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Cruising through Fulaga, Southern Lau Group, Fiji

by Andrew and Clare 31 Oct 17:10 UTC
Tonight's dinner © Andrew and Clare / Freedom and Adventure

On 7th October we sailed 120 miles overnight from Vanua Balavu Northern Lau Group, to Fulaga in the Southern Lau Group of Islands on the east side of Fiji.

It was a dream trip with a warm gentle wind on our aft quarter in flat water. To top it off we caught a Mahi Mahi leaving Vanua Balavu and another one on arrival at Fulaga. We had enough to share with our friends on 'Mazu' 'Meccatroy' and 'White Hawk' and three large pieces went in Mazu's freezer for us to eat in the coming weeks.

A traditional village

The following morning we walked into the Village of Fulaga to perform the Sevusevu (welcome) ceremony with the village Chief. We were the ninetieth visiting cruising yacht to arrive this season. The Chief charges each visiting yacht $50 to have access to their village and waters. Each cruising yacht also presents the Chief with a gift of Kava (grog) for the community. We were allocated a Host family who looked after us during our stay.

Fulaga is a traditional village and the seventy five families living there are divided into Clans who work together and help each other. There is a strict dress code once entering the village. Knees and shoulders must be covered and no hats or sunglasses to be worn.

Previously our host family lived and worked in Suva for thirty four years. Joe was born in Fulaga and whilst living in Suva always dreamed of returning to the village. Tara's first experience of village life was when they retired and moved to Fulaga ten years ago. Although very happy now Tara said her first impression was that the place looked like a prison. We can't imagine what the village was like ten years ago because today it is still very basic.

The houses mostly consist of one room with a curtain separating the sleeping area. The floor of the hut is earth covered by woven mat made from dried reeds. There is very little furniture, no chairs and they sleep on a mattress on the ground, the women cook on an open fire in a detached kitchen. There are a few toilets scattered around but with no fencing it is hard to work out how many families share the same facility. On a brighter note the school does have a generator and a fridge/freezer. They also have Internet and telephone connection. The Headmaster's house has a satellite dish and the community gathers there on Saturday afternoon's to watch the rugby.

Big celebrations

We arrived in Fulaga in time to celebrate Fiji Day with the local community. By then there were eight cruising boats at Fulaga. The cruisers sat with our respective Clans (on the ground from 9am to 4pm) my back was killing me. We watched the school sports and enjoyed the kids enthusiasm and competitive spirit; they had a ball. We then had lunch and enjoyed some singing from each of the clans. The villagers drank Kava all day and well into the early hours of the morning. By 4pm we were happy to leave them to it.

The main attraction

Away from the village, the lagoon where the Cruisers anchor is simply gorgeous with sparkling aqua water and white sandy beaches. The main attraction is to snorkel the pass which is a narrow gap in the reef about 50 metres wide and a quarter of a mile long. Unfortunately my underwater camera died so I couldn't take photos. We hung on to the dingy and floated with the incoming tide.

Both the hard and soft coral and the variety of colourful tropical fish are just beautiful. So we were out there at every opportunity along with all the other cruisers here, it is quite a social gathering. One of the cruisers, Umberto, on his Dutch catamaran 'El Holandes Errante' (The Wandering Dutchman) lives permanently on board with his 92 year old mother Tilly. Umberto has installed a crane to lift Tilly from the dinghy to the catamaran. He takes her ashore with her walker for exercise.

The walker has spikes on the wheels so she can use it on the beach. Tilly says she doesn't want to live on land again. Unfortunately she doesn't speak English, but she has a lovely face, bright and mischievous eyes, I think if we communicate she would prove to be quite a character. She certainly is an inspiration to all.

Big day out

We were waiting for the supply ship to visit the island as we were running out of fresh produce having not seen a shop since 2nd September. The supply ship was due to arrive on 17th October but by then we were experiencing strong S/E winds. I had ordered some fruits and vege which were packed on the ship but delayed in Suva harbour. To come to Fulaga the supply ship would be experiencing 25-35knots head winds and three metre seas. I must admit I thought a ship should handle this.

However when the supply ship did arrive a week later on 24th it was such an old tub and listing badly to one side we marvelled at how it ever arrived at all. Needless to say some of the produce was rotten but we did manage to get some much needed fruit and some root vegetables. The biggest causality was my beans which arrived as has beans. The arrival of the supply ship was quite an event.

All the village people came down to the waterfront. The women sat on the beach for hours shelling clams for transport while the men loaded the ship with other goods for sale in Suva. Then the delivered supplies had to be carried up over the hill and down into the village. The supplies were much needed as the village was out of flour, sugar, rice but more alarmingly they were out of Kava. The Kava party started that afternoon and probably continued until they all dropped off to sleep. Before leaving, our host family Jo and Tara presented us with a lovely Kava bowl that Joe made. It was a most unexpected gift and will make a lovely fruit bowl.

So we left on 25th October and headed for Viti Levu, the largest and south western island of Fiji. The sail was pretty good although we had rain and very threatening black clouds all around for part of the two day trip. I think we were pretty lucky as it could have been a lot worse. Andrew contributed to the larder by catching another very large and delicious Mahi Mahi. My contribution was putting the fishing line out and of course cooking the fish:)

We are now on the west and more touristy side of Fiji. We are anchored in Musket Cove and enjoying the hospitality of the Musket Cove Yacht Club. For a small fee we are now life members of the Club which gives us access to all the facilities. There is a terrific beach bar where we cook a BBQ for dinner each night. The Club supplies the BBQs, plates, cutlery and serviettes. The facility is by the beach with plenty of tables and chairs and sliding shade/wind screens. The bar has reasonable prices and the staff and very welcoming.

The Yacht club also has hot showers, a pool, restaurants, gift shops, a supermarket, laundry and many lovely walks. We are very much enjoying civilisation and a Cappuccino in the morning on the restaurant verandah overlooking the very pretty bay. There is also good snorkelling here but as yet we haven't ventured out. We are here with 'Mazu' 'Four Seasons' and 'Mezza Luna' while they are waiting for a weather window to sail to NZ.

So what's next

We think we will enjoy this area for a few more days before heading over to Vuda Marina where we will leave Eye Candy in a cyclone pit for the summer. We haven't booked a flight home yet but we will let you all know the details as soon as we do.

This story has been provided by the courtesy of the freedomandadventure.blogspot.com

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