Posts Tagged ‘Vuda Marina’

A Vacation

Friday, May 27th, 2016

We almost did not go. Adam (the Vuda Marina Manager) had some reservations about the trip. We had checked with him the week prior and he was enthusiastic; but now, as the time was upon us he began to waffle. We hope to leave tomorrow. He said he would still think about it. W/ was acting cruiser coordinator.  Six cruisers had committed to this and 5 already paid but we still didn’t have a final word. That evening 5 of us hung together during Happy Hour at the Boatshed and Adam was there. We thought if there was any issue he would stop by and let us know. The last thing W/ wanted to do was go knocking on boats the night before and say “it’s off”.  By the time Happy Hour was over Adam had not spoken with us. We thought we were in the clear.

30 minutes later Simon came a knocking on  our boat and said Adam wanted to talk to W/. Damn! W/ went to met Adam for a late con fab.  Returning to the boat later she was relieved and said the trip was still on. Simon is still our tour guide; but, as an independent agent and not as a representative of the marina. Ok… Whew!  No late night bad news for anyone!

At 8 am all of us were waiting for the van by the office. Simon, Niki, and Maria arrived all carrying coolers of food, drinks, and snacks.  I was still leery and wouldn’t yet swear we were going until we made the first turn out of the marina. The van arrived and we loaded up, ready to go. I held my breath and we began to move. A  couple of minutes later we made the first turn. Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in.. Breathe out! We are going.
Our itinerary was a rather ambitious one: Sand Dunes, two waterfalls, a swim on a notorious Fijian beach, shopping in Fiji’s capitol of Suva, the museum, tour through Fiji’s Salad Bowl farming area, and an evening in Simon’s village of Laselase. We knew everything would be too much to do in two days. Alas, we are cruisers and plans are made to be changed. No one in our group had any issues with changes.

Unstable Dunes, Fiji

Unstable Dunes, Fiji

Our first stop was Fiji’s only National Park and our ranger was…. Simon. Not our guide Simon but another Simon. He took us on a 45 minute expedition that lasted closer to 90. We crested the summit of a stable dune; we were at Sigatoka Dunes after all, and had a great view of the unstable dunes as well as the Pacific shore.  Here some of the earliest Fijians settled. Burial grounds have been uncovered by the moving dunes as well as large amounts of pottery. The pottery is made

Decending a Stable Dune

Descending a Stable Dune

from the the rich clay in the river valley. Greg; our cruising potter found some shards  and we ooo’ed and awww’ed over his descriptions of the firing and quality of the pieces. There are so many pottery shards there Simon had no issue with Greg keeping a piece as a souvenir.

Wendy checking out the raw Pandanus Flower

Wendy checking out the raw Pandanus Flower

From the sea shore we moved inland through an old growth Mahogany forest. Simon collected a Pandanus plant for us to take a whiff of. Pandanus is often used in Perfumes, scenting coconut oil, and spicing local food dishes.  While enjoying our walk in the shade under the canopy we came upon some of the tree huggers from ages past. College  students each year visit the park and assist in the maintenance and research of the forest. They like to create

Tree Huggers

Tree Huggers

these human formed tree hugging sculptures. Everyone loved the huggers.  A short distance beyond we returned and Simon; our tour guide, had cold drinks for us. A brief rest and we were again on our way.
Lunch was at a park along the Pacific shore. We were heading to Suva; Fiji’s capital,  on the Queens Highway.  We wound through the various villages, across rivers and

Picnic On the Pacific Shore - Fiji

Picnic On the Pacific Shore - Fiji

past many parks. For lunch we sat on benches and watched the birds fishing in the shallow waters of the bay.  With full stomachs we made our way to Suva where everyone wanted to see Baker’s shoes -those with the teeth marks. Baker was a missionary who tried to convert the local chief to Christianity. In Fiji  he found the path to heaven much sooner that he had expected and the legend is that the locals cooked him; who knows maybe spicing him with Pandanus 🙂 . Not having the luxury or curse of living in a western culture they didn’t realize his shoes were NOT part of him.  They cooked the shoes as well. Upon attempting to consume the shoes the Fijians found them to be for the most part inedible and after gnawing on them for a bit they gave just gave

