Justin – Kadavu, Fiji

We have now been in Fiji for over two months (nearly three by the time this is posted) and have become accustomed to village life in the outer islands, even though we live independently on the boat.

On Kadavu, and the smaller islands of the Great Astrolabe Reef, villages are typically about an hour or so apart and located close to a sheltered bay where small boats can be moored safely. The boats are the villagers main means of transport as there are few roads and virtually no cars or other forms of mechanised land transport.

When anchoring close to a village, it is expected that the crew of a yacht first go and present a ‘sevusevu’ to the village chief whose village, under traditional and Fijian law, owns the surrounding land and sea.

The ‘sevusevu’ ceremony normally takes place in the chief’s house or the village’s community building and involves the presentation of unprocessed raw kava root called ‘waka’ by the yacht’s captain and crew. After introductions, the chief will usually recite a short welcoming speech in Fijian and formally accept the yacht’s gift of kava signifying the visitors acceptance into the village and the chief’s approval for the them to move freely around the village and surrounding waters.

Often, the ‘sevusevu’ ceremony will also involve the drinking of kava which is mixed in a ‘tanoa’, a large traditional bowl handcrafted from a single slab of indigenous hardwood called ‘vesi’.

Each person is ceremoniously served a half coconut shell of kava. Before accepting the cup of kava, the person receiving it is expected to clap once loudly with cupped hands. The kava should be drunk in one sweep after which the person again claps five times loudly with cupped hands.

We usually try to dress respectfully when doing ‘sevusevu’. This means a long sulu for women and a collared shirt and sulu for men. The acceptance ceremony, besides being expected, is a really good way to get to meet the people of the village and we normally find ourselves being ‘adopted’ by a family who become good friends.

Makogai villagers perform a 'Meke' (welcome dance and singing ceremony).

Makogai villagers perform a ‘Meke’ (welcome dance and singing ceremony).

Kava session in the community hall at Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Kava session in the community hall at Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Kava being offered as part of the welcome ceremony (Makogai)

Kava being offered as part of the welcome ceremony (Makogai)

When anchored off a village, a typical day for us would normally start with an early morning swim from the boat or a snorkel on a nearby coral reef. We would then have breakfast consisting of bananas and pawpaw, which most villages have loads of, followed by porridge or Fijian breakfast crackers. If we still have bread then we might have toast. The Fijian bread is really good but unfortunately doesn’t keep long and is only available in larger centres.

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Boat Brekky, Savusavu.

Boat Brekky, Savusavu.

Off for a snorkel at Vanuabalavu, Bay of Islands, Northern Lau Group

Off for a snorkel at Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau Group

After breakfast we might take the dingy ashore and go for a walk through the jungle up to one of the village farms or plantations, see if we can help the villagers in some way, or take one of the local boats out to the barrier reef which surround the lagoon, to dive one of the passes.

Most islands are surrounded by coral reef, which often lie anything between a few hundred metres to ten nautical miles offshore. The reef forms a barrier and encompasses a lagoon of calmer, shallower water. Every now and then the barrier reef is broken by a deep water pass which allows the tide to rise and fall in the lagoon.

Jarrah on Great Astolabe Reef

Jarrah on Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Friend Di, diving on the Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Great Astolabe Reef

Justin on the Great Astrolabe Reef

Justin on the Great Astrolabe Reef

Justin and Khan. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Justin and Khan. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Jarrah sneaking a ride down into the blue with friend (adopted grandparent) Ken. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Jarrah sneaking a ride down into the blue with friend (adopted grandparent) Ken. Naigoro Pass. Kadavu

Justin resurfacing. Naigoro Pass, Kadavu

Justin resurfacing. Naigoro Pass, Kadavu

These passes are usually the best places to dive as they are deep and the water is clear.

On the Great Astrolabe Reef which surrounds most of Kadavu and extends for about twenty miles northward, the lagoon has numerous coral reefs with crystal clear water and heaps of fish.

The coral is magnificently coloured and varies enormously in shape and form. On a typical dive, besides the brightly coloured fish living amongst the coral, we often see reef sharks and turtles, and occasionally manta rays.

For the last couple of weeks we have been sailing with another yacht from Melbourne. Ken and Di aboard ‘Platinum IV’ have been sailing around the Sth West Pacific for a number of years and have heaps of diving experience.

