As you will see from our latest update on http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall we have moved anchorages. We came over yesterday morning with three locals, Socce, Nessie and Ba, aboard for a special event – more of that later.
The Google earth photo on the YIT page gives you a pretty good idea of the size of the lagoon here. The main village, Maunaicake, is actually on the south side of the island facing the ocean at the large indented bay and the second village, Muanaire is ten minutes' walk to the west of it. The third village, Naividamu, is the only one facing into the lagoon and is situated in its NW corner. With the blustery winds blowing from the SE at the moment, the anchorage there is an exposed lee shore so we decided to hike overland on Tuesday to go and see Jiko, our lovely host from last year.
The conflicting advice we received about the path between the villages should have warned us. Some people said it was a good path, others looked surprised when we said we were going to attempt it. Some said it would take 45 minutes, others thought it would be closer to 2 hours. What became clear is that no one really uses the path any more; instead they walk the first part of it down to the lagoon and then get the open 'fiber' boat across. Anyway, we set off, with Ana from Ithaka with us, in a mood of optimism, walking though very dense forest, following a narrow and obviously little-used trail. After about an hour it seemed to peter out and we were faced with waist-high undergrowth. 'Can't be the right path!' we thought, so turned back to investigate various little side-paths, none of which lead anywhere. Dianne was wearing only sandals and the going was rough so she sensibly decided to head back to the village; Graham and Ana refused to be beaten so went back to the point we'd turned around, pushed our way through the undergrowth and found the path again. Three hours after setting off, we finally arrived in Naividamu to a huge welcome, with hugs and tears from Jiko, a formal sevusevu welcome from the chief, a wonderful lunch and a round of kava. Luckily for us, Sera the island's nurse, had been called over to the village after we had left so we thumbed a lift back in her boat.
Having survived that little adventure, yesterday was a fun day over here at the Sandspit. The locals had proposed a picnic for the yachites on the beautiful beach here so they piled into the big village boat, with Maunie and Ithaka taking a few left-overs. In all there were 14 visiting yachties and about 35 locals and we ate amazingly well – a huge haul of crabs (the biggest about 8" across the shell) cooked in a lovo earth oven, plus some lovely fish and a good array of 'pot luck' dishes from the yachts. Dianne and a few others had been shown the skill of weaving bowls out of coconut palm leaves so there was quite a production line in operation before the lovo was opened up. It was Ana's birthday so the previous day Colin had smuggled some ingredients to Ma the baker and she had made a huge chocolate birthday cake with pink icing. The singing of 'Happy Birthday' was loud and in harmony – they know how to sing here!
We'll stay out here at this anchorage for a few days but are watching the weather. We listen to an excellent weather radio net every morning, Gulf Harbour Radio, which is run by a cruising couple who have 'swallowed the anchor' and are now based in NZ; David is a meteorologist so he gives us daily lessons in upper atmosphere winds plus a great forecast for the south Pacific. Anyway he tells us that it has been abnormally windy and unsettled so far this season and there is even a tropical cyclone now in the Solomons (north west of Fiji). Cyclone Raquel is the first ever cyclone to be recorded in July (the normal cyclone season is between November and April) and so everyone is watching her progress with interest. We shouldn't get strong winds down here but some weather fronts will spin off from her and could bring rain and squalls. Ah, well.