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Riccardo A. Andreoli

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Round the World 2005 - 2

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Fiji

Fiji - March 9, 2005 - SeaShell Cove Resort

Yesterday tiring if not long trip from Tonga. The check-in was at midnight and the fly was at two in the morning.

I had to leave Atatà at six in the afternoon with the boat to the mainland. The morning being sure to organize my baggage so not to have problems with the overweight. The beautiful big scale, till 100 kg, I bought for weighting big fish, for now are reduced to weight my two monsters. The thin long black one with guns and spears and the short fat red one with all it remains.

Anyway at dawn I was in Auckland (New Zealand), waiting for the 8.30 a.m. fly to Fiji. And now I’m in Fiji, at the SeaShell Cove Resort, in the mainland, on the west coast. I booked a lodge with shared facilties, a beautiful if very hot one.

The sunset was very striking, but, above all, to my spearfisher’s eye, the ocean surface in it was completely FLAT!

Now it comes to try to resolve the problems connected with going out spearfishing: boat, boat driver with local knowledge, weight for my weight belt.

It's not always easy as it seem... I HAD to go to Nandi (40 km from here) to buy my weights because there have been difficulties here lending them to a spearfisher...

So I glued together also a trip of few more kilometres and I went to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, Fiji's largest orchid botanical garden.

If Tongan flowers were gorgeous here the orchids were above my wildest expectations!

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Fiji - March 11, 2005 - SeaShell Cove

Yesterday was the first day in the water here at SeaShell Cove. After all the hassle for the weight and for the price I believed it was all behind me. I went out with still another guy and it was OK. He DID know what we were after. We went in the lagoon, chasing after circling birds, we found fish splashing in the water if not jumping, probably tuna, but underwater there was nothing. Moreover it was very low tide and so the water was at its dirtiest.

So we went out of the reef, he told me “here” and I jumped in. As always, in Blue Water, you have to have a blind faith in someone pointing into the water telling you “here there’s fish”. So I jumped in. The blue was absolute, the water very clear, even with, here and there, little dancing white motes. A little wary barracuda scuttled away. For a lot of time nothing. Only the slow cadence of the breathing in the almost flat surface and then the Diving. Then a curious little shark of a couple of meters coming up from the bottom to investigate what the commotion was. Chased down almost immediately without understanding for his feeling. Then I found the drop-off. And there I made a mistake, without thinking I followed it in the direction I was already swimming on, keeping where I almost could not see the bottom, only a lighter haze deep down. It dawned on me only after a while that that lighter daze was remaining almost the same, that I was NOT moving at all and that I was swimming against the incoming tide. So I turned around and began sailing in the other direction. And so I also began to see some fish. The first was a beautiful Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), well remembered after my Australian days, of fifteen kilos, that I chased but it was not convinced by my fearful act and so went away. Then a school of barracudas, some of good size, but I went after them half-heartedly and they sulked away. Suddenly I was in the pass, was being whisked away by the current, with less and less water under me, the flasher in constant danger of catching on the bottom, so I called the boat and finished the day.

 

That was yesterday. Today I’m really upset. The appointment was with the same guy, at high tide this time, at eight o’clock in the morning. At 7.45 I’m there, all my gear packed, ready. No one. Then someone finally tells me that the guy of the day before is “not available” because he went with the guys surfing. Then arrives another character and tells me that HE will be my driver. Ok, it was high time. I go onboard, unpack all my things, we'll already on the way, then some cracking voice on the radio stops all. We have to come back. Why? No one knows. At last arrives the boss, and tells me that THAT guy have NOT a boat driving licence (I already surmised it from the amount of attempts to reach the dais… till I jumped in the water and towed the boat there). I have to wait for another one, that will come only with the bus at nine. In the meantime that guy is driving away, with all my gear on board AND my lodge keys also. So he has to be shouted back. Almost fuming I return to my room and wait till nine. At the dais no one. After half an hour someone tells me that I have to have patience. After ANOTHER half an hour the previous guy starts towing the boat away before it becomes stranded by the receding tide. I shout him to stop and I ask him what’s happening. Answer: the guy was not on the nine bus and no one knows when he’ll appear on the scene. This smacks much more of premeditation than simple organizational inability.

SO, I lost my patience, took all my gear away and, this time positively fuming, went to my room and directly there to the reception where I booked right away another place and the boat to go there.

 

So, lesson learned, if you’re a spearfisher, keep well away from SeaShell Cove Resort. You’re not a welcomed guest there.

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Low tide

Fiji - March 11, 2005 - later

Tomorrow I'll try another island: Matacawalevu in the Yasawa Group, on the North-West of the main Island of Fiji, Viti Levu.

