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We had never seen anything like it. Besides the marina, there were restaurants and bars everywhere, supermarkets, chandleries, laundry, fuel dock, banks, a very efficient bus service to the international airport and major towns, ferry services, excursion yachts of all descriptions. The list of facilities and activities were endless, not to mention the size of the development. Simply mind boggling! Basically a one-stop holiday destination for any kind of tourist, be they landlubber or sailor; a tourist trap deluxe!

It was such a stark contrast to Savusavu and indeed Suva, we were dumbfounded to say the least. We also had the opportunity during our second visit to Fiji, while visiting the outer islands, to see the other side of the logistics operation out of Port Denarau, where daily ferries transport tourists, workers, luggage, food, laundry, etc to and from the resorts. They float a little offshore, since it's too shallow to get closer inland and there aren't docks big enough to accommodate the ferries. From there the smaller resort boats meet the ferries to transport people and goods arriving or leaving the islands.

Quite the operation indeed, but definitely added to the adventure of a holiday in Fiji.

Beyond the Pawpaw Trees: The Story of Anna Lavinia by Palmer Brown

Our explorations around Denarau Island the next morning on the local dollar bus revealed a number of huge resorts, an hole golf course, a water park, tenpin bowling, diving, parasailing, jet-skiing, and dinghy sailing. Proceeding on to Nadi Town, where we enjoyed a morning coffee with local cake, we also found a post office and a number of well stocked supermarkets. The highlight, however, were the fresh produce market and the barber shop. After Roy got his hair cut, we spent some time chatting to the barber who was a delightful gentleman and completely fascinated by the fact that we had sailed to Fiji from the Caribbean, on our own yacht, with just the two of us onboard.

He had all sorts of questions and enjoyed the photographs we were able to show him of Paw Paw.

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He did conclude, though, that he'll stick to flying, as the idea of what we're doing caused him far too much anxiety. Having surveyed Denarau Island by bus, we decided to repeat the exercise a few days later on foot.

Paw Paw - Where is Paw Paw

Once we'd left the marina complex, our walk took us along a meandering concrete pathway under shady trees and through beautifully maintained gardens, passing various gated communities that sported very fancy homes and apartments, before we spotted the Sofitel Resort and Spa, where we made our way through their reception, patio and pool areas and onto the beach. We followed the beach and purpose built pathways along the entire western side of the island, passing through the various resorts lining the shoreline, including the Westin, Sheraton and Radisson, where we stopped for morning coffee and enjoyed the views of the Mamanuca Islands.

If we didn't know better, though, we could have been in Maui, Hawai'i or Arizona. The whole layout reminded us of so many of the Adult Communities in Arizona, including the golf course and tennis courts, with one major exception.

Paw Paw - New Zealand

Tennis was reasonably priced though. Our walk in the opposite direction to the Hilton Fiji Resort and Spa revealed a resort that soon became a favourite on subsequent visits for morning coffee and French pastries. With our minds at rest that we could acquire everything we needed in Port Denarau, we returned to Paw Paw to get ready for our night out; reservations at the Rhum-Ba Restaurant at the Port Denarau Yacht Club. It was definitely worth the wait! By this point, it is fair to say that Roy had found his "happy place" in Port Denarau, to the point that he even looked at lots of land and had worked out what kind of dock he would build to accommodate Paw Paw.

With a good mix of the very modern upmarket touristy places to the easily accessible local towns and markets, he was sold! After a week in the hubbub of Port Denarau, however, we decided to head for Malolo Lailai Island for some peace and quiet and to enjoy the final days of our first visit to Fiji. It was supposed to be turned into a cotton plantation, but after a number of owners, nothing happened on the island until the late 60s, at which time it was sold to Richard Smith, Regge Raffe and Sir Ian MacFarlene, with each man deciding to develop a different section of the island.

It was Richard Dick who started building Musket Cove, which was casually referred to as "Dick's Place" until when the Musket Cove Island Resort and Spa was born, with acres used as an organic farm and coconut plantation to supply the resort. Today, as Fiji's oldest resort, it remains privately owned and has been extended over the years, with the marina being the newest addition.

At last we felt we had arrived somewhere in Fiji that reflected everything we had read about. It was, however, our wonderful bike ride around Malolo Lailai Island, enhanced by the glorious day, where the views were absolutely spectacular and, in fact, the most beautiful we had seen in the South Pacific, convincing Elaine, that while Roy had found his "happy place" on Denarau Island, Elaine had found her place on Malolo Lailai Island. Needless to say, this called for another WARC dropouts get-together. Our hope, however, was that, at some point, before we all scattered to the wind, we would still be able to get everyone together for a Bon Voyage party!