Di in particular, being a former biology teacher and avid diver with decades of experience, is a wealth of information on the different types of coral and other marine life. She also loves showing Jarrah and Khan all the different animals that inhabit the reef and has them captivated by her explanations of how they feed and behave.

Ken is a mechanical engineer who can fix just about anything and still runs a consultancy business six months of the year.

After cruising the islands of Vanuatu and the Solomons for a number of years both Di and Ken have both found rewarding and useful ways to help the people on the outer islands.

Away from the major towns on the bigger islands, most villages have no roads or mains electricity. A trip to the capital to purchase supplies and any sort of machinery is a long ride in an open boat and a major expense which most people can only undertake rarely. Capital equipment like brush cutters, generators, outboard motors, boats, TVs, solar panels, batteries and the like are major outlays for a family, or even a village.

Unfortunately, these often break down and while many of the villagers have ingenious solutions to the problems they face, most have little experience in repairing machinery, few tools and little access to spare parts.

While sailing together with Ken and Di, we have spent a day or two in each of the villages we have visited, repairing various machines, fixing fibreglass boats and trouble-shooting problems with solar panels. Ken and Di carry lots of tools and spares which they have found are often not available in the villages.

Di has developed a real knowledge and skill in repairing sewing machines which are extremely useful to the women of the village but often lay idle because they are broken and nobody knows how to fix them. Most of the sewing machines are based on hand or pedal driven Singer machines and are often easily fixed by cleaning and lubricating the moving parts or adjusting the tensions on the cottons and bobbins. According to Ken and Di most of these hand driven machines are easily fixable especially if you have a few spare parts.

Ken also carries a supply of epoxy resin and fibreglass and basic electrical tools. Over the past couple of weeks we have helped him repaired a couple of boats, outboard motors, solar panel systems and even had a go at fixing a few TVs and DVD players.

Di working her magic - fixing one of many, many sewing machines as well as teaching the owner how to service and fix it in the future. Nambauwalu village, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Di working her magic – fixing one of many, many sewing machines as well as teaching the owner how to service and fix it in the future. Nambauwalu village, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Jarrah loved assisting and learning from Di. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Jarrah loved assisting and learning from Di. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Ken and Justin working on some wipper-snippers. Matasawalevu village, Kadavu.

Ken and Justin working on some wipper-snippers. Matasawalevu village, Kadavu.

Ken and his keen assistant Khan.

Ken and his keen assistant Khan.

After a day ashore or in the water we usually end the day with sundowners aboard one of the yachts or a kava drinking session in the village.

Sundowners on 'Lafiesta' L-R: Angelina, Di, Ken, Justin, Jarrah, Rachael, Khan and Natalie

Sundowners on ‘Lafiesta’ L-R: Angelina, Di, Ken, Justin, Jarrah, Rachael, Khan and Natalie

Sundowner with friends  Di and Ken and a wee bottle of rum. Nambauwalu Bay, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Sundowner with friends Di and Ken and a wee bottle of rum. Nambauwalu Bay, Ono, Great Astrolabe Reef.

Rachael and Khan preparing dinner.

Rachael and Khan preparing dinner, onboard.

We loved having our Melbourne friends Reima and Adrian come and visit us for about 10 days....and they really took to being cooking crew!

We loved having our Melbourne friends Reima and Adrian come and visit us for about 10 days….and they really took to being cooking crew!

Caution: A few sundowners sometimes leads to thinking it is funny to try on Di's 'Mother Hubbard' dresses!

Caution: A few sundowners sometimes leads to thinking it is funny to try on Di’s ‘Mother Hubbard’ dresses!

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The view from Tom and Kerry’s (a retired American couple now living on Kadavu) house, where we were generously invited over for a delicious dinner. Near Matasawalevu Bay, Kadavu.

One of many birthday celebration where we were spoilt by dear freinds from 'Platinum IV' and 'Lafiesta'. Vunisea, Kadavu.

One of many birthday celebration where we were spoilt by dear friends from ‘Platinum IV’ and ‘Lafiesta’. Vunisea, Kadavu.

Surprisingly for Fiji, the nights at the moment are fairly cool and we have been using a light dooner during the night – I suppose it is, after all, the middle of the winter.

Our plan at the moment is to try to leave Fiji to sail for the southern islands of Vanuatu in about mid-August. This will hopefully give us a couple of months exploring Vanuatu before sailing back to Australia.

