Another new island … Ono Island, part of the province of Kadavu, is where Astarte is currently anchored. We are settled into a deep bay near the village of Nambouwalu. At high tide, the bay looks a lot bigger than it is. At low tide much of the bay near the village shallows to bare mud flats. Coral reefs surround the outer edges with a few rocks and corals sticking out of the water as fair warning to avoid anchoring too close. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and were the only boat in the bay. We went in for our "sevusevu" which was very casual. Weiss met us on the beach and took us to the chief's house where we sat and presented our package of yaqona. He chatted a bit about how some boats are bringing packages that are too small! Luckily, ours was a true half kilo and he seemed pleased and proceeded to give us permission to walk around the village, snorkel and take pictures.
We enjoyed a nice peaceful afternoon and two additional sailboats joined us in the anchorage – two British boats, one of whom wrote the guide book to the Lau Group.
Sunday morning, we decided to attend the church service. We have found that this is a way to really get to know a few of the villagers and they seem so pleased when you attend, Plus, in most places, the singing is quite wonderful. This was another Methodist church – the predominate religion in Fiji, and the minister greeted us and asked us to write our names down and where we were from. Again, we were asked to sit in the front row. Twice, during the service, a bit of English was spoken to officially welcome us and thank us for attending...we are getting good at understanding enough words in Fijian to know when they are talking about us (that and the stares of all the people in the church at a given moment!). After church, we were again invited to lunch at the minister's home. It was a smaller affair here – only five of us at lunch, the visiting preacher, the pastor (or minister), the church operation's manager Joe and the two of us. It was quite a spread and as we were in the home, people of the village stopped by to bring in more food throughout the meal. We ate very traditional fish dishes (three different types), taro, cassava, and some dalo leaves and other green leaves that were cooked in coconut milk. All very flavorful and filling. We were served a lemon leaf tea picked from the tree out back and there were hot peppers and kumquats on the table for using with your fish.
We had a great conversation at lunch about the village and changing customs and the culture. We were invited to join in for some kava later in the afternoon. Barbara was also invited so she could try her "first" bowlful. We returned to Astarte with the minister coming aboard to send an e-mail along with another gentleman. We visited for some more time and then they had to head back for a 3 pm church service. By this time, the bay was filled with boats. Gypsy Heart, Evergreen, Superted, Victory and Blue Rodeo were all anchored. This was the most boats we've seen in one place since Savusavu! We knew most people and boats so it was fun to have a reunion.
We went back into the village around 4:30 pm and most of the other boaters were there, having just done their sevusevu. We went to the minister's home first where all the boaters had gathered for a cup of tea. Then we were told we could go to the chief's house for some kava. The Astarte and Superted crews were the only daring ones. The ceremony was traditional – but the passing of the bowls was actually quite quick. There seemed to be more drinking and less talking. Barbara got a "low tide bowl" first. This means you get a small quantity. A high tide is a full bowl. The coconut shell bowls were passed around and after you've drunk down the bowl, you clap five times and hand the bowl back. We each had a few bowls and then we were thanked for our attendance and basically – excused. We think it was because of "the women" - that perhaps the men wanted to have their territory back.
We went back to the boat and Gypsy Heart hosted everyone aboard their boat so we joined the fun. It was good to see some old friends and get caught up again.
On Monday (today), we (along with the Superteds and Gypsy Hearts), took a nice walk to what was called the hot springs (though Weiss told us they are more like warm springs). Michael luckily saw the bubbly part in the stream – it would have been easy to miss. It was a very small and shallow pool – so not what we had hoped for "spa day!" We continued our walk through the various "plantations" and farm fields. We saw lots and lots of taro growing, some peppers, some cassava and some unknown plants. Not many bananas – disappointing as we always hope to score some. After a nice walk, we came back to Astarte for tea and cake. It seems to have become a tradition aboard Astarte to have a "Let them eat cake" party around Bastille Day. Anne on Charisma reminded us of that on the radio net this morning!
It was a nice day and now we are settling in for what is supposed to be a few very windy days. Tomorrow there is a "fundraiser" feast on the island. It is a traditional "lovo" - which is an earth oven – where they cook the foods. Most of the boaters are planning on attending.
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