Today we learned the local name of the bay where Astarte is comfortably anchored. It is locally known as "Bula Bay." As the folks we met said, "it is a welcoming bay...Bula!" We learned this piece of information during our river adventure. We decided to dinghy up the Wainikoro River. It is a pretty wide river but has lots of mud bars as you approach – so it was good we were doing it on an incoming tide. We made our way into the river and mosied on up. It is a mangrove sided river which fronts an interesting background landscape of hills with rocky ledges. The more distant background is quite craggy, mountainous edges.
A little way up he river we came to a small railroad bridge. This is where the sugar cane train crosses from the fields to the sugar refinery near Labasa. Near the edge of this bridge is a small inlet that we followed to the end. At the end is a muddy/rocky landing at the base of a store/fuel station/LPG exchange/kerosene building. This is the local store where you can buy almost everything (except bread and fresh stuff!) We were an unusual sight...so we had lots of friendly "bulas" and handshaking and introductions. One of the store employees proceeded to point out everything they had. His first line being, "we have white wine." That's probably the thing that every white cruiser comes in and buys! We didn't need white wine, but we did pick up some onions, cookies, noodles and a cold soda for the trip back. After our purchases, we met some local Fijians outside the store and had lots more introductions, a Fijian language lesson and lots and lots of questions. A local open fiberglass boat also came in to do some shopping and we chatted with them quite some time as well. Michael was taking pictures and everyone loves to see their photos on the back camera screen. The sugar train engine came by, so that was fun to see and we got some pictures of that for the train loving members of our family!
It was a fun social time around the store. The store also had a pool table and sold kava as well. In fact, the store employee asked Michael if he drank kava and then asked if he wanted some! It was before noon! We made our way out the river and saw several other local boats making their way up the river to the store as well. The boat we met at the store helped give us directions to get over the river mud bars.
The people here are amazingly friendly and helpful. It is always great fun to meet them and visit with them. We always learn a lot. This side of the island is not jaded with cruising sailboats because they don't see quite so many – and those that come this way are the boats willing to go off the beaten track. This is proving to be a good idea so far...now we have to keep going and make it through the tricky parts of the reef. From this point forward – at least for awhile, we will stay inside the "Great Sea Reef" the barrier reef on this side of Vanua Levu. It will mean we'll need good visibility.
At 7/25/2016 8:13 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 16°14.52'S 179°31.92'E
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