Pages

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

FIJI: Yasawas’ Blue Lagoon (Nanuya LaiLai)

Surreal beauty.  Looking of the NW side of Nanuya LaiLai to Nacula's SouthEast tip.  Fiji, Yasawas.
After enjoying Yasawas “other” Blue Lagoon (off nearby Nacula) for fivedays, we were pretty much on our way out when we arrived at the Blue Lagoon (off Nanuya LaiLai). 

We’ve heard there’s lots of great snorkel spots in the area, but we didn’t know where and were hankering to give our legs a stretch and maybe try again to enjoy a tea house, as on Nacula didn’t really work out for us.  It’s a small island, so hiking to the other side is a moderately short hike, easily done in less than an hour.

Nice doors on Nanuya LaiLai Island Resort,  Fiji, Yasawas.
Our first stop was at Nanuya Island Resort, which even has a squeaky-clean, air-conditioned little grocery store.  If your needs are basic and price is no object, it’s not a bad stop and the folks in the resort are quite pleasant.

We asked where to find the trail to the other side of the was, and with a smile, they said, “Just follow the road... up.”  There is after all, only one road, and that’s for a very short stretch at that, obviously built to keep the resort running smoothly.

One of two large bank of solar panels at Nanuya LaiLai Island Resort.  Fiji, Yasawas.
We wondered who was going to harvest the well-laid out, thriving plantation that filled much of the resort’s open hillside between units… cassava, bananas, papayas and much more.

We were impressed with the quality of construction and design, still underway.  A hilltop gazebo overlooking the water had just been finished only a few weeks prior.  There were several impressive solar panel arrays – brilliant for these dry, sunny islands.

"Sign" for Lo's Teahouse, on Nanuya LaiLai Island Resort
water towers.  Fiji. Yasawas.
Lo’s Tea House cleverly took advantage of the water tanks to felt-tip in an arrow at the road’s end directing walker to their site; we complied.





Nanuya LaiLai's reefy SE shore.  Fiji, Yasawas.
The ridgetop trail provided a palm-fringed fabulous view of the beautiful mostly reefy stretch between Nanuya LaiLai and Nacula.  I’m not even sure we’d consider taking a dinghy through that stretch!  We figure it would take a local to thread that stretch of water.
Nanuya LaiLai's lowlands.  Fiji, Yasawas.
Closer view of the bay fringing Nanuya LaiLai's lowlands.
Approaching Lo’s Tea House, Nanuya LaiLai’s dry hills gave way to village plantations, which offered some brief patches of welcome shade.  The solid green lowlands to the Northwest looked impenetrable.  Mangrove?  Jungle?  Maybe both. 

Lacy shade offers a little respite on a hot day
on Nanuya LaiLai.  Fiji, Yasawas.
We came upon a village, where we think we arrived at Lo’s Tea House.  The only person about was a fellow working on a rooftop down the hill; he didn’t see us.  For those visiting Nanuya LaiLai… Sunday is not a good day to visit the Lo’s Tea House!  Not that surprising, really; many Fijians dedicate Sunday to church, family and rest.

We tried a different path back, taking a fork off the trail that looked like it would drop down to the beach near our boat. 

Wayne passes by cassava plants on Nanuya LaiLai.  Fiji, Yasawas.
We passed under some lush, tall mango trees on the way down, coming out to a broad, nicely appointed picnic area, facing out to a powdery white sand beach.  We figured out it was where Blue Lagoon Cruises takes its passengers, seeing the “Passengers only” sign after we passed through that restricted area.

The entire hike, we so no one else on the trail or in the Blue Lagoon Cruises “passenger only” area, so we weren’t too worried about it.


Sweet beach!  Fijis Yasawas Nanyua LaiLai.
All in all, a great way to while a way a bit of the afternoon.  If we make it back to Fiji, we’d like to explore the surrounding Blue Lagoon islands by dinghy and snorkel, even if it’s Sunday and there’s no Lo Tea for me (apologies to Seinfeld and the SoupNazi).


Blue Lagoon Cruises sign ib Nanuya LaiLai pointing out where we
shouldn't have gone.  Fiji, Yasawas.
Location LocationThis recent retrospective was from a month ago, July 24, 2016, when we anchored off Blue Lagoon, Yasawas Nanuya LaiLai (S16.56.589 E177.22.052).  We are currently moored off Vanuatu's Port Vila, Yachting World Marina, (S17.44.722 E168.18.726) though by the time you read this, we’ll likely be underway to Ambryn, hopefully in time to catch their Back to My Roots festival. There's still some Fiji catch-up posts coming, but seemed since we've been in Vanuatu for a couple weeks now, it was time for more than just an "arrived!" post here.

