Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fiji Part II (UPDATE; Video Installed!)

OK.  Back to the story....

They guys had been telling me that they had a surprise.  Finally, our last night in Malakati they decided to share with me their secret concoction.  As many of you know, Darryl and I have a strong fondness for Bubbly.  However, you can imagine that bubbly is difficult to come by in the middle of the South Pacific.  That is where they had an idea.  On board Beaujolais they have a carbonating machine.  This is primarily for making soda's and tonic for your sunset G & T's.  The guys decided to put it to good use and tried making bubbly out of an ordinary Sauvignon Blanc.  They declared it good.

So, there we were...We had already started on our second bottle of wine when they decided it was time again for Methode de Beaujolais.  Out came the Sauvignon Blanc and the carbonating bottle.  It is important in the carbonation process that there is enough liquid in the bottle.  Unfortunately, since we had already started drinking from the bottle of wine, it didn't fill up the carbonating bottle so we had to open another bottle - different winery - and create a blend.  Then they carbonated it and we had bubbly for sunset!  There is a video of this process but it didn't make it on to the flash drive I brought along so Darryl will have to post the video at a later date.  However, here are pictures of the sunset and of me drinking said bubbly.

The next morning we were up early and under way at 5:30.  We had a long passage to make down to the Malolo islands and the Musket Cove Yacht Club and Resort.  It was Wednesday and Janice was meeting us in Musket Cove on Thursday.  We had a beautiful motor sail down past several islands.  We were in the Lee most of the time and the winds died down to almost nothing.  We did see dolphins playing at one stage but otherwise very little else.

We arrived in Musket Cove around 4:00 in the afternoon.  You have to make sure that there is plenty of light when you are coming in as there are reefs and coral heads everywhere.  The navigational marks in Fiji are also not what we are used to in the US and Europe.  They are mostly simply posts sticking up out of the water somewhere near the reef.  Story has it that these marks used to be red and green.  That must have been some time ago.  Darryl was up on the bow doing coral watch and I was helping watch for marks.  Here are some pictures of the Malolo Islands was we were coming in.

The light green water above is a reef.

This looks like possibly a private residence on top of a small island.  Only access is via water.  How cool.

It took us a little while to find our reserved mooring ball.  The nice lady in the Musket Cove Marina office told us we were to be on mooring ball 24.  We circled the mooring field several times and there was no 24!  We called Sophie back on the radio and told her we were taking number 23.  Her reply "yes, no problem".  This is a common response!  

Once we were safely on the mooring ball, Roger went ashore to clear us in and secure our memberships to the Musket Cove Yacht Club.  Now, to be a member of this particular Yacht Club, you have to have sailed in from another country or be sailing out to another country.  You cannot just fly in and get a membership.  The membership is $2:00 for the skipper and $5.00 for crew and is for a lifetime.  We are now all Lifetime members of this noble group of sailors.

While Roger was ashore, Darryl and I cleaned ourselves up.  It was quite difficult to decide what to wear.  For the previous 4 days the hardest decision was which bathing suit to wear and did I have a matching t-shirt to put on when I had enough sun.  

This is the lounge of the restaurant at the resort.  The restaurant is Dick's Bistro.  Dick is the guy who built Musket Cove Resort and about 4 other resorts on Malolo Islands.  The legend has it that he first sailed to Malolo in the mid-60's and got a lease hold on the islands.  He built the resorts and made Musket Cove yacht friendly and they came.  The first Musket Cove Race Week was 27 years ago.  It really is a beautiful place.

Darryl at dinner.  The three of us had a wonderful dinner with 2 bottles of wine for about $100.00 US.  Restaurant bottles of wine were only about $20-$30.  Not bad.  Beers were $2.50 each.  Better than most bar prices in the US.  However, bear in mind that you don't get Budweiser.  The beer of choice in Fiji is Fiji Bitters.  They were also the key sponsors of the fun and frivolities to come.

This seemed to be the only cat on the island or the only one we saw.  He had a surly look on his face and was probably left behind by a cruiser.

The next day started out gorgeous again.  We decided to grab all of our laundry and go ashore.  We had seen laundry facilities the night before but were really hoping that we could find a local to do it for us rather than spend hours sitting next to a wash machine.  We were in luck.  We dropped our laundry off with a very nice lady and proceeded to breakfast.  Now, I mentioned earlier that breakfast there is not what we would expect here.  They had a breakfast buffet that actually had Heinz Baked Beans and Spaghettios!  We decided to order off the menu and had a nice breakfast.

