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June 16 - June 30, 2005

Emilia Muller-Ginorio, Sue's brother's daughter
Emilia Muller-Ginorio

It seems that 2005 was the year of the niece/cousin, what with Rori visiting in February and Emmy in June.  We'd been trying to get Emmy, Sue's brother's daughter, to come to Ocelot for years, but schedules and school always got in the way.

Ocelot was anchored off Bekana Garden Island Resort near Lautoka, Fiji, when Jon, Sue and Amanda took an early morning taxi ride to the Nadi Airport to meet Emmy.  By 6am the sun was lighting the cane fields and rocky outcroppings of western Fiji - a beautiful way to arrive.

She was thrilled with her first dinghy ride across the bouncy Lautoka Harbor, and after breakfast on Ocelot she was eager to begin exploring.  Leaving the dinghy on the commercial wharf, we walked the main road into town to show Emmy lovely Lautoka with its market of fruits, vegetables and kava.  We took refuge from the sun at The Northern Club for a curry lunch.  After provisioning the boat for the next few weeks (because we didn't know when we would be near a town again) we returned to Ocelot, where the girls had a swim in the bay.

The cousins had LOTS of fun together
The cousins had LOTS of fun together

Emmy saw some real yachty time the next morning when Amanda went “flying” -- we hauled her up the mast in the bosun’s chair to fix the wind instruments.  With glorious blue skies, but not much wind, we motor sailed to Treasure Island, our favorite of the Mamanucas.  There we were met on the beach by Suka, the activities director and a chorus of singers singing the Fijian welcome song.  Jon presented Suka with some ground kava, and he uttered the correct formal acceptance of the sevu-sevu and gave us a very warm welcome, saying “Welcome home”.  Jon and Suka arranged for a tennis match, and Emmy, Amanda and Sue signed up for aquarobics and a massage for the next day.  Then we took Emmy for her first snorkel in Fiji - Great coral and many fish (as usual for Treasure Island, and one reason we like it here so much).

Emmy at Beqa (Benga) Island
Emmy at Beqa (Benga) Island

After a second great day at Treasure snorkeling and relaxing, we took advantage of the very light winds and flat seas and began a three day trip to the east to the Kadavu Group in southern Fiji, where we had never been before.  Although it was three days of travel out of Emmy's two weeks, we hoped it would be worth it: culturally and ecologically.  The greatest treat of the sail was a visitation by a big pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins that played on our bow for many minutes.  Shortly after they left we crossed paths with a small group of slow-moving, mostly black Pygmy Killer Whales.

We spent two nights inside Beqa (pronounced Benga) Lagoon, one night by the uninhabited island of Yanuca where we did some snorkeling, and the next in a deep cut in the island of Beqa called Maluma Bay.  After two days on the boat Emmy was “hungry to get ashore” but we were surrounded by mangroves, and the one small dive resort at the head of the bay was unfriendly (unusual in Fiji) and didn’t want us ashore.

Emmy had lots of fun with the Dravuni school-children
Emmy had lots of fun with the school-children

Unfortunately, the weather changed (as it often does) and we had a rough sail to the SE to Kadavu Group, averaging 7 kts.  It was great to get the hook down just inside the pass, swim and get ashore for some beach walking and shelling with Emmy.

We then anchored off the small village of Dravuni where we went through a somewhat informal sevu-sevu ceremony with the chief, then walked the beach.  Emmy made friends with some elementary school children and was invited to visit the classrooms the next day.  We were concerned about disrupting the normal classes, but the teachers were very friendly and had the children sing for us.  Then Amanda, Emmy and Sue were invited to rotate between the three classes, pre-school to about 4th grade, while Jon got their computer working again.

Emmy tries Kava for the first time
Emmy tries Kava for the first time

The next morning we sailed south to the island of Ono, making our way ashore over mud flats (splat, suck, squish) to the tiny (60 person) village.  We again did sevu-sevu with the chief in his home and he invited us, and the 4 other yachts in the harbor, to his nephew’s 21st birthday party that night.  The ceremony started with the local minister reading (in Fijian) for quite a while, as a 21st birthday is considered very important in the Fijian culture.  Then we had a huge feast of Fijian foods: taro root, roast pork from the lovo (ground oven), vegetables in coconut milk, fish, and vegetables flavored with pork fat.  This was all set out on wooden planks under a decorated canopy under the breadfruit trees.  At the chief's suggestion, we had taken oatmeal chocolate candies (made by Amada) for the kids, and a 'Bula' shirt for the birthday man.  After the food we joined the men around the kava bowl inside the house.  Emmy caught on fast to the one clap before accepting the bowl, the fast downing of the earthy-tasting, murky drink, and the three claps afterwards.  She and Amanda each had about 6 bowls!  Between bowls they were the hit of the party as many young men danced with them.  Amanda had brought her guitar but never got the chance to play because one villager who could play but who did not have an instrument used it throughout the evening to make some wonderful Fijian music.

The girls both enjoy making beautiful music
The girls both enjoy making beautiful music

We left about 10 p.m. before the tide get too low, and were deeply asleep when we heard a knocking on the hull.  Poor Emmy awoke to men’s voices right outside her porthole.  Scary!  It was two drunken young party-ers wanting rum, which we didn’t give them.

On Sunday morning we attended a service in the old, raised concrete church at the head of the bay, enjoying the a-capella singing of the choir.  Unfortunately the minister and the chief were both off-island, so not many people attended.  After a quiet afternoon on the boat (Jon and Sue went snorkeling), we had a pot luck supper with the couple off Interlude.  A great hit was the homemade conch fritters made from a beautiful spider conch we found snorkeling with Emmy a couple days before.  The next day was a rainy one, and we just hunkered down, watched a movie on Interlude with their surround-sound system, then talked and visited all afternoon.

Amanda & Emmy, looking much like her mother
Amanda & Emmy, looking much like her mother

On June 28 we sailed to Suva.  It was sunny and blowing hard so we averaged 8 to 9 knots.  That afternoon and the next day were the Suva days: Internet café, Republic of Cappuccino iced mochas or mango smoothies, curry lunch at Singh's Curry House, and many hours in the Fiji Museum.  Amanda and Emmy shopped 'till they dropped in the Indian streets while Emmy looked for gifts.

Getting someone to the airport in Nadi (western Fiji) from Suva is a bit awkward because the LAX flights leave at 10 or 11 pm, and then you have to brave the dark and winding Queen’s Road for the 2 hour drive back to Suva.  We made a day of it, renting a car and driving the King’s Road north from Suva through the verdant Rewa Valley where the dairy industry is centered.  From there, the road turns into an adventure of potholes, gravel, and one-lane wooden bridges.  It passed though countless villages in the 45 mile (70 km) stretch of dirt.  We only passed 12 cars.  We had lunch at the NE corner of Viti Levu at the Raki-raki Hotel. From there, the scenery was much the same as Lautoka: big buttressed hills with green cane fields at their bases.  We arrived in Nadi in time to explore the beautiful Sri Krishna Temple, then took Emmy to the airport.

It was a whirlwind tour of Fiji with towns, villages, snorkeling, culture, kava, and sailing.  Mainly what we’ll remember was the wonderful chance to spend lots and lots of time with our fun, thoughtful, enthusiastic niece/cousin Emmy.

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