Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nanuya Sewa (Yasawa group, Fiji)

[Kyle]As we were pulling up our anchor in Sawa-i-Lau, a floatplane came in and landed (cool!). Dinghies then rushed over from the charter cats, loaded with guests. They then loaded the plane full and took off for a scenic tour, landing again just before we were around the corner. I have to say I was not impressed with the airmanship of the pilot. He had an airplane that can step taxi at forty knots and a couple of miles of potential sea room, yet he chose to start a takeoff in a heavily loaded seaplane just downwind of the anchored boats.

Kyle was excited seeing the sea planes, and a bit surprised by how close they seemed to get to the boats.

Seaplanes, particularly heavy ones, are much harder to takeoff than to land, particularly because breaking the floats free of the drag of the water takes all of the power the engine can produce (I have Commercial single and multi-engine seaplane ratings). This guy finally broke ground just before the boats and actually had to weave his way between the masts as he accelerated to climbing speed. That kind of behavior may be thrilling for his hung-over passengers, but it is just a matter of time before he will end up crashing. Now I was double glad we had anchored where we did.

Anyway, the sail was a nice, fast reach and before noon we were dropping anchor at Nanuya Sewa, just off of the resort. We are definitely heading more and more into the touristy areas.

Oh, boy, resorts!

At Nanuya Sewa, we anchored next to eight other boats. By nightfall, the number had grown to eighteen. Anchoring is less about finding the right depths/protection, and more about finding space between the other boats that isn’t miles from shore.

When we got there, a big power boat saw us searching and told us he was leaving in a few minutes. That gave us the freedom to anchor without the usual buffer of space between us and them. When all of the other boats arrived, we found ourselves in the front row, closest to shore.

We rowed to the resort, where we were met with several signs delineating exactly where we were and where we were not permitted. Mostly we were not, although anyone with a cash register was within limits.

From the resort we could walk across the island

This place definitely has a different vibe than we have been seeing before. Ferries and tour boats are constantly zipping around, all of them going way over the five knot speed limit. There also seems to be twice daily seaplane service and I saw one helicopter also arrive and depart.

Our tourist thing for the day was to take the trail to the other side of the island to the tea shop, where we would be able to sit and look at the beach while drinking tea. We would have gone anyway, but it was nice to know we would have an enforced stop in the middle.

When we arrived at the village there, we were told the tea shop was closed because they were having a groundbreaking ceremony for the new village hall, with which the tea shop owner was involved. We decided to have a look around anyway, since we were there.

About ten steps later, I spotted a young couple sitting at a table eating lunch. Maybe it’s not closed. We asked if it was possible to have a little something. “Sure!”, they said.

It wasn’t until later that we realized we were not in the tea shop, but at a backpacker’s accommodation and the tables were their common eating area. They made us a big fish curry that ended up filling us up for both lunch and dinner.

Freshly fueled, we did some exploring and located the closed tea shop way on the opposite side of the village. Since we had plenty of time and energy, I convinced Maryanne to take a trail that angled off from the one on which we had come. It led us down through the mangroves and eventually crossed the island diagonally.

We emerged at a beach resort that was peppered with signs saying that we were not welcome when their boat was there, barely welcome when it was gone. The area is owned by a tour company who brings passengers out for an afternoon of tightly organized fun every couple of days or so. They had just left, so we were permitted to walk along the beach back to our dinghy. On the way back, we noticed Muse anchored as well as Pirluoit and Duplicat. The last two we hadn’t seen since our first trip through the South Pacific in 2017. Dreis (he’s Belgian) from Pirlouit was the guy who taught us how to properly crack open a coconut using the back of a machete blade. We also met Justin and Linda, who had just made their first long passage from New Zealand on their newly acquired Fountaine Pajot. They saw ours and decided to come over and compare notes. We, of course, told them it was a laugh a minute. They were impressed that Begonia has sailed as far as she has with our only real wear and tear issues being cosmetic.

We also met a woman on the beach called Lai. We were looking at her sandwich board of possible tours. We had already done most of them, since most were boat related. As we were saying goodbye, she asked if we would be interested in a lovo. Why, yes we would!

A lovo is an in-ground oven of heated stones covered with leaves and dirt/sand. The noun has also become used for the feast that is cooked in a lovo. She offered us a good price that probably wouldn’t get us appetizers in the resort. The only catch was that, because it was a big effort on her part, she wanted at least six people to come. We told her we’d spread the word and hope for the best.

Our first Fijian Lovo

We managed to find four others who definitely wanted to go, plus a few other maybes. By the morning cut-off time, Lai texted us to say the lovo was on. Coincidentally, a boat from the resort was going around offering a traditional feast for only $99 each. Uh, no thanks. Theirs did include dancing, though, which we could sort of see from the boat. It lasted about fifteen minutes.

The lovo coincided perfectly with the end of Happy Hour at the resort (which really was only one hour). We ducked around the fence at the beach and arrived just in time to see Lai and her husband opening up the lovo and putting its many layers into baskets made of coconut fronds. Then they laid out a feast before us. There was fish, of course, but also chicken, potatoes and a bunch of other steaming yummies. In addition, they had a few different salads to pick from. It turned out to be more food than we could eat.

In the end, there turned out to be seventeen adults and eight children at the lovo. We all sat on makeshift seats and upturned buckets, eating our lovo in Lai’s back yard by the light of our headlamps. The crowd was very pleased. The consensus was that, while not as upscale, we were all having a much more authentic Fiji experience than the rubes next door. We were all very grateful to Lai for going to all of that trouble for us and she was very thankful to all of us for coming.

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