Monday, July 11, 2011

So Long Fiji - Vinaka!

There comes a time when we need to haul up our anchor and sail west. Well our time has come and my heart sighs, but I smile loudly, thinking about the incredible times we've had in Fiji and the incredible people we've met along the way.

We swam amongst colorful coral and photogenic fish. Every time I don my mask and look at the life under our keel, I'm constantly amazed and intrigued. The patterns of the fish are so intricate and artistic, like this juvenile Semicircle Angelfish.

Take a look at this exquisite Striped Surgeonfish. His blue and gold stripes fit in perfectly with the Cal Bears cheerleaders.

But when I see the nasty Crown-of-Thorns starfish that's killing the coral, I want to cry. They're not so pretty. Look at how evil they look with their spikes. Our friend Frank took this photo one day when we were snorkelling - I hope the starfish doesn't ruin the home of the little clownfish that's precariously close.

The Crown-of-Thorns used to not be as prolific because the Giant Triton Snail and other natural predators kept them under control. However, man has messed with the fragile ecosystem by collecting the Giant Snail to sell in souvenir shops, thus allowing the Crown-of-Thorns to demolish reefs. Some people we’ve met have decided to flip the large starfish over so they can be food for the fish. We've talked about forming a flip the starfish club - not a bad idea and could help protect the coral reef.

Another really interesting creature under the water is the Giant clam that we saw in Mokongi. The island used to be a Leper Colony, but fortunately it's transformed into a happier place where they raise giant clams and protect green turtles. The baby turtles had already hatched by the time we visited to the island, but we did see the clams in operation. Here’s a picture of one massive bi-valve that 6-foot tall Tim swam next to. What colorful lips! Did you know these clams are also hermaphrodites?

Another treat during our journey in Fiji has been the kindness of the people, who have been eager to help, show us their island, share some fruit or just say, “Bula.”

One of the benefits of voyaging by boat is it allows us the opportunity to reciprocate hospitality. In Namata Bay, Oso Blanco invited the Fijian children living on the small island to their boat to celebrate their son, Bear's, birthday. Most of the Fijian kids had never been on board a boat before and were so eager to come and play. It was a fantastic day with lots of games. They tossed water balloons,

played on the kayaks and jumped off the second floor of Oso. I love this picture that Annie took of the two girls jumping from the boat. It's a scary leap!

The tradition of sevusevu taught us about consideration and respect. Every time we anchored in a village, we sought out the chief, introduced ourselves, gave him a bundle of kava (the coveted narcotic made from pepper root) and asked permission to be on the island. Some debate the benefit of giving kava, but asking for permission to use an anchorage now seems like the right thing to do. I wish we had done it in many of the other countries that we have called home.

Fiji also gave us the opportunity to visit India without having to travel there. Maya and I loved looking at the exquisite Indian clothes and we even purchased a Sari for her to wear back in Oregon.

Along with the colorful clothes comes flavorful curries and rotis. Thanks to Mara, my sister-in-law, who visited us last week, I’ve learned how to cook with mustard seed and masala. This morning I bought more exquisite spices at the market. Look at this beautiful red chili, tumeric and curry. I wish it were possible to photograph their powerful smells.

So long Fiji …. Vinaka (that means, “Thank You”)! We’ve had a wonderful time!

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