After that, we went in search of information on how to catch the ferry on Saturday back to Nadi so that I could catch my flight home.  We went back to where we started and asked the lady doing our laundry who at this point was selling scuba and snorkeling trips.  They all do at least 3 jobs on the island.  She told us that we had to "go back that way to the white building".  Their directions are horrible!  We walked back the way we had come, past the restaurant to reception.  We asked about the ferries and were told, yes, no problem for the 4:00 PM ferry.  Be "there" at 3:30.  We asked where "there" was and were told at the ferry.  It started sounding like a Who's on First skit so we decided we would find the ferry on our own.  We asked if we were booked and she said "yes, no problem".  During this entire exchange, the woman had not stopped leaning on the wall or unfolded her arms.  Not a single thing was written down!

So, just to be sure, we went back and talked to Sophie at the marina office.  She told us to be at the ferry at 3:30 and there would be no problems.  We will see....

Finally we were back at the boat.  It was clean up time.  Janice was arriving later that afternoon and the boat was a mess.  We scrubbed and cleaned for about 2 hours and called it good.  It was time to explore the island some more and find a watering hole.

Who puts a sailboat in a swimming pool???  Actually it is a bar and quite a clever idea.  The pool is an infinity pool and looks like it is spilling straight into the bay.

Stanley had to check out the boat.

View of the marina from the beach.  When the tide is out, they bay in front of the resort empties out almost entirely.

We found the watering hole.  This is the Island Bar and is on a little spit of land right next to the dinghy dock.  How convenient.

Around 5:00 Roger went in search of Janice who was arriving by ferry.  They would be staying at the resort Thursday night and Friday night leaving Darryl and I on the boat.

Now, one of the features of the bar is that they have a large fire pit with grills for you to cook your own dinner.  You can go up to the little grocery store and buy a pre-packaged dinner with marinated meat, potato, and salad.  So off Darryl went to get our dinner.  What we didn't know was that you were supposed to order your dinner by 4:00!  They were able to accommodate us but we didn't eat until almost 7:30.  I was starved and devoured my meal like an animal.  They don't have anything sharper than a dull butter knife on the island so I picked up my lamb and ate it with my hands.  It was quite tasty. After dinner, we headed back to the boat and it was an early night.

Friday was a relaxed day.  We met up with Roger and Janice as they were finishing breakfast but we all pretty much went our separate ways during the day.  Darryl and I spent some quiet time on the boat, reading and relaxing.  The highlight of the day was to be the kick off party that night for the Race Week.

Janice had given me an early birthday present of an 80 minute Fijian Bobo massage.  It was truly the best massage I have ever had and left me feeling like a limp noodle.  I had just enough time to get dressed and meet Darryl at the bar.

He was talking to these 2 nice ladies.  Beth - if you are reading, the one on the left is the one he thinks looks like you only lighter hair!  Mike in the middle is from Livonia originally.  Of course, we had to show our knowledge of Michigan geography to show the others where Livonia is and where Traverse City is by holding up the hand.  Everyone from Michigan can find their city on the back of a hand.

I don't have pictures of the party but trust me it was a good one.  It started with free beer, wine and rum punch.  The marina folks came out and introduced the sponsors then there was a traditional Fiji dance.  After the dance, it was time for each country represented to come up and sing their National Anthem.  The link to the US contingent is directly below this paragraph.  After every country had their turn, including Slovenia who was a solo contributor, we were treated to a buffet feast including lamb, chicken, fish, salad, potatoes etc.  It was very good and very organized.  Still no sharp knives so the lamb was once again eaten with fingers!

Now to my last day. We were up early, trying to get the boat ready for the first race of the week. This was to be a quick race of only 4 miles, out through the reef to a mark set then back through the reef to the Sandbar that is only visible at low tide.

All the boats in the anchorage were dressing for the event. Tradition has it that you will fly the flag of
every country you have visited with your boat. Look at the number of flags on this boat! They had
obviously been around the world once or twice.

