Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Father's Day Weekend Fail

So there is a population of spinner dolphins that come into Moon Reef to rest during the day. There has been a little research done with the population. Given my background in marine mammals, I was hoping to do some volunteer work with this project while here, so far nothing has really progressed. Working and even volunteering for 'trailing spouses' is difficult in Fiji due to the high unemployment rate for Fijians. It has to be shown that what you have to offer can not be done by someone locally and therefore the work permit/visa process can take many many months at which point if you have a short assignment, is the time spent trying to get involved even worth it?

So spinner dolphins are very acrobatic compared to the slower, almost geriatric, bottlenose dolphins we are used to seeing in Charleston. So the chance to go see spinner dolphins is something we did not want to miss out on. Richard had mention going to see the Takalana Bay dolphins several times, so when coming up with something to do for Father's Day, I contacted them to see if they were back in business. TC Winston had done a number on them, one of their boats ended up in a mahogany tree due to the storm surge! They were, so I booked a family bure for one night and emailed back about when to coordinate the dolphin watch. Crickets. So Richard called and talked to them. The guy he spoke with told us to be there at 9:30, we would have morning tea, head out on the boat for a couple hours, and then be back for lunch. He would write us down for the morning boat ride when he got back. Sounded perfect. First day of term break, we got up at our usual 6 am to get ready and out the door in time. It was a bit overcast and drizzly in Suva as we headed out, but we had a beautiful rainbow on the way up. The photo doesn't do it justice, I don't think I have ever seen a rainbow as wide as this one was!


For some reason, prior to this trip I not only went and checked out the route on google maps, but I also printed out zoomed in maps for the route/major turns. Most trips we somewhat wing it and then use our phones for the last bit of navigation. I think it was partly due to the fact is we had never headed around to the east side of the island (only the more well travelled west coast). Apparently I had some intuition that my cell service would fail me and without the maps we may have never made it. The last 30-40 minutes of the drive was dirt/rock roads and even with 'no service' on my phone the GPS function on my phone appeared to be somewhat working and was moving us along the map on my phone and matching the printed out paper map route.


After a while, Richard was certain we were lost, but at what point do you turn around and what point do you keep going? Finally, we saw a tiny sign by a gravel driveway....we had made it!! Glad I kept saying I think we are going the right way.


When we got to the end of the driveway, we were greeted by the owners who were surprised we had arrived so early and said they were not expecting us till that afternoon. Uh-oh.....Clarissa asked when we were going to go see the dolphins, since the owners seemed a bit confused I told her I didn't know, but the person daddy talked to said be here at 9:30 to catch the boat. We heard them speak in Fijian to each other, then disappear. A bit later, one of the owners came back and said he called, the boat was getting some repairs done and it was waiting for the paint to dry. We would go out after lunch. They offered to have their son show us down to the beach. Sounded like a plan B.


It was low tide, so the boys had tide pools to explore. I was excited to go to look for shells on my first black sand beach, and Clarissa made a new friend, the owners son. She and JoJo started making a sand castle.


After a little over an hour, both kids were getting hungry (so we headed back up the hill). We unpacked the car and they asked what we wanted to eat. We somewhat loitered around the area while we were waiting.  I got some pictures of the property and view



and the TC Winston damage they sustained.


This was their main building which housed the conference room, kitchen, bar, and dining area and it took the biggest hit. Walls and roof completely gone. We asked them about the storm. The owners said they rode the storm out here. When Winston made landfall when there was daylight (it got to Suva after midnight) they were in the bure behind this building. They had put some tarps/blankets over a bunk bed they moved to the center of the bure/against a wall and hunkered down in there. We could see some of wall panels and windows on that bure had been recently replaced and the roof looked new. The last bure they were still working on repairing and it had a brand new roof.


Pine trees were just snapped in half all around and up the hills all around the area. They still did not have power restored (so 4 months nearly to the day). We heard a generator running occasionally when they were using power tools to work on the other bure and a lot of the electrical lights/outlets and the water heater in our bure need to be rewired since all the electric lines were likely ripped off during the storm.


Clarissa played with Jojo (they played tag, hide and seek, colored, eye spy, card games....you name it, they played it).


Not sure if he realized it, but after I took this picture Clarissa informed me they were playing wedding since they had matching flowers...lol.


Mommy got decorated with flowers too. (The bure with the new roof is to the left and the dining area is currently under the red tailgating tents).


We then hung out in the hammocks and played with the kitty.


Then about 2 hours later (and I lost track of how many 'when is lunch?') lunch was ready....good news the kids were so staving they ate whatever was served...lol. After eating, the owners called on the boat to see when it would be there to pick us up. Since it was a beach pick up, it would be about an hour for the water level to get back up high enough from the low tide for him to get in close enough. So we took our time reapplying sunscreen and then headed back down the hill.


While we waited the kids played in the water. Clarissa was doing a little interpretive dance or something.


Loved the GoPro wide angle black sand beach shot.....I may enlarge and frame this one. The scenery this weekend was beautiful!


So we waited and waited in the hot afternoon sun on the beach.


