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Fiji - Visiting Rainsong

Written by Cathy Siegismund
July  2002

After our return to Auckland, we got back into our new shore-life routine. We went to the gym, went to the movies, and enjoyed time with our friends, some of whom would be heading back to the tropics this year.

Drew and Vernita hosted a birthday party for me aboard Layla for the second year in a row, which as very nice.


My 39th birthday on Layla (photos by Vernita Lytle)

We said goodbye to Paul and Suzette on Altair, Wendy and Garth on Velella, Ed and Rachel on Horai, Marc and Teri on Tauranga, and our longest term cruising buddies Tam and Jason on Rainsong and Drew and Vernita on Layla. Everyone will be returning to Auckland at the end of the season except Rainsong and Horai.

Saying goodbye to Jason and Tam

While casting off Rainsong, Ken provided a little comic relief from our poignant goodbye to Jason and Tam. Ken went to pull on a dock line, which he expected to be taught and ended up in the drink. Fortunately, the only injury was to Ken's mobile phone which immediately died.

Ken, rather wet and cold, after his dunk into the marina on a cold fall day (Photo by Vernita Lytle)

There are a few remaining cruisers who are spending the winter in New Zealand, Nik and Jenn on Green Ghost among them. We couldn't spend a winter in Auckland, without attending an All Blacks game. The All Blacks are the NZ national rugby team. Rugby is an obsession in NZ, and the All Blacks are one of the top teams in the world. Nik, Jenn, Ken and I got tickets to the only game that was going to be played in Auckland this year. The game was against Ireland. It was assumed that the All Blacks would win, and they did by a landslide. The only teams that usually give the All Blacks a run for their money are South Africa, England and their nemesis - Australia.

All Blacks performing the Haka

A highlight of any All Blacks game is their performance of the Haka. This is a Maori war dance. The words are shouted loudly in a menacing way accompanied by arm actions and foot stamping. A Haka was traditionally performed before charging into battle, and the All Blacks use it intimidate their opponents.

Winter was here in Auckland, and Jason and Tam had invited us for a visit on Rainsong in Fiji. As Jason and Tam are most likely finishing up their cruising in Australia this year and returning to Seattle, we didn't want to pass up the chance to spend some more time with them. We finally couldn't resist any longer and decided a week of warm weather in Fiji sounded pretty good. It's hard to get used to being so close to South Pacific Islands. After a 3-hour flight, we were in Fiji.

Our route to Fiji, which took us three hours on Air New Zealand, and will probably take us 10 days, next year on Felicity!

We flew directly from Auckland to Nadi, on the main island of Viti Levu, Fiji. We spent the night in Nadi, and the next morning caught a very tiny plane for the hour flight to Savusavu on the northern island of Vanua Levu.

Short hour flight took us from Nadi to Savusavu where Rainsong was anchored

Approaching Savusavu from Viti Levu

Flying in, we had a great view of the bay where Rainsong was anchored off the town of Savusavu.


Savusavu airport

We took a short cab ride to the other side of the island to the town of Savusavu, where we met Jason and Tam and Ed and Rachel on Horai.

Jason and Tam and set us up in their great guest cabin, with our own head and we even had 2 two drawers Tam had emptied out for us!

We enjoyed catching up with Jason and Tam, and spent a couple relaxing days hanging out on the boat and exploring Savusavu. We were also immediately impressed by the Fijian people. Despite a long history of being feared warriors and cannibals, it is now said that Fijians are the friendliest people on earth; and we are inclined to believe that. Everywhere you go you see smiling faces and are welcomed by a big Bula - which means hello. We look forward to spending much more time next year getting to know the Fijian people.

Taveuni, a smaller island to the southeast of Vanua Levu. It is known for its rainy weather and access to great diving. Jason, Tam, Ed, Rachel, Ken and I decided head over to Taveuni for a little diving. There is a ferry from Savusavu, but the local airline's flight was only about $30 more and took 20 minutes, instead of 5 hours. We packed up our dive gear and took off for a 3-day 2-night stay on Taveuni.

Our short 20-minute flight from Savusavu to Taveuni

View from the air of one of the many Fijian reefs

We had clear skies and amazing views of the reefs and beaches on the flight to Taveuni.

We stayed at the Garden Island Resort. It was a small beachside hotel with about 30 rooms. It was a mid-quality hotel, but had a decent restaurant, very friendly staff, clean air-conditioned rooms, and most importantly a very good onsite dive shop.

Between the islands of Taveuni and Vanua Levu in the Somosomo Strait, is the Rainbow Reef. The reef has an abundance of soft corals, wall diving and pelagic and reef fish.

After we checked into the hotel, we signed up for a two-tank dive the following day. After lunch, we decided to go for a short hike to a natural waterside. We weren't sure what to expect, but set off with a map from the hotel. After a couple of missed turns and rain showers, we started to backtrack. We then heard a shout from a woman in a nearby house asking if we were looking for the water slide. We were directed to cut through the yard of another house. After receiving a round of Bula's from everyone at the house, a young woman asked if we were looking for the waterslide, and said she would lead us to it. We walked by a few small houses, and then up a trail to a river. The river's stones have been worn so smooth, it has formed a natural waterslide.

There were Fijians of all ages swimming in the pools, and going down the waterslide - some did so standing up as if they were surfing. Jason, Tam and Ed all went for a slide.

