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We anchored at the Royal Suva Yacht Club just outside of town for $20 a week (about $14 U.S.) and took advantage of the facilities: mail, dinghy pier, showers, trash, Friday night barbecues, inexpensive sodas (60 cents Fiji for 16 oz Coke which came to about 40 cents U. S.) and meals. We also had the companionship of lots of cruisers we met in Samoa and Tonga as well as several new ones we met there in Suva.
Suva was all everyone said it was, a great place to work on our boat, and we sure did. We found a boatyard and had a mizzen mast and main boom built for $500 less than we expected. We bought a new battery and another solar panel for less than stateside. Bob took care of little problems and there was always some place that sold just the part we needed. We sampled the local foods and shopped for souvenirs. We even went to the local theater and saw "Presumed Innocent" at, are you sitting down?, $1.60 Fiji each, or $1.10 U.S.—and these were the best seats in the house, the others were $1.40 Fiji! Back in the 1800’s, when Fiji was part of the British Empire, indentured servants were brought over here from another part of the empire, India, to work the sugar cane fields. After that was discontinued, most of the Indians opted to stay and today they make up most of the population. So it’s fascinating to see all the ladies in saris and other Indian garb shopping downtown. While we were in Suva, three holidays were celebrated: Fiji Day (Independence Day), Mohammad’s Birthday for all the Moslems, and Diwali Day (Hindu New Year’s). Really international.
The only drawback about Suva was the weather. It rained almost all the time. We had very few days when we saw the sun, and almost never saw the moon. It was quite depressing, especially since we had to stay there seven weeks to get things done. When the weather did clear, we managed to take a cab to a local park with hiking trails, water falls and crystal clear mountain pools and picnic tables set in a tropical rain-forest. We hiked and picnicked and swam and Bob and Lara, a 10 year old daughter of one of the yachties, swung across one of the pools on a rope before falling into the water. Another time we visited the museum, tried kava Fiji-style (supposedly a bit stronger than Tonga), toured a cultural center, saw Fijian dancing, visited with the sister-in-law of the Fijian teacher I worked with in Samoa, shopped in the huge farmers market. But mostly we sat on the boat and or at the yacht club hearing how beautiful Fiji is from all those people who had managed to leave Suva to explore the outer islands, especially the western section where we were heading. We could hardly wait to get away.
And then we did and what a wonderful experience! The sun was shining the day we left and when we looked back at Suva there was a dark cloud over it! Our first stop was Beqa (pronounced Mbenga). a small island 35 miles away with a barrier reef surrounding it. I had promised I’d visit Arieta’s father as well as her sister-in-law, and he is a Tui (chief) of three of the villages there. Well, he wasn’t there, had just left for Suva the day before, but we still had a good time. We presented kava root to a chief in one village (as kind of a courtesy "gift," some call it a bribe), to get permission for anchoring outside the village and being able to visit it (one of the customs here). We bought the kava at the market in Suva ($16 kilo Fiji but you dole it out in ¼ kilo bundles for chiefs). One family befriended us and invited us to their house for dinner. Their fifteen-year-old son, Moses, was our guide to the village where Arieta’s father lived (not a secure anchorage like the one at Moses village), and we invited him on the boat for an "American lunch" (hot dogs, relish, baked beans, cornbread, lemonade, and chocolate cake), later having a Fiji dinner at his house made of pulusami (fish, onions, and spices wrapped and baked in taro leaves), sweet potato and cassava from their farm. We all exchanged gifts, vegetables from their farm for a bottle of Joy, cleanser, matches and oil from our boat’s provisions.
We were there two days and left (still sunny and lovely and a dark cloud still hanging over Suva!) to an overnight stop in a bay by the Fijian Resort Hotel that charges hotel guests $250 a night with meals extra. We planned to leave the next day, but the winds came out of the west, the direction we planned to go, and it was so nice that we stayed an extra day. In the morning we left for Malolo Lailai.
We are anchored in front of the Musket Cove Resort on the island of Malolo Lailai in Fiji. What a lovely place! Low island. palm tree lined, white sandy beaches, emerald green waters shading to yellow as it shallows near the beach, soft breezes, sunny skies, lovely sunsets. Sounds like a travel brochure, doesn’t it? Well, it is. AND no mosquitoes—or at least they haven’t found me yet. So far we haven’t needed the mosquito net in the evenings, and I haven’t been bitten during the day. Heaven!
We came Monday afternoon and plan to stay for a week or two. The owner of the resort is an ex-yachty so he understands what it’s like to find a friendly place to anchor. To that end, he has opened his vacation spot to boaters and has given them special benefits. For a "lifetime membership" of $1 for the captain, and $5 for each crew member, he makes all of his services available-pool. showers, dinghy pier, wind surfers, etc.—and his special Thursday pig roast buffet that costs his hotel guests $20 apiece is only $12 for yachties. We plan to go tonight. Every six weeks he has a cocktail party at his house on a hill above the resort. He had one Tuesday evening and invitations were motored out to each of the boats in the harbor (about 10 of us). We thought this was a bit unusual, but when we arrived we discovered he had also invited all of his hotel guests! Ever hear of anything like that? He had quite a group in his lovely home and we enjoyed each other’s company almost as much as we enjoyed looking at his vast shell collection.
We plan to stay here at Musket Cove for another week or two (and enjoy the sunshine—no rain since we left Suva!), then head north to get out of the area during hurricane season. We’ll stop at Funifuti in Tuvalu Islands, then Tarawa in Kiribati Islands, then Kosrae, Pohnpei, Truk and then on to Guam by March. The next place we’ll get our mail will probably be Tarawa sometime in December. So it will be just Christmas cards this year. The goodies we bought for everyone won’t be mailed until we get to Guam because of the expense of postage in so many parts of the Pacific. Guam will have U.S. postage as in Samoa. We’ll be able to give you a local address when we get there so you can write direct. Until then. continue to use the Seattle address.
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