Albert and the Residence's Guard

Albert and the Residence's Guard

up. The shoe soles survived; he didn’t. The shoes are now in the Museum which was our next stop, or so I thought.
We swung by the President’s residence for a brief visit and while he never made time for us we spent a few short minutes annoying the guard. He was as well trained as anywhere else in the world and never even flinched as we “checked him out” and shot a few photos. Albert wanted his picture taken too so we snapped it. Albert is the town “Head Man” for Simon’s village; Laselase, and we picked him up on the way into Suva for more local lore as well as some extra laughs. He has a deep throated voice and a conviction of the Fiji history that boarders on the absolute. We listened to his stories, asked a few questions and laughed a lot.
The museum’s exhibits were quite eye opening ranging from the islands natural history to the Fijian cultural history interspersed with art and archeological finds. We found the exhibit which included Bakers shoes but the lighting there was not the best. None of  us could identify teeth marks.  After we closed up  the museum we loaded into the van and headed back to Laselase where we were to have a lovo created dinner, a Kava ceremony, and discover our accommodations for the evening.

Our accommodations were at Simon’s Uncle’s home.  Our room for dinner and the Kava ceremony is more like what we might call a Great Room. More of the local history / family history was talked about while waiting to eat. Family members came and went, never knocking, but announcing their entrance much as I remember it in my neighborhood growing up. Mom would peek in the neighbors door and say “Hello” as she walked into the neighbors house  looking for a response so as to know which way to go.

Cooking Large Meals in Fiji

Cooking Large Meals in Fiji

That evening we met close to 40 people whose names I have no recollection of. All I can say is everyone was most welcoming and wanting to exchange information between our two cultures.  Fiji time; an hour or two later we began our lovo Dinner. All of it was prepared in a pit of super hot rocks covered with banana leaves, and topped with piece of corrugated Tin and earth.  The food was all prepared to perfection; nothing burned, and no one ended up hungry. There were a couple of types of fish, Chicken, Breadfruit, and salad.

After the meal the men gathered in the Great Room  and one of the elder teens brought a beautifully crafted bowl of hot water and a bag of finely cut Kava.  He dipped and squeezed, dipped and squeezed several times tasting every so often to make the mixture just… right. After the mixture was perfect Albert gave what appeared to be a standard Fiji welcome and described how the circular bowl shared by all in the group brought us to a common place –  all as family. The cup, dipped in the peppery  liquid was then dipped and passed, dipped and passed to each member in the room. While one could refuse to drink the Kava and from what they indicated it would be ok – none did; however as outsiders we were offered three different amounts in the coconut cup; high tide – a full cup, medium tide – half full cup, and low tide – just a wee bit in the bottom of the cup.  John being the eldest of the group; thankfully no one ever asked our ages, was offered the second coconut cup. Albert was the first to imbibe. John having done a few ceremonies before chose High Tide and thus set the president for the males in our cruiser group.  There is a clapping ritual that goes with the drink and maybe W/ will chime in here when she edits my post. (3 claps, followed by 2 and ending with three more claps) Everyone had some and because there was a great deal left the cup went around again. W/ this time abstained and I had one more medium tide and finally a low tide. The peppery drink is said to effect our emotional state creating a slightly euphoric feeling; but for me, mostly what I felt was a burning on the lips and a bitter, bitter taste in the mouth. Practically speaking I felt I was drinking warm dirty river water although in my years swimming rivers, and lakes I’ve never gotten a mouthful of warm water.

