Quick synopsis of our last week with Ben
Friday October 12th- Mark was not feeling too well so Ben and I went for an evening hike up in the hills. We found some beautiful tropically wooded areas but could not find any paths and the brush was too thick to walk through. Luckily for us we ran into Regine and Gerard, a fantastic French couple from the boat “Galdus” who were also out for a little hike. They are veteran walkers/hikers and before long Gerard had led us to a beautiful path up on a steep cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a great opportunity for Ben to take some pictures and for us both to practice our French.
Afterwards we joined a musical group that was playing together up by the site of the previous night’s pirate party. Lots of guitarists and singers and Ben impressed everyone with his drum playing on a borrowed gembe (jembe?).
Saturday October 13- we sailed with Risho Maru and Yara to anchorage 23,a gorgeaus anchorage which overlooks a sand spit – you can walk between islands on the pink sand at low tide. We all walked on the beach and then Ben, Mark and I snorkeled around one of the reefs. That night we were invited to Risho Maru for a jazz night in which Peter talked about jazz, and in particular about one of his favorite musicians, Joe Zavinol (sp?) who recently died. Then he played us a great selection of jazz going back about 40 years. Really fun and it was great to do it with Ben here.
Sunday October 14- A gorgeaus day. Our friends have windsurf boards and Peter spent a few hours with Ben teaching him how to do it. Ben realized it is a lot harder than it looks, but had a great time trying.
Monday October 15- Another beautiful day at anchorage 23. We spent a fair amount of time cleaning the hull. Mark and Ben took turns using the “Brownie” – an underwater breathing apparatus (electric hookah) that lets them go under the boat and clean off the incredibly thick growth that has accumulated there. We were invited over to “Vera” for a pasta dinner with Michel and Britta.
Tuesday October 16- Still at anchorage 23 – We finished cleaning the hull of the boat and then decided to take the dinghy over to the nearby island (anchorage #32) which is known for is good snorkeling. We found fantastic coral – greens,blues, yellows, pinks, purple, plus lots of interesting fish. The water was freezing cold in some spots and as hot as a bath in others. Risho Maru and Vera left earlier in the day for anchorage 11 and at about 5:00 p.m we pulled up anchor and sailed over to join them.
Wednesday October 17- Ben prepared to leave – packing, exchanging digital photos of the trip and giving us some new music to listen to. In the evening we dinghied over to the Spanish restaurant La Paella for a farewell dinner with our friends from Vera and Risho Maru. The only guests in the restaurant were the 8 of us at our table and one other table of 4. There is no road to this restaurant which is on Tapana Island- you have to get there by boat. We ate there two weeks ago and had a great time, but last night was even better. It is a simple, but beautiful restaurant overlooking the harbor. When you sit there with the cool breeze blowing through and the moon and stars shining through you don’t even care if the food is good. It is such a pleasant place to sit. Luckily, however, the food is also very good.
But the best part is the music afterwards. Eduardo and Maria, the husband and wife who run the place, are terrific musicians and he plays guitar and harmonica and primarily sings music from Spain, Cuba and Brazil (with some American Jazz thrown in) while she accompanies him on percussion. Last night she even did a flamenco dance. She was apparently quite a dancer in her youth. They encourage the guests to participate by playing various percussion instruments and Ben sat himself next to a great little drum and was so good at it that they invited him to stay and learn Spanish music with them if he wanted. The music was so fantastic that most of us got up and danced to the Spanish music they played after their live performance. Alex and Peter from Risho Maru are the best dancers I have seen since 30 years ago when I first saw Auntie Lillie and Uncle Benje dance. Very great place and a nice goodbye party for Ben.
Thursday October 18- Despite the fact that up to last night at 10.00 P.M. we could not get the airlines here to tell us whether Ben was reconfirmed for his flight, or, in fact, what time the flight was supposed to depart, we got a taxi to the airport this afternoon and without too much of a wait, Ben was off to Fiji and hopefully by tomorrow will be in California. It is apparently quite normal here for people to find out at the last minute that their flight has either left earlier than scheduled, or several hours after the scheduled time.
We have to thank our friend Kelley Smith in Providence for contacting Air Fiji and getting us the info we needed for Ben’s return flight home. It was simply not possible to get any reliable info from here – so thanks a million Kelley!! We also were helped by Jason, a great guy at the Aquarium Cafe, who is one of the most pleasant peope you can imagine. Jason and his sister Lisa moved here from California last year and besides serving food at the Aquarium cafe they arrange tours, manage an internet cafe, and assist the sea of sailers here with practically anything you can imagine.
So now it is back to just Mark and me on the boat – and it will just be a few weeks before we set off for our last big sail of the year – Tonga to New Zealand. Quite a few sailers have already left and within the next few weeks this place will clear out completely as the season of tropical cyclones is fast approaching.