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Back from the Lau Group

August 23, 2014

We are anchored at the north end of Taveuni Island (lat 16 41.5S long 179 53.8W) after returning from a 5-week romp through the remote Lau Group which lies 200 miles east of Suva and the main Fijian island of Viti Levu.

Our trip to Lau started the day after Sandie returned from a quick trip back to the States. We took advantage of very light conditions and motor-sailed the 190 nm directly into the trade winds arriving at the magical island of Fulaga (lat 19 09S long 178 34W) the following afternoon. Fulaga was our favorite island on our previous trip with its clusters of mushroom-shaped islets in a protected lagoon surrounded by a barrier reef. Unlike our last visit when we were the only boat, we were met by a dozen cruising yachts eager to see the now highly touted “must-see” island.

We arrived at the same time as our friends on Bravo and went ashore together to do our sevusevu ceremony. In route we encountered a brief but heavy downpour and sought shelter in the overhang of a mushroom islet. We performed our sevusevu formalities with the chief and his headman before breaking out the computer to show them pictures from our visit 25 years earlier. It was great fun trying to match names with the much younger faces.

Fulagans recognize the benefits of attracting yachties to their island and have formalized certain activities under the direction of their “PR” man Tae. We were assigned George and Ma as our host family that looked after us during our entire stay. We became fast friends with them and their children Junior and Kai. George is a school teacher and lives in government housing on the school compound. We often shared meals at their house or on the boat and spent several evenings at their house drinking kava before stumbling across the island at night to find the dinghy and our way out to the boat.

The village is known for its wood carvings and the carvers sit around socializing while using crude adzes to create beautiful kava bowls, dishes, and sculptures. The women similarly get together to do weaving while joking and laughing like school girls. Every Monday and Wednesday they hold weaving classes where Sandie tried her hand at mat making with moderate success.

We were led by Akwila to the Cave of Skulls where a small cavern in a cliff face is filled with human bones that no one seems to know anything about; possibly leftovers from the cannibal days? The view from the top of the cliff looked down on the lagoon with its many islets.

The village threw a feast for the yachties that included kava, singing, kava, dancing, kava, skits, kava, gift giving, kava, and great food. Each crew was joined by their host family and everyone had a wonderful time.

We spent a good deal of time with the other yachties meeting new friends and catching up with old ones while sharing meals and sundowners. A highlight was dive excursions to the lagoon pass and the outer wall of the reef. All of the yachties were engaged in projects to help the village such as replacing the radio antenna at the medical clinic, fixing an outboard motor, giving eye exams, assisting the nurse with medical examinations, and helping with the fishing. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from this paradise and continue north to the other Lau islands.

We stopped at the Yagasaw Cluster and Oneata Island on our way to Vuanu Balavu (lat 17 12S long 178 58W) at the northern end of the Lau Group. Along the way we met Ed and Nila on Quixotic whom play bridge and we buddy-boated with them for the next two weeks while enjoying daily card games. Incredibly our cumulative scores were only 30 points apart, a victory for everyone.

Vanua Balavu is known for its Bay of Islands consisting of many small islets with steep sides that provide secluded single-boat anchorages. The electronic charts are off by about a half mile which makes navigation a challenge so we always had a lookout posted on the bow to watch for coral heads. We hiked to the top of a ridge with a stunning view of the Bay.

We finally decided that it was time to head toward Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu where we can extend our visas for another four months. Our sail to Taveuni was delightful; we caught an ahi and a mahi mahi and were visited by two pods of pilot whales that stuck their heads out vertically to watch us pass by. We love Fiji so much that we are considering staying here for cyclone season, but cruising plans are always drawn in the sand at low tide…

Seeking shelter from the rain under a mushroom islet

Seeking shelter from the rain under a mushroom islet

Looking at pictures from our last trip

Looking at pictures from our last trip

Dinner at Ma and George's house

Dinner at Ma and George’s house

George mixes up a wicked batch of kava

George mixes up a wicked batch of kava

George and family enjoy dinner aboard Persephone

George and family enjoy dinner aboard Persephone

Tae tries out Adam's mini electric guitar

Tae tries out Adam’s mini electric guitar

Matai in 1988 and in 2014

Matai in 1988 and in 2014

Akwila in the Cave of Sculls

Akwila in the Cave of Sculls

View of Fulaga from above the Cave of Skulls

View of Fulaga from above the Cave of Skulls

Sandie attends weaving class with other yachties

Sandie attends weaving class with other yachties

Junior REALLY enjoyed learning to drive the dinghy

Junior REALLY enjoyed learning to drive the dinghy

Saturday's fish catch for Sunday's meals

Saturday’s fish catch for Sunday’s meals

Joe finds his groove calling the villagers to church

Joe finds his groove calling the villagers to church

Yachties assemble for the feast in their honor

Yachties assemble for the feast in their honor

School kids being dismissed for the day

School kids being dismissed for the day

Wood carvers plying their trade

Wood carvers plying their trade

Sandie learns from Ma how to make roti

Sandie learns from Ma how to make roti

Beautiful gifts from Ma & George

Beautiful gifts from Ma & George

Brian takes a turn pounding kava

Brian takes a turn pounding kava

Sandie and Bob (s/v Charisma) outside the reef at Fulaga

Sandie and Bob (s/v Charisma) outside the reef at Fulaga

Turtle outside the reef at Fulaga

Turtle outside the reef at Fulaga

Oneata woman makes a large wedding tapa

Oneata woman makes a large wedding tapa

Large clam in the Oneata pass

Large clam in the Oneata pass

Mahi mahi catch on trip from Oneata to Vanua Balavu

Mahi mahi catch on trip from Oneata to Vanua Balavu

Ground transportation to Lomaloma, Vanua Balavu

Ground transportation to Lomaloma, Vanua Balavu

Fruit bat in Vanua Balavu

Fruit bat in Vanua Balavu

Poisonous sea snake on the mud flats

Poisonous sea snake on the mud flats

Working our way through the maze of islets in the Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu

Working our way through the maze of islets in the Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu

Ridge view at Vanua Balavu

Ridge view at Vanua Balavu

Sailing inside the reef at Vanua Balavu

Sailing inside the reef at Vanua Balavu

Bay of Islands as seen from the ridge

Bay of Islands as seen from the ridge

Diving the pass at Vanua Balavu

Diving the pass at Vanua Balavu

Diving the pass at Vanua Balavu

Diving the pass at Vanua Balavu

Bay of Islands diving

Bay of Islands diving

Bay of Islands diving

Bay of Islands diving

Bay of Islands diving

Bay of Islands diving

From → Travel

One Comment
  1. Carolyn McDonald permalink

    i contine to be wowedby the beuatiful picture, lovely people and the amazing talents they have!

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