As the evening progressed and stories told, questions asked and answered we were assigned our sleeping quarters. As already mentioned they shared their home with us. W/ and I were lucky – I have no idea why but we received a mattress on the floor of one of the children’s rooms in which the only light was a blue bulb!  It had to be a teenager’s room. Greg and Danielle had a room next door to ours with a single bed. But John – the eldest, was given the bed and Greg and Danielle had the floor. The ceilings were not attached to the roof so everything said in one room was clearly understood in the next and with all 5 of us sleeping in close quarters snoring became our white noise.  The doors were framed with patterned sheets. Christina was given the great room and luckily she had more experience with the expected accommodations and had brought a backpack mattress and sleeping bag. Albert, Simon and the other men moved to the kitchen to enjoy more Kava. There they stayed up well past midnight sharing tales and adventures with each other.

By the am having slept at least 4 hours I was seeing light in the outside sky so I decided to take a shower. Often in tropical climes showers are not heated and here was no exception. I was completely awake by the time I finished and upon return to our room W/ was stirring .  Soon the entire group was up and discussing last evenings events and experiences. Before breakfast we had a tour of Simon’s village and everyone knew Simon, knew we were there and welcomed us all. The experience reminded me of small town America.

Back at Simon’s uncle’s we had Fijian pancakes, a folded over donut is the best way to describe it, bananas and lemon tea. I opted for water.  At 7 am our driver Joe was to arrive and already it was getting on to 9am when he appeared. Fiji time is about the same as latin time or as I like to call it … elastic time. Siga Na liga – Fijian for “No Worries”.  We hear that phrase often in Fiji.

Toga - Tonga Sign

Toga - Tonga Sign

First on the days adventure was to visit a Tongan fort. Notice the sign “Toga” . In Fijians pronounce it “Tonga”  but it is not spelled that way.  It was quite some distance up the mountain; overlooking the river valley; the salad bowl of Fiji. We again found more pottery shards and the community where the earliest Fijian settlers had lived.  Oddly enough, all the paths were strewn with clam shells. The river is full of tasty clams and the archeologist surmised that the clam shells were spread around the village so no one could sneak up on the residents and surprise them. A fascinating method to ensure safety.

Our Group with Fiji's salda bowl behind us

Our Group with Fiji's salad bowl behind us

From here we visited Sigatoka; one of the larger towns in Fiji and home of the winningest public soccer team; at least that is what were were told. W/ picked up fresh food in the market, I added data on our phone and the rest of the trip was a quick ride back to Vuda Marina. Again pronounced Vunda Marina. Tired, all of us went to our various homes; oops boats. We began again to schedule our projects so we might  be able to leave the marina some day and swing to the breeze!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Do the Shuffle

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Progress comes in small steps; especially when you are looking to splash.  We shipped boat gear from the states; way… back in March. I drove from our dirt dwelling down to Miami and after locating the Vanguard warehouse dropped 24 boxes; 450 lbs, worth of gear off to be sent to Fiji. We had weighed them and had the dimensions and each box was labeled. Our agent said the only thing we couldn’t ship were the flares. Odd; all ships are required to carry flares but to ship them; I guess,  is just too dangerous. Ok; we pulled out of the box of flares returned them to WestMarine.  This was almost two months ago.  Once I returned home  from the trip we received an email from Vanguard letting us know that before they could even move the material from Miami to LA and load it on the ship they needed the HazeMat forms filled out. We had sent all the MSDS sheets to our agent and thought we were good to go. Not!  The agent pointed us to some very sparse information on completing the Hazmat forms and we gave it the good ol’ US try. Filled them out and sent them in to have them returned to us as… incomplete.  Now at least we had the Hazmat contact for Vanguard and we called and talked to him. While he was picky as hell he was a tremendous help. We redid the sheets and sent them again, and again, and again. always needing fewer and fewer changes but still needing some. Finally, finally, he said it was correct; and we were good for the supplies to begin their move. If we ever need to ship more supplies to Fiji I would do my best to use Marine Warehouse as they deal world wide and know all the ins and outs of shipping all things boating. But, as we had some custom canvas work done and Marine Warehouse tries to avoid the  shipping others “goods” we elected to do this ourselves.

