We remain anchored in Viani Bay and have used this protected and lovely anchorage as a base for lots of activities. We have snorkeled around the little island nearby and have seen some incredible fish and critters. The water is a wonderful temperature that allows you to stay in for a few hours to really explore the underwater gardens of soft and hard corals, anemones and colorful fish of various sizes and shapes.
On Thursday, eight of us, along with local guide Jack Fisher, a legend around these parts, loaded onto the sailboat "Victory" for a trip across Somosomo Strait to the island of Taveuni. This is one of the taller islands in the Fiji chain, claiming the second tallest peak in Fiji Mt.Uluigalau at 1241m. The island has a volcanic past with rich soil and abundant rainfall making it an agricultural based economy. It is small with only a few towns made up of mostly indigenous Fijians with a smattering of Indo-Fijians and some ex-pat North Americans.
We left at 0730 for the adventure and motored across the current-ridden straits with Jack's expert pilotage to his special anchor spot. In the dinghy, we ferried around coral heads to a small rocky and shell beach. After all were offloaded from the mothership, we proceeded to a small restaurant to buy lunch and order bread. The group gathered 13 chicken rotis (an Indian curry wrapped in a chickpea based "tortilla" wrap) a few slices of lemon or orange cake. All were very inexpensive (our portion of three rotis and two slices of cake came to $8 Fijian (or about $5US). Gasoline jugs were ferried off to the filling station for later pick-up. We then loaded into a van (designed for six people but there were eight of us plus the driver, Sami) along with three scuba tanks, a propane tank and all our bags and stuff. The back door wouldn't open, so all was handed across to load behind the back seat. We were packed in!
Off we went for our day of exploration. Once out of "town" and past the airport, the roads aren't paved and are filled with lots and lots of potholes – some very deep. We crossed many bridges that didn't look like they could handle a van filled to capacity! We dropped the scuba tanks off at a dive shop for later pick-up, and tried to get the propane tank filled with no joy. Then off we continued towards the waterfalls. The island, thanks to its height and abundant rain (it seems to always be shrouded in clouds), has lots of waterfalls on the eastern side. We got to the Bouma National Heritage Park and negotiated a group discount to get to the falls. We only had two hours here – so not enough time to hike to the top two falls. We only could get to the first falls. Along the way, (in the rain), we saw lots of frogs amongst the pretty flowers and greenery. At the falls, we all got into the fresh water and the more daring (Michael included), went under the powerful falls and managed not to get drowned or knocked unconscious. It was chilly water, but fresh which is always a treat for us saltwater infused folks. We splashed around a bit (sorry we didn't bring shampoo!).
Then off we trekked again back to the van and bumpy roads. Along the way back, we spotted lots and lots of lizards with long tails along the path. They were tiny but quite pretty with a stripe on their back and some had colorful tails. They did refuse to sit around for any length of time and pose for pictures.
We loaded back in the van and went through a few villages and everyone along the road was very friendly, waving and yelling "bula"! We stopped for groceries, then another stop for eggs, and another for fruit and veggies at stands along a street. Then we went for the scuba tanks which weren't yet filled so we opened some of the beers we just bought and sat at the dive shop and enjoyed an incredible view.
Then with everything loaded back in the van and us all crammed in we headed back to the dinghy and Jack (who stayed with the big boat and dinghy). While some loaded the dinghy with all the stuff and a few folks, others headed for the bread pick up and still others went to get the gasoline. With three trips we managed to get all nine people, three gas cans, three scuba tanks, two cases of big bottles of beers, a propane tank (still unfilled), several bags of veggies, eggs, groceries, 13 breads, and all our clothes/towels and gear, back to "SY Victory" - it was a victory!
Then we headed back across the straits to Viani Bay with three fishing lines in the water. No joy! That evening around 2030 (8:30 pm), we heard a large bang followed by hissing air. We thought our dinghy had exploded. All five boats in the anchorage thought the same thing – all except "Superted V." They knew what happened because on their boat, one of the freshly filled scuba tanks had popped its safety release valve and sent the tank flying across their deck and down the aft stairwell. It was a scary sound and Jean and Matt had to be scared witless. Everyone was on deck with flashlights. All was okay though we did think how grateful we were that it happened in a relatively safe place, not in the packed van just hours before or worse yet on someone's back while diving!
On Friday morning, we planned another adventure with Jack, this time a snorkeling trip on one of the famous reefs in the straits. "S/Y Chapter 2" would host the group (Pippa and Dee from "Sula", JanBart from "Victory", us, and Mike and Karen from "Chapter 2" and our guide Jack) and take their sailboat out to the reef. Jack steered us to an underwater mooring, without a GPS, and JanBart dove down to tie the yacht to the mooring. We were very close to the crashing waves over a reef. We all got in the water, but the current was still very, very strong and after about 40 minutes of struggling to stay in one place, we got back on board to wait for the current to diminish a bit. We waited and waited and waited. Karen and Mike were gracious hosts and Jack told some good tales of Fiji and fishing. After quite awhile, he looked at the water and said it was okay now. He would take one group in the dinghy, drop them in the water and come back for the next. Then we would all drift towards the edge of the crashing waves and make our way around the outer edge of the reef. The current was still pretty strong but we were floating with it. Once around the corner it settled a bit and you could start to really enjoy the lovely reef below. Again, the corals and fish were wonderful and the visibility was quite good. We saw all kinds of new fish and a few big sharks. After a few hours we went back to Chapter 2 and back to Viani Bay, with two fish lines in the water – no joy!
Upon return, we noticed our Japanese friends Yoshi and Mayumi onboard "Gaku" had arrived and anchored nearby so it was nice to see them.
We will probably stay here a few days and wait for "Gypsea Heart" who now has our chart chip with them (having received it from "Radiance" who brought it up from Opua, NZ). They just left Savusavu yesterday and should be here within a few days. This is a nice place so we are happy to stay and continue to go for snorkels and get a few boat projects completed.
Keep checking the picture page as we keep adding more and more because we have decent internet here. Also skype users, keep your skype on.
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