Day 57, Year 2: Long Walk on Moala
Date: Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Weather: Sunny Day; NE Winds 15 Knots
Location: Naroi, Moala Island, Lau Group, Fiji

Since Leaving Suva three weeks ago, we have not been in places where long walks on land have been possible. We did have a wonderful walk to the top of the knoll on Dravuni Island, but other than that, we have basically been on the boat or in the water snorkeling. So today we walked. We worked around the boat for a couple of hours and at about 10:30 AM we took the dinghy to shore. It was high tide, so Mark dropped me off on shore and he took the boat out and tied it to one of the sticks where other small boats were tied. This meant wading almost up to his waist, but as we learned yesterday, it is the only safe way to leave the dinghy here when going ashore. The head teacher of the elementary school walked by as we were securing the dinghy. He was on his way to the village green where the primary students were preparing for tomorrow’s athletic field day. I told him we would love to attend and he said we were more than welcome. That event will start at 9:15 tomorrow morning. We walked up to the chief’s house to check-in with his wife, Litia, about coming to dinner tonight. When we saw her yesterday we weren’t sure we were going to be here, but the northeast winds are keeping us here another day or so. Litia explained that a woman in the village has taken ill and is not expected to live, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for the chief to be entertaining people for dinner. We hadn’t figured out how we were going to find our way back to our boat in the dark at low tide anyway, so that probably worked out for the best. Litia also explained that there will no field day tomorrow if the woman dies tonight, so she asked us to come to see her at 9:00 in the morning to check the status of things.

We are rocking and rolling at anchor tonight. The winds switched this morning and are now coming from the northeast. That leaves us exposed and the swell is coming in. Its not terrible, but standing up to do anything takes a little more effort than normal. The winds are supposed to continue to come from the northeast tomorrow, but by Friday they should be coming out of the east. If nothing changes, we still plan to leave Friday morning.

Now back to the walk. We walked around the island to the east today. We wanted to see the airport and try to make it to the next village. The airport is not far from town and there is a wide road leading there. On the way we passed a fenced complex that we assumed had something to do with the airport. Only one plane comes in here each week on Tuesday. Since tourists are almost non-existent, the plane is for locals who are going to Suva for a week. You can’t come and go on the same day, so you have to stay an entire week. When we got to the airport, we saw a man cutting the grass in the road we were walking on. He was cutting it with a bush knife. We had a nice talk and he explained that five men are employed to cut the grass on the road. They work for the Fijian DRT, Department of Roads and Transportation. Other people work for the government keeping the grass on the airstrip cut, but they work for a different department. Nothing is paved, and the grass grows quickly here, so they have full-time employment. Not everything is done by bush knife. They have one weed eater that they use as well. Since there are absolutely no vehicles on this island, we wondered why they keep the road cut so neatly, but we enjoyed it today and others must do the same. There used to be a truck on the island, but no more. We walked past more grass cutters and then came to a small house with loads of pandanus bunches laying in the road. A woman came out and explained that no one lives in the house. They just come there for processing the pandanus leaves. The leaves are cut, the rough edges of the leaves are stripped off, and the pandanus is brought to the house to be cooked. I couldn’t see what they cook it in, but it has be be a huge tub of some sort as the leaves are very long. They then lay the pandanus on the road in bunches to dry in the sun. When all of that is done, they can begin the weaving of mats. The mats are then sent to Suva to be sold.

We walked for well over an hour and finally came to a place were we could see the bay on the eastern side of the island. We decided not to go all the way to the village there as we were a little worried about the tide going down and leaving our dinghy high and dry. So we retraced our steps and got back to Windbird by about 1:30 in the afternoon. The dinghy was fine and the tide still high enough that we could get out easily.

If there is no field day tomorrow, we plan to do a little reef snorkeling here and get ready for our departure on Friday morning. We’re still not sure that we are really going to be able to anchor safely at Tuvuca, so we plan to leave here early on Friday so we will arrive there just after sunrise on Saturday morning. If we can’t figure out how to anchor safely, this will leave us enough time to get to Vanua Balavu, our next stop, before sunset. We have no information on Tuvuca, so this will be a real adventure.

070620 Day 57 Moala Island, Fiji–Walk on Moala