the wind temporarily disappeared forcing us to sail south around the Lau group of islands as we would not make the desired pass before night fall. So on we trudged with what little wind there was pushing us along at two to four knots.
As we rounded the group of islands on the fourth day I noticed a buoy floating in the water off in the distance. We decided to inspect the situation and changed course slightly to intercept it. As it came close enough to pick up it suddenly dove under the hull and got tangled up in the rudder. Moving quickly into action Moret and I managed to dislodge it and found that it was attached to some pretty heavy line, maybe 500-1000 pound test. To gain some good karma and possibly some good treasure we cut the buoy from the line and started bringing it in. We ended up hauling in about 400m of the stuff with various attachments but mostly rusty hooks. The line has since proven very useful as our own hand line, which has since caught us another couple Mahi Mahi, and taking it in will also prevent any sea faring animal to get needlessly caught up in it. Our good karma paid off when we bagged our third large Mahi of the crossing.
We wouldn’t make it to Suva before nightfall; however, we had read that it is well lit and has a large area for anchoring. The next day we were surprised to find the Norwegians aboard Aud (also known as Peace, Love and Happiness) were tied up to the dock. We met up with them and shared a few extremely cheap pitchers ($5CND) with them until the yacht club closed and then headed out to the liquor store to pick up a few quiet ones to drink aboard Aud. The night ended up going on a little later than expected but luckily we had nothing to do as the city shuts down on Sunday.
Once finally checked in we headed into town and learned of the MHCC mall where we began our friendship with Savu, the friendly young local who ran the liquor store. We would see him many times as we toured around the largest city in the South Pacific. We found Suva to be a very cool city. With many Fijian-Indians living in the city you are surrounded by little shops selling anything that could be imported from India or China, hundreds of people busy about their day, and most importantly, numerous curry houses. We filled ourselves to the gills as we hit up the various curry houses which served delicious food for what worked out to be less than $5CND. Our noses eventually led us to Ashiyana where we were transported into a world of flavor and delight. Wow’s and mmm’s would spill out of our mouths as we devoured curry after curry. We ended up having to meet the master chef, Mr. C, and promised we would be back the next day. Sure enough, they reserved the big table with the lazy susan for us and we had another euphoric eating experience.
We spent our days in Suva checking out the old colonial buildings, churches, museums, gardens, and going to a movie theater. The market in Suva was also something to behold. It was full to the rafters with lovely fruit, vegetables, and kava, and all at a fraction of the cost we are used to. Although we were falling in love with the city, the one down side to Suva was the rain. It would rain on and off in mini downpours constantly. One cabby mentioned that in Suva “it rains and you work. It rains…and you work.” Luckily for us a lot of the locals work by making glorious carvings and with the dollar at about 2 to 1 in our favour we would lose ourselves in the handicraft markets buying up souvenirs by the armful.
Our last night in Suva was spent with our friend Savu from the liquor store (yeah I know, the names are confusing!). He took us out to some of his favorite places in town, notably a reggae bar where dancing was highly encouraged. After picking up some cheap BBQ street meat, we headed back to Ruby for a night cap. Savu passed out in the galley and we all slept soundly (until I had to dinghy him back to shore at 6am!). After some provisioning we would leave Suva in the evening for an overnight sail to Port Denerau on the west side of Viti Levu.
We arrived in Denerau in the afternoon and decided to head to the town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi) to check it out and find some curry. Unfortunately it would turn out we had been spoiled by Mr. C and the curry was not up to our new lofty standards. The town was much older than Suva with much less to offer regarding bars and restaurants.
While Jen and 80 were on leave from Ruby living a decadent lifestyle for 24-hours (they received a gift of a night stay in one of the fancy resorts) we spent the days doing jobs on Ruby and taking the dinghy up the river for a little adventure.
Shannon’s friend Noriko from Vancouver joined us aboard Ruby for a two week stay. We then decided to tour the Yasawa Group of islands but not before an overnight stop at Beachcomber Island. The island is touted as the party island of Fiji so naturally we had to investigate. Our friend Chris aboard Dragonfly decided he would dinghy out the 9 miles to join us. While the place had the potential to accommodate up to 500 party rockers, there were only 30 people including us holding down the fort. Pretty much us, 2 Norwegian girls and a group of about 20 Chinese tourists, who were all rocking out to that song Gangnam Style and requesting it to be played over and over again, were the only people there.
We sailed up to Waya Island the next morning and dropped anchor off Yolumbi Village. There is a tradition amongst visitors and villagers in Fiji in which the visiting sailor brings kava root to the village chief as a gift. If the chief accepts your gift you, a small ceremony takes place that essentially welcomes you into their village and you are free to walk around and explore. If he declines the kava you must leave immediately. Fortunately we were never declined, and it was cool experience to witness. Shannon, Noriko and I went snorkeling that afternoon around the coral reef and saw a blue spotted sting ray, the first one I had seen this trip. Later on we joined some of the town people, including acting chief the admiral Josh, ashore for a cheap meal of rice, fish, and kasava root (which I believe is like tapioca) as well as a few rounds of kava. The proceeds from the cheap meal went to the support the rugby team on the small island so they could travel to the mainland for matches.
Bright and early the next morning Josh took us to climb up to the Chest of the Sleeping Giant….a nearby mountain It’s called this because if you look at the island in a certain way it looks like…you guessed it…a zzzleeping giant. After mostly a scramble up the side of the mountain we reached the top of the chest and were treated with a fantastic view of the surrounding islands. One of which was the famous Tom Hanks Island where the film Castaway was filmed (not to be confused with the island called Castaway Island). After taking in the view we headed back down for a tour of the pretty village and the plantation where we got Noriko her first taste of fresh coconut. We also tried some sugarcane which was a nice sugary treat.