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The first, with Nina for sundowners, followed by a Pig Roast buffet dinner at Dick's Place, accompanied by Fijian dancing and singing on the beach, which definitely had a very African influence. The second, with Nina and Kiwi Beanz for sundowners and a beach barbecue, Musket Cove Yacht Club Island style; "bring you own food and we'll supply the barbecue, cutlery, crockery and drinks from the bar".

So, no clean up, just great fun! Other activities included snorkelling off Musket Cove Island in their marine reserve, canoe rides around the bay, a round of golf and the obligatory game of Mexican train dominoes with Nina at the Musket Cove Yacht Club Island Bar accompanied by a light dinner.

Our first attempt at paddle-boarding, although postponed initially due to the premature arrival of strong winds, was undertaken in perfect conditions; flat seas and calm winds. There was just one exception; it poured with rain the whole time. It was a load of fun, though, and Elaine could safely say that all items on her bucket list, with regard to sporting activities, were officially completed.

On another occasion, and to coincide with low tide, a dinghy convoy from Paw Paw, Nina and Kiwi Beanz set off to the sandbar for a morning of snorkelling, followed by beachcombing on the sandbar itself and where the boys from Kiwi Beanz thoroughly enjoyed themselves by building a "starfish farm" for all the baby starfish they found.

This second visit to the sandbar for us proved very worthwhile as the water was even clearer than the day before, revealing the beautiful coral and a greater variety of fish. With that we nearly had the whole dropouts fleet back together. Unfortunately we were still missing Do Over. Never mind. Close, but no cigar! This was followed by a delicious dinner with Steve and Lynda at the Rhum-Ba Restaurant; New Zealand lamb for the ladies and seared tuna for the men, completed with chocolate truffles for dessert.

It was a fitting celebration of a wonderful South Pacific sailing season that was coming to a close and one that was made extra special in the company of the WARC dropouts. Special thanks to them all for the wonderful memories! With that, our time had drawn to a close for our first visit to Fiji and our return to Port Denarau had signified the beginning of all our passage preparations while awaiting a weather window to sail to New Zealand, which would follow a short trip across the bay to clear out from Vuda Marina.

It also signified the time to say our goodbyes to our WARC dropout friends with the hopes of seeing each other again in New Zealand. Fate had other ideas, though, and our goodbyes to Do Over and Kiwi Beanz, on the dock of the Port Denarau Marina, was, in fact, the last time we saw them. Our goodbyes to Nina at Vuda Marina took a similar turn for Elaine at least. It was wonderful to catch up with them and to learn that they too were sailing to New Zealand with us, along with a host of other yachts who were clearing out at the same time as us.

We had also made the decision to explore the other Mamanuca Islands and the Yassawa Islands on this second visit. Our arrival also brought with it the sad news that one of Elaine's dear friends in South Africa, Daryl, had passed away while we were en route from New Zealand to Fiji. Elaine has no doubt that Daryl would definitely have had a word with the powers that be and organised all our guardian angels to ensure our safe arrival in Fiji. After the initial tearful reaction to the news, it was the fond memories that sprung to mind.

Paw Paws - Collecting Fruit for Seed

Memories of having one too many drinks together on a Friday night at the Sunnyside Hotel and then deciding it was a good idea to play golf on their lawns, as well as remembering the evening she gave Elaine a gift for our son, Keenan, just after he was born; a beautiful little teddy bear, which we decided to call Miller, after another one of our favourite pubs and who now belongs to our grandson, William.

While it was a difficult day coming to terms with her death, on the heels of a terrible passage, it was a privilege to have known such a remarkable woman, a woman whose legacy will live on through her sons, Sean and Rian. Rest in peace dear friend. You will be missed. With repair activities moving along nicely we had decided to mix up our second visit to Fiji, by, not only exploring the outer islands, but to enjoy some land-based activities on Viti Levu Island as well.

We decided our excursions of Viti Levu Island were best undertaken by car, so once, that was arranged and collected we set off.

