Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. This season we spent 5 months exploring Vanuatu and are now on the east coast of Australia.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The northern-most village

We're returning from a really lovely exploration of the northern Yasawa islands. We made it up to the northern-most village, Yasawairara, and anchored in perfect turquoise water off a crescent shaped golden sand beach  (at 16 degrees, 42.5 minutes south, 177 degrees, 34.6 minutes east, if you fancy a look on Google Earth).

Looking towards the village

The anchor chain - the 'snubber line' is stretchy rope which acts as a shock-absorber for the boat when she pitches in any waves.
Once again, we found that it's the opportunity to meet the local people that makes Fiji so special. Although Yasawairara is comparatively well-connected compared to Fulaga, with a supply ship running once a week to the mainland at Lautoka, only a few hours away, plus an airstrip serving a posh resort and good mobile phone and internet connections, it's still pretty much on the way to nowhere so visiting yachts are welcomed warmly.

We dinghied ashore with Pacific Hwy. to offer our sevusevu and were taken to the most substantial house in the village to meet Ratu Assaelli. He welcomed us and explained that the last chief (his fbrother, we think) had died and, as yet, a new chief hadn't been appointed. There are 4 'tribes' in the village and we gathered there were some serious village politics at work. However, Aselli, as the villagers seemed to call him, (the 'Ratu' bit is a reference to the chiefly status of the family) and his wife Winnie told us a bit about the village, once the formal sevusevu was completed.


Aselli and Winnie with Laura from Pacific Hwy.
Aselli and Winnie's house

The place seems to get whacked by a passing cyclone on spookily regular, 20 year cycle. In 1952 it was abandoned after a particularly devastating storm but people started to move back in 1970 only to suffer more damage in the 1972 cyclone. The  story was repeated in 1992 and the last Cyclone, Evan, hit in 2012. Aselli said he had 9 families sheltering in his strongly-built house and they experienced the eerie calm as the eye of the storm passed overhead before the full force returned from the seaward side. Waves flooded into the low-lying village and the Methodist church, several houses and many trees were flattened; their house still has plywood in place of glass in most of the windows and the village generator and underground cables are still out of action two years later. 

The village hall, left, is now also the temporary church as the original is now the pile of rubble to the right

Abandoned Lali (church drum) and the demolished church
The village has had to raise funds to pay for the repairs to the power supply but that should be restored 'soon' whilst the government has paid for contractors to come and fix the wharf; once that's done (again 'soon') they hope to entice the odd cruise ship to call in, as they are a lucrative source of income in a place otherwise dependent on subsistence farming and some employment in the nearby resort. Aselli told us that they charged the last liner $6,000FJ and that was several year ago, though we wondered who would get around to the process of contacting the cruise operators to entice them in.

Certainly the village and the surrounding coastline are worth the effort to visit. We were assigned a team of 5-year-old children to guide us out to the beach on the eastern side of the island and they were lovely - chatting and giggling and, of course, delighted to see their pictures on our digital camera.

Our guides lead us out of the village

Plantations of yams - the vines are trained up onto the trellis to keep the fruit from scorching on the sun-baked earth

The beautiful eastern beach

The delights of drawing in the sand are universal

Kids at play, young and old! Bruce leads the cartwheeling
As we left to return to our boats, Aselli asked if we wanted to go fishing. Or, in real terms, could he come fishing in our boat. So the following morning, Graham, Bruce and he set off in Bruce's dinghy for a long trip around the reef to a favourite spot; Aselli's a keen fisherman and was delighted when Graham gave him a new lure to replace his fish-eaten one. His delight was heightened when he reeled in a 3lb Trevally about 20 seconds after putting the lure into the water. In all we caught 12 fish, mostly large mackerel which are delicious so Maunie and Pacific Hwy took one each and Aselli distributed the rest around his neighbours.

Happy fishermen
Our final part of the Yasawairara experience was to be invited back for afternoon tea and we sat on a pandanus mat in the shade of the house eating Winnie's home-made scones plus a very fine chocolate cake made by Laura. She'd also made a large batch of popcorn so the children were given equal shares as they lined up, each with a little plastic container. 

Popcorn distribution

We walked back, after a fun afternoon, via a little market garden run by a few of the women. They are praying for rain but have to carry water from a well at the moment to irrigate the tomatoes and cabbages but the soil seems relatively fertile here and they have plans to extend their operation to sell produce to the resort in addition to supplying the village. One of the younger women was the the village nurse and it turned out she new Batai, the nurse at Fulaga, so we were able to pass on her regards to him on the SSB the following day.


The bucket-chain from the well


Evening light on a perfect beach
So, we're now heading south back to Musket Cove, having really enjoyed another slice of Fijian hospitality. The weather threatens strong winds for the early part of the week, accompanied, we hope, by some much needed rain. 

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading the latest of Maunie's adventures... We're currently touring the not quite so exotic Germany in our van but enjoying it all the same. We also have kite boards on board but only have space for 2! I've (Adam) just accepted a job in London so we'll be back to the rat race at the end of the month. A bit of a long shot but do you know of anyone needing a boat sitter on the Thames over the winter? We're thinking up inventive ways to reduce our outgoings and rent seemed like the best place to start. Safe travels. Adam and Anna

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