I'll go there with a fast catamaran, the "Yasawa Flyer", known on the islands as "the yellow boat". I booked at the Long Beach Backpackers.

We'll see. I'm sure they have NO Internet there (and for what I know even the electricity there is scant), so there'll be for some days no updating of this journal.

Sorry, but I hope to be back with good news, better stories and good pictures.

See you.

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Fiji - March 13, 2005 - Matacawalevu

I arrive today to Long Beach Backpackers.  When the telephone number is dialed, the connection is not made immediately, a double beep is heard, therefore a four-digit code must be dialed. It's the switch from the telephone line to the radio call, the only connection they have there.

The trip from the mainland to Matacawalevu is astonishing. On your way you can encounter resorts in sandy islands so little that you can’t even think to run around it, you would spin on your heels. And you can really believe that even a minor increase on the ocean level can damage such tiny speck of life (and tourism).

 

And, in the same trip, you can encounter big, dramatic, volcanic islands, with sheer black cliffs tumbling down in the water between green coconuts trees

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The welcome is warm, people waiting for you in the beach, all singing. The accommodation is in a beautiful Bure, the traditional thatched Fijian dwelling, with charming and useful mosquito nets.

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And, as a welcome by Nature, an absolutely magnificent sunset!

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Fiji - March 22, 2005 - Matacawalevu

And here I remained for ten days, lulled to sleep by the soft sound of the waves three meters out of my little window and helped by the perfect blackness of the night when the generator was shut off.

Here the time does not exist, it felt perfectly well to rock for half an hour on the hammock, slowly thinking to all and to nothing, waiting perhaps only for the slow drums signalling that breakfast, or perhaps it was already lunch, was arranged.

Nonetheless, the call of the ocean is powerful and I went as soon as possible into the water, at least in the beautiful drop-off on the west side of the island, with the camera and sometimes with the gun.

Finding, at really five minute swim from the door of the my Bure, everywhere dazzlingly coloured corals and exquisite sea creatures, even a little Sea Snake. And fish.

The very first time I was in the water, toying with macro pictures, a faint movement behind me: it’s a big Napoleon Fish or Giant Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) of about forty kilos, perhaps more bewildered than me, that floats away after a little while.

The picture is not a good one but it’s here only for corroboration.

Once I've even seen a Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), in 10 m of water!

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In a short lazy sunset fishing, I took also an aggressive and beautiful, not to say good too eat, Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar, Forsskal, 1775).

Sadly, they inundated it with ketchup and it was ruined...


I also climbed the nearest mountain so to obtain pictures that I deem really... tropicals!

With good weather and bad weather.

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Alas, the weather. As you can clearly see in the first picture, and from what you can deduce by the last one, with the rainbow, the weather again played havoc to my attempts to take a boat and go out spearfishing “seriously”.

Oh, I tried, and even succeeded a couple of times, but the very first attempt the water was a bad 10-14 m of visibility, the flasher dangling useless in the yellow water. And this in different locations, both on the east and the west side of the island.

Then we had another hurricane (I think it's the fourth from the start of my trip...) moving form the Solomon Islands to south, against us, and we had many days with strong winds and heavy, if rapid, rains, and consequent repeated cancellations of the trip.

By the way, I can personally testify (and my computer with me) that the Bure is really an excellent dwelling: not even a drop of rain went in.

The last attempt was almost good but it was thwarted by a problem and a misunderstanding with the gasoline needed.

The water anyway was clean and blue. I had beautiful dives in calm waters. Sadly, no fish to speak about.


Local knowledge is paramount but also is the unavoidable fact that not always some fish, even regularly taken by line, could by this inferred we can fish it underwater. We should really always have a check with a nautical chart and, possibly, a sounder.

It’s NOT so impossible to think about that. Consider, the least expensive and portable of sounders could really skyrocket our possibilities to find beautiful fish. 

The goodbyes were even warmer than the greetings: almost all the staff went with us in the boat waiting for the "Yellow Boat", always singing and playing, all the women with bright flowers in their hair, and, as a long term guest, they regaled me with a fragrant frangipani flower garland, symbol of good travelling.

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Fiji - March 24, 2005 - Nadi

Now I’m in Nadi, waiting for my fly, tomorrow, March 25.

I changed my plans. I decided to transform one of the stop over of less than 24 hours in New Zealand in a full stay of more than three weeks. They always tell me that New Zealand is SO a beautiful country…


And I’ll be paying perhaps some debt to my past. You know, the very second book I ever read in English (at that time knowing very little about it), ages ago, has been “The Lord of the Rings”…


But that’s NOT all. Perhaps there’ll be interesting news in the future. STAY TUNED!



See you in New Zealand..

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