June 16, 2012

Savu-Savu, Fiji

We arrived in Savu-Savu early Wednesday the 30th of may after a nice 3 day sail from Tonga. The clearing in process is straight forward in Fiji, you must send advance notice via internet at least 48 hours before you arrive and then call customs when you make port.

There were several other boats making port along with us that morning Sara Jean 2 and Merkava were two that we had met last season and were part of a group that sailed together from New Zealand this season. Needless to say it took most the day for the officials to get everyone cleared in and by 2:00 the last of the 5 officials left our boat and we were free to go ashore.

Savu-Savu is one of the few ports on the north island that you can moor a boat in but anchorage is difficult due to the average depth of over 80 feet. While we were there one boat broke loose of her mooring and it was amazing to see all the cruisers come to her rescue. The following evening the owners invited everyone who helped save their boat for a nice dinner.

The little town has over 20 restaurants that serve pretty decent food. The Indian influence is present and curries and eastern spices are in most foods. The first thing you notice is how inexpensive it is to eat here compared to New Zealand! A decent meal is under $8 US dollars.

The first night in town we had dinner with several of the boats that arrived with us and it was fun to hear everyone tell the stories of their passage from New Zealand.

The next day Daria and I did a dive close to the marina with Mark from Merkava which was a pretty terrible but we did see our first Toyota on that dive!
Later we took SD (Super Dink) out to Jan Cousteau's Resort and took a tour of the resort and had a ice cream and coffee. Then we went to the Marine Reserve which was also a disappointing dive since all the coral was wiped out by the last typhoon and the invasion of The Crown Of Thorns which devours all coral in its path.

Friday night we had the second poker night of the season aboard Downtime and met a few new boats that came to play. Daria was playing well and just about won, but settled for second in the end.

While we were walking through town Sammy the guy who polished Downtime last year found us and the next day he and his friend spent the day polishing. Work here is hard to find and wages for laborers are low staring at $3 Fiji ($1.70 US) per hour. Sammy was getting the skilled labor rate of $8/hr so he was very happy to have the work.

We decided diving in this area was a thing of the past and the next day we rented a scooter for a land based adventure. We must have been the first to ride a scooter this far since everyone at Buca Bay were amazed that we made it that far.. Riding the first 20 kilometers was on paved roads and then it was all dirt and gravel from there out. Fiji is in the process with the funding from China of extending the paved road another 20 k and construction is due to be completed by 2014. We felt like celebrities as we rode along as literally everyone waved and yelled out "Bula!" meaning hello. This is the friendliest place we have ever visited and everyone seemed so happy to just be alive.

We had been riding 3 hours when we came across a small food stand was set up along the road. I bought a roti, chocolate cake and a drink for 3 Fiji dollars ($1.80 US) for a nice lunch. An hour later at the end of the road is a mission run by the 7th day Adventists that provides free medical care for the islanders who recruit doctors to volunteer at the hospital.

 The property itself is just short of amazing with acres of manicured gardens and well maintained lawns. There are several homes for the doctors to stay in and down near the bay is a swimming pool and cafeteria where the daily meals are served. Daria had a nice fish lunch at the mission store for $5 (2.75 US) and then we headed for home

At this point we had been riding scooter for over 5 hours and we had not passed a single gas station. We were about a third of the way back when the fuel tank chose to be 100% full of AIR!!! Here we were still 30 kilometers from town on a one lane dirt road in the middle of a jungle on an island in Fiji with only three hours of sunlight left. We had not been stopped more than five minutes when a bus went by (the wrong way though) so at least we knew we could ride the bus back to town. Then luckily a guy in a pickup drove over the hill and Daria gets him to stop in her short shorts and he offered to give us a ride back to town after he dropped of some parts 5 minutes up the road. Sure enough he was back in 10 minutes and we loaded the scooter in the back and he drove us to within 3 miles of town where I hired a cab to take me to the gas station to get a Pepsi bottle full of gas, enough to get us home. What and adventure!!

We passed several villages on this adventure and a few things we noticed is that not one house had power or a satellite dish on the roof and there are very few cars parked in front of he houses. Life is simple here and if people need to go to town they pay $2 to get on the 4 hour open window bus adventure that rumbles down the bumpy road to town 3 times a day.

We stayed in Savu-Savu for a week waiting for he weather to let us sail east to Viani Bay. Finally on Tuesday we had a good forecast and cleared out. We did our provisioning and had everything loaded when I discovered I could not find my passport! Thinking back to last place we saw it Daria remembered we used it at the vodafone store for ID and must have left it there over a week ago! I hurried to shore and sure enough the girl that helped me had saved it for me! Why she didn't call me on the phone we just bought is still a mystery!! While we were there we felt very safe and enjoyed the local friendliness. Crime here is very rare in this small town and like most places is only found in the big cities.

Our next destination will be to Viani Bay where we hope to do some diving on Rainbow Reef.

Peace! Pete & Daria

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