Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kadavu Above Sea Level

Our anchorage at Kadavu Island

A few days ago we sailed from Ono to Kadavu (pronounced Kandavu) Island, passing through the reef-strewn Ono Passage under jib, with 20 minutes of motoring to dodge upwind around a couple of tightly spaced coral patches. The heavens opened shortly after we anchored off Matasawalevu village on the northeast side of Kadavu Island. It was a real tropical deluge - enough to fill our water tanks and to do a bucket-load of laundry.

Along the path to the village

The next day we rowed into a deep-water landing near the village, the main wharf being high and dry, defended by a hundred meters of thick sticky mud. The path into the village passed through plantations on one side and a mangrove swamp on the other. We presented our sevusevu to the chief's representative and visited the small, recently opened store. At the store we met Dolo who retired here about 10 years ago after a career as a medical technician in Suva. She does an awful lot for a retiree! In addition to the store, which she runs to pay for feed for her pigs, she is helping organize construction of the new wharf built using Australian direct aid money. She also runs the piggery, with her brother-in-law, sits on the village women's committee, and has set up a professionally run kindergarten. After chatting with her for half an hour, we bought a dozen eggs and then hiked over the hill to Lagalevu, a settlement on the north side of Kadavu.

Bruce shows me his drying kava

Typical rural Fijian civil engineering

In Lagalevu, we met Bruce and his mother, Marianne, who have a lovely property on the water. Bruce showed us the kava he was drying and answered some questions I had about this crop. He told me that the older plants produce better grog and take at least 18 months for a harvest, but the roots he was drying were 3.5 years old and the product is better if you wait even longer. The roots sell for $35 Fiji (about $20 Canadian) for a kilo and the stems are also harvested, selling for only $5-$10 per kilo. Marianne showed Rani a basket of beche de mer (sea slugs) that she had smoked and dried for sale through a friend in Suva to Chinese purchasers. The family also grows tobacco as well as the usual food crops of taro and cassava.

Dried sea slugs - yumm
Tobacco plants

Today we went for another walk along the shore and into the hills of Vatulutu Island, which lies at the entrance of the bay. The island is small but varied, with sandy white beaches set against a jet black rocky shoreline, pandanus forests, mape (chestnut) trees, and stunning views out over the fringing Astrolabe reef. Parrots were calling in the trees where we began our climb to a look-off rock and we had a couple of good sightings despite leaving the binoculars on the boat. We believe these birds were the red and green Kadavu Musk Parrots. They have a scarlet head and breast, bright green back, green wing and tail feathers with indigo margins. They have an un-melodious and very distinctive nasal 'Eahhn' call, a bit like a baby might make if you squeezed it too hard.

Lookoff at Vatulutu Island

A view south from Vatulutu Island. Note the twisty navigation required on the way to the Lion Pool

Beach on Vatulutu

We found this lovely but very fragile urchin on the beach.

North end of Vatulutu. There were the remains of a homestead here.

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