Roger and Janice were ready for pick up at 9:30.  We had less than an hour to secure the dinghy and get racing.  Start time was 11:00.  Remember - I have to catch a ferry at 4:00 that day and I am starting a race a mere 5 hours earlier!  I was a little nervous we would miss the ferry.

Roger had bought shirts for everyone in Tonga.  The girls wore blue and the guys wore what I will call a mud color.  They have Beaujolais on the front and South Pacific Cruise 2010 on the sleeve.  Very nice.

Janice driving and me watching.

The guys busy at work

Roger watches the spinnaker.

Good advertisement for Commend!

Me on the helm and controlling the spinnaker sheet.  No worries though, only 5 knots of breeze.

Finding an anchor spot.

This is the reef we were sailing through.  The gap in the reef was only about 500 yards wide with very shallow reef on either side.  We had wind that was off the nose (close haul for you nautical types) and were having to tack Beaujolais through the reef.  It took about 5 tacks to make it happen.  There were a few times that Roger was calling the tack at the last minute but it is his boat!  We finished the race under spinnaker.  Quite spectacular.

Now, the whole point of doing this particular race is to get to the sandbar.  The tents you see above are beer tents.  They had beer, wind and of course rum punch organized on the sandbar.  By the time we got there the party was in full swing.  They were just finishing the tug of war and were judging the Hairy Chest Contest.  Next was a Wet T-shirt Contest with T-shirts supplied by the race organizers.  Of course Janice and I had to participate.  There is something quite funny though about a wet t-shirt contest with a bunch of 40 and 50 year old women.  It was all good fun.  I don't have any pictures of that as we had downloaded pictures to the flash drive before going to the sandbar.

Roger taking a picture of Darryl taking a picture of the ladies.

Roger, Janice, me and Darryl.  Champagne after finishing the race.

Our next boat.

So, after the wet t-shirt contest, Janice and I went in search of a beautiful lady to pose with Stanley the State Farm Bear.  Those pics will also be later.  I then looked at my watch and saw that it was 2:30.  Darryl and I needed to be at the ferry at 3:30.  Off we went.  We got the launch back to the boat, pulled up anchor and hightailed it back to the mooring.  We had just enough time for me to rinse the salt water off and grab our bags.  Roger took us to the ferry where they asked where our tickets were!  It was now 3:35 and we had 25 minutes to sort this out.  Long story short, Darryl ran up to talk to Sophie, got our boarding cards and we were off.

It was a pleasant hour ferry ride back to Denaroux where I did some last minute shopping while Darryl got cash.  We got a taxi to Smugglers Resort and took much needed hot showers.  We went downstairs for dinner and realized how tired we were.  We couldn't go back up to the room for fear that we would fall asleep and I would miss my flight.  We went back up with just enough time for me to change into my travel clothes and off to the airport.  Darryl rode with me to the airport and then went back to the hotel.

My journeys were just beginning.  It was September 11 so security was a little tighter but no problems.  The flight was on time.  It was an 11 hour flight from Nadi to LA.  It left Nadi at 10:20 PM September 11 and arrived in LA at 1:40 PM September 11.  Yes, I had travelled back in time.  Once in LA it was one line after another for customs etc.  I finally made it through everything, found the American Airlines counter and checked in for my 12:40 AM flight.  Yes, you read that right.  It was now 2:30 and my flight didn't leave for another 10 hours!!!!!  I happily paid the $50 for the American Airlines Lounge.  Well worth it!  It was quiet, comfortable, and relaxing.  I was able to charge my phone, have snacks and beverages. There was a TV lounge and computers available.

I finally got home to Jacksonville at 11:15 on September 12.  Some 30 hours after I left Nadi.  It took me days to get over the jet lag but overall the trip was well worth it.

In the coming days I will be adding more pictures of Darryl's trip from Cook Islands to Fiji  but there will be very little narrative since I wasn't there!

With any luck they will have better internet in Vanuatu and he can add more then.

Stay tuned!


Buck said...

Fascinating... simply an excellent read! I'll admit I was slightly crestfallen that ya skipped the wet tee shirt contest pics. ;-)

Barco Sin Vela II said...

i haven't even seen those pics yet!

Ken n Cheryl said...

Sounds like you had a blast... and I love the picture of the sailboat in the swimming pool. Cool bar too! I bet you hated to leave.

Freely Living Life said...

Excellent read indeed! =0)

What a beautiful lifestyle!

Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing with us!