South Pacific

 
 

5 Things I will miss about Fiji

Piko will be heading to NZ within the next month.  After living in Fiji for what will be 5 months, here are the things I will miss the most:

1. Bula! (Fijian for “hello” and “welcome”) Everyone is so gracious, friendly and hospitable. The Fijians are lovely people.

2. The fruit – it literally falls from the trees.  Coconuts, papaya, mangoes, bananas all grow by the roadside.  Every time we visited a village or went on a hike with a local, they would find us a fresh coconut, husk it, cut a drinking hole in it and give it to us to drink.  Soooooo refreshing and so sweet.  Look how happy I am!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Inexpensive Indian food – $3-5 US for a plate of curry, rice, dahl, roti (like naan).  Our favorite place to is Chili Bites in Lautoka.

4. Village life – (see no. 1) One of the wonderful parts of traveling in a sailboat, is that you get to anchor in front of villages that cruiseships and resorts will never see. These villages welcome you into their community like you are one of their own – dinners, tea, talking, working on projects together…


5. Snorkeling – there is so much sea life, so much beautiful water that it is hard to NOT have a great snorkeling experience. Our two favorite spots were Alacrity Rocks, by Ono Island (off Great Astrolabe Reef) and the pass south of Manta Bay, in the Yasawa islands (right off the beach of the backpacker resort)

Vinaka vakalevu (Thank you very much), Fiji, for being such great hosts.  We will be back.

 

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Categories: South Pacific | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Let There Be Light

Now that I have been gone from the States for a while, I realize that there are many things that I took for granted — like electricity.  Ever since I was a little girl, all I had to do was flip a switch if I wanted light.  It was magic.  It seemed like it was something that was just always there, like trees and birds and Star Trek.  It wasn’t until we got to an island in Fiji called Rabi, that I saw what it’s like to truly be off the grid.

We anchored in a small bay on the western side of the island called Albert Cove that was inhabited by one Banaban family : a husband, wife, their 20 year old daughter, her husband and their little boy.  They lived off the fish they caught and the vegetables they grew.  There was no electricity.  None.  Which was a pain in the butt when they had stuff to do at night and could only do it by flashlight (that’s when they even had batteries) and the sun set at 5:30pm.

The second day we were there, they invited us to a potluck picnic ashore along with the other boats in the bay.  We brought pasta salad and it found a home on the table amongst fresh crab, fish and taro that the family had prepared for us.  I saw the daughter weaving palm fronds and took a seat by her to see what she was making.  Her name was Paurim.  I grabbed a palm frond and Paurim explained to me that I needed to start with one that had 12 leaves on it.  “What are we making?”  I asked.

“Plates” she said.  “In a traditional Banaban picnic, we eat off the plates we make and then throw them away.”  She smiled shyly and although I could tell that she was slightly embarrassed, I wished she could know how totally cool I thought that was.  She showed me how to weave the palm fronds and we proceeded to eat our food with our fingers  on the plates that we just made with our own hands.  No dishes, no trash, no problem.

Once we were done eating, Paurim’s husband approached Lauren B and Krister with a big float-looking thing.  Apparently it had washed up on shore and they were hoping that it could be useful for something.  They were really hoping that the solar panels on it would work and that they could use it for light after dark.  Since Lauren has an electrical engineering background, and Krister is a mechanical engineer and both of them have a MacGyver complex, they dove right into the project.

The boys got their tools off the boats and we all sat in the shade drinking kava with the family as Lauren B and Krister worked on the mystery device.  It appeared to have been some meteorological buoy at some point and was probably very expensive to lose.

After hours of tinkering, Lauren B and Krister managed to get it to be a charging station via the solar panels that were on the top of it.  Britannia donated an extra string of LED Christmas lights they had on the boat that could be charged by the buoy.  The family was very happy and it felt good to do fix something that we knew would make a difference in their everyday life.

That night as we sat on our boats, we looked ashore and saw the Christmas lights on.  I don’t take electricity for granted anymore.  Maybe it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch, but to them I bet it still felt like magic.

Categories: South Pacific | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Snorkeling in Viani Bay

Piko and our friends have been anchored in Viani Bay for a couple days.  It is a large and deep bay that is inside the reef and surrounded by local homes.   Jack – a large friendly Fijian who always wore a smile and a brimmed hat – rowed over and asked if we would like to go snorkel the reef the following morning.  Of course it was an offer that we could not refuse, so we gladly told him yes.

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The next morning we woke up to a clear sky.  It was 8:00 and already the sun was burning hot.  “Sun seems extra hot today.” I said.  My shirt had already begun to stick to my back even though I had just put it on 5 minutes before.  I wiped my brow.

Lauren B. looked up. “The sun hasn’t changed.  It is just like it is every other day” he said.  “Maybe if there are some solar flares.” Why I expected a reaction that was not technical and literal, I do not know.

Jack rowed to our boat from across the bay and brought us fresh papaya and bananas his family had picked that morning.  “You like papaya?” he asked.  If there was an answer other than a resounding YES, it did not belong in my universe.  We all dinghied over to a catamaran named Resolute who had kindly agreed to tow our dinghies out to the reef pass so that we only had to motor back.  Resolute was a huge boat, and shall henceforth be referred to as “the mothership”.

After anchoring the mothership near the reef we put on our gear and got in our dinghies.  My gear included my mask, snorkel and a wetsuit.  Even when the water is warm, it can still get cold if you are in  for a long time and I didn’t want to miss out on anything if I got cold.  Lauren B.’s gear consisted of snorkel, mask, shorts and that’s it.  He never gets cold.  Ever.  Jack led the way in the front dinghy while towing the rest of us behind in our dinghies.  He motored until we were outside the reef pass in the ocean part.

