Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 55. A trip down a palm lined memory lane.

Queen`s Wharf. Lautoka.

If Samoa reminded us of our days in Georgetown, Guyana, then the country around Lautoka doubly reminds us of the year we taught in Covent Garden village on the banks of the Demerara River. Sugar: sugarcane fields, sugar refineries and a very Indian culture and population. ( Indentured workers were brought in from the same part of India to work in the both country`s sugar cane estates.)The smell of molasses is in the air, bits of cane litter the road edge as we walk into town down an avenue of royal palms. We are almost too welcomed by the shop people who are not getting much business since the recent violence associated with a coup has put off the tourist trade. It is too bad that we have so little to buy when they have so much to sell!

Lingam boarding party.

We phone Sammy`s brother, Lingam, and visit with him and his wife and family. They are both teachers, so we have much in common and invite them back for a visit on Shiriri. While we may find their life interesting, we tend to forget that this boating life of ours is pretty exotic to land folk too. When the day arrives for their supper visit I row ashore to Queen`s Wharf to pick up the whole family in Edith. I walk up to the army post guarding the wharf to tell them I am expecting visitors to come through the checkpoint. "Are they Fijian or Indian?"asks a big Fijian soldier; presumably for identification purposes. "They are Indian." I say, and then can`t help adding that from my foreigner`s point of view all the people who live here are Fijian. He smiles and replies that yes that is the way it should be too. What a tolerant man he is toward this opinionated recent arrival considering that the recent troubles had their roots in the fight for political power between the two ethnic groups.

After a few days we leave the blustery side of Queen`s Wharf and motor down the coast past mangroves and rolling hills of sugar cane to a channel blasted through the reef which leads to a sheltered circular pond called the Vunda Point Marina. Here David and Lisa take our stern lines as we drop anchor and back up to the concrete wall. We have fresh water in a hose at last so we wash off the many layers of salt Shiriri has accumulated. We do the same for ourselves in the hotel pool. We feel vaguely uneasy as we splash and lounge around. We are unaccustomed to leisure. That feeling does not last for long as this is an opportunity to wash all our salty clothes and bedding and to touch up our paint and brightwork. Lingham and his family come for tea one day to say goodby and I take him and his son out for a sail in Edith. It is now the middle of September so even though we have barely touched what Fiji has to teach us it is time to make one more hop closer to our next destination: New Caledonia.

High in the rigging, I can hear the splash of the waves and the deep roar of the wind in the rigging. I can see Shiriri below me splashing swiftly through the waves and the shallow patches of the reefs.

Musket Cove.
Far across the bay from Lautoka is a little island( Malolo) that we have read about in cruising books and the resort of Musket Cove. It is the departure point for many yachts bound onwards to New Zealand or to Australia via Vanuatu or New Caledonia. Shiriri dodges among the reefs (she says she can do this on her own by now but I still insist on keeping an eye on things from high in the rigging. I like it up there.) After a few peaceful days in Vunda Point we now have twenty knots of wind that creates whitecaps on the windward side of the island and white foam on the reefs. Even in the shelter of the anchorage we struggle to row Edith back and forth to shore in the choppy waves. The grassy uplands and palms all toss and rustle in the wind that is headed still further west on a path we must travel very soon.

Musket Cove.

We meet Moonlighter here as they prepare for their crossing to New Zealand and we bake a cake for Jim`s birthday BBQ on shore. We visit with a South African yacht called Aragon who we first met in Tahiti and who like us and Francis are New Caledonia bound.

From the Journal:
Sept.21st. The forecast sounded ok this morning. A big high with 20 knots to start. We did n`t like the idea of strong winds and lumpy seas but thought this was as good as we were going to get. We wended our way north along the beaconed channel and then out to the wide channel between inshore and offshore reefs. We angled over toward the breakers and found a gap. Went over a shallow patch and then out past the surf and into a confused sea.

Here we go again. By nightfall Fiji`s blue mountains have disappeared astern.

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