After an hour and half or so, Richard gave up and walked back up the hill. I assumed he asked what was up. When he didn't come back down after another 15-20 minutes, I figured there were more boat problems so the kids and I headed back up. When Clarissa wanted to be carried I asked which bag she wanted to carry (since Richard had ditched us with all the stuff)....so then she decided she could walk. I saw the owner and was all 'I guess we aren't going out'..... Of course its a term break...which means time to grow, so the kids were wanting a snack so I went to find them something. The owner comes back over and said he called and the boat is on the way and is coming right now (and we could hear a boat coming). So we grab all our stuff, kids eating along the way, and go running (literally) back down the hill. So with a lovely afternoon glare, we head out onto the water on a little tiny boat to look for spinner dolphins.


A few minutes after this, I dug Clarissa's swim vest out of the bag and put it on her as it got choppy. While not a life jacket, it made me feel a little safer that she had a little something on.


We made it out to the reef. We drove around for a bit looking for spinners. If you aren't familiar, spinner dolphins are nocturnal feeders. They will typically find a shallow reef or bay to rest in during the day. So Moon Reef is this populations' daytime resting area. In the evening, the spinner dolphins will wake up and head out to deeper waters to feed. Richard stuck the GoPro in the water next to the boat while we were cruising around. I did a screen grab from that video, since I saw a blue sea star!


Proof that Richard smiled at least once over the weekend! So after piddling around the reef for about 20-30 minutes, the captain said that he guesses the dolphins have already headed out for the evening. He then mentions that this morning when he was out on the reef diving that they had seen the dolphins. WHAT?!?! Already headed out and we missed them? This morning?!?! So many thoughts going through my head...but as we have learned sometimes you just have to say with a sigh "Oh Fiji!" and let it go at that.


We headed back in over the late afternoon chop towards lovely dark clouds coming in over the resort. Once back at the beach, the captain said he could take us out again the next morning to look for dolphins, we would see the dolphins then. He told us to be back at the beach between 8:30 & 9:00. Richard confirmed with him about 5 or 6 times.

We headed back up the hill, got cleaned up while we still had some daylight, Clarissa played with her friend some more, ate dinner, did some stargazing (benefit of no power is really good stargazing...too bad it was nearly a full moon). Then we all headed to bed. There was a real nice cross breeze in the bure. There was a full size bed, bunk bed and another single bed. Since it was Father's Day weekend we decided to be nice and let Richard have the big bed all to himself. Everything was fine and dandy until a little rain shower passed by, then all the mosquitos came in....and I mean ALL the mosquitos. I got up and found the bug spray and doused myself in DEET. Both kids then wanted to be doused. That didn't really help at all. Richard's bed was the only one with a mosquito net (we had seen several mosquito nets wrapped around trees....looks like Winston took a few), so I had both kids get in with him. I had on my airplane sweatshirt. It is lightweight but has this awesome hood that comes down real far and can cover your eyes (so good for sleeping on a plane). So I doused myself in DEET again, pulled my sweatshirt hood down over my nose, and pulled the sheet up to my nose so that I was completely covered....or so I thought.....took them about 20 minutes and another little rain shower but those pesky mosquitos found me! I held out for a bit, but eventually I couldn't take it any longer and I crawled in the other bed with everyone else (so yes 4 people in a full size bed....it was cozy). We woke the next morning to a nice sunny and flat ocean day....yeah maybe the weekend won't be a total loss!


So we all got ready to go on the boat again, we had breakfast. The owners asked what our plan was for Sunday. We mentioned that the boat captain had said he was going to take us out again this morning between 8:30 & 9:00 to look for dolphins. They glance at each other with a worried look and then said to us, he normally goes to church on Sunday....and it was already after 8:30 when we were having this conversation. They tried to calling him, but as luck would have it the cell phone tower was down. I had no service, Richard didn't, and neither owner did either. Rebooting phones didn't work either. So that was it....towel was thrown in.....we got all our stuff packed up, paid, and headed back to Suva a little after 10:00. Since dolphins were not seen, we only had to pay a boat/fuel fee so that was nice and compared to some of the resorts we had stayed at the accommodations (which included meals) were very inexpensive.

On the drive back, I asked the kids if they thought it was a rough weekend with no power and a cold water shower. I pointed out how that it was one night for us, but their family has been like that for four months since TC Winston.....got a woah.

Now for the icing on the cake......one of the small villages we drove back through on the way home had a little speed trap of sorts set up. About 10 meters before the village speed limit of 60 km/h ended and the speed increased to 80 km/h, there was an officer with radar gun, another officer directing speeders to the side of the road, and a woman with a ticket book. So while it probably is somewhat natural for one to start accelerating when you see the new speed limit sign.....we now know you must wait until you pass the actual sign to accelerate because someone (not naming names) lost their "I've never gotten a speeding ticket in my life" bragging rights.....

So....a silver lining to this weekend, I was beginning to worry that I would have to end every blog post about a resort saying we want to go back, which realistically would become impossible to go back to very single place...lol. The owners were very nice, but the facility really took a beating during TC Winston. While I was happy we were able to provide some income to them, I don't think they are fully organized and back up and running at full efficiency. I think we ended up with a bit of miscommunication or forgotten to note our trip(s) out to see the dolphins. We would like to see the spinner dolphins, so maybe early next year we can attempt just a day trip out to see the dolphins.

Lesson learned: bring a cooler with lots of ice and bottled beverages! There is no place within kilometers to buy anything, so we gambled and drank room temperature tap water and managed okay. (Three cheers for the probiotics we took as well. The embassy suggests bottled water since after heavy rains the water supply can be comprised. We have seen this on several occasions when the kids have taken baths with yellow tinted water after heavy rains in the city).

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