Waiheke Winter Wonderland

Miya came for a visit in the little ‘roost’ that I made above the house at Palm Beach

It’s been a long time between blogs. The reason has mainly been, we didn’t cruise this winter. We stayed in a beautiful house near the beach on Waiheke Island – our first time living on land for 6 years. We need to do some serious repairs on Qi, so instead of dipping into our cruising kitty, we decided to work for a while to pay for it. Living on land is expensive. Living on the boat is so much cheaper and we’re happy to return to our nomadic lifestyle, but it was wonderful being on Waiheke and our time here has created some beautiful memories.

Our little house at the beach. It was only 40m from the beach and had gardens all the way up the back, (not that we could get up there in the winter with the slippery mud!)

Waiheke is a beautiful island with only a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. 32 wineries and criss-crossed with walking tracks, Waiheke offers a unique escape from the fast-paced city life only a few miles away.

Only a 40 minute ferry ride and we were downtown Auckland.

I worked for a few months at a local school and managed to save a bit of cash, however, the New Zealand winter chilled my bones and I had a constant cold so I only worked for a few months. Our first real winter in six years was quite a shock to the system. Weekends hiking around the hills brought me back to life.

During my stint working, we had a trivia night. Our crowd went as the characters from Beauty and the Beast. I loved the young teachers at our school. So full of fun.

 

Qi in Owhanake Bay. We had lots of lovely walks from this bay and could walk into town in 20 minutes.

Joining the locals on a Friday for a lunch prepared from all the donations from the local shops got me out and about. It was fun being in the kitchen watching the amazing results of unknown ingredients. I managed to meet a few other sailing ladies and had plenty in common to chat about.

Wonderful food and conversations happened during the cooperation of people from all walks of life as they came together at the Kai Conscious Cafe. It was about reducing waste. Keep Scrolling. For some reason there’s a gap. More pics below.

 

 

 

 

 

Living so close to Auckland, meant I could visit the grandsons a bit more often. It was wonderful to watch them growing and changing. Thomas is quite adored by the both of them too. I find a weekend of cuddles lasts me for a few weeks.

These guys are the best cuddlers in the world!!! It has been wonderful watching these guys growing up.

 

Spending some extended time in this beautiful country has allowed me to reconnect with my roots. I joined a waiata group and learned some Māori songs and Thomas and I were welcomed onto the local Marae during a pōwhiri, the traditional welcome.

Thomas standing next to one of the original navigators who came across on one of the big wakas. This is a carving in the Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island. I acknowledge the original carver and the island’s ancestors.

Just a few weeks before our return to the boat, we began getting island fever. Having done all the attractive hikes on Waiheke Island, we longed to spread our wings and explore further afield. Filling the house with flowers from the garden and harvesting my lettuces kept the pangs a little at bay, but only like a quick junkies’ fix. It cost nearly $200 to take the car over to the mainland, so our options were limited. We moved to the boat earlier than planned and left the house mainly vacant for the final two weeks.

A hike through a Nikau grove, New Zealand’s native palm, took us to this sweet waterfall. Unfortunately, when it’s hot in the summer, there’s no water for a swim.

Being back on the boat meant lots of cleaning and freshening up. Unfortunately, the temperature plummeted the night we moved back on the boat and we’d wondered if we’d been too hasty. It’s been warming up since. Got to love the mild New Zealand summer.

(Keeping this short so I can get a few more written. Still need to catch up on last summer)

I was able to catch up with Will at hockey. “I got a goal!” Got to witness his first goal.

Cousin Valerie turned up for a visit on their boat.

William came to clown around

My favourite boys came for a beach holiday at G-Ma’s

One of our favourite nephews came to visit. (Thomas getting his Māori on).

Matthias, an old pal of Thomas’ visited us from his home in Thailand. Lookout near the zip lines.

STRIKE DAY – I was proud to support the teachers here. The conditions are unacceptable.

I loved having at least three months of fresh flowers from the garden.

Palm Beach. A great surf could whip up when there was a good northerly swell.

The view from our daily hike. Great Barrier Island is under the fluffy cloud out there.

Our daily walk took us to this beautiful lookout.

Thomas ready for work in the real world.

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What We Did Last Summer – 2017/2018

During the summer of 2017/2018 we had the addition of some family members as they joined us for adventures on the high seas and touring New Zealand. Bo and Selina, Thomas’ nephew and niece from Germany arrived once we returned to New Zealand from Fiji.

It was lovely having the family on board

We picked them up in Auckland and they mainly slept the way up to Whangarei where we had the boat moored. We began with some land tours, as Selina was going off on her own and Bo was remaining with us for the summer. It was like we’d given birth to an instant teenager.

Selina pointing at Mt Mania and explaining how she nearly died reaching the summit

 

Our journey up to Cape Reinga was exciting as we decided to take the Cape Runner up along the beach. I highly recommend this tour. It’s extremely reasonably priced and they are a great family outfit. We even saw whales breaching off the coast as we stopped for a break.

Cape Reinga

 

Sand tobogganing wasn’t on my agenda so I was just the photographer. Everyone came back covered in sand and a bit exhausted.

Lots of work getting up the hill and then it was over so quickly

 

Haruru Falls near Paihia on the way up to the cape.

Cape Reinga never fails to impress. The blue and green waters of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman sea meet. On a rough day, it gets quite impressive. We had a beautiful calm day to view on our visit.

Swamp Kauri is an interesting phenomenon. These ancient trees have fallen into swamps and have been preserved. The patterns contained within display nature’s beauty. We visited a sales area. I’ve had a ‘treasure chest’ made for William out of it.

Visiting the Swamp Kauri cafe and showroom

We sailed in the Bay of Islands for a while, meeting up with our friends from Family Circus. We also got a visit from Jakob, our young friend who helped me in Fiji when I injured my hip flexor.  From there, we had an epic time in the Poor Knights, a marine reserve off the coast of New Zealand that gets remnants of the East Australian Current. This brings warmer waters and unusual species to the coastal islands. Bo and Jakob enjoyed a free diving lesson from Chris and Thomas was teaching Bo to dive. We had an awesome time out there. Jakob’s talents as a musician, were an added bonus. We had many nights of entertainment with Chris and Sayo on Family Circus.

Bo getting ready to dive

Four calm days at the Poor Knights was a bonus as we headed further out to Great Barrier Island. Great Barrier, affectionately known as ‘The Barrier’, is a beautiful volcanic island off the coast of Auckland. Here we found fish and wildlife in abundance.

Jakob during a hike on Great Barrier Island

 

The hikes offered a new view of another bay with every ascent. Kingfish was in abundance and Chris enjoyed using his freediving skills to hunt these huge fish. Sashimi was on the menu quite a few times.

Aya swinging on one of the swings near the bath house in Smokehouse Bay

Smokehouse Bay is a cruiser’s paradise. Fresh water, a bath house, a smokehouse and laundry facilities. Huge rope swings lined the trees and offered hours of entertainment for the thrill seekers.

 

Once we left Great Barrier, we went to Waiheke, where Thomas and I decided to have winter. We had to see out a few storm fronts and we found the bays difficult for anchoring. Especially when the wind moved around overnight. We also made the decision to leave the boat in Whangarei over winter instead of having it close by.

 

A favourite spot for both Family Circus and Qi is Urquarts Bay. The water isn’t overly impressive, but the surrounding hikes are magnificent and there are scallops in the bay by the dozen. Within 10 minutes, the guys had their legal catch. It took another hour or so to get them out of their shells.

 

 

 

It was wonderful having Bo on board and catching up with Selina over the Summer. We got to know our niece and nephew as young adults and share some wonderful moments. Hopefully memories that they will carry for a life time.

 

Ready for this?

Bo

Milking cows on the farm was another lesson. (Should have seen them run when three cows pooped simultaneously).

Contemplating life in the presence of the giant old Kauris.

Steering the boat

Learning to drive the four-wheeler at Aunty Mary’s dairy farm.

Bo suiting up to help with the bottom paint on Qi. Big lessons.

A bit of Spelunking to see some glowworms

Christmas was at Kenett and Erica’s place. More Germans than Kiwis and Aussies

Uncle and nephew – both survived the summer

We anchored off a reserve and attended the Splore festival

I took off for a while and taught William how to swim

Fishing lessons caught on…

Helping out with dinner was often done with the headphones on

Filling up with water whilst balancing on a dodgy floating water buoy – lesson done – tick

A flag sewn in one of the lessons

A picnic lunch on paddle boards after a big paddle up a river in Whangaroa

Sometimes, more often than not, teenagers turn into aliens.

Jammin on Family Circus was one of the fun activities over Summer. Cards were alternative nights.

What happens when teenagers misbehave on Qi

Qi in her beauty light

Driving Lessons were included on the agenda. Uncle beat him on every lap.

Selina made us a lovely dinner. Bo was extremely impressed

 

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A Wild Journey Home – 2017

Weather windows out of Fiji for New Zealand are always treated with circumspect. Within the ten day passage, we can be guaranteed a front which won’t be in the predictions before we leave Fiji as the predictions are really only good for 3-7 days. So, it’s always a risk when making a run towards Aotearoa. We weren’t expecting the wild seas as we left Fiji and we were taking a pounding. Thomas noticed that one of the front shrouds was swinging wildly in the wind and waves and was horrified to see that the chain plate had snapped at deck level. For those non-sailing readers, the chain plate is what’s holding the shroud to the boat and the shroud is what’s holding the mast up. It’s kind of important.

Our journey from Fiji to New Zealand took a detour to New Caledonia.

Before leaving Fiji, we decided that we would invite a young German lass who was keen to crew to New Zealand. Our friends off another yacht had met her in Bunnings in Darwin changing their gas bottles. Our friends mentioned that we might take someone. After years of not having any crew, other than my brother, we decided it might be good to get those extra hours sleep each night. So we were joined by Toni, a very experienced young sailor, eager to engage with everything about cruising life. She was a joy. After the chain plate broke, Thomas decided that we had better head to New Caledonia for repairs. We had enough fuel to get there, but not New Zealand.

Toni smiling before we left Vuda Marina. Pizza night with the crew off Family Circus.

Things happen in threes and on this occasion, we weren’t to escape that omen. About 5 hours out of Noumea, I asked Thomas to change the water tanks over because we had run out of water. Within half an hour, the other tank was empty too. Over the noise of the engine, we were unable to hear the water pressure pump continually working. A hose had split and it was pumping the water into the bilge!! Thank goodness we were nearly in port.

Toni as we left posing with all our beautiful fruit.

As we arrived in the marina, we turned the autopilot off and needed to manoeuvre in close quarters, and it was only then that we discovered that the steering was only allowing us to move ten degrees in either direction. A few French words were spoken and the captain regained his demeanour to safely park the boat in a double berth. It was only 5am, so we hadn’t been allocated anywhere to stay yet, but we weren’t going to leave there in a hurry. We were fortunate enough that the other boat that usually had that spot was out for a week or so.

Within an hour, we had a dinner invitation with our good friend Pete off Haveachat and the flow of well wishes continued into the morning until we’d been cleared through customs, as friends from all over called into the dock. (Unfortunately, we couldn’t eat through all our fruit from Fiji and we lost some). Toni had never considered the social aspect of the cruising lifestyle. She’d imagined the engagement with local people and their customs, but had never realised the loyalty of our cruising family. It excited her even more about the prospect of sailing around the world.

Toni and I headed off to explore parts of New Caledonia.

Several failed attempts at finding tradesmen who could fix the damage in time, led us to contemplate alternative action. Thomas needed to be back in New Zealand by a given date, due to travel restrictions on his residency application. We were under pressure. We considered leaving the boat and flying back to New Zealand. After receiving expert advice from New Zealand riggers and hard-core old salties, we decided to sail without the repairs. We jury-rigged the shroud onto the boat and left port. We’d offered to fly Toni so she wouldn’t need to take the risks, but she was insistent on staying with us, explaining that she was learning so much about how to deal with all these crises. Thomas had taken the water pump out of the system for the time being and we had fresh water via the foot pump in the galley only. We just put bottles of water in the bathrooms. The steering had been quickly fixed. So off we went, but not before all three of us came up with the idea of putting a huge strap around the hull holding the shroud down and had encouraged Thomas to purchase such a device. But, we didn’t put it on at first. Extra diesel was loaded in second-hand jerrycans and we set off.

Three days into the passage, as we were sailing in a gentle breeze, I noticed that the shroud was loose again. Out came the strap. Thomas and I took it to the front of the boat and we walked it back along each of the sides. Fastened it onto the shroud and once tightly secured, we were set. We sailed on. It wasn’t much time later when nature called and I went to use the loo. We were down to one functioning loo so I wasn’t happy when the contents of the head wouldn’t budge. I called for the skipper. Not one of the favourite pass-times of skippers, I might add, and explained the situation. Ready to lose his cool, I remembered the strap! We’d covered the through-hull that pumped out the waste. Oh dear. It was quite calm outside so the Captain ordered me in to unblock the obstruction. “Your poop, your job,” and I couldn’t really argue that. (no photos required here).

After the deed was done, we all had a swim in the ocean. It was beautiful and bright blue. We were a bit overdue for a dip. Refreshed and clean, we went on. The remainder of the journey was fraught with complications as the front moved through. Winds were higher than predicted and were constantly changing. I found that if I adjusted the course slightly, I didn’t need to keep trimming the sails. It was back and forth and ended up being the right action over the long run. Trimming the sails at night disturbed the sleepers because the winches are loud. The seas were wild and Thomas was concerned for the safety of the mast. We were trying to sail conservatively and we’d got weather routing off Met Bob and he’d put us along way west, so the journey took nearly 10 days when it should only have taken 7 or 8. But, we were safe and the boat didn’t undergo anymore damage.

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Welcome to the Lau Group

Some claim the Lau Group to be one of the top cruising grounds on a circumnavigation, and we’re not inclined to disagree. Even though we are still only halfway on our own global spin, we believe this place to be very memorable. The Fijian friendliness stretches out to this far-eastern group and is only surpassed by the villager’s gratefulness for us coming to this remote part of the world. The day before we planned to sail south, we were approached by some fishermen hoping for fishing lures. We were gifted a branch of bananas and a box of pawpaw despite our decline of offering anything of value to them. Unbelievable generosity to people unknown to them. These fruits were treasured as we drifted deeper into isolated waters.

The Lau Group is the row of small islands down the right hand side of this picture

 

The turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands in Vanua Balavu enticed us into to take a swim after an all-day passage from Qearea, an island in the far north-east of Fiji. Immediately an inquisitive turtle surfaced for a breath near us and then calmly swam away. Surrounded by limestone pinnacles covered with bonsai type growth, Qi was provided with one of our most unique anchorages.

This bay was so tranquil

It was paddling and swimming heaven as we were tucked out of the wind in this picturesque harbour. After the first night, we joined ‘Georgia’, an American boat, along with the crew of two other boats, to deliver our sevusevu to the chief of a local village. The ceremony was brief as the village spokesperson – the Turaga ni Koro, let us know that the chief was away and he would accept our sevusevu on his behalf, (our bundle of Kava is gifted in exchange for use of their iQoliqoli – their fishing and farming areas- a custom that is entrenched in the Fijian culture and law). A friendly exchange of pleasantries, gifts and the purchase of freshly baked bread and some fruit finalised the village formalities and allowed us to return to our rocky paradise. With caves and bommies to explore and friendly cruisers to socialise with, we knew this magnetic place would be difficult to leave. Only the promise of more beautiful places drew us further afield. 

 

We headed north along with some of the other boats where we tucked into a large bay. Thomas went on a long hike with the others while I stayed back on the boat due to my continued limp. My leg still tired easily and I wasn’t wanting to risk further injury. I spent the time getting some washing done. The swimming and exercises were still building up the strength in my leg and I was grateful for the peace.

The Bay of Islands taken during Thomas’ hike

 

We moved off on our own the next day and discovered a gem in a small harbour called ‘Small Bay’ which was tucked in between two cliffs and protected by a narrow pass surrounded by coral. A small beach curved around one side and mangroves lined the other. A canyon heading inland enticed us to explore. A swift current sent us dodging coral heads as we were sucked into a large lake on our kayak and paddle board. It was quite exciting, but daunting at the same time as we contemplated the return to the boat. The return passage ended up being quite enjoyable as we had time to look up at the scenery instead of curving around the obstacles in the water and the current wasn’t as strong to the side. The cliffs were rugged and evidence of Cyclone Winston showed with bare trees on the hilltops. The waters were filled with large fish and turtles. We felt well protected from the weather and swell in this little paradise.

Thomas paddling up the canyon in Little Bay

 

The following day we headed towards the capital of the island to restock with some fruits and vegetables. The shop had nothing of interest for us as the monthly ferry was due the following week to restock their uninviting wares. When I requested some fruit the shopkeeper walked outside and brought back one pawpaw which was given to me for free. We headed across the bay to a small village called Susu’i. Here we needed to do sevusevu once again. Once again, the Turaga ni Koro, this time a man by name of Jakob, accepted our gift. He spoke with us about his village and took us for a walk to the other side of the island after taking a list of all the fresh produce we wished to purchase. The village was quite devastated by Cyclone Winston and they’re wanting to rebuild their church so they’re making money by selling fresh produce to the cruisers. For a reasonable amount of money, I became well stocked. I’d bought canned goods for this section of our journey, which rather disgusts me, and now we had plenty of fresh food including a beautiful watermelon. I guessed the cans would be returning to New Zealand with us. Only after I’d purchased my goods did the fishermen approach us with more produce. Later I shared our abundance with other cruisers who’d missed the village.

The children of Susu’i loved playing with the bubbles that I brought to the school.

 

It was school holidays when we arrived and the principal and teachers only arrived back on the island with the ferry delivering the stock to the shops, the day before we left. Late in the afternoon, I headed over with some books that I’d purchased and my bubble blowing equipment. Regina, the principal invited me into her small cottage and was very pleased with the books. We went outside and set up the bubble blowing equipment. It wasn’t long before the squeals of delight were wafting over the village and harbour as the children blew and ran after bubbles. A few hours of laughter and joy came to an end when the detergent mixture ran out and Regina told the children to go home and bathe and get their uniforms ready for school the next day. Her air of authority exuded from her as the children obediently turned on their toes and ran off laughing towards their homes. Then Regina went about giving me more fresh produce from the family garden that her father tended. 

Regina’s father had a wonderful crop growing and was so willing to share.

 

The next leg of our journey took us on an overnight passage to an uninhabited group of islands inside a large reef. There we tucked out of the northerly winds in an area that wasn’t identified in any of our guides as an anchorage. We were drawn to this area by other cruiser’s accounts of unspoiled reefs and plentiful wide life. One of the main features of all the Lau Group is the bird song. The barking pigeon resembles the haunting sounds of the howler monkeys, small swallows twitter away and sea birds freckle the skies. These uninhabitable islands offer a sanctuary of breeding holes in their jiggered limestone cliffs. The snorkelling offers a variety of walls and bommies throughout the lagoon. Turtles pop up all around the boat and paddle board. Whales greeted our friends on ‘ Georgia’ with fin slaps as they entered the pass later in the day. For a short time, we were alone in this divine paradise.

Our friends Jess and Danny sailing along. Their small engine meant that they had to tack in some pretty tricky places close to the reef. They were going in side a reef at this time.

outcrops of rocks and reefs in the Bay of Islands

The crew of Renehara joined us for a hike and a dinghy trip around the islands surrounding Susu’i

The old custom of placing the bones of their ancestors in a cave was evident in Susu’i and throughout the Lau Group.

Bay of Islands Anchorage

 

 

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Chasing the Sun

Traditional drumming signals the beginning of the school day. With the exception of the giggling, singing voices of the children in the boat passing Qi an hour earlier, you wouldn’t believe this huge bay was home to so many young Fijian treasures.

The sounds of singing and giggling echoed through the bay as the school boat went past each morning in Viarni Bay.

We arrived in the bay late Friday afternoon to see many of our friends bouncing around in the swell and had a visit from Marina, a German dive instructor who, with her Fijian husband, have begun an eco-dive resort in the secluded bay and were promptly invited onshore for a pot luck dinner. There are no roads here. You either walk in or use a boat. We had no idea where the 60+ students came from to attend the four-teacher school. I took some science experiments and my favourite children’s book, Wombat Stew, along with cardboard puppets that my last class had made on shore on Monday morning. The principal was a little put out for the disruption but sent his students out to join me after I’d explained that I’d arrived too late to see him on Friday. Once he saw the joy the children were having and how much they were learning, he couldn’t stop smiling. He took lots of photos for his newsletter to the parents. I had every class visit me for bubble blowing, the story and messing their hands up in cornflour goop. It was a fun day.

A lali, a tradition Fijian drum doubles for the school bell.

Our arrival in Fiji was delayed due to the late cyclones lurking in the Pacific. Many braved the seas and took their chances with some successes and some horror stories. We were in no rush. We left late in May and headed towards Minerva Reef where several friends were anchored. We spent a few days snorkelling and walking the reef. It was a social time. Pete and crew from Havachat went out each night hunting lobsters and Thomas was lucky enough to score an invite to lunch. Well, I was there too, and enjoyed their hearty salad to the max. Those guys knew how to set a table, napkins and all. You wouldn’t believe we were miles away from civilisation. It was so pleasant.

Snorkelling at Minerva on the wreck of an old fishing boat that dragged its anchor some years ago

Our plans to head to Savusavu on the northern main island were rescheduled when Sam, my daughter, decided to join us after her uni exams had finished, and we headed towards Nadi for an easy pick up and to show her some touristy places such as Cloud 9, the floating bar, and some of the resorts. “Mum, I want to sip cocktails on a tropical island” was her only request. The weather is better on the western side of the island too as the rain brought in by the trade winds is dropped on the mountains of Vitu Levu, the main island. We had a wonderful time with Sam. It was the first time that she and Thomas had really got to spend time together and they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. We went snorkelling and sailing. Sam wasn’t too keen on the reef sharks and freaked out a bit when we mentioned them. This is understandable with the diversion to sharks that Australians have. Most of them aren’t the friendly type there like they are here. They even dive with tiger sharks here. Not me. I don’t need to do that. I was really proud of the way Sam adapted to boat life. She helped out and never complained of the inconveniences of being at sea. Even in some quite big seas. It was lovely to spend quality time with her. Can’t tell you how much love I feel for that girl.

Happy faces after a wonderful holiday together

Our birthdays were spent surrounded by friends and great outings. We had a very social time. At one stage we had our head sail in the sail maker’s workshop having a tidy up and we decided to head out to Musket Cove while we waited for the repairs. It was like a German community and we had a great time socialising with them. Thomas went for a dive with a group and I snorkelled overhead as we only had one bottle filled. I saw a small shark and swam with a turtle for some time. One night we went to ‘Green Duck’ and watched a movie on a big screen. I became good friends with Elke off Green Duck and hope to catch up with her again in New Zealand.

Thomas had plenty of beautiful company at his birthday dinner with the arrival of Kate’s, from Havachat, friends

Everyone began to head off to Vanuatu and we headed north to fulfil our plans to visit the Lau group, a far eastern set of islands that people say are the best part of Fiji. We’ve missed them each time due to the problematic point of sail directly into the trade winds. So we headed off to Viarni Bay to visit our friend Jack Fisher and head north to Rabi island when we had the opportunity to do some tours of Taveuni, a large island to the east of Viarni bay.

The crew of Qi, Jack Fisher and Yuki, a Japanese sailor who joined us for the day

That’s when I had my mishap. We visited the highly acclaimed waterslides, a cascade of waterfalls over smooth, curved rocks. There was no one else there so Thomas and I decided to just have a refreshing swim instead of going down the falls as we weren’t sure of a safe path. I slipped and fell on the rocks and twisted my hip flexor. The pain was instantaneous. I knew it was bad.

Before cascades with rocks that deserve respect

Thomas couldn’t believe it. He’d only taken his eyes off me for one second and I’d only fallen a small distance. He helped me down the slope with the aid of a young Fijian lad and I rested in the cool pool for a moment. A waiting taxi got us back to the boat. It was agony getting on board. Thomas decided to get me back to Savusavu where the hospital and anchorage would be suitable for a long stay. An x-ray revealed our hopes that there was no break. It had taken four big blokes to lift me off the boat into a wheelchair borrowed from a 91 year old female sailor. Thomas has now borrowed crutches from a one-legged sailor. “What about him?” I asked. “No worries, he has a fake leg” Thomas replied. It took me five days to get into the cockpit and I’ve been ashore once for a shower, but a wayward sneeze has set me back a bit as I stretched the muscle again during the action. They say it may take four to eight weeks to heal depending on the severity. I’d say mine was fairly severe so I’m resting up and not trying to do too much too soon. More pics below

Caught up with our beautiful friends Lynne and Eric. We hadn’t seen them since the Caribbean

A sunset at Savusavu

I haven’t been writing much but I’ve been making flags for my grandson, Charlie

Sam doing selfies underwater

This whole bommie is covered in giant clams

Cloud 9, the floating bar on the reef outside of Musket Cove

My vego curry at Thomas’ birthday dinner. Such variety. delish.

Thomas and I caught this Mahi Mahi as were approaching Vanua Levu. I’d only just put the line in after checking it after a strike. Lucky I got the bungy chord out in time. Thomas took over as we approached the reef. We couldn’t waste anytime. The fish was a golden colour before the life ran out of it. Made me a bit sad but I knew Thomas would have fish for a while with this one

A nice pic of my bum that Sam captured as we snorkelled off Beachcomber’s resort

Sam’s feet framing the Octopus resort after a snorkel on the reef out in front

Thomas was bought a drink by all sorts for his birthday

Sam paddling towards Qi

Sam preparing for a snorkel. Probably checking for sharks knowing her

Sam and I walking on a deserted beach near the site they were filming Survivor

Sam sipping cocktails on Cloud 9, the floating bar near the famous surf break Cloud break

Rainbow Reef, known for all the rainbows. You can see one between Thomas and Jack. Jack is happy if he’s driving the boat.

My beautiful gift basket from Jolene, who used to run Waitui Marina, and we weren’t even staying there this time

My sunset on watch while crossing the Pacific

More party goers for Thomas’ birthday

Sammy’s taste of resort life

The beautiful Lauri off Free Spirit made this delicious cake for Thomas.

Thomas had good company on his birthday

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Fishing for Smiles

I can’t believe the cruising season for 2016 has nearly come to an end. We have enjoyed Tonga, Samoa, Wallis and now Fiji. Once again, we hope to return to Fiji. We’ve been here for two months and still have so much to see. The topography of the islands reminds me of Treasure Islands. There are tall, rocky mountains with green lower slopes. Two weeks ago, we sailed the same area and we were both reminded of Egypt because it was so dry. After a down pour ten days ago, the islands have sprung to life. It was a miraculous transformation. We are on the western side of Fiji in the Yasawa group, but heading to Lautoka to check out for NZ.

Trying to keep out of the hot tropical sun on our travels. We've had some magnificent day sails in calm waters.

Trying to keep out of the hot tropical sun on our travels. We’ve had some magnificent day sails in calm waters.

We first arrived in the small port town of Savusavu on the southern side of Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji, two months ago. It was great to catch up with some cruisers we’d met in New Zealand and Tonga, but we’d taken too much time and missed others. We enjoyed the superb Indian cuisine from the local restaurants before heading off to Viani Bay where we had the pleasure of meeting Jack Fisher – Dive Instructor, Ship’s Skipper, Tour Guide and all round great guy. For five days we snorkelled, dived, swam and enjoyed the company of other cruisers willing to share Jack. We saw some of the most spectacular soft coral and extraordinary reef fish that we’d ever encountered. We felt that we’d learned so much about Fiji from Jack and certainly were in awe of the places he showed us. ‘It was a real treat’. (Just one of many of Jack’s idiosyncrasies that endeared him to us).

Jack enjoying his lasagne that I made him.

Jack enjoying his lasagne that I made him.

Despite Jack’s continued supply of paw paw, we were running out of supplies and needed to return to town. On the way, we called in to Fawn Harbour where I went on the hunt for the rumoured hot springs. The Navionic charts showed the Pickering’s house and we made our way through the mangroves and visited Lema, the matriarch of the clan.

These Pickering kids know how to pose.

These Pickering kids know how to pose.

She invited us in and offered us a cup of tea. However, my longing for the hot springs spurred me forward and she told us to grab one of the young lads to show us the way. Abraham couldn’t escape my determined scouting. He was a shy young lad who after one year in New Zealand studying engineering had opted to return to the sanctuary of the family farm. As he led us along a winding path through a lush jungle, he opened up with my questioning.

The creek that we crossed several times on the way to the hot springs.

The creek that we crossed several times on the way to the hot springs.

We arrived at the hot spring after 30 minutes. I asked him for the cost. There was none. “You’ll know your own way next time,” he responded as he said a friendly goodbye and headed back the way we’d come. A Fijian couple was disturbed from their afternoon sleep on the ground near the clear pool. They told us they’d been there all day but would leave us in peace. We settled in for a relaxing afternoon, alternating between the cool crystal clear creek and the hot pool to the side of it. We couldn’t have asked for a more tranquil surrounding for relaxation after the ‘stressful’ pace of the week before.

Rocks with palm trees growing on them. This is from the bus on the way to the hot springs.

Rocks with palm trees growing on them. This is from the bus on the way to the hot springs.

Our return to Savusavu marked the beginning of an extremely social week. I hooked up with Tawn, an American lass staying alone on her boat while her husband returned to the States for work for a while, and we journeyed off on the bus to find the hot springs. It had been an excursion that we had planned before we’d left for Viani Bay, but thought we would need to hire a taxi driver as a guide. That would have been quite expensive, but I knew my way there now. So we caught a local bus, which was a social event in itself, with the locals taking turns to engage us in conversation. The bus wound its way along the coast road for an hour and a half. Tawn was impressed with the hot spring. It was a long day, but a lot of fun.

The full moon shone over Viani Bay

The full moon shone over Viani Bay

Martina and Lisa, whom we’d met in Tonga, had returned to their boat Havachat after having the school term back in Australia. After a lively, emotional reunion, we all headed out to Namena Reef for some diving together. We had a girl’s night on their boat on the second evening and all the men went on Qi. Once again the diving was spectacular. I saw my first giant Napoleon fish. I’d seen smaller specimen in French Poly but this one was as long as I am tall. I hope to catch up with Martina and Pete for New Year’s Eve in Whangarei.

A fun group exploring Namena Island. After us it is Phil off Silhouette, then Sally, Martina, Ruby, Pete, Lisa off Havachat

A fun group exploring Namena Island. After us it is Phil off Silhouette, then Sally, Martina, Ruby, Pete, Lisa off Havachat

From Namena, Thomas and I went west and Pete took his wife, daughter and crew member, Sally, east again to visit Jack in Viani Bay before they flew back for the final term of the year.

Thomas and I had several bays to ourselves until we met some new cruisers in the northern part of the Yasawa group. We delivered the sevusevu to the local chiefs along the way, but had not yet participated in the full welcoming ceremony involving the Kava.

Long white beaches met us along the way. We called into Sawa-li-Lau to see the underwater caves. Determined not to repeat the events of our Samoan cave diving we decided to give the caves a miss. The cost was ridiculous as they were busy stinging the tourists who caught a boat in from various resorts in the vicinity anyway. It didn’t stop us from enjoying the unique rock formations. Like miniatures off the set of Lord of the Rings, limestone pillars reached for the sky. Dragons slinked back into their lairs as they kept a watchful eye on us as we paddled past. Gargoyles overtly mocked us with their jeers as they guarded the overhangs. It was a delight for the overactive imagination of a happy cruiser.

A mini set off the Lord of the Rings. Amazing rock formations.

A mini set off the Lord of the Rings. Amazing rock formations.

Our passage south was speedy with brisk winds off the beam. After visiting the Blue Lagoon half way down the Yasawas, we called in to Octopus resort tucked in on Waya Island. This was our first snorkelling experience that equalled our experiences on the eastern side of Fiji. From there we headed to Vuda Point Marina to prepare for the arrival of our crew, my brother Alec.

Blustering gusts whipped through the marina on Alec’s day of arrival. We were happy that his appearance coincided with the worst weather we’d seen as we were safely moored up instead of being out on anchor. Others had unsuccessfully waited at the mouth of the marina grappling for a berth at the prediction of high winds and heavy rains. Horrid weather in Melbourne had caused a delay in his departure so he actually arrived after the worst of it.

Thomas delivering sevusevu to Abraham in Sawa-i-Lau.

Thomas delivering sevusevu to Abraham in Sawa-i-Lau.

Alec fits smoothly into life on Qi. His relaxed persona and love of the outdoors makes him a great candidate for crew. He brought along his fishing lures that he’d purchased in New Zealand at the beginning of the year. Wanting to feed the poor deprived Captain, who is usually on a vegetarian diet, some protein, he went into action.

From Vuda Point we headed out to Mana Island where a friend of mine was staying to attend a wedding. It was great to see her and we got to meet her husband George. We’d met on a tour through Mexico in February, 2012 when I first began my travels.

Julie and me at Mana Island Resort

Julie and me at Mana Island Resort

Dragons and gargoyles watched over us as we paddled about the rocks.

Dragons and gargoyles watched over us as we paddled about the rocks.

Thomas was determined to take Alec to Cloudbreak, the world class surfing spot. The weather was perfect and the break was meant to be pumping. We had to organise a board for him and this was done through one of the locals at Musket Cove. Upon arrival out at the surfing Mecca, Alec’s guide assessed Cloudbreak as overcrowded and took them to some other breaks. Thomas and I followed at a slower pace in Qi and arrived about an hour later. Alec got some great waves and was shattered by mid-morning when he was returned to us. Thomas had gone out in the dinghy to try and film the action but he on the wrong angle to the wave.

Naumotu Island. Leased by an Aussie. He's made it into one of the top destinations for surfers.

Naumotu Island. Leased by an Aussie. He’s made it into one of the top destinations for surfers.

A selfie as I'm paddling along.

A selfie as I’m paddling along.

We spent the remainder of the day exploring and relaxing. I went on shore at Naumotu where I met a fellow masseuse and we arranged for an exchange. This is the place where Mick Fanning hangs out when he’s here for a comp. On the way back to the more secure anchorage at Musket Cove, Alec caught his first huge mackerel. I was late getting back from my massage so Thomas wasn’t slowing down much. He wanted to get back before dark. Alec had to use his muscles to bring it in quickly. Lucky he’s pretty fit at the moment. He’s caught three more since then.

We headed north stopping at various anchorages where we trekked cross-island to collect mangoes before we returned to Sawa-i-Lau. Thomas and Alec went and delivered the sevusevu to the lady chief at the village on the far side. Several local kids showed them around and took them to the school. Alec entertained them with his juggling prowess and SUP manoeuvres bringing on plenty of smiles and giggles. Thomas kindly arranged some school time for me and I spent the next morning presenting an English lesson.

Qi from 'Monkey Mountain' on Waya.

Qi from ‘Monkey Mountain’ on Waya.

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Swimming in the Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Strait, Fiji.

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The kids of the village told us that is was Monkey Mountain because it looked like a monkey’s head.

Further down the island chain, we called into a small village on Waya. We all went to present the kava to the chief. Smiling children swam out to greet us with ‘Bulla Bulla!!!’

The party crowd was already having fun celebrating their participation in the finals at a local football tournament. So we finally got invited to a full sevusevu ceremony. I wasn’t too keen on the kava and immediately felt my throat and mouth go numb and my head go a bit woozy. The wooziness was gone as quickly as it hit me. I only had a small cup and then moved to the ‘dancing’ part of the party. After my dancing I was thanked for the entertainment. We were invited into the village and told that we were welcome to enjoy their surrounds. We chose to climb the hill nearby and swim in their clear fresh waterfalls rumbling down the valley. We liked being a part of this village. More Pics below…

We had a beautiful swim in this cool freshwater pool after our hike up the hill. What a joy!

We had a beautiful swim in this cool freshwater pool after our hike up the hill. What a joy!

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Thomas and Jack in Somosomo’s version of a Hard Rock Cafe.

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Wash day on Qi. Like my friend Cara said, A boat is just a clothes line.

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Me exploring up a mangrove channel.

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Sam and Willy looking after the dinghy in Somosomo.

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Richard and Jude off Sarita were happy to host us on their boat to share Jack.

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The Captain getting ready to dive.

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A few shots of Rainbow Reef. A must if you’re a diver visiting Fiji.

agoldfishbowl agoldfishbowl2aparrotfish

Jess and Neil from The Red Thread joined us on Sarita in the Somosomo straight so we could share Jack.

Jess and Neil from The Red Thread joined us on Sarita in the Somosomo straight so we could share Jack.

Amazing bright colours in the soft corals.

Amazing bright colours in the soft corals.

Found some nice spots along the way on our hike up Monkey Mountain on Waya.

Found some nice spots along the way on our hike up Monkey Mountain on Waya.

Al kept the protein up for the Captain.

Al kept the protein up for the Captain.

Sea planes landing all around us in Mana lagoon and again in Blue Lagoon. Saw some very clever landings.

Sea planes landing all around us in Mana lagoon and again in Blue Lagoon. Saw some very clever landings.

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Where’s Wally? (or Wallis)

A reef enclosed island with several crater lakes and the remains of a 3000 year old fort was given the name Wallis by an English navigator, Samuel Wallis. Its partner island Futuna is some 300km to the south, giving the French colonised country its complete name; Wallis and Futuna.

There are a few beautiful crater lakes on the island but you can't get down the cliffs to swim without abseiling.

There are a few beautiful crater lakes on the island but you can’t get down the cliffs to swim without abseiling.

For such a small island there seems to be a few political hot heads and there are the occasional embargos sanctioned over different parts of the land due to one king disagreeing with the other king. Yes, this small island has two kings. Futuna also has its own king and they get a bit cranky when the Wallis kings are disagreeing because flights to Noumea are interrupted. Everyone speaks French and a local language similar to Tongan. In Futuna, the local language is similar to Samoan. It’s difficult to find anyone speaking English.

This fort is 3 000 years old and is spread out over a few fields.

This fort is 3 000 years old and is spread out over a few fields.

Thank goodness for the Captain’s seven years of French in high school. The 3000 year old fort wasn’t just to stop Tongan invaders but to protect the southern king’s people against the northern king’s attacks. Despite this internal aggression, the people are friendly and we’ve had no problems hitch hiking to town. Like French Polynesia, there are no taxis or public transport. Everyone is sporting a 4WD pickup truck, courteous of the French government.  It is only 26km to circumnavigate the island.

We’ve had no problems hitchhiking into town as the locals are really friendly but it is a tiresome and hot excursion. The locals all wear leis in their cars. We figure it’s kind of a personal air freshener. Healthier than deodorant and probably cheaper too.

When the weather was good we would slip out to the outer islands

When the weather was good we would slip out to the outer islands

High winds kept us tucked up in protective harbours for a few days but as the winds died down, we headed off to the outer islands around the barrier reef. Here we found clear water and coral filled lagoons. Fantastic for paddle boarding and kayaking. Unfortunately mosquitoes and flies were abundant onshore and the only relief was to sit or swim in the water. Thomas ventured across the island through thick jungle to explore the windward side. There, a small lagoon lay before the roaring swell hitting the barrier reef. Such violence in comparison to the leeward side with the calm lagoon.

Every village has a huge church but they don't have enough priest for them all so they only get used once or twice a year. But you gotta have the best one in your village.

Every village has a huge church but they don’t have enough priest for them all so they only get used once or twice a year. But you gotta have the best one in your village.

Me relaxing in my new bath on the back deck.

Me relaxing in my new bath on the back deck.

Looking for a weather window to reach Fiji has been a bit of a challenge as the convergence zone is upon us, making conditions unpredictable. It appears a bit rough out there for the passage so after restocking the pantry, we are returning to the outer islands to explore some more.

 

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S.O.S.

S.O.S. or Smiles of Samoa

I highly recommend a journey to Samoa. We have never encountered people more willing to share their culture and being so organised to do so. Even a couple of near death experiences didn’t alter our perception of these friendly islands. The islands perse, are beautiful to behold. Lush green mountains with beach side villages adorned with carefully maintained gardens of colourful leafy plants create picturesque scenery. We were given two different reasons why the villages were so neat and tidy. The first explanation give to us by our Samoan guide was that there was a competition between the villages with substantial prize money on offer. The second sounds just as believable for receiving productive results. That is, every village has a women’s committee that inspects the yards and will fine the families if their yard is unkempt. The village and families play a powerful role in the politics here.

Almost every single household is made up of two structures. A house with sleeping quarters and a fale out the front where the family spends their days and sometimes their nights. What a wonderful way to live outdoors. This would be a great option for our Indigenous Peoples in Australia too.

Almost every single household is made up of two structures. A house with sleeping quarters and a fale out the front where the family spends their days and sometimes their nights. What a wonderful way to live outdoors. This would be a great option for our Indigenous Peoples in Australia too.

Now back to those near-death experiences. Thomas and I were invited to join a solo cruiser, Chris, on an island tour. We were both happy to revisit the parts of island that we had initially toured on the first day here. We especially wanted to swim in To Sua, the lava tube that opened into the ocean, again. We hadn’t taken our snorkel and mask on the previous visit and there was a cave leading to the ocean that Thomas was keen to explore. As we didn’t take our fins, I wasn’t so keen. Chris discussed the logistics of the cave with people returning from the other side. So off Thomas went closely followed by Chris. I dove down and saw that it was a fair distance before light appeared and was happy not to venture in. After a while, Chris returned without Thomas and explained how Thomas had missed the middle cave where you got a second breath of air before heading out to sea and had swam straight through. Upon surfacing outside, Thomas was gasping for air and was visibly shaken. Feeling his underwater cave exploration days were over, Thomas decided to climb the cliff to return to the trench. This resulted in a treacherous climb over steep and slippery rocks over a raging surf. Maybe the cave would have been the better option.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down. But the swim through this cave was nearly deadly for both the Captain and myself.

We continued to swim around the trench for a while and Chris continued to tell me how easy the swim was as long as you went up for the second breath. He ended up talking me into having a go and assured me that he would be close behind. So foolishly I headed off – but in the wrong direction. As I was clawing my way along the top wall, I began desperately looking for the surface. Finally, I saw a tiny glimmer of waves and swam quickly towards it. I found myself in a tiny air pocket and thought it was much smaller than I’d imaged. Next I thought I saw Thomas swimming past and was calling out to him. But it wasn’t Thomas, it was Chris and after a while he called out to me. I swam my way around a wall to join him and found him in an enormous cave. He explained how I’d gone in the wrong direction and was lucky to have found my air pocket. I agreed and Thomas and I have both decided that our cave free-diving days were over. We’d had our lucky escapes. Done is done. (Although there are some nice caves in Fiji we might have to explore).

Local transport is very inexpensive in Samoa. These bus drivers rely on divine intervention to get them safely through the winding mountain roads.

Local transport is very inexpensive in Samoa. These bus drivers rely on divine intervention to get them safely through the winding mountain roads.

Our social life was enjoyable on Samoa with most local people speaking English. Fiauu and Tavita came for visits and we had Chris over for lunch and dinner on our last night. Sue and Glen off the Australian yacht, Dione, joined us along with Tavita and Fiauu. We ended the night visiting the fire dancing once again. Very enjoyable. Fiauu brought the boys in the morning to say farewell to us. They were excited to visit the boat again and we promised them a sail the next time we visited. We checked out and headed off for the neighbouring island of Savai’i.

Our beautiful Samoan family. If you visit Samoa, we can send you into the loving arms of our family.

Our beautiful Samoan family. If you visit Samoa, we can send you into the loving arms of our family.

We ended up sailing through the night to reach the main bay, Asau in the far west of Savai’i and chose, wisely, to heave-to until daylight would help us with eyeball navigation through the reef. We had one exciting moment when the depth sounder screamed at us with an alarming depth of 1.6m. (our draft is 1.75m but this is set 60cm higher so we had a little bit more room). Rocks were just below the surface of the bow and we quickly pulled up and veered off close to a rock wall on the other side of us. Hearts thumping hard, we made our way across the deep water bay and anchored in front of a tropical resort with fales and palm frond thatched umbrellas lining the beach. Sue and Glen from Dione arrived and we booked a rental car to tour the island. We visited a canopy tree top walk, an ambiguous giant footprint in lava, some lava caves, a waterfall cascading over lava rocks onto the beach, but the attraction that was most enthralling were the blowholes. Outstanding and the best that we have ever seen.

An Australian Work Place Health and Safety nightmare. No safety fences here. Common sense is all that's needed to avoid stepping over these blowholes to see if they send you up in the air!!

An Australian Work Place Health and Safety nightmare. No safety fences here. Common sense is all that’s needed to avoid stepping over these blowholes to see if they send you up in the air!!

Probably the best blowholes - ever!!!

Probably the best blowholes – ever!!!

These waterfalls fell onto a black beach from a crystal clear stream sourced from a spring high up in the mountains above.

These waterfalls fell onto a black beach from a crystal clear stream sourced from a spring high up in the mountains above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fellow dropped coconuts in them. A few seconds later they were propelled into the air with the massive rush of water. As the pressure built up is was as deafening as if you were standing next to a jet engine. Savai’i was a beautiful island. We soon all sets our sights on heading off to Wallis. Where’s Wallis you might ask? Heaps more pics below…

Sue and Glen from Dione and a few local lads, strutting along with us.

Sue and Glen from Dione and a few local lads, strutting along with us.

I was as sick as a dog but I still wanted to see the island.

I was as sick as a dog but I still wanted to see the island.

A sea arch along the way

A sea arch along the way

Yes, we climbed up here.

Yes, we climbed up here.

Locals enjoying the cool waters on a hot day.

Locals enjoying the cool waters on a hot day.

Bureaucracy, bureaucracy!!! Thomas had the cruising papers taken off him for cruising Saavai' but the police who came to inspect them didn't mind as long as they got some pics for their FB page.

Bureaucracy, bureaucracy!!! Thomas had the cruising papers taken off him for cruising Savai’i but the police who came to inspect them didn’t mind as long as they got some pics for their FB page.

Thomas took this picture inside the shell of an old church on the sea front.

Thomas took this picture inside the shell of an old church on the sea front.

Samoan engineering at its best. The rainforest canopy walk.

Samoan engineering at its best. The rainforest canopy walk.

Fulfilling his family responsibilities, this young lad is using a bamboo fishing pole to catch the evening meal.

Fulfilling his family responsibilities, this young lad is using a bamboo fishing pole to catch the evening meal.

Samoa says goodbye with a beautiful sunset...

Samoa says goodbye with a beautiful sunset…

 

 

 

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Call to Action

Dancing with the first mate seems to be about a biannual event but last night as we were enticed across the road from the marina by the sounds of a Samoan band, that frequency might be on the increase. Unable to resist moving to the beat I jumped up and joined the few locals on the dance floor. It wasn’t long before I was sandwiched between two well-built heavily tattooed young Samoan lads swaying rhythmically to the swooning reggae beat. It was almost a claustrophobic situation they were so close. Did I mention how muscly they were? Anyway, the Captain shocked me on the next dance when he jumped up and said, “Let’s go.” “Where to?” I enquired. “The dance floor of course.” He was called to action when he realised that if he wasn’t going to dance with me, then there were plenty of hunky Samoan lads who’ll oblige and – who don’t have a proximity issue. I love it when the Captain dances and wish it was more often, but he’s not a disco remnant like myself.

Samoans love love love to dance

Samoans love love love to dance

The music, the people and the culture are everywhere here. Passionately maintaining their traditional way of life with family being the centre of their world, the Samoans love to share with visitors. A free three hour performance at the nearby cultural centre introduced us to many facets of this island. In the evening we visited a local club where they take the children selling items off the street and teach them the traditional skills of Samoan fire dancing. The performance began with the little guys beginning with a modern hip hop routine and morphing into a traditional dance. The age of the performers increased along with the intensity and skills with the fire.

This was the best fire dancing I've ever seen in my life. Awesome. Didn't know it originated here.

This was the best fire dancing I’ve ever seen in my life. Awesome. Didn’t know it originated here.

One particularly disturbing routine was the Volcano Dance which had a fellow hopping over a brazier with flames licking at his undersides. There were a few breathtaking moments when his skirt made of palm fronds caught alight. Some gentlemen in the audience turned away, unable to watch the spectacle. To lessen the heart rate, a troop of beautiful Samoan ladies wooed us with their sensuous traditional dance in between the different fire dances.

When we first arrived in Samoa we discovered that we had anchored in the dark next to Cetacea, a boat that we had first encountered in the Marquesas two years ago. We managed to catch up with Gail and Tony and found out that they were on their way to Tonga. There are a lot of items for purchase here in comparison to Tonga so we went halves in buying Peggy a whole lot of sporting equipment for the school where she teaches.

Gail and Tony helped us buy lots of sporting equipment for Peggy and Melissa and they're delivering it for us too. So lovely to see them again.

Gail and Tony helped us buy lots of sporting equipment for Peggy and Melissa and they’re delivering it for us too. So lovely to see them again.

We also managed to get enough basketballs for Melissa in Nuku’alofa to help with her basketball coaching. The ladies are thrilled that they’re on their way.  Tony and Gail will make the delivery. It was wonderful catching up with these fun-loving happy Americans.

Junior, aptly named as he is in line to be the next chief of his village, runs a taxi service focusing on giving cruisers a tour of the island. We took the road that splits the island in half, over the mountain range to the southern side of the island. On the way we visited the tree houses. What a funky creative place to stay. We were tempted to book in there but the price of $350 USD put us off.

This is the one bedroom treehouse. Someone was staying in there so we were shown the 2 bedder.

This is the one bedroom treehouse. Someone was staying in there so we were shown the 2 bedder.

Thick jungle lined the road and we stopped to admire a long drop waterfall at the head of a valley renown for pig hunting. It is a tropical paradise.

Papapapai-uta Waterfall. Named because Papa was called four times.

Papapapai-uta Waterfall. Named because Papa was called four times.

Once on the coast we visited a resort so we could access the beach and then continued to a waterfall where we could swim amongst the fish. We lunched at a beach resort where inexpensive fales line the shore. Prices of the fales range from about $15AUD to $50AUD and many include food and all your bedding. The beach was white and protected by a rim reef. We have decided to explore this option of accommodation as we do a land tour of the other half of the island.

The bedding and mosquito nets are only put into the fales as they are hired out.

The bedding and mosquito nets are only put into the fales as they are hired out.

My other call to action has been about the promotion of my book. I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea but I would like to get it out there to the people who can learn something from it. I appreciate all those supportive friends who have already purchased it and I know some have finished it already and given me positive feedback. Thank you. Now I am trying to share more information via linking a Facebook group to my web page where I hope people from all over the world can connect and meet up traveling somewhere in the world or just share ideas.

My first go at publishing. Proud that people are enjoying it.

My first go at publishing. Proud that people are enjoying it.

I also have a Facebook page for the book which I am promoting. This it has been fun creating it and I’m enjoying the short bursts of writing that I’m doing to add information. So my call to action for you is to help me with spreading the word about my book, Backpacker’s Practical and Spiritual Guide to the Universe, so people can benefit from my experiences in the realm of budget travel. Hopefully, it will also raise some funds to go towards our traveling.

Continued…

Scooting around the other half of the island was the best option for us to continue our exploration. The roads to the east were less busy so it wasn’t too dangerous. The drivers here aren’t used to people on bikes. The danger actually lay in going through the villages where some naughty kids threw stones. Just showing off I guess. One young fellow got a fright when Thomas stopped the bike and went towards him asking him if he was looking for trouble. Both his mates quickly pointed at the culprit and said it was him not them. Otherwise the scooter was great because we had a good view of everything.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

We took a bush track down towards a resort and ended up staying the night at Matareva Beach Fales. Stormy weather forced us to take a bungalow instead of a fale. We were a bit disappointed about that as waking up watching the surf rolling in would have been quite spectacular. We were given a huge evening meal with lots of salad and local vegetables and breakfast was almost as large. Talking with the family gave us an insight to the dreams and aspirations of the Samoan family.

Matareva Beach Fales. A beautiful peaceful location.

Matareva Beach Fales. A beautiful peaceful location.

Tavita, the matai, (chief) of his family plans to refurbish the resort, help restore the reef to create a coral garden, open up a lava tube near his farm and build a market garden. All big plans to help create financial security for the family and the youth of the village. We are calling people to action who have the skills and knowledge to assist them. They are offering free accommodation to anyone who would like to come and stay and work at the properties. You can connect with the family on helpx, an exchange site where you can find places to stay all over the world.

A crazy light beam was so concentrated that it felt like you could grab it.

A crazy light beam was so concentrated that it felt like you could grab it.

Tavita took us to the lava tube and we hiked through for a few hundred metres. It was pretty cool. There were stone platforms where families had stayed; perhaps during Tongan invasions years ago, evidence of cooking areas and maybe even a grave site. On the way out of the cave, there was a crazy concentrated light beam. It was so strong that you felt like you could put your hands around it. It appeared to be solid. We felt honoured to be shown through the caves. The family is of the Baha’i faith and they invited us to the temple on Sunday and then back to their place for lunch and to stay the night. We agreed as we were enticed by the promise of beautiful singing and we weren’t disappointed.

Thomas repaired a frozen laptop for them and they were pretty happy as they needed it for their coral presentation to the village chiefs that night. They were wanting to get approval to make a marine protected area. Their presentation was fantastic and after only three minutes they had an approval. Plus approval to open the resort on a Sunday. It was interesting watching the process of village politics in action.

Fiauu with three of their boys, Tom, Walter and Bill

Fiauu with three of their boys, Tom, Walter and Bill

While the meeting was going on, three of their five boys were playing with the bubble blowers that I had brought along for them to play with. They were extremely successful and ended up playing with them for nearly three hours. After the meeting we played cards and different games. Just my type of evening. We were made to feel very welcome and they now call themselves our Samoan family. We’re happy to have been adopted and wish them all the success for the future.

 

 

 

More pics below…

You weave your own plate and headband at the cultural centre. They then feed you with traditional umu - the Samoan's way of cooking. Delicious.

You weave your own plate and headband at the cultural centre. They then feed you with traditional umu – the Samoan’s way of cooking. Delicious. All free!!

Lava islands off Matareva Beach

Lava islands off Matareva Beach

These guys could really dance.

These guys could really dance.

 

We got to see how coconut milk is made.

We got to see how coconut milk is made.

Me going down the entrance of the lava tube.

Me going down the entrance of the lava tube.

Our made mate Paul volunteered to climb the tree after the demonstration.

Our mad mate Paul volunteered to climb the tree after the demonstration.

Bill - cute kid and champion bubble maker

Bill – cute kid and champion bubble maker

The Samoan Bahai temple is the only one in the South Pacific. Wonderful singing.

The Samoan Bahai temple is the only one in the South Pacific. Wonderful singing.

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Qi Magic

Qi is the name given to the life force in Chinese. It is pronounced ‘Chi’ as in Tai Chi. It is also the name of our boat. There is always a bit of magic happening on our boat but that’s because we feel our life is charmed and magical. However, one would have to raise an eyebrow or two in the miraculous attractions and magic going on around here of late.

Taking a stroll around Mounu Island where the owners have created a garden with well raked paths.

Taking a stroll around Mounu Island where the owners have created a garden with well raked paths.

Electrical equipment rarely gets thrown out if it hasn’t worked for a while as quite often lights, computer parts and cameras suddenly breathe back to life. This is has been occurring a lot lately. As far as attractions go, we have been meeting the most wonderful people and had an amazing encounter with whales as one came within five metres of the boat whilst at anchor. Disturbingly, when we removed the SD card from the camera to moon over our photos, the camera said ‘no SC card present’. We hadn’t captured any of our shots. With a quick wipe and some ‘encouraging’ words, the SD card was readable again. Unfortunately, no photos of friendly whales smooching up to Qi. Just a moment captured in our mind for us to ponder over and tell whale tales over sun downers and a lesson that magic isn’t always positive.

Took my breath away...

The last time we were here. Took my breath away…

After six months of meditation about how to approach the failing water maker, the Captain decided it was time to give the problem his full attention once again, only this time, the water maker burst into life and is now nicely pumping fresh water from salt once again. We’re absolutely delighted at the prospect of having fresh water in Samoa as we’ve heard the water there is quite suspect and we are not questioning the water maker’s return to the land of the living. I’ve been reading far too many Zombie stories lately to question that… and am hoping for something a little more earthly at the book swap today.

A kite surfing destination with the lagoon behind.

Mounu Island Resort – A kite surfing destination with the lagoon behind.

The attraction of Vava’u is obvious. We have had beautiful sails to crystal clear anchorages, beach parties on shore with interesting people, both locals and other cruisers amongst coconut lined islands. We finally explored the eastern lagoon tucked in behind the island of Kenutu which we explored along well-worn pathways to the rugged coast line where the trade winds lash the shores. Some people have obviously spent some time here with driftwood towers facing seaward standing erect on the cliff, ready to be lit to warn off adversaries. We have stumbled upon a playground.

This lookout held Thomas so it was strongly built. Looked a bit flimsy to me. Someone must have camped here for quite a while.

This lookout held Thomas so it was strongly built. Looked a bit flimsy to me. Someone must have camped here for quite a while.

One that the Tongan’s have protected ruthlessly for thousands of years, warding off colonisation. Proud of their heritage and way of life, the Tongans strive hard to protect it. During our stay, there has been a clamp down on Sunday trading. Swimming, fishing and any other type of exercise is forbidden. It includes riding your bike.  Until some bright spark produced the 2010 amendment that allowed a certain number of licensed premises to feed and water the visitors, the villages felt like ghost towns. With exception of the churches which were filled to the brim with harmonious choruses, everything was empty.  Some keen kayakers were chastised by the local police chief for daring to disobey the orders of rest. Haled and shamed by loud speakers, they were allowed on their way to return to camp, heads bowed in prayer.

It hasn’t been all fun and games here in Tonga with several tragedies occurring during the course of our time here.  A few weeks ago there was an all-night rescue launched after the skipper of a boat bringing eleven contractors back from one of islands was lost at sea. After the engines failed the men adrift were rescued by a cruiser from South Africa who left the harbour when he realised nobody was out there looking for them. There was a lot of confusion about the actions of the police and if it hadn’t have been for the support helicopter radioing in coordinates and the actions of the said cruiser, the men would have been lost. We have only just heard about a murder that occurred here last weekend. One cruiser apparently killed his wife. We’re not quite sure of the circumstances but I guess it is a stark reminder about not to argue with the Captain. In amongst all this we have felt a few earthquakes including one that was during one of my lessons.

Getting up from the sitting position was the hardest thing to do when the earthquake hit. My classroom was small but the size of the class always seemed to be expanding

Getting up from the sitting position was the hardest thing to do when the earthquake hit. My classroom was small but the size of the class always seemed to be expanding

Early the following morning I was woken by the neighbourhood dogs going crazy and ten minutes later, I felt a jolting feeling as Qi was moved radically to the side three times. I never would have imagined that you would be able to feel an earthquake on a boat – but you can.

I was lucky enough to meet Peace Corp Peggy who was qualified to observe my English lessons. I visited her village of Toua over three days where she arranged children to meet in her small library after school for the lessons. The children were bright and keen to participate. I had a wonderful experience. Peggy is working extremely hard to provide literacy to the community and is setting up a small library.

Peggy opens the little town library most evenings after school. The local children can come and read and borrow books. The village allocated a small old shop for her to utilise. She's spreading her magic big time.

Peggy opens the little town library most evenings after school. The local children can come and read and borrow books. The village allocated a small old shop for her to utilise. She’s spreading her magic big time.

As many Tongan children have to leave the islands for work and study, it is important that they are fluent in their second official language. This gives them the most opportunities abroad. If you’re reading this and can send resources to her, they would be greatly appreciated. Peggy has certainly added some magic into our lives as well as the community where she is posted. She’s just so efficient and gets things done. She’s a magical gift to the world.

Thomas’ birthday was spent biking the hilly countryside of Vava’u and Pangamotu islands and then Thomas visited some other cruisers while I went to teach my lesson out at the village in the afternoon. I was grateful for the taxi driver waiting for me. The driver had a snooze so I didn’t worry about hurrying, but I wanted to quickly get back to the birthday boy. In the evening we socialised with other cruisers after an inexpensive meal at a Chinese restaurant called Pandas. I had a booking at the Reef Resort for the following evening for a romantic dinner. A chef from Austria was ensuring that our meal would be perfect as I was required to book 24hrs in advance. It was worth the wait.

We were greeted with fresh coconut juice for the Captain's birthday dinner.

We were greeted with fresh coconut juice for the Captain’s birthday dinner.

Maybe it’s magic or maybe it’s just Thomas’ amazingly good luck, but when the outboard motor decided to fail, we were within ten metres of the boat and I just had to paddle that small distance to reach the bathing platform while the Captain chanted sweet nothings over the motor. The day before we had been out in the open swells for a dive nearly 2km away from the boat. That could have been disastrous, but no, we were safely close to Qi. Now the Captain is hoping that the magic continues so that back toilet miraculously fixes itself. Guess he’s holding his breath – literally.   Next stop…Samoa

more pics belowanexcursionakayaktour

 

German efficiency - Thomas' paddle board doubling as a table for an impromptu beach party

German efficiency – Thomas’ paddle board doubling as a table for an impromptu beach party

Youshi and Useme, the only Japanese sailors currently here

Youshi and Useme, the only Japanese sailors currently here

Martina and Pete off Havachat, Newcastle

Martina and Pete off Havachat, Newcastle

Tongan dancers at a Tongan feast

Tongan dancers at a Tongan feast

Thomas getting the Kava story.

Thomas and everyone getting the Kava story.

Great expectations from the Kava

Great expectations from the Kava

Looking for a bit of magic at the bottom of the kava bowl

Looking for a bit of magic at the bottom of the kava bowl

Thomas and Stefan struttin their stuff. (German Playmate)

Thomas and Stefan struttin their stuff. (German Playmate)

The rugged eastern coast has the fallen boulders from the pounding seas littering the seabed.

The rugged eastern coast has the fallen boulders from the pounding seas littering the seabed.

Three regular faces for the lessons. These girls are a stark reminder that little girls are little girls first of all with hopes and dreams all over the world. Loved spending time watching their love of learning.

Three regular faces for the lessons. These girls are a stark reminder that little girls are little girls first of all with hopes and dreams – no matter where they are in the world. Loved spending time with them and watching their love of learning.

Even the babies came to the classes!!! Finally he slept...

Even the babies came to the classes!!! Finally he slept…

And we do the Hokey Pokey... did I mention that we got a tub of Hokey Pokey ice cream... what a treat on the boat.

And we do the Hokey Pokey… did I mention that we got a tub of Hokey Pokey ice cream… what a treat on the boat.

The class that grew and grew...

The class that grew and grew…

 

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