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Khan always finds a cosy (?) spot for a snooze. On passage from Kavala Bay to Vunisea, Kadavu.

After a walk through the plantation village from Bavantu Harbour, we had an excellent view over the Bay of Islands, where we'd anchored over the past week.  Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau.

After a walk through the plantation village from Bavatu Harbour, we had an excellent view over the Bay of Islands, where we’d anchored over the past week. Vanuabalavu, Northern Lau.

On passage from Vanuabalavu to Suva - a nice place to sit...until a rogue wave drowned us both!

On passage from Vanuabalavu to Suva – a nice place to sit…until a rogue wave drowned us both!

After a 'big' food shop it seems we'll never find a place to store everything, but we always do.

After a ‘big’ food shop it seems we’ll never find a place to store everything, but we always do.

We gave Marc, from Dravuni village, a lift, as  we sailed 40 nm back to Suva to pick up our visiting friends Reima and Adrian.

We gave Mark, from Dravuni village, a lift, as we sailed 40 nm back to Suva to pick up our visiting friends Reima and Adrian.

Morning explorations by kayak and paddle board. Nambauwalu, Ono.

Morning explorations by kayak and paddle board. Nambauwalu, Ono.

Us! Fresh but still scruffy from a swim in a waterfall pool.  Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Us! Fresh but still scruffy from a swim in a waterfall pool. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

All water is precious.  Khan and Jarrah worked hard and proudly caught 10 litres from the sunshade.  Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

All water is precious. Khan and Jarrah worked hard and proudly caught 10 litres from the sunshade. Kavala Bay, Kadavu.

Farewelling  friends Reima and Adrian at the bustling Kavala Bay jetty - heading off on the Suva bound ferry.

Farewelling friends Reima and Adrian at the bustling Kavala Bay jetty – heading off on the Suva bound ferry.

Trying out stern lines by dingy at a close anchorage.  Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

Trying out stern lines by dingy at a close anchorage. Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

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Bay of Islands, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

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Anchorage at Bavatu Harbour, Vanuabalavu, Lau.

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Scrapping fresh coconut off the back of the boat, who needs coconut milk in a can?

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Hey I think our dingy is at max load. With Reima and Adrian. Nambauwalu, Ono.

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Beautiful colors on the reefs everywhere we go. Dravuni, the Great Astolabe Reef.

 

8 thoughts on “Justin – Kadavu, Fiji

  1. Just amazing will you ever be able to come back. I think its snowing outside and the temp is around 10C.
    Keep sending your blog I,m escaping with you
    Bill
    Maatsuyker

  2. Brilliant update, awesome to hear from you all. I cant believe you still have vegemite, how much did you take 🙂
    Terrific photos, and great stories, life sounds so simple. A drink and a clap and you are welcomed into the village, isnt that how life should be.
    Keep having fun, lots of love to you all, simes n franks xoxoxoxo

  3. So great to see your faces and photos! Glad you are really enjoying Fiji!! It sounds like you might not be able to go home! And….It looks like you made it to everywhere you were planning to go, that’s amazing!
    Keep enjoying it, Nelia, Josh and Claire

  4. Wonderful to hear of your fun times, and the tropics are soooo beautiful , how could I ever forget?? Your photos are amazing, and Jarrah and Khan are such water babies their futures will be changed for ever by all this wonderful existence. Continue to thrive up there where you’re so warm and happy, and we love to see the photos, thank you!

  5. I tried commenting earlier but it must have failed. Great story and pix. We went through the welcome ceremony at a village up river from Suva.Also went to Dravuni Is. We are also enjoying warmth (In Qld) for a couple of weeks and will cruise to NZ 14-29 Dec.

  6. Great to get your latest update, Justin and family. Your adventure is truly inspiring. It’s wonderful to read your accounts and witness the growth of your children and your family. Way better than school! All best for the next leg. Cheers, Ubaldino

  7. Hi Rachel,
    It is lovely to see your and your family having so much fun doing interesting things. The astrolabe reef seems to be a fascinating place.
    Lots of happy greetings from Andy (the penguin)

  8. Ahh, you are still living this beautiful life?! Had to check in to see how things were going. So many amazing memories in your bank! Unforgettable. So lovely to share a tiny slice with you for my memory bank:) Much love to you all. Go well in Vanuatu! And looking forward to seeing you back home safe n sound with many more tales to share. xo

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