Cruising by the Numbers
  1. We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  1. Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  1. Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  1. December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  1. From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  1. Prior to that we sailed sailed from St. Lucia to Florida and also spent a season cruising the Bahamas.

Up Next
After Vanuatu, New Caledonia.  After New Caledonia, Australia, by December 2016.  There, we plan to sell our boat, and go back to work, somewhere.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vanuatu: Mad Hatters of Port Vila

Horses and their jockeys trot around the track to get into race position for the start at the Kiwanis Charity Horse Race.
Port Vila, Vanuatu July 13, 2016.
One of many busses headed down 
he dusty road
 into Port Vila horse race track and .
What Vanuatu Port Vila event attracts 20,000* folks, raises an average of $40,000 USD for charity and uniquely bringing together ni-Vanuatu (native Melanesian) and ex-pat communities?

*that represents nearly 10% of the entire country of Vanuatu’s population!

Kiwanis’ annual Vanuatu Charity Horse Race, which celebrated its17th successful year on Saturday, August 13, 2016.

Crowds amble from the busses to the horse track for Port Vila's annual Charity Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
“Check it out if you’re in Port Vila then; it’s a real slice of Vanuatu culture,” recommended our friend Robyn.  She and her husband Mark cruise Vanuatu for about four months every year from New Zealand on their sailboat, Mintaka, mostly among Vanuatu’s more remote outer islands.  For the heck of it, Wayne’s Dad and his wife chose to coordinate their August visit with us in Port Vila to coincide with the races. 

Corporate-sponsored "giant raffle"; one of the many ways Kiawanis makes money with its annual Port Vila Charity Horse Race. 
Missing the gene that makes most teenage girls go ga-ga over horses, the thought of going to a horse race never crossed my mind before.   Even repeated trade show/conference visits to Vegas failed to induce any interest in gambling, much less betting on the ponies.  Thus, far more than a gander at Vanuatu culture, this would mark my first equine race exposure too.  The only time I ever visited a horse track – in Portland Oregon’s Delta Park -- was to collect horse-do compost for my garden.

Bet Haos, another revenue stream for Kiwanis
at the Port Vila Charity Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
Curious and clueless (at least speaking for myself) and with nothing better to do, we were all game.  Besides, we’d heard the race was free as was a bus there (and, one would hope, back, too).

Stumps.  One option for getting high enough above the crowd to actually see the race.  Kiwanis Port Vila Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
After asking several locals, we eventually wended our way to the street where the busses were track-bound.  “The free ones have a sign,” we were told.  Thus, we refused several paid taxis and bus drivers – Port Vila swarms with them -- who volunteered to take us, happy to charge anyone willing to pay.  Instead, we clambered aboard one of the free buses – vans, really, the only non-locals aboard.

No stadium seating?  No problem.  There's always the trees....
Kiwanis Charity Horse Race, Vanuatu.
The racetrack was a dirt road off Efate island’s “Ring Road,” a paved road encircling the entire island.  The afternoon was hot.  The van was sparkling clean, yet oozed with the all-too-familiar Port Vila scent of human sweat.  Dusty roads led to closed windows; the scent became more oppressive. 

Once the van  arrived, with much relief, we piled out of it as quickly as possible, following the other race-goers down the road to the tents and crowds in the distance.  Locals clumped mostly in family groups, carried rolled pandanus mats to spread out and gather atop for picnicking, crowd watching, and if they could see it, the races.










A child's eye view of the races, thanks to their daddies.  Port Vila Kiwanis Charity Horse Race, Vanuatu.
Given the ride was free, and there was no race fee, I was curious what aspects of the race provided Kiwanis with its charity revenue stream.

My first inkling was the corporate-sponsored raffle-ticket selling tent. 

Two family shade-making solutions:  umbrella and a large swath of fabric.  Kiwanis Charity Horse Race, Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Then came a long line of food booth and a beer stand and soda cart.  There was also special paid seating in the Kiwanas tent (USD $10/person), offering shade, seating, and for an additional fee, food and libations.

Paying for shade in the name of charity, Port Vila
Kiwanis Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
The Bet Haos took wagers for the race-goers willing to bet on the winners.

Corporate sponsor banners were all over, especially on the band tent, sponsored by the TVL, one of Vanuatu’s two cell phone service providers.

The only obvious structure offering a bird’s eye view of the races was the announcer tower.  Some felled tree trunks and rut balls provided a higher perspective for those choosing that King of the Hill spot.  More intrepid folks scaled a large tree to varying heights and perched where they in its massive branches.  Others clustered against the race track rail when the race ensued – there were eight races, widely spread throughout the day with large gaps between the races.






Announcer tower.  Best view, other than maybe the trees.  Port Vila Kiwanis Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
The sun broiled over the track.  There was little shade.   Some prescient folks used umbrellas like parasols for shade.  Others tucked under swaths of fabric they brought.