Rachel and I watched the locals swimming in the natural water slide

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the resort and a dance performance. The performance was made more special, as it was performed by the hotel staff, and it was their first performance. All of their friends and family were there to cheer them on, and seemed to enjoy it as least as much if not more than the hotel guests. We also tasted yaqona. A dirty tea-like slightly narcotic drink brewed from Kava, a root. The Kava is dried, ground and mixed with water in a distinctive kava bowl. We didn't participate in the formal kava ceremony, but the hotel band did bring us a cup. You are presented with a coconut cup full of the yoqona. You then have to drink the entire cup in one gulp or in our case - several, but without setting the cup down. Then you hand the cup back, and everyone who is participating claps. We each only had one cup, which didn't produce any real effect on us, other than a slightly numbed mouth.

Garden Island Resort dance performance

The following day, we enjoyed our two tank dive on the Rainbow Reef. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn't do the famous wall dive, but conditions were quite rough. It was however, fun to do a nice warm water dive, and was a good preview for next year's visit to Fiji.

The next day, we had arranged for the hotel to drive us out to the other end of the island where there was a "park" and a hike  to 3 waterfalls. The hotel van would then drop us off at the airport to catch our afternoon flight back to Savusavu. The drive took about an hour to travel to the other end of the island; along the way, we passed pineapple, cassava (tapioca), and taro farms, and a number of small villages.

We reached the park, paid a modest entrance fee, and walked along a lovely well-maintained path to the first waterfall.

Walking along the path to the first waterfall

The first waterfall. The short walk was hot and muggy, as we were now inland from the beach. The cool spray off the waterfall was felt great.


Ed and Rachel and Ken and I posing in front of the waterfall

Our driver had told us that we shouldn't walk to the third waterfall, because the trail was too slippery from all the recent rains. At the first waterfall, we saw a sign saying the trail to the second and third waterfall was closed because of mud and recent rain. We weren't willing to accept that, so we started hiking up the trail, and figured if it got too wet and mucky we'd turn back.

After hiking up a series of switchback trails, many with steps cut into the hillside and reinforced with wood, we reached a lookout point.

View from the lookout point

The trail was a little muddy but far from impassable, so we continued our trek to the second waterfall.


Rachel and I crossing a river with the help of an overhead rope

The second waterfall was not quite as high as the first, but was more boisterous. There was so much spray from the waterfall, we didn't risk pulling out our camera. After we hiked back down to the first waterfall, Ed, Rachel and Jason went for a swim.

Ed, Rachel and Jason taking a cooling dip in the pool by the waterfall

After returning to the hotel van, we changed out of our muddy, sweaty hiking cloths and into more respectable cloths to fly back to Savusavu. In Fiji, it is polite for women to cover their knees and shoulders and men to wear longer shorts and shirts unless you are at a resort.

On the return drive to the airport, we saw a group of local kids leading their horse along the beach road. They all waved and shouted Bula! Our driver stopped, so we could get out and take their pictures. They weren't nearly as shy as some of the other kids we've encountered in other countries.

Local kids leading their horse along the beach

Lagoon inside the reef on Taveuni

When we arrived back at the airport, we still had nearly two hours before our flight. As we were hungry for lunch, our driver suggested a nearby pizza restaurant. It was cute place with a big deck out over the beach. Our driver joined us, and we spent a wonderful couple of hours talking to him and the owners of the restaurant, and enjoying the view of the beach and water.

Rachel, Ed and Jason in at the pizza restaurant

The owner making our pizzas in her open kitchen

Jason and Tam

While we waited for our lunch, as the entire pizza was made from scratch, dough and all -- we entertained ourselves on a nearby swing and hammock

Tam pushing Ken on an oversized swing that sailed out over the beach

Tam and I hanging out in the hammock strung between two palms

After lunch, we caught our flight back to Savusavu. We spent the rest of our trip hanging out, enjoying the warm weather an snorkeling. On two different days, we moved Rainsong out of town for the afternoon. We went a couple of miles down the island and anchored in front of Jean-Michel Cousteau's resort, where the water was clear and we could swim and snorkel.

Ed and Rachel joined us one hot and sunny afternoon. We spent several hours snorkeling in the shallow clear water.

Ed snorkeling

Tam snorkeling


Our disposable underwater camera doesn't do justice to the colorful reef fish and soft corals on the bommies


We never tire of watching clown fish play hide and seek in their sea anemones

After a day of snorkeling and enjoying the sun, Jason unfurled the headsail and we took advantage of an early evening breeze and sailed Rainsong back to the Savusavu anchorage.

Jason and Tam in the cockpit

Ken and Ed trimming the headsail

Motu near the Cousteau Resort

Mega Yacht down anchored off Taveuni

Another afternoon, we left the hot town anchorage for clean water down the island. This time Jason and Tam pulled out the boogie board, and we used it as a knee board behind Rainsong's large dinghy and 15 hp outboard.


It was great to spend some usual cruiser evenings either patronizing local restaurants or having dinner with friends on the boat, playing various card games and even watching a few movies or reading on the rainy afternoons. We were pleasantly surprised to also see Paul and Suzette while we were there. We had a heads up that they were arriving from Tonga from another cruiser, so Ken and I enjoyed surprising them by buzzing out to great them in Rainsong's dink as they motored into Savusavu.


Dusk in the anchorage at Savusavu

After 10-days of Jason & Tam's hospitality, it was sadly time for us to leave the island cruising lifestyle and return to Auckland and Felicity. We hope to perhaps catch up with Rainsong and Horai again in Australia; and we look forward to spending several months exploring Fiji next year on Felicity.

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