|Tidy forest paths on Dravuni|
|Crab scarfing a coconut left by locals|
Asked for chief and were pointed in to house across from pier, which strangely was one of the oldest and most rundown looking. His wife greeted us, round rolly teddy bear-like happy woman. She led us into the main room of the house, which, like Tongan main rooms, was mostly empty except for pictures of family high on the walls. Talked about her kids. She said he was in the bath, waited and talked to her a bit and he came in and changed in a second room behind a semi transparent curtain. Came out and said ‘yes’ in answer to a question from his wife, then ‘papers’, and that was the end of the conversation.
That evening I was sitting on the companionway steps, Cpt at the chart table, and I got a couple lungful of something nasty and started coughing.. Smelled chemical, but it was very faint and almost right away it was gone. Wandered around sniffing for it for awhile, we fig’d it came from island, or maybe refrigerator which gives off some phosgene when hot (phosgene it was, turned out). Wish I’d identified it at this point, as it might have saved a lot of damage… we were reading in dark with headlights later, starts getting smoked up high in the cabin, then gets down to us and I smell it strong all the sudden. The smoke detector didn't go off. Get up and turn on light and see how smoked up the cabin is… Cpt starts searching engine area, moves some stuff and crawls back to the engine access panel, and then I see a little bunch of electrical wires flare up over his head. We kill power to those wires, smother the fire, and ventilate the boat. Not much of the boat itself is singed, but there's all kinds of shorts and melted wiring- running through the starboard side of the main wiring center and back up into the wheel.. Cpt figs compass light got juiced by something bigger and overheated. Scary how easily something like that can happen, even to someone who does electrical work as carefully as Cpt. Good thing we were on the boat when it happened.
Next day we started fixing the damage then motored out to the lil island with the beach in between two hills of volcanic rock. Climbed up some loose crumbly stuff til the burrs stopped me for a nice view of the coral and volcanic dikes around me. Big shells and hermit crabs, jumping crabs, coconut trees vines and thick brush. One set of footprints- mine.
Snorkeled off a nearby uninhabited island. I thought very beaut, Cpt bored with tropical reef life in Pacific. Lil blue fishes like everywhere, lots jellyfish with light stings, one weird zigzag jelly thing not sure what it was, a small blacktip shark and some other big fish out in the deeper water, cool school of little fish that looked iridescent purple from afar, then blue, then green-yellow when you were over them. Tons of little triggers but no big ones. Best Christmas tree worms ever! Beaut bicolors, many had CaCo3 tube home with a spike sticking out that I haven’t seen before. Usual plethora of wrasses and parrot fish. Some wrasses were extremely beautiful. New little horizontal banded fish with purple bottom. Some little new orange shrimp or crabs hiding in burrows in ball of coral. Lots of cold and warm currents, and many more jellies on western side. Shallow sandy area warm like bathwater. Swam most of way around the island.
The third day we walked around the village. Seemed like a couple hundred people maybe. Little graveyard at north end path, couple more paths that went to south and across to other side of island. Some steep hillsides with moody-looking dark jungle draped with vines. Taro and mat fronds planted along sides, coconut trees, papayas, mangoes… lots poinsetta like flowers, purple morning glory like vines, yellow hibiscus-types and blue spikes kinda like mint but no odor. Seemed like a little more diversity than Tonga, but maybe just cause stuff is blooming now. Graveyard like in Tonga, raised concrete graves, some with cloths draped over the graves and colorful decorations. Little overgrown but path well-trod and ended there. Beach with tons of trash washed up on it, including an intact flourescent light bulb and a camera film case that we picked up to use as a container. Rocks with tide pools with little sculpins peering at us myopically.
Walked up big hill, nice view. Mystery water tanks on way - group up hill away from village, no visible catchment. Electrical junction boxes along raked decoratively planted path, but no generator in sight. Buried wire- alot of work for something that's not getting used. Must have been an aid project. Pigs and chickens all in pens, then gardens beyond. Everyone says hi but seem uninterested in long conversations.
Climbed hill and found Aussie couple messing around up there, funny. I liked them, they're here doing solo, self-motivated relief work - education, medicine, and water containers. She’s a retired teacher. They brought a nurse over from Vunisea to do training here for a few days. They spoke for awhile about how respectful kids are here, like in 1950s in the States. They came here a few years ago on a cruise, and come back for a few months each year now. Great views from the top of the hill of crystal clear water and the verdant island.