Beering coolness, Wayne's Dad Phil and his wife Gunnel atPort Vila Kiwanis Horse Race.  Vanuatu.
Like many others, we sought shade and cool beverages (I drank the water we brought, though there were cold Vanuatu Tusker beers available).  As the races stalled and lunchtime approached we drifted past the food stands, seeing what called our name.  I tried a slender beef kabob, and an Indian samosa (spicy curried yams and veg wrapped into a triangular dough casing then flash-fried). For my final indugence, I dipped into the local fare, tuluk a pork filled package similar to Vanuatu’s national dish, laplap.

Tuluk, yummy pork-filled riff off laplap, an earth-oven cooked
Vanuatu dish  at Port Vila's Kiwanis Charity Horse Race.
Laplap is…made from pounding taro or yam roots into a paste which is then placed on taro or spinach leaves and soaked in grated coconut mixed with water, sometimes a protein like fish is added. The whole shebang is then wrapped up in leaves then smoked in an earth oven.

Everything I tried was USD $4 or less.





This gal selling samosas and other Indian treats at the Port Vila Charity Horse Race definitely glammed it up.  Vanuatu.

Twice, we watched the horses trot around the track to line up for their race, then as much as we could see, the race itself.

I found people-watching far more entertaining than the two races we “saw. “

Couple mad hatters.
Port Vila Charity Horse Race, Vanuatu.
There’s something delightfully captivating about women touting their salon hair, heavily made up faces, sporting foo-foo hats and fancy dresses wearing either platform shoes or spiky heels in the hot, dusty uneven fields surrounding the track.   Especially the hats.  I had no idea the tradition dated back to Col. Meriweather Lewis Clark Jr.’s desire to elevate the status of the Kentucky Derby with elegant ladies.  Needless to say, I dressed much more casually, and felt perfectly ok with its appropriateness given the setting.

Still, sated with lunch and liquid refreshment, hot, dusty and sweaty, with a long wait until the next race, and another one after that, we decided we’d punched our race e-ticket. 
This gal had the looks to carry off this otherwise
outlandish hat ensemble.  Port Vila
Charity Horse Race.
Returning to the parking lot and bus queue, after turning away a couple taxis, and unsure how long it would take for a free return to town, we negotiated for ~$10 USD for the four of us.


Some of the few Ni-Van folks dressed up for the Port Vila Horse Races.
They'd win my best-dressed family prize!
Yes, Robyn, Port Vila’s annual Kiwanis horse race/charity fund-raiser was a great cultural slice.  I’d recommend anyone in Port Vila at the time its held to check it out, even if only for an hour or two.
Too much time between races.  We were done before the races were.  Port Vila, Vanuatu.






The race is on!  Port Vila Charity Horse Race, Vanuatu.
Location Location
We are currently moored off Vanuatu's Port Vila, Yachting World Marina, (S17.44.722 E168.18.726) though by the time you read this, we’ll likely be underway to Ambryn, hopefully in time to catch their Back to My Roots festival. There's still some Fiji catch-up posts coming, but seemed since we've been in Vanuatu for a couple weeks now, it was time for more than just an "arrived!" post here.

Cruising by the Numbers
  1. We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  2. Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  3. Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  4. December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  5. From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  6. Prior to that we sailed sailed from St. Lucia to Florida and also spent a season cruising the Bahamas.

Headed back.  Our hats weren't even in the running (and
I didn't wear any).  Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Up Next
After Vanuatu, New Caledonia.  After New Caledonia, Australia, by December 2016.  There, we plan to sell our boat, and go back to work, somewhere.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

FIJI: Yasawas, Over Hill & Dale

Just South down the beach from Blue Lagoon Resort, the black lava rock contrasts nicely
with Nacula’s vivid blue waters and golden hills.  This particularly calm day, they were more of a mirror.  Fiji, Yasawas.
If mostly easy hikes through rolling hills for vista points or along shorelines for oceanside views appeals, Fiji Yasawas “other Blue Lagoon” is well worth a stop. Add to that 20’-23’ anchoring on a sandy shelf in a protected bay with no charge and reasonable snorkeling.  And we were the only sailboat there for our 4 ½ sunny day stay.

Trail sign – one of the few anywhere on
the island -- behind Blue Lagoon Resort
to the ridge crest viewpoints.
Again, credit goes to Rich and Cyndi of Legacy for their excellent blog posts on Blue Lagoon Resort off Nacula, clearly delineating it from the more popular Blue Lagoon off nearby Nanuya LaiLai.

We did a couple hikes which were each a few hours round trip. 












