We enjoyed two nights on the mooring at Paradise Dive Resort – they are a very "yachtie-friendly" place. We did get in a good snorkel and a lovely free, hot shower! We took off at 0615 to make our way to Koro Island about 42 miles away. We fished the entire way – using one of Mark's and Kathryn's lure and our "coke bottle and oreo" lure. The M&K lure (the pretty one) hooked one huge fish. It spun much of our reel off and as Michael was fighting to get it in, the line broke. So there is one huge fish in Fiji waters with a pretty lure and about 15 meters of yellow monofilament line hanging from its lips. No other fish to report.
We tied to a mooring in Dere Bay on Koro Island after a few attempts at anchoring. It is very coral strewn and rubbely as well as quite deep. Because Koro Island was one of the hardest hit (if not THE hardest) by Cyclone Winston, we weren't too sure of the condition of the moorings. But it was flat calm and we would only be there one night. We kept the anchor alarm on and the anchor ready to drop.
We left Koro at 0600 to get to Ovalau and Rukuruku Bay. This was a 53 mile trip. No wind at all – so it was yet another motoring trip. The two lines were put in the water as soon as the mooring was dropped. W made our way through the reef and went by a few islands making our way to the former capital of Fiji and one of the first settlements in the country. Along the way we saw a a very large pod of pilot whales – perhaps as many as 30 of them. They were simply basking on the surface – fins showing and every so often they would do what is known as the "spy hop" - the large whale head coming straight out of the water from a vertical position – sort of like a giant periscope. It was amazing to see and they were less than 100 feet from the boat at times. Kathryn and Mark had the chance to swim with a pod of pilot whales on their first day of diving and were really thrilled with the experience. Seeing so many of them and so close was pretty special as well.
We entered the reef passage near the town of Levuka – the former capital and now also a world heritage site (made one last year). The leading marks were a bit hard to spot – one is on the clock tower – an orange triangle just over the clock and the other is on the hill above. It was so calm – you couldn't really see the water breaking on the reef...that's both good and bad. We read in a few places that the anchorage near the town was pretty rolly, noisy (a large generator that powers the entire island) and smelly (tuna processing plant – owned by bumblebee brand). So thanks to some info from another boater (thanks Russ from "A-train") we made our way about ten miles around the island to the village of Rukuruku.
Ovalau was also pretty badly hit by Cyclone Winston and as we made our way inside the reef around the island, you could clearly see some of the damage. Many large trees were down, houses destroyed or damaged, sunk boats and one very large ship that ended up high and dry on the shore. The village of Rukuruku was also pretty damaged – though they are Fijian and remain upbeat. The school was damaged and several of the teachers' houses were destroyed. Tents are set up in many places – and school classes are held in some of the tents. There are areas where you can see missing homes – simply piles of broken concrete and tin roofs remain. Large piles of bent and broken tin roofs are along the roadside.
We went in right after we arrived to do our sevusevu with the chief. We were met ashore by a group of kids who would lead up to the Chief's home. We met Mateo, the chief and were given permission to stay. We chatted quite awhile with him about Winston and learned more about the damage in the village. They mostly grow Yaqona here and that is a crop that takes more than three years to grow. Most of the crop was destroyed. The coconuts for copra were also badly damaged – again a long process to get copra quality nuts to grow. They continue to rebuild homes and the school is scheduled to be repaired in the next few weeks (but who knows with Fiji time).
On Saturday morning, we headed to the city of Levuka. We went on the local transport which is a big covered truck with benches along the inside (think troop carriers). Together with about 35 other folks we loaded in. Michael had to stand. The trip took about 45 minutes along a decent road with lots of hills. The kids stand in the front of the bed with their heads over the cab of the truck – kind of like happy dogs with the wind blowing in their hair.
Levuka is an interesting town – though it looks less British colonial and more old western town. The main street is lined with shops and restaurants. A small fresh market takes place in the park along the waterfront on Saturday mornings and the folks were selling fresh vegetables along with lots of seafood offerings like octopus, clams and "sea grape" (a type of seaweed berry). We enjoyed an ice cream and did some errands (fuel, veg, bread, rugby ball). The truck return was 12:30. We waited in the shade along with many of the other riders. We met the head teacher from the school, Sefa who was also on the trip and became our guide. He shared the history of the Levuka and Ovalau as well as stories about Fiji. The trip back was even more interesting – the truck now not only had the 35 or so people, it had jugs of every variety of diesel, petrol and kerosene. There were several 20 pound tanks of propane (actually butane here). Plus boxes and boxes and boxes of food supplies for families. At least 30 loaves of bread, many vegetables, bags of toilet paper and diapers. Amongst all this was now sleeping children, babies getting breast fed and adults dozing off while sitting on the benches. There was one small child who fell asleep while holding on to the rail in the front of the truck. One older gentleman tried to wake him so he wouldn't fall or hurt himself. It was quite the experience. We do love local transport.
We got back to the boat with the help of the many children that follow us to the beach to help us launch our dinghy. Our dinghy (named Pukupuku) seemed to have quite a few small visitors while on the beach at Rukuruku The boat was loaded with sand!
Tomorrow boat projects. Monday, a visit to the school.
At 10/1/2016 7:01 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°38.38'S 178°45.24'E
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