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Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 8 - 12 -Naqelelevu; Aftermath of a Cyclone, Lobsters, Coconut Crabs and Good Times - Part 2

We all gathered in our dinghies over by the rocky spit of coral reef, equipped with snorkel gear, cameras and spears.

We were armed for battle and ready to fetch some lobsters. The three boys, James, Bill and took us over to an area that looked like lava rock formations. We soon found that they did not need our help in the least - they got down to serious business diving under rocks and craggy coral formations with long spears, working like mad to get into the smallest crevices to hunt the elusive crustaceans and they knew their territory well. Soon they had speared 3, and then were ready to move along to the next area. We all walked along behind them pulling our dinghies and basically frolicking like children watching in awe as the boys continued to snare one lobster after another. By noon they had gathered 7. We continued to snorkel about and try to offer some assistance although everyone knew that they needed no help from us. We managed to see some beautiful marine life in the process, including several beautiful giant clams. At one point, Paul on "Scallywag" asked the boys if they ate the clams and how they prepared them. Their response was that they are lovely, just raw and so they gave us an example. Paul took his dive knife and cut one loose from a rocky outcropping. They pried the large clam's "jaws" open and sliced the flesh out of the shell, taking care to identify the white meaty portion that is edible. We each had a taste and agreed it is delicious! Then James explained to us that we must replace the mussel of the clam and return the shell to its home so that it will regenerate. They are very mindful of protecting this environment and respecting the natural order of things. By just past mid-day, we had a total of 9 lobsters of varying sizes. We took the boys back to their home and agreed to all meet back on the beach at 4 PM for a lobster and crab feast.

I prepared Cajun dirty rice, and we packed up our plates and drinks. Then we made a care package for the three boys, including large bags of sugar, flour, rice, t-shirts, caps, old shoes and some batteries. The other cruisers did the same. They boys impressed us by building a fire on the beach and rigging three thick tree branches to support a large cooking pot. They had already prepared the coconut crabs, but we needed to cook the lobsters. We managed to get three in the pot at a time, but then the last three were so large that they had to be cooked individually. We had so much food that even between the 13 of us, we could not finish 2 of the lobsters. After dinner we stargazed and visited with the boys, and then reluctantly said goodnight and set off for our respective yachts.

The next morning, part of the group went for a snorkel of a sunken Japanese fishing boat out on the outer reef. The current is very strong and can be dangerous, therefore, Frank and I opted out, spending the day just swimming in the lagoon and taking it easy.
Our final day there, we met again at the beach to hike to the lake in the middle of the little island for a swim with the turtles. One of the conservation efforts this community makes is rescuing sea turtles when they are hatchlings, and transplanting them into the lake so that they can grow large enough to be released back into the wild. We were so excited! Regrettably, the plan got aborted after we trudged our way through the fallen trees and managed to reach the lake. The tide was out causing the lake to recede so far that we would have had to wade in mud up to our thighs for several hundred feet in order to get to the water. A few of our men gave it a go and after getting shoes and other items sucked off in the mud they declared it unsafe for us to venture further. We turned back and opted for a snorkel in a nearby lagoon. The snorkeling was great fun. Afterward we walked back over to the "village" area and were met with 2 surprises.

The boys had brought back one of the juvenile turtles for us to see. He was beautiful. We got to touch him and watch him walk (scoot) along the beach and them swim around in a sheltered area of the shallows. I got a picture of Frank holding him up. He was quite heavy, measuring about 3 ½ feet in diameter. The second surprise was a lovo feast the boys had prepared for us. A lovo is an earth oven, prepared much like a luau, cooked in the ground and covered by palm and banana leaves for several hours. They had cooked roasted 7 of their chickens for us. They were absolutely some of the most succulent and delicious chickens we have ever eaten.
To end our visit to this charming island, we brought the three boys out into the anchorage - each of us taking a turn bringing them onto our boats and visiting with them for a little while, sending them along to the next yacht with a bag full of goodies and necessities. They were thrilled to get a chance to see how we live and to tour our boats. When we said goodbye to them we all had tears in our eyes. They told us that they have never before had 5 yachts in their bay at one time. In fact, last year they only saw 2 the entire season. I felt a stab of anxiety leaving them and pray that they will succeed in their efforts to rebuild their little home.
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2 comments:

Judy and Bill aboard S/V BeBe said...

You were very fortunate to visit this "island." Sounds like one of those places you will remember forever.

Anonymous said...

any pictures taken!!! Never been to my island