Wayne scales one of the steeper trail points
on Nacula island.  Fiji, Yasawas.
We were impressed with the ecosystem diversity of the small stretch of Nacula island that we took, and impressed with the plethora of trails criss-crossing the area.  Some trails appear to be made and maintained by the resorts, others for villager transportation (there are no vehicles on Nacula – all transport is by boat, plane or on foot).  For the most part, trails are unmarked, but straightforward to follow – you don’t need to bushwhack on Nacula.

I enjoyed the starkness of cabbage palms sprouting from the ferrous red dirt on Nacula island.  Fiji, Yasawas.
The whole time we hiked, we saw few other folks between Nacula’s West side resorts and those along the island’s Southern tip.  We saw a few locals, and just a few stragglers on the fringe of the resorts.  Other than that, it was just us and the trails, taking our time and enjoying great scenery along with a nice leg stretch off the boat.

These two beautiful bays viewed from the ridge points between Blue Lagoon Resort and the island’s Southern tip revealed how little of Nacula island was left unexplored.  Fiji, Yasawas.
The only way we’d see Nacula’s lovely East side reefs would be by walking to them unless
a local skiff was able to get us there.  Fiji, Yasawas.
A couple caveats…. Do

  1. Read Rich and Cyndi’s post which includes a Google Earth map marking where Blue Lagoon Resort is
  2. Bring insect repellant for hiking, especially of you swing by the area where there’s pigs
  3. Wear sunscreen
  4. Consider hiking along the shore on one day, the viewpoint hiking another
  5. Keep in mind the tides if you choose to skirt the shore, hugging the shoreline’s much easier on low tide
  6. Depending on the viewpoint(s) you hike to, expect some steep sections, wear the appropriate footwear, know what your limits are and accept them with good timing and grace
  7. Begin with your camera with well-charged battery and if it’s not waterproof, carry a watertight container or dry bag for it
  8. Bring water and light munchies
  9. Get a map if possible, good directions or hike with someone who knows the area or is a good hiking navigator, if you’re uncomfortable with your sense of direction and don’t like potentially retracing some wrong turns, 
Ridge point view of Nacula’s resorts on its Southern tip.  We walked the beach on another day to them as we weren’t sure how long a walk it was to get there then back to the Blue Lagoon Resort area.  Fijis Yasawas.
While these 10-20 foot spiky spires remind me
of giant asparagus spears, guessing
they are flax.  Fiji, Yasawas.
While there are no nude beaches in the now very prudish Fiji of today, we did stumble across some impromptu no-tan-line sunbathers on a nice private stretch of beach.  We considered the spot they vacated, well between resorts and mostly untraveled, but the day was growing short.

This bridge crossed through a plantation,
though we’re not sure which village
it was connected with.  Fiji Yasawas.
If you’re feeling decadent after your walk, there’s two resorts on each end of the trails more than happy to pour you a cold one to refresh.  


While Nacula was dry on our stay, it looks like
this trail could get pretty boggy!  This appeared
to be a trail the villagers used to go from their
village to Blue Lagoon and Oarsman resorts.

The tides marked the beaches with
strong lines of differing composition
of sands.  Fiji, Yasawas.
There is a tea house near the island’s Southern tip, where they serve tea and cake for a few dollars.  We delayed our hike back to catch the tea house at its 3 pm opening time. It’s a pleasant spot at the edge of a village, overlooking some tidal flats that were a big hit with the local heron.  After waiting 20 minutes past 3 and still not smelling anything baking (and there were no made cakes) we decided to save ourselves the calories and change and get back to our boat sooner rather than later. 


Regardless of how you do or don’t choose to reward yourself for your walk, an amble along Nacula is a treat all by itself.  Anything after that is just icing on the cake.  After Waya-sewa’s dramatic but overly challenging pound in the heat, we’re good with nice.




Nacula’s Southern tip was enhanced with intriguingly sculpted shoreline rocks.  Fiji, Yasawas.

Map of Nacula island with a rough indication of
our ridge point and shoreline hikes.  Fiji, Yasawas.
Location Location
This is a recent retrospective from when we anchored off of Nacula in Fiji's Yasawas, (S16.54.761 E177.23.024) July 19th - July 24th, 2016.  We are currently moored off Vanuatu's Port Vila, Yachting World Marina, (S17.44.722 E168.18.726) readying to cruise Vanuatu.











Cruising by the Numbers

  1. We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.  
  2. Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
  3. Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
  4. December 2015 - May 2016 if we weren't cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand's tip to its tail.
  5. From December 2014 - November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida's Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
  6. Prior to that we sailed sailed from St. Lucia to Florida and also spent a season cruising the Bahamas.

Up Next
After Vanuatu, New Caledonia.  After New Caledonia, Australia, by December 2016.  There, we plan to sell our boat, and go back to work, somewhere.