Mélanie and I took off from Dakuniba on a Saturday morning with light southerly winds. We’d delayed our departure by a couple of days while we waited for a trough of low pressure to pass. These lows are the price of sticking around during cyclone season. They’re filled with lots of rain and lightning, but so far haven’t been packing much wind. At least the water tanks are staying full.
We took the small boat pass out of Dakuniba towards Viani Bay and transited without problems. Our destination was Matei on Taveuni. The big northerly swell that we found once we rounded the eastern tip of Vanua Levu made us rethink our plans. So instead we scouted out the potential hurricane hole up Naqaiqai Creek and then settled into Buca Bay for the evening.
I’m sure that the village in Buca Bay would have been worth a visit, but the rumble of busses and trucks on the road turned us off. We didn’t even launch the skiff. Instead we got underway the next day and had a great sail north to Albert Cove on Rabi Island.
Riki and I visited Albert Cove last year and had an excellent time with Panea, Terry and Mariana. I was looking forward too seeing everyone again. I was surprised to an entirely new population to Albert Cove. I went to Panea’s house and found Keke sitting there. He lives on the other side of the island in Samale Bay. We’d met last year and we sat down and started catching up. Terry and Mariana were in the village for Christmas. No surprise there, but then Keke told us that Panea, at the age of 74, had gotten married and had a new born! He was still in his new bride’s village. Panea’s new brother-in-law, Peter, and family was staying in the house.
I brought in a couple hundred grams of kava, but that only filled two tanoas. They didn’t have any way to pound the kava at Albert Cove, so they made it up green instead. Basically you boil a bunch of newly harvested kava root. Once it’s nice and soft, you pour off the water and then pound that in a bowl with a piece of wood. With dry kava you normally pound it in a steel container with a long steel rod. Once the green kava was pounded, water was poured in until in formed a thick slurry. The slurry was then put in a cloth and water poured over it to create the final mix. The resulting drink was too strong for Mélanie and myself. We politely excused ourselves after two bilos and went back to the boat.
The next morning I noticed the overly ripe smell wafting down from the bananas. So it was time to make banana bread. I knew that you could use the pressure cooker to do it, but I’d never tried before and didn’t have a recipe. We just followed a normal recipe out of a cookbook and poured it all into a pot that we fit inside the pressure cooker on a trivet. We added a cup of water to the bottom of the pressure cooker and left the weight off. After 30 minutes cooking, the water was gone, so we added another cup. After an hour we had a perfectly cooked, moist loaf. I probably could have used the weight to make it cook faster, but I was afraid of it being too moist. Either way it sure came out better than using my temperature challenged oven.
While we were waiting for the banana bread to cook, a greatly overloaded boat of picnickers from Peter’s village 5 miles away showed up. The boat, Rise Again, was blaring music while they went by and hit the beach like an invading army. Rise Again beached herself at a sandy spot where the creek hits the beach and people piled off. A volleyball net was setup and the party started. Mélanie and I decided to go for a snorkel while we let the banana bread cool.
The snorkeling was great with warm water, medium visibility and lots of good fish. I spotted a lobster down underneath an overhang in the reef, but made sure not to tell anyone where he was. We ended up snorkeling all the way down to a beach at the south end of the bay, but the wind was up and it was too cold to stay out of the water for long, so we turned around and had another nice long snorkel back to the boat.
After enjoying a couple nice hunks of banana bread, we went for a walk down the beach and then joined the party. We brought in the guitar and uke. The battery for the stereo had gone flat. Peter used to be in a band that toured Fiji and was great on the guitar belting out boogie woogie rock and roll rhythms as well as singing a bunch of traditional Bonabin numbers.
I went out to the beach to take pics of the sunset as the party broke up and the boat left to go back to the village. Peter sat inside Panea’s house and provided the soundtrack as every left. I didn’t get any really good pics so I drained a couple of bilos and said goodnight. Peter hadn’t had a guitar to play in years, so I left him mine for the night.
The next morning, Mélanie and I were listening to the SSB radio when we heard about a tropical depression forming and heading our way just after Christmas. Albert Cove was no place to be during a cyclone, so we brought a bunch of Christmas presents in for Peter’s kids, picked up my guitar, said our goodbyes and took off.
As we sailed south past Nuka, we picked up internet and saw that the depression was going to pass right over the top of Vanua Levu. It was still a few days off, but I wanted to have time to get to a good cyclone hole. We intended to go back to Nasasobo, but the SE wind convinced me to stay on the other side of Kioa. We had a rockin good sail close reaching in 20 knots of wind, though Mélanie was a bit worried at times. We headed up the cyclone hole at Naqaiqai creek for the night.
This morning’s weather shows the depression strengthening into a full cyclone and passing north and east of Fiji. Nasasobo is still a better spot than this if we get any big seas from the north, so we’re making our way there for when the cyclone hits. We’ve still got a few days, so I think we’re going to hang out in Viani Bay where we can get some good snorkeling in and hopefully have internet so we can see how the storm progresses before we go into informational blackout in Nasasobo.