After lunch 80, Jen, and Noriko went to the local school and hung out with the kids and teachers for an hour. They became the guests of honour and sat in a few classes while all the kids scrambled to get their picture taken. Later on that afternoon we noticed our friends from Nakesa were on shore, brought in by one of the little ferry boats. We learned that they were anchored over at Octopus Resort, just a few miles up the coast with friends on the sailing vessels Cant and Double Bruyn. So off we sailed to meet up with them. We ended up having a spontaneous dinner party aboard Ruby that night.
We spent the next day chillin’ at Octopus Resort with our new and old friends playing volleyball, swimming in the pool, snorkeling the coral reef, and enjoying the occasional cocktail. After dinner we had a few quiet one’s aboard DB where we witnessed Paul , who is famous for his various pass out positions, fall asleep with his head on a plastic wine glass perfectly surrounding his eyeball. I can’t imagine that it would be too comfortable but he didn’t seem to notice.
After lunch the next day we said our goodbyes and headed off to Manta Ray Island, the home of Manta Ray Resort. Yes, many of the islands in this region of Fiji have small “backpacker” resorts on them and while the islands do have traditional names, the smaller ones simply go by the name of the resort. These small resorts were staffed with friendly people, were very un-pretentious, were relatively cheap, and are located in some of the most gorgeous places we have seen. The whole region is serviced regularly by small ferries so one can travel around to the various islands and resorts. Manta Ray Resort offered wood fired pizza’s every night as well as eggs benny for breakfast and all for dirt cheap. It was so good that when on our way back to Port Denerau a couple days later we made a point of stopping in for breakfast. After Waya Island we continued north to Naviti Island for a few days. By giving another kava gift we were welcomed into the village of Somosomo. We explored the village, hiked to the other side of the island, snorkeled a WWII Japanese plane, and a few of the Ruby crew even went to Church. 80, Shanns, and Noriko put on their Sundays best and went to check out the service and hearing the singing that is famous throughout the S. Pacific. They got a special shout out from the Minister, and he then translated half of the service into English for them.
On our way back south to Denerau we stopped in at Lautoka, the 2nd largest city in Fiji, to do some provisioning. We met up with Aud again and had a few quiet ones aboard their boat. We also managed to drift into them in the morning, just barely nudging them around 6am, forcing us to re-anchor a little further away. As the day went on we started hearing chatter over the radio about a rumor that we started a week earlier concerning a Halloween party at Beachcomber Island that night. So off we headed alongside Aud and Dragonfly racing each other to the island. Double Bruyn and Nakesa were already there and Cant was coming in from the west. Overall, there were the 6 boats anchored off the lee of this tiny island and we were all friends.
By the time we arrived on shore the party was well on its way. At least it was with the yachtee’s as the backpackers there were relatively quiet and none had thought to bring a costume. I was dressed as Captain Canada, Alex was a Chinese Long Liner complete with quote “long line, long time”, 80 was a 70’s Olympic gold medal tennis star, the girls were Charlie’s Angels dressed as fairies, the boys from Double Bruyn and Cant along with Graham from Nakesa were all Amy Winehouse, from Aud Chris was Jesus, Andreas was John Lennon, and Dominic (their new crew) was a ghost. We lit up the place, taking over the dance floor, table tops, the beach…we tried our hardest to get some of the backpackers to get into costumes but all we got out of them was one girl going round with makeup drawing scars on faces. Highlights were watching Graham busting out his best break dance moves on the sand dance floor and finding Andreas passed out in a little kayak at the end of the night. Oh and I created a new burger. Since the bar didn’t have any burger patties left and they did have plates of calamari, I had the chef jam as many calamari into a burger bun as possible and serve it to me with all the fixings. A new sandwich called the Horbzger (TM) was born. As normally happens when we all get together a good ol drunken night ended happily with only 2 of the girls having problems keeping upright.
The next morning we headed back to Port Denarau bright and early. Had to pick up some groceries that I couldn’t get in Lautoka and make it to the airport to pick up the Mills’s’s’s’s. All my rushing to get to the airport in time was however for not as the plane arrived an hour late due to daylight savings! Why these people recognize daylight savings and why they didn’t work it into the flight arrival time is beyond me.
We (Alex and 80) woke early and we headed to the famous Musket Cove (Malololailai) where we heard Cant, DB and Nakesa were anchored. I didn’t wake up until 10am when we arrived. We headed to shore, walked around the giant resorts and swam in their pools. Eventually we got all the crews together again and fired up the outdoor wood burning BBQ’s they had set up at the island bar for a feast. We spent the evening chatting on the beach and dancing to the music. Later back on Ruby we had a guitar jam session and after, a dance party in honour of Noriko’s last night as crew.
Our second last night in Fiji was spent in Port Denerau where we again met up with Cant, DB and Nakesa for Graham and Phaedra’s daughter Atlanta’s birthday party. 80 and I attended some of the festivities but exhaustion eventually set in and we called it an early night.
Once rid of Noriko (jk Noriko…we love you!), we headed up to Lautoka to fill up on veggies and check out of Fiji. We ended up having to spend a night there as there was no way we were getting a customs officer to come out to see us on a Sunday. None the less we made the best of it by snorkeling around an abandoned resort where we saw clown fish and a blue spotted sting ray.
Once checked out of customs, we made one final stop at Tom Hanks Island to record some choice scenes from the movie Castaway with all of us acting out some sort of scene or another and taking the piss out of it whenever we could. I mean the island they used is surrounded by 5 others and 3 huge resorts. Come on Tom….