“Are you ready?” Jack asked.  “Once you get out, you swim to the shallow side of the reef.”  He pointed about 50 feet from where we were.  “Then you will swim and go back and forth.  You follow the bommies.”

We were excited and ready.  The overhead sun was even hotter (I don’t care what Lauren B says!).  I was fully zipped up in my 3 mil wetsuit and was quite certain that if I didn’t get in soon, I might pass out.

“Ok, go. Go!” Jack said.  He was smiling big and I could tell that he was enjoying himself too.  We got in the water and I could tell we were in about 50 or 60 feet of water.   Jack had timed the snorkel so there was a gentle current that carried us through the pass (called a drift dive or drift snorkel).  Drift snorkels are great because you conserve energy – letting the water do all the work.   I could make out coral and fish but it was still a bit deep, so we continued to swim to where Jack had pointed.

When we reached the shallow part of the reef, I saw what all the fuss was about.  The sea life was rockin’ and rollin’, with coral and fish abuzz everywhere.  It was the most colorful reef I had seen in the South Pacific.  The artist in me was going nuts.  There were turquoise fish swimming in front of orange coral, and yellow fish swimming in front of purple coral.  There were green fish with black and white stripes, and pink fish with yellow and orange spots.

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I stopped to take a look at a beautiful coral bed that had pieces shaped like large cabbages and mushrooms.  Not the mushrooms you put in your stir-fry, but the big, wide, flat mushroom that the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland laid on and smoked his pipe.  A beautiful regal angelfish caught my shadow and swam underneath the lip of the mushroom coral.  It was so cool – Lauren B. had to see!

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The incoming current finally placed us inside the reef and although there was more snorkeling to be done, my ankles were tired from my crummy fins.  I hoisted myself up into our dinghy and removed the wetsuit.  The sun was still beating hard, and it felt good.  I leaned back in my bathing suit across the dinghy – soaking up the rays and thinking about how good life is.  I felt someone tap my shoulder – it was Jack.  “You are soaking up all the sun.  Did you have a good snorkel?” he asked.

“I had a great snorkel.  Fiji is beautiful.”

Categories: South Pacific | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Piko back in the news!

Well, I just saw a copy of the latest sail magazine and we have a nice little blurb in there about our trip to Tonga to see the country and do the cruising regatta in VaVa’u.

 

Tonga

http://www.sailmagazine.com/california/better-month-mondays

There is also a photo of Dilligaf, which is own by our friends Bill and Sue from Seattle.

We also are the background image for the pacific puddle jump website for this upcoming season.

http://www.pacificpuddlejump.com/

How cool is that?

Categories: S/V Piko, South Pacific | 4 Comments

We swam with the whales!

 

Every year, a group of humpback whales migrates to Tonga from the Northern Pacific.  There are around a 100 or so in this group.  The mothers will give birth to their calves in the deep waters outside of Vava’u, and then they will around the islands until it is time for them to go back to the northern ocean where they will feed.

 

Tonga is one of the only places in the world where it is legal to get close enough to humpback whales to swim with them.  And last month, that’s just what we did.  And yep, it was worth it.

 

After doing some research, we decided to go with a group called Dive Vava’u, which was run by a husband and wife teach – both of who were marine bioligists.  We had Paul as the skipper of our whale boat.  Along with our good friends from Brittania, Dilligaf and Eden (who took these photographs- thanks Eden!), we left early in the morning aboard a small powerboat and ventured towards the outer islands of Vava’u in search of whales.  After motoring for a couple of hours we slowed down.

 

“Whale!” said Jesse, the friendly whale guide who was on Paul’s staff.

 

Paul throttled the motor down further and we slowly creeped toward the flute (whale tale) that was spotted.  “We’ll time him to see how long he’s down.  If he’s down for much longer than 16 minutes, then that means it is most likely a singing male which means he won’t be at the surface much”, he said.

 

We waited for more than 16 minutes and moved on since we didn’t see him resurface.  20 minutes later we spotted another whale – a mother and her calf…even better!  Only 4 people could be in the water at any time with the guide and the whales so Piko (us!) and Dilligaf went first. Paul instructed us to get in our wetsuits and be ready to get in the water at any moment.  We stayed with the motor on near the whale for about 10 minutes, giving her time to get used to our sounds and presence. 

 

Lauren, Bill, Sue and I all sat on the stern of the boat with our fins trailing in the water and our goggles on our face.  We were giddy with anticipation.

 

Suddenly Paul shouted behind us, “Ok go!”

 

We jumped in the water and swam towards the whales.  As we were snorkeling, our eyes were facing down.  All the sudden I saw a patch of white amidst the deep blue of the water below me and realized that this was the whale.  She and her calf ascended and surfaced – about 20 feet in front of us.  We could see her eyes and I was amazed how laid back she was considering we were so close to her young.

 

The calf was very animated and playful – doing twirls in the water and swimming laps around its mother. At one point the calf left its mother and swam towards us.  It got so close that we all had to move back for fear we would get smacked by its enormous tail.  “Amazing” is such a bland word to describe the feeling of being so close to such a large animal, but that’s the word I’m giving – because that is what it was.  I could see all the lines and textures that moved liked wind-blown sand along the length of the whale’s body.

 

We swam for the whales for about an hour and then got back in to the boat to head home.  Paul told us that they adhere to a policy of only swimming with a particular whale for a certain time period so to not stress it out.  If you are ever in Tonga, please go do this while you still can.  I promise you that when you and a whale stare back at each other, that you will not forget it.

 

 

 

 

Categories: South Pacific | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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