Thursday, July 4, 2013

Viani Bay

We have been here in Viani Bay for a couple of weeks now - much longer than we had first intended. This is a very fine base for snorkeling and SCUBA diving. We have made several trips out to locations on Rainbow reef including 'Fish Factory, the 'Cabbage Patch', and the 'Great White Wall'. We have also finished painting Ladybug's sheer stripe and I have repaired a weak area in the coaming where one of the stanchions was not correctly backed up. Rani has spent quite a bit of time visiting with the family on the small island off which we are anchored and we have had a couple of hikes into the hills around the bay.

The snorkeling has been wonderful - many varieties and colours of hard and soft corals as well as plentiful reef fish and a few sightings of larger fish on the edges of the reef. Rani has made three dives including a spectacular dive of the Great White Wall, which is famous for its huge wall of white soft corals. These are most beautiful when viewed from below against the light. The dive began by descending through a lava tube and took Rani down to about 100 feet. We have Helena and Kari on 'Merilelu' to thank for Rani's renewed enthusiasm for diving. Helena is a dive instructor and she gave Rani an excellent refresher and lent her the SCUBA equipment and tanks at a very reasonable price. I free dived down through the upper part of the lava tube and had a brief glimpse of the lovely white fans and corals at the start of the wall, but it was too deep to stay down for long (about 40 feet).

While Rani was off diving, I prepared and painted the large red stripe that Ladybug normally wears. We have been without this stripe since before we left New Zealand and our friends have remarked that they do not recognize us without it. I used a single part polyurethane by International called 'Toplac'. This is supposed to give about 5 years of service as opposed to the fancier two part polyurethanes that promise 10+, but it can be rolled on more easily and does not require mixing. Our friends Holger and Roz, professional painters, recommended we use a mohair wool roller for this, with no need for tipping via brush. The results are quite good - a nice gloss and even finish, but not quite as smooth as we could have achieved by spraying. The stanchion repair required grinding away damaged glass, re-glassing, and adding a layer of mat followed by 1/4 inch plywood followed by 3 layers of glass cloth on the inside of the coaming. The glass I worked around both edges of the coaming inside a cockpit locker and this should stiffen things considerably. We need a good solid backing for the stanchion here because this is one of the posts holding up our solar panels. In the event of a sea sweeping the boat, these panels can take a lot of force.

Rani enjoys a swim at one of the falls at Bouma park

Nice views from the falls hike at Bouma park

Rani also traveled across the Somo Somo Strait to Taveuni island where she replenished our supplies and went with a van-load of cruisers across the island to Bouma National Heritage Park. Here she hiked to and swam at a series of three waterfalls. She had enough sense not to dive off the falls, recalling her back-breaking experience doing this in Australia, but had little success dissuading other cruisers from abstaining. Thanks to Craig and Bruce from 'Gato Go' for the pictures from Bouma Park. I forgot to put the memory card back in our camera.

Steep trail to the higher falls

A cooling swim

The falls are impressive with some people for scale.

We are just back from an arduous hike up onto a viewpoint through jungle and bamboo forest. We invited Amy from 'Morning Glory' to join us. Amy is a fellow pharmacist and she and Rani had a good chat about their respective experiences. Morning Glory is a family boat with two teenagers who were attending school on board today in between diving and other more enjoyable pursuits. The hike started with a walk along the sand and mud flats at low tide and then climbed up into the forest following a wild pig trail. We had received rough instructions from one of Rani's island friends, but were soon quite lost, scrambling up a long ridge, dislodging rocks and stepping into ants' nests with predictable consequences. We were soon breathless, sweat bathed, and ill tempered. The ant bites were remarkably painful and we all regretted our choice of footwear - open sandals and water shoes. Despite this, we wanted to reach a view point and when our way was barred by a dense forest of bamboo, Rani lead the way on a traverse that eventually brought us out into a clearing riddled by boar trails. Clearly the pigs had taken another way up, but we failed to find one of their trails leading down.

Nice start to the hike along a beach.

Amy swings from a vine as we climb along a traverse.

Rani leads us through the bamboo

You got us into this! No - you did!

We snapped a few pictures and Amy then took over and lead us down via a stream bed. We hopped and scrambled over slippery green boulders and crashed through barriers of fallen bamboo trunks until the terrain leveled off and opened up into a sparse forest with copra planting. Amazingly we arrived back at the bay within 100 meters of where we had entered the jungle. Amy's son Stephen was shocked by the appearance of his mother when we dropped her off at Morning Glory, but Amy claimed that the experience had driven the last vestiges of a cold from her system and she seemed quite cheerful about the whole thing. A swim in the sea has rarely felt as good, washing away sweat, mud, and grime and soothing the scratches and ant bites.

View from look-out. Ladybug is the left-most boat

Bamboo barriers across the creek bed.

We  found this highly poisonous sea snake near the dinghy. It's head is inserted in a hole in the sand, eating its dinner.

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