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First stop was a drive to Lautoka, where we stocked up on fresh meat at Fiji Meats, who then vacuum packed everything and placed it all in their freezer overnight for us. We also took the opportunity to get some of the heavier provisions at one of the supermarkets while we had the car. Lautoka was a pleasant surprise with its neat, tidy surroundings and beautiful trees lining the streets. On the way home we stopped in at Vuda Marina briefly and then explored the Wailoaloa Bay area and were surprised to find all sorts of bars, restaurants, resorts, shops, etc tucked away in this well hidden area of Fiji between Denarau Island and Nadi, as well as a number of yachts anchored in the bay.

The following day, with a packed picnic lunch, our road trip started with a visit to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Nestled in its own shady valley of the Sabeto Mountains and the Nausori Highlands, the mountain range is named because of the outline resembling that of a giant sleeping. The gardens have different species of orchids and a large variety of Fiji's interior indigenous tropical plants. Founded in by the late actor, Raymond Burr, to house his own orchid collection, it now displays one of the world's largest collections of orchids. Our tour was wrapped up with a refreshing tamarind juice, enjoyed on the large terrace overlooking part of the garden.

From there we took the short trip to enjoy an all natural spa treatment and one of nature's treasures, the Sabeto Mud Pool and Hot Springs. The main spring is 72C, which is used to fill the other thermal pools after the water has been cooled to approximately 36C via underground piping. Our experience started with our tour guide providing an explanation of the facilities and the process, following which we had to rub mud all over our bodies from buckets provided, including our faces, having changed into our swimsuits beforehand, thankfully.

Since the mud contains a very fine sand, your skin gets exfoliated during this rubbing process. Once the mud had dried, we then waded into the mud pool to wash off, leaving our skin smooth and soft. Being shin-deep in the soft mud at the bottom of the mud pool was definitely a very strange feeling, feeling almost like grass rather than mud between our toes. From there we took the plunge into one of the thermal pools and then Elaine enjoyed a massage, while Roy treated himself to one of the other, warmer thermal pools.

While the massage experience didn't compete with the "Fofo" massage Elaine had in Samoa, it was nonetheless, surreal in many ways. Lying on a massage bed in a room with ten other individuals, listening to roosters crowing outside while a Fijian lady rubbed coconut oil all over her body, whispering quietly to the other Fijian ladies in their native language and having Dolly Parton singing 9 to 5 in the background, followed by a broadcast of the local news detailing the shenanigans of a pastor who was on trial for allegedly raping members of his congregation, and it takes a moment to focus on where in the world you actually are.

Both feeling very relaxed and having enjoyed this most unusual outing, we headed back to Lautoka to collect our meat before returning to Port Denarau, where Roy enjoyed a sundowner and Elaine enjoyed a cappuccino and a huge slice of delicious chocolate cake. Day three of our road trip was the main reason we hired a car. We had to return to Fiji's capital, Suva, which was approximately a 4-hour drive, one way, in order to visit the US Embassy to get a Special Power of Attorney notarised. That meant a very early start in order to reach Suva in time for our appointment. Although the journey was roughly a hour round trip in total along the Coral Coast, which we had sailed along on our previous visit to Fiji, the road was in a fairly good condition, surprisingly, but returning in the dark became a very treacherous ordeal indeed, as there were little to no road markings, no lights, no cat's eyes, not to mention, complete maniacs driving.

Fortunately we were within an hour of Port Denarau by the time the sun set. We were, however, reminded a lot of Samoa, with the numerous colourful villages along the way, the dense, tropical landscape and the beautiful flowers and gardens bordering the road on either side.

What we weren't expecting to see were the numerous pine and fir trees, which seemed misplaced amongst all the tropical vegetation, as well as the number of mosques, which almost outnumbered the Hindu temples and churches we saw. It was also lovely to receive so many waves and smiles as we passed through the villages.

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  • We broke up the journey by stopping in at the very fancy private resort, the Nanuku Auberge, where we received a warm welcome, used the bathrooms and enjoyed a cappuccino, while overlooking the turquoise waters and the island of Beqa. We knew we were approaching Suva when the skies clouded over and it started to rain. Suva receives an exponentially higher amount of rainfall than the rest of the country due to its location on the south-eastern corner of Viti Levu Island and the high mountain range that surrounds it.

    It was our experience, however, at the US Embassy that provided us with a momentary return to the Parallel Universe. We arrived earlier than our appointment time, but the guards would not notify the notary services of our arrival because we didn't have a contact name. So, we called the services to obtain a name and were informed that it was lunch time and to return closer to our appointment time, by which time the services will have contacted the guards. With that we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at the Royal Suva Yacht Club and had hoped to catch up with Time Bandit Ann and Stuart during this very short interlude, but to no avail.