The ship was scheduled to arrive April 26th in Lautoka, Fiji. Our flight was to arrive in Nadi on the 28th and if things went to plan we would be in the water in less than 10 days.  That is; if things went well!  We arrived without incident (not sick with typical Airline colds)  and tired, checked the boat and happily the boat survived Winston. We un-packed and arranged to have our heavy work completed by Yuve Marine, we were ready to have our floating home back in the water. W/ called the agent in Fiji. The ship with our 24 boxes  is not yet here. She called the following day, they expected it next week!  The ship arrivd in Suva Monday, about 5 days late. Our stuff is in Suva and now we are told it will be in Lautoka Wednesday; “we’ll call you when it is ready to be picked up” they said. W/ calls everyday not wanting to slip off their radar. Wednesday, it’s not here, now we are told maybe Friday; if not Friday then Monday, they are shipping it by ground from Suva to Latoka. Finally;  our gear is in Fiji; bad news, we don’t have it yet and we are waiting for it to continue the work on the boat.  Finally…. Friday arrives, W/ calles and yes it’s here… “come and get it”.

We locate a taxi; and arrange transportation to Lautoka. Jackie on  s/v JeanMarie tells us we need a TIN number and we can apply for it at the post office. We head first to  Customs  at the post office where we fill out some forms and are told we now need to finish the process by heading over to the main Customs office 2 km away. We go there and have a great experience filling – finishing the forms, receive our stamped copy and head finally to the Pacific Agencies warehouse (our Agency – Agent) to pick up our gear.  After passing over more money we receive a piece of paper to give to the warehouse to collect our supplies. All smiles we head around the corner to the warehouse and wonder of wonders; our supplies are all there, stacked up nice and neat. I hand the employee our paper and he tells me we need Customs to release it. Smiling I pull our our TIN number and hand it to him and

24 Boxes Approx 500 lbs Made it to Fiji

24 Boxes Approx 500 lbs Made it to Fiji

he said they still need a customs agent to inspect and release the gear.  Dummy me, I would have thought when it first entered the country all boxes – crates – etc  would have been sniffed by dogs and inspected by God! But no, not here; in Fiji, they require the consignee to be present when it is inspected.  Ok, so we wait. Customs has been called; two others show up and now three of us are waiting for the Customs officer.

Finally, he shows up… a bit surly. I think we interrupted his tea. He inspects one box and we left an invoice in it, accidentally, and he now wants to know the value of all the goods. Really; what does it matter, it is all for a “Yacht in Transit”  and duty free but he is not happy we don’t have invoices for everything. Neither are we. He disappears for 10 minutes and returns telling us we need to go the the main Customs office at the docks.  OK, fortunately an agent from Pacific Agencies will met us there where we will meet with another Customs agent; we assume higher up. After locating the office and finding an agent he asks for our boat papers and our list of what is what. We tell him we need the material for the boat because of stuff that happened with Winston and getting the boat ready for sailing again. He is quite pleasant telling us that the laws have changed in the last two years and back then it would have cost us 200 $F but now Fiji has streamlined the process for us and there is NO more cost. Wonderful!  He stamps the paper for releasing the goods and said their computers were acting up; they would send a form to Vuda Point Marina for our signature when everything is working. For now; however, the goods are ours to take to the boat. Yippee!

Leaving he Cyclone Pit

Leaving he Cyclone Pit

We take two trips back to Vuda. The driver and I load up most of the supplies and we take off while W/ sits with the others chatting up the Customs agent and the warehouse men. Actually; she was able to

Ready for the next Step

Ready for the next Step

sway them to a more friendly attitude and when we returned to pick up the last load they were kind enough to load the rest without my help.

Yeah, our paint is here; we’re ready to begin!  The boat is moved out of the pit and now on stands. We are making progress, shuffling a bit but moving in the right direction.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long