July was sweet. We explored Taveuni and the Lau Group.
DISTANCE: 422 nautical miles
PARADISE RESORT. This intimate resort in the south west of Taveuni is special. It’s welcoming to yachties, offering complimentary moorings, hot showers, and use of the beautiful pool and garden. We visited twice.
It was a relaxing location for homeschool…
…and home office.
The girls made a lovely buddy who was staying at the resort.
They were thrilled she came on board for a tea party. They fought over her the entire time. Sigh.
We dined under the stars while the girls ‘partied’ at kids’ tables.
One night, the resort staff asked if our girls could be seated with other yachtie kids. “Oh yes please!” we cried. Dale and I loved the adults-dining-separately-to-kids thing.
Sadly, the other yachtie mum objected. She commented (loudly) “What type of parents don’t want to sit with their kids at dinner?”
I felt awful, like a terrible parent, for a millisecond. Remember here, yachtie families spend 24/7 together. It’s generally a wonderful, special time, but for goodness sake, give me a break. “What type of kids want to sit with their parents when a fun kids’ table is organised?” I thought to reply. I held my tongue.
MASSAGE. The girls were supposed to be playing in the garden and pool. Obviously not, based on the photos on my phone.
DIVING. Paradise Resort is one of the best places I’ve seen to learn to scuba dive, especially for kids. And there’s world class diving for advanced divers nearby. Dale and I snuck away early one morning to dive The Great White Wall and The Zoo.
If you’re lucky, when you do a double dive, one of the two dives will be “Wow!” Most times though, both dives will be good or so-so, or sometimes even blah.
We did the big name – The Great White Wall – first. It’s famous for soft white corals, swim through caves and tunnels, and variety of pretty fish. It was “Wow!”
Our second dive – The Zoo – was even better, with schools of pelagic fish, reef sharks, a happy bronze whaler, and the healthiest beds of soft and hard corals I’ve seen in decades.
Coming from Queensland and suffering the state of our Great Barrier Reef, it was heartening to see wellness and life on a coral reef. Dale and I joked ironically that Queensland should market its reef as the Great White Bare Reef to highlight the bleaching and lack of wildlife features.
Apparently, the Minerals Council of Australia is spending millions on marketing to encourage Australians to feel proud about coal. Um? Weird. Perhaps they’ll steal our Great White Bare Reef pitch?
Shame on silly old Queenslanders and their middle finger to one of the seven wonders of the natural world in the recent federal election.
CRUISING. We settled into cruising life.
Sunsets and rainbows.
Rope ladders and swings.
Diving on the anchor.
Feeding pigs scraps.
Dinghy raft ups.
FAMILY. Pam and John visited. It was an impromptu four day reunion. It required a mammoth effort on their part: plane – overnight in Nadi – plane – car – boat. Return.
We were on route to their resort, thrilled they could make it, chatting happily, musing about when their plane would arrive, what boat would transfer them etc. when we were buzzed by their speed boat – what a hoot!
The girls were beyond excited to see Nana and Pa.
They posed for a photo with the towel swans.
And we reminisced about the towel swans at the resort in Malaysia where Pam and John visited us on ZINC 8 years ago. Awwww Baby Willow.
Pam does this special thing where she compiles a photo movie of the first five years of each grandchild’s life. Hazel turned five back in April, when we were in New Zealand, and has been badgering us daily about when Nana will give her the movie. It was worth the wait, Hazel said.
Hiking. Of course Hazel led the pack.
Waterfalls. Pa scrambled over rocks and jumped with Willow, more than once.
International date line. The 180 degree line of longitude passes through Taveuni. It’s the official marker of today/yesterday. For practical reasons, the islands of Fiji are in the same time zone, they’re all ‘today’.
Coincidentally, we’d all stood on the Prime Meridian at Greenwich – the zero degree line of longitude – on the opposite side of the world. Willow doesn’t remember.
And Hazel wasn’t Hazel yet, or perhaps she was, we just hadn’t met her. I struggle to imagine Hazel not being anywhere, she’s a big personality. Wherever we travel, she engages and connects, she shocks, confronts and amuses. People are drawn to her. She makes them shake their heads and smile. As her mum and dad though… while we are in awe of her and love her to pieces, goodness she’s a piece of work, our heads explode daily, sometimes Dale’s head explodes hourly, he has even less patience than me.
Rock slides. Talk about high risk alert. I scolded like a fish wife and had a heart attack, whilst we all had a fantastic time. One turn for the adults and two turns for the kids. We hustled out of there asap while no-one was hospital-grade hurt.
John joined in, to the girls delight. Our tour guide was chuffed: on his watch, John’s the oldest (74) and Hazel’s the youngest (5) to do the full slide. It must be in the genes.
RESORT. The girls snorkelled and kayaked with Pam and John.
Dale and I hiked with local guides.
We dined and drank, every night.
And bumbled back on board in the dark.
GOODBYE. Oh the sobbing. Willow was beside herself. The reality of our life, far from home with no friends or family arranged to visit next was too much. Hazel joined in.
From our next anchorage, we saw their plane fly overhead. More sobbing.
A treehouse onshore lifted spirits.
PASSAGE. We sailed south east overnight. The girls rested.
An overnight passage is the worst. It’s a slap in the face. Always. Everything is easier after the first two nights when time becomes rubber.
