September 6, 2014 Fulunga!

Septmeber 6, 2014
At anchor: Fulunga

We sailed through the narrow coral-lined channel (barely a boat-length wide in some places) a few days ago, and are resting at anchor in Fulunga!  It was a great beam reach and then close-hauled in 12-15 knots of steady E-SE winds all the way from Vanua Balavu, under full sail.  Fulunga is an incredibly awesome island, easily one of the most beautiful and unusual places we’ve ever seen.  Hundreds of volcanic pinnacle islands rise from the turquoise lagoon.  All the shorelines are deeply undercut and the islands are literally airborn!  Pictures can only describe this floating landscape.

We dropped the hook in blissful coral-free sands in 20 feet.  Sea turtles swam through the anchorage.  After a few hours rest we put on Sulus and skirts and headed to shore, to present our Yangona roots to the chief of Fulunga.  Several dugout outrigger canoes were pulled up on the beach.  We began walking the path to the village.  I got the distinct feeling that we had stepped back in time.  Tiny bats flew around us as we walked through a dark grove of massive Mango trees, making peculiar clicking noises as they passed within inches of our faces.  We walked quietly along the footpath as the wind sifted through the palms and pines (yes-they grow side-by-side here!)  After 20 or 30 minutes we came to the village.

We arrived with perfect timing at the beginning of a huge celebration–the “illumination of the village”.  Every house had just been outfitted with a solar panel, and this night was the first time that the lights turned on!  We were led to the village community house where everyone in the village was gathering, and presented our sevu-sevu (the kava roots).  Kelsey and I were immediately welcomed into the village and introduced to our “host family” Joe and Tara, and their grandson Peter (a very popular name in Fiji).

The next 5 or 6 hours were like something out of a National Geographic video.  The chief of 85 years presided over the Kava ceremony, in flower leis and giant white afro.  The Kava pounding began and I was whisked into the circle of men, where we drank bowl after bowl after bowl of kava, from a coconut husk.  When the husk is passed, it is either full to the  brim “high tide” or has just an inch or so in the bottom “low tide”.  There were many high tides and soon my mouth and lips were numb.  Everyone was cracking jokes and laughing, and the women began singing the most incredible melodies while the men accompanied on ukelele and guitars.  Everyone began passing around cigarettes.  There were only a few real cigarettes–the rest were strips of tobacco rolled up into long skinny lengths of newspaper.  Kelsey went outside with the women and children for a parade, which happens only at the New Year, but today was the “New Year” because of the lights–the end of one era and into another.  The women beat the drums (empty Jerry cans) and the corrugated metal roofing as they danced and sang their way through the village, and children ran around setting off firecrackers and sparklers.

After several hours of Kava drinking, Kelsey and I were led to a carpet on the ground and were presented with a huge, delicious meal of fish, dalo, cassava, clams, greens, etc…

I must admit that I was at first a bit sad to hear of the lights.  I still remember the days before electricity came to Pine Island and the bitter loss of daily traditions that came with the power.  This was the biggest project that the village had ever done, however, and they live with practically nothing.  It’s not like they’ll be getting iPhones any time in the next few decades…  We all sat around and waited for the three bare florescent bulbs in the room to turn on, when it got dark.  One by one the kids flipped the switches, and looks of amazement and bewilderment swept across the room, as everyone stared up at the ceiling.  We stayed a few more hours, but Kelsey and I were pretty tired because we had just sailed through the previous night to get here and were low on sleep.

We’ll be here in Fulunga for the next few weeks or so, living the village life and exploring the extensive lagoon and miles of beaches.  There are several “mountains” on the island and we hear that many of them have caves filled with skeletons and skulls.  There is a small stunted variety of palm tree on the island which will make for easy coconut harvesting, and the villagers are looking forward to teaching us how to sail an outrigger canoe!


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