|We arrived in the big city of Suva just before the 4th of July. At a dinner and the Royal Suva Yacht Club a couple of nights before Bruce from Ahquabi won a huge platter of meat in a raffle so he volunteered to grill it on the 4th and a party was born. |
Rod and Mary from Carillion were our token Brits so we could gloat. The crew of Sweet Dreams brought a full sized ice cream maker ashore and had enough to feed all of the kids at the yacht club.
A few days later we were joined in the anchorage by a US nuclear submarine. I didn't know submarines could anchor. They drop the hook out the stern. I forgot to ask if they had a Bruce or a plow.
Suva is a busy port and is the center of commerce for the South Pacific. The Royal Suva Yacht Club caters nicely to visiting yachts. The anchorage is more protected than you would think looking at a chart. Being a big city it is dirty and there is crime. It also rains almost every day so it isn't a great place to hang out for too long.
We left and headed south to the Great Astrolabe Reef and the island of Ono. Here we anchored in a very protected bay off of the village of Nabouwalu. We came ashore to Sevu Sevu and we met the village chief, Mickey.
This village has a tradition of the men in the military and Fiji sends many soldiers for peacekeeping duties in Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula. Several of them had participated in the Gulf War. They were pretty worldly for people living in a village with no electricity.
We were invited for church and I sported my new formal Sulu so I could get that Fijian look. The locals were really impressed. They insisted on the picture with Buddy and myself with the village elders.
The church was built on stilts out of reinforced concrete after the previous one was destroyed in a hurricane in the early 70's. It was sturdy and it doubles a a safe haven in bad storms. It was built with money donated from the mainland churches to aid with disaster relief.
As a fund raiser the village women put on a dinner for us and asked that we pay them what we liked in return. They put on a spread of dishes that were prepared entirely with local ingredients. No canned corned beef in this meal, just fish, crab, coconuts and root vegetables. It was great! We all enjoyed it and couldn't finish what they put in front of us. We paid $10 F each and they were very pleased.
A village member that lives outside the village on his beach is Leslie Taito. Leslie owns a lot of the land around the village and much of the reef off the island. We sought his permission to dive his reef and he gladly agreed and also offered to guide us for $3 F per person. He took us first to a site for a tank dive that was great. Underwater pictures of this dive will show up here soon. Next he took us to a shallow place in the reef for a snorkel. It was very pretty with lots of living coral and fish. Dive Kandavu was anchored nearby as they have made arrangements with Leslie to use his reef.
Leslie lives on his own private beach about a half mile long of clean white sand. He grows papayas (or paw paws in Fijian), bananas and root vegetables. He lives in a traditional Fijian bure he built and lives primarily off of the land and sea.
He demonstrated his spear gun on shore for us and Buddy and I took a try at it. It is just a rubber cord that hooks to the end of a steel rod and the thumb of the control hand. You hold the spear in your fingers and pull back with the other hand. Aim and release and off it goes. It is surprisingly powerful but with barb or retrieval line you have to make a killer shot every time or the fish will get away, sometimes with your spear. For this reason Leslie is a dead eye. He placed a child's flip flop 10 feet from his spear. This is a very long shot with a speargun. He said the toe piece was the eye, his target. He hit it right on. We thought it was a fluke and made him do it again. After 3 in a row we were believers.
Leslie leads a solitary life on his beach and only goes to the village once or twice a week but he would like visitors. He would like to build a guest bure for foreign visitors but I wouldn't count on accommodations. It would be an interesting prospect to camp on his beach and learn to live the Fijian way from Leslie. He is a very nice man and I am sure he is sincere. If you are interested write him at:
You could also try to pass a message through Dive Kadavu. They operate out of resort called Matana Resort (679) 311-780.
We read that kava is extracted from the roots of a pepper plant but this is accurate from our perspective. The plant may be related to a pepper plant as we know it but it doesn't produce peppers.
As the plant matures it produces more potent kava. It won't be good until the plant is 3 years old and the really good stuff comes from plants that are 6 or 7 years old.
The plants are started by clipping a branch and planting it. After several years it is a large leafy bush and it is ready to harvest. The roots are dug up and the stalks close to the base are also used but the best part is the large part of the root just below the surface.
These are chopped into pieces and dried in the sun. Once it is complete it is ready for sale or consumption. Kava brings anywhere from $35 to $60 kilo in the market depending on what part of the plant and the age of the plant. The prices have risen dramatically in the last couple of years because there is an export market forming mostly to the US for some kind of homeopathic medicine. Must be a sleeping aid.
Kava is actually the Indian term and Yaqona (pronounced yangona) is the Fijian name. Grog is the English term.
Once it is ready it is pulverized and water is poured through it into a ceremonial bowl for social drinking. We pounded quite a few full tide bowls of grog with our friends from Nabouwalu. It is much better than sitting around getting drunk or high on harder stuff.