|Jack rows out to greet us, with younger members of his extended family|
He understands our needs well and was once a dive boat captain, he says, though one gets the impression that some of his stories should be taken with a pinch of sea salt. Anyway he offers to guide us to the best snorkeling spots on the reef, organise treks, arrange a bus tour of the neighbouring Taveuni Island and, once a week, will organise a Lovo. He has an admirable pricing policy of charging $10 FJ (about £3.50) per person for his services and is hugely affable.
So yesterday he organised a Lovo on the beach in front of his house. A lovo is a traditional Fijian feast cooked in the earth oven that gives it its name. A shallow pit is lined with stones and a hot fire of coconut husks burns in it until the stones are really hot; the fire is raked out and the meat - a butchered pig and chicken - is put into it between layers of banana leaves. The whole thing is then covered with earth and left to cook for a couple of hours.
As we arrived on the beach the lovo had been opened up and wonderful smells greeted us. There was a formidably-organised team of ladies from the local church group who served out the meal onto plates for the thirty or so sailors present. In addition to the meat there was spinach cooked in coconut milk, taro root (which cooks to a dense potato-like texture), squash and tuna. Absolutely delicious!
|Plating-up the meal|
|The crowd hovers, expectantly, as the food is ready to be served|
We'll definitely come back here to do some of the snorkeling and hiking but there is a weather system approaching us which will bring rain but also a NE wind (rather than the usual SE trade winds) which should be perfect for getting out to the remote northern Lau islands. Last night we met a boat called Sea Whisper (another Southern Cross Net contact) who had spent over a month in the Lau Islands and described them as probably the best places they'd ever visited.