Dale caught a dolphin fish. Hazel looked on fascinated. Willow cried in her room. I busied myself cleaning the boat. I’m certain more people would be vegetarian if they had to hunt their own meat. Thank you Dale for killing for us.
LAU GROUP. We explored an empty atoll.
There are no villages because there’s no ‘land’, just jagged, maiming volcanic rock.
Crystal clear calm.
Whale. “Where did he go??… He’s under us!!… What’s he going to do?... He’s not going to tip us over is he?” Gosh, listen to me. In my defence, I have serious whale respect fear. I empathise with whales, and appreciate how they probably want to flip the human out of the vessel annoying them. Contrary to the audio, we think he/she was a blue whale.
HOMESCHOOL. Experiments, with coconuts.
Morning tea, with coconuts.
Play time, with coconuts.
MORE LAU GROUP. The next island we visited is schooled on yachties, and yachties are schooled on it. It’s one of the most remote places we’ve travelled in terms of distance, supplies, services, communication, yet there were more yachties than we’ve seen all year. It’s somewhat of a fad it seems. “We’re going to ‘[blah]’“, everyone says, “You must go to ‘[blah]’“. People’s behaviour in groups fascinates us. We were swept along, if mainly to see what the fuss is about.
We visited for two reasons:
Firstly, it’s renowned to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Pacific Ocean.
These stunning photos don’t even do it justice. Photo credit to Niklas on another catamaran who took these with his drone and kindly gave us a copy.
Secondly, when you do the sevusevu* you are allocated a ‘host family’ who ‘cares for you’. We thought this would be a nice experience for the girls.
*The sevusevu is a ceremony with the local chief where you seek permission to anchor, surf, dive, fish and spend time in their village by offering kava.
We scored a gorgeous host family. We visited their home.
They visited ours.
Ma wove me a turtle. It’s stuffed and cuddly. I love it.
WINDSURFING. Random. One minute I was digging pippies for dinner on a sandspit with the girls, the next I was enjoying a windsurfing lesson. Thank you generous Australian windsurfing yachties. As I age, I’m better at appreciating activities that suit my style: I surf a longboard (not a shortboard). I ski (not snowboard). I bike pack (not mountain bike). I scuba dive and freedive (not skydive). I hike mountains (not rock climb). I paddleboard (not paraglide). I can see myself windsurfing (not kiteboarding). The slow, less aggressive, lame activities are my style. They always have been. And that’s okay.
SNORKELLING. One morning was particularly eventful. Hazel was buzzed by an inquisitive grey shark. She screamed. Our marine biologist yachtie friend buzzed the shark back. It slunk away. Hazel set her jaw and flutter kicked on.
Then, we saw a whale. We followed it. Niklas and his daughter jumped in and took this footage.
We’re in the dinghy up ahead at the end of the clip. We saw the whale breach. Dale threw Willow in and she almost rode it. High excitement.
But gosh, the net. It breaks our hearts. If only we could have cut it free, but the whale was done with humans. It was moving fast. Keep your pollution out of the ocean please people. Photo credit to Niklas (again).
ANOTHER ISLAND. Another sevusevu. This one was a mission, accessing the village with the tide.
The chief was classic. He had an infectious laugh.
And, was well into his carving. The kava bowls for sale in Suva are carved on this island.
It was a stunning anchorage and delightful village, but it was rainy and gloomy. We saw another mantra ray.
We snorkel dragged through the pass when we left.
AND… ANOTHER ISLAND. This one was our favourite.
Dale surfed solo…
…while the girls and I spotted and snorkelled on the pass.
Dale found other yachties to surf with. The girls also found friends to surf with on a small inside edge of the reef. It was sketchy. We were offered a kitten. It was a hard sell.
The Dry is good for an airport novel. It’s an easy, engaging crime mystery with a twist.
Pachinko was celebrated as one of the hottest reads for 2017, but I was initially deterred by the Korean WWII family saga thing. Anyway, the critics were correct, it’s excellent. Fascinating because it’s an angle of history I don’t know much about and surprisingly uplifting for all the horrible things that happen within the family and the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lionheart rang true to my heart. Obviously, I’ve not come close to sailing around the world, let alone solo. Jesse Martin is a star. But sailing with Dale, and now the girls… well, you know, the pressures are different. I especially related to: (1) The reluctance to bring out anything clean even when what you are using is filthy. There is joy in knowing you have clean clothes, towels, sheets in the cupboard. If you bring them out, then they too will become filthy. Insane, I know. (2) What makes life at sea so special is the enjoyment of simple tasks, one at a time. (3) The need to wake at all hours of the night to save kamikaze flying fish flapping on deck. The fear and helplessness during storms is of course a given.
Special thanks to my mum for sending over Dark Emu with Pam (and thanks Pam for bringing it). Every Australian needs to read this to correct the misinformation we were taught in primary school about pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The hunter-gather label is inconsistent with the evidence.
And last but not least is the sweet little Gift from the Sea, my joyful read for the month. It didn’t disappoint. I can’t believe it was written in 1955. It reads true to life today and presents practical tips for a happy, fulfilling life, particularly for women.
Willow polished off The Babysitters Club and on to Nancy Drew. More Enid Blyton. I expect her reading would be more varied if we had access to libraries and bookstores. Nevertheless, she seems happy enough picking up what we have on board. This included cartoons about Egypt and a delightful book of Dreamtime Myths accompanied by the paintings of Ainslie Roberts. Willow was chuffed I’d received the latter from my Aunty Jo when I was five.