At 72, my mother and stepdad are going strong. There are not many at any age that would choose to live on a boat in small quarters with our boisterous family, put up with our toilets, take showers with minimal water, suffer through seasickness and practically live outside with plenty of shmutz, but Freda and Allan did – and with the greatest attitude to boot. By the end of the trip, they were pretty much hopping from the dock to the dinghy and the dinghy onto the boat. They impressed us all.
They tagged on a trip to see us after a whirlwind of a tour in New Zealand for 17 days (carrying pounds of supplies for us along the way, including my new computer and many of the kids’ school books), and yet arrived in Savusavu, on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji fully refreshed. This, after a flight in a tiny plane which would have had me white knuckled. Yet they got off the plane at Savusavu’s airport far more awake than we were after our long and weary passage from Tonga – we arrived only a day ahead of them.
Our sightseeing plans with Freda and Allan at first seemed not to be going according to plan. We had hoped to be able to sail them back to the international airport in Nadi, but the weather was not cooperating and we were unable to leave the anchorage in Savusavu for the first five of their 10 day visit – which meant that there would not be enough time to get them back to Nadi. Once again, they approached the change in plans without missing a beat, booked a flight back to Nadi from Savusavu, and we continued with alternative plans.
In the meantime, we made numerous visits to the local market, which we loved. My mother and I chatted up so many of the Indo-Fijian and Indigenous Fijian women who sell their produce, that these women willingly shared recipes for curries and other dishes. We purchased bizarre foods like bitter melon and jackfruit, and learned how to make delicious dishes out of them.
During those first few days, we also hired a car and driver and made our way across the island to the city of Lambasa, a major sugar cane producing center and resembling little India. Along the way, we experienced first hand the lush jungle of the southern side of Vanua Levu in sharp contrast to the dry yellowed flatter grounds of the north side perfect for growing the sugar cane.The day tour found us caught up in rows of hundreds of trucks carrying sugar cane to the factory, a visit to a Hindu temple with a rock that supposedly grows and heals infertility (we were witness to a fascinating ceremony of thus far infertile women making offerings to the rock of fruits and coconut milk amidst an incense filled room covered in colorful garlands), a stroll through the town market, and a wonderful lunch at an ecolodge where all the food is grown on site.
After the weather lifted somewhat, we raised anchor with our guests on board and headed 50 miles east to Fawn Harbor. We have found that navigating the waters of Fiji have been our most challenging yet, given the numerous and sometimes uncharted reefs. In the meantime, and with only slight bouts of seasickness, Freda and Allan marveled at the scenery and, if they had any clue that the repercussions of hitting one of these reefs would be treacherous, they never flinched.
While anchored in Fawn Harbor, we went to shore at low tide which required us to wade through muddy mangroves – and as usual my mother and Allan found the humor in it and waded along with us laughing the entire way at how disgusting the whole thing was. On shore we visited two villages, met plenty of locals including some adorable kids, and peeked into a women’s weaving circle. My mother and Allan got to experience the giving of sevusevu as well (see Danielle’s last post). They found this part of the visit as interesting as we did – making them such compatible travel mates.
For me, it’s always a treat to spend time with my mother, as her laughter is contagious and her way of viewing the world is always so positive. And of course you always know that your mother loves you no matter what. Allan always brings fascinating stories of their travels, brilliant observations on every subject and loving welcome fatherly advice. And we love that he likes being with us, even in such close quarters. We feel blessed to have such wonderful grandparents for my kids, who love being with them so much – the kids were both a little melancholy after Bubbie and Zaida left.
And when we said goodbye, it was not only sad that they were leaving, but it was also bittersweet as these may be our last guests aboard WGD. We now enter our final leg of the trip toward Australia. As for my mother and Allan, they arrived home safe and sound – and we are hoping to see them again in a couple of months – but on a different continent.
Currently in Port Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji