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Bula Vinaka!

I’m sitting on Bravo anchored in Savusavu, Fiji. We just completed our 5-day passage from Tonga. We are tied to a mooring ball surrounded by unknown boats. A shallow field of sharp rocks sits 50 feet from our stern and I pray to all that is holy that this ball holds. We’ve broken away from the Wolfpack; Tioga is the only boat that sailed with us from Tonga, their blue hull a friendly sight amidst strangers, and their massive Fiji courtesy flag a reminder of where we are now. It’s a massive flag by any standard. More of a futon cover than a flag.

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Fiji pride aboard Tioga
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Sunset at Waitui marina

 

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Waitui Marina, Savusavu

A new surrounding beckons new exploration and the smorgasbord that is Fiji awaits. I made peace a while back that we were not going to see all there is to see, but as we sit here planning our next steps I am overcome by serious FOMO. There are over 333 islands and a further 500 smaller islets covering an enormous 1.3 million square kilometers. More hidden gems than we can get to. More dive sites than our emptying wallet can handle. This island nation is significantly larger than I had expected. The Lau group promises pristine anchorages if we choose to backtrack; Vuda Marina is waiting for us for a maintenance haul out; there is fun to be had at the Musket Cove Regatta, and the renowned surf spot of Cloudbreak is around the corner. Taveuni makes promises of lush vegetation and hiking, and is the base of the Rainbow Reef dive. At Beqa lagoon, we could dive with bull sharks. Every major city offers a bounty of fruits, vegetables and Indo-Fijian cuisine. I could spend an entire season here.

First though, I need to learn the idiosyncrasies of Fijian English. C is pronounced th, q = ng, b = mb, d = nd, g = ng; so Vuda is pronounced Vunda and somehow Caqalai turns into Thangalai. Savusavu is a place, sevusevu a ceremony, bula is hello, vinaka means thank you, moce is good bye, and everything is delivered with a show-all-of-your-pearly-whites smile.

 

First though, I need to learn the idiosyncrasies of Fijian English. C is pronounced th, q = ng, b = mb, d = nd, g = ng; so Vuda is pronounced Vunda and somehow Caqalai turns into Thangalai. Savusavu is a place, sevusevu a ceremony, bula is hello, vinaka means thank you, moce is good bye, and everything is delivered with a show-all-of-your-pearly-whites smile.

Lambasa, Fiji

We stop at a simple restaurant for a cheap lunch and after recovering from our MSG induced coma, we head back to Savusavu. In route, we stop by a rainforest reserve but it’s closed. A few miles later, $20 a piece allows us to take a 15-minute hike to a waterfall. Every natural attraction in Fiji seems to be privately owned and we must pay our dues to visit. My friend and I don the most conservative clothing we can muster – in my case a long sleeve shirt and a sulu to cover up my hedonistic shoulders to ankles. Remote villages are very conservative and we quickly learn that even in the main towns the sailors’ uniform of shorts and a tank top are frowned upon. Soon enough sulu’s become a part of our day bag, even for the boys.

Back at Savusavu, we meet with the local legend, Curley, a salty sailor who has been in Fiji for over 30 years. His quintessential “Goooooood morning Saaavusaaavu” on the 8 am net, (which he leads) is an unmistakable greeting to anyone who has heard it. An hour session leaves us with a pamphlet of waypoints to navigate the treacherous reefs that surround the main islands, and some advice on where to travel to next.

We visit the local market and are greeted by a punch of color. Eggplants, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, pineapples, papayas, watermelon, farm fresh eggs. I haven’t seen anything like this since Mexico.

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I don’t know if it’s the super sweet papayas or how much Bula sounds like Hola, but I totally feel at home.

Vinaka vakalevu!

Until next time, Bravo out.