The Princess, the crew and, Amelia Earhart

Fiji Princess
Fiji Princess

The Fiji Princess, which I sailed on last month, is about to be part of one of the greatest mysteries of all time. With sixty guests on board, plus the crew, the catamaran becomes part of the “Voyage in Search of Amelia Earhart“.

Earhart,(1897-1937) was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and was an early supporter of the USA  Equal Rights Amendment.

During her attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937 she disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean and fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.

Talking with some of the crew about their upcoming voyage to Tahiti it was obvious they had not realised the historic significance of being involved in the possible finding of her plane.

The Captain told me he would be on board for the thousand-mile journey but would not be in charge as the open, international waters require higher qualifications than he has.

Capt on the bidge
Capt on the bridge

One day, deciding not to go snorkeling on one trip out from the boat, especially as manta-ray had not appeared  I sat in the little boat and chatted with two of the crew as they followed the snorkelers while they explored a reef.

Imagine being part of history I enthused, fancy being able to tell your grandchildren “I was there when they found Amelia Earhart’s plane.”

We also talked rugby and dreams of the future. Jona tells me he comes from the last island in the Fiji chain of islands and its nickname is ‘little New Zealand’ as it’s the closest to NZ. He also tells me he supports the NSW Waratahs as he has a cousin in the team.

Both men were thrilled with the Fiji Sevens having beaten NZ a few days earlier, the Chiefs and Highlanders were their favourite NZ teams and both admire Richie McCawhh and richie

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He other young man, Colin, had been a carpenter before joining the Princess some three years earlier, and was studying to further his career: dreams of being the Captain of an even bigger vessel than the Princes is in his future.

Another topic I bought up was my concern about bread being fed to fish at Nanuya Lailai Island, that bread is not good for the fish. I suggested that they (i.e. the company buy) have fish food for them.

Although ,as Dan, a marine biologist who came on board to talk about corals and the local reefs, said ‘I’ve bought this up often but nothing has changed – however, I’d rather them feed the fish than kill them.”

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Back to Amelia and the Princess, this month (June 2015) a research vessel will investigate the area with a remotely operated vehicle, while divers will search the surrounding reef for other possible bits of wreckage and other researchers will scour the island for remains of a possible campsite.

I hope the crew of the Fiji Princess will be able to tell their grandchildren ‘I was there’.

NOTE: For more information about the research project see here and here

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Fijian feast is cooked underground

 

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Our catamaran, the Fiji Princess, gets tied to a coconut tree: the Yasawa Islands setting idyllic, and we are to have a Fijian feast onshore, followed by a concert by the local village.

Coconut has a special place in the Fijian diet and, grown in most coastal areas, it’s not only for food, but plays an important role in the economy. It is also used in many ways in the lovo (earth oven); as a basket, as the steam producer then to cover the food.

These photos are of the demonstration we saw of a food basket being made.

Some of the foods cooked in the lovo were Taro (dry starchy root crop), Kumala (sweet potato) whole chicken and a large leg of pork. After the burning wood was removed the meat, and vegetables placed in the hole in top of the hot rocks, covered with banana leaves and cooked for about 3.5 hours. It’s considered a healthy meal because of the lack of oil – it is quite similar to the (Māori) hangi or the (Hawaiian) luau or (Samoan) umu and has a smoky flavour.

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After showering, washing off the salt water we had played in, we return to the island, where a kava ceremony was being held, and before long we watch our dinner being dug up.

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While the pork was dry, the crackling on the pig was fabulous (I think it had been grilled somehow after being cooked in the lovo) and my favourite dish was the entre. It’s a ‘raw fish’ dish made up of Walu (sometimes called Spanish mackerel) with ‘miti’ – a coconut-based sauce. The fresh fish is marinated in lemon juice and left to “cook” for several hours. The thick coconut milk is added after it is “cooked” together with finely diced tomatoes, chillies and salt – this is the ‘miti’.

the pork is carved
the pork is carved
Raw fish (kokoda)
Raw fish entree (kokoda)

Dinner over, we move to seats in a clearing among the coconut palms – by now it’s very dark and before long we are entertained by beautiful singing and dancing at the ‘meke’. I often feel uncomfortable joining in traditional dancing anywhere, but the Fijians seem to love a conga line, making it easy for all, including me, to join in!

 

NOTE: Kava is used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the Pacific.  In Fiji a kava ceremony often goes together with social event and while on ‘the Princess’ it happened three times – including a ritual presentation of the bundled roots as a gift and drinking the ‘grog’ is accompanied by hand-clapping before and after drinking from the coconut shell. It is made by pounding the sun-dried kava root into a fine powder, straining and mixing it with cold water.

Apparently the effects of a kava drink vary widely depending on the kava plant used, and amount drunk. Most on board didn’t drink it but for those who did their eyes became droopy or sleepy looking it seem the active ingredients have a half-life of about 9 hours.

New Zealand is concerned about the risk of driving after mixing of alcohol and kava. On the other hand, it seems a national league team uses it after games to unwind.

Note: the KiwiTravelWriter was a guest of Blue Lagoon Cruises

 

Life on the ocean waves

Well actually, there have been no big ocean waves – just blue skies, good company,  great Fijian staff, and fun activities. I even managed to get myself upright on a paddle board. So, lots of tales to tell about this Blue Lagoon Cruise on the Fiji Princess over the next couple of weeks – so come back soon and read all about it. In the meantime here are some pics to whet your appetite.  #fijiprincess #cruising #travel Well image image image image image image image image image image image

Packing for a cruise – keep it to a minimum

Revisiting this post …and reposting.. as I’m off on another small cruise. This time a river cruise on the Mekong – China’s longest river

So will re-read this to remind myself to keep its light – my goal is carry on luggage only: that means 7kg (15lb) for most of the worlds airlines.

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One of the great things about cruising is that you unpack just once. The only cruising I have done is on a river cruise in Europe, and sailing on private yachts in the Mediterranean and along the Great Barrier Reef. However, in four or five days I will be on the Fiji Princess, a Blue Lagoon catamaran, sailing around some of Fiji’s (mainly Yasawa) islands.

So what to take? Firstly, for the Captains dinner a colourful long dress (although it’s not a need to dress for dinner each night) and swimwear, including sarong & aqua shoes, and I have the basics covered (nightwear and undies too of course). Add a pair of trousers, 2 shorts and 4 tops to mix and match and that’s it.

The extras are what takes up space and weight – toiletries, flip-flops (or jandals as we Kiwi call them) my trusty Teva’s for hiking, sunglasses, a necklace and couple of earrings – plus an umbrella for the sun.

Add my camera gear (spare batteries and charger) my tablet and keyboard for writing blogs and posting photos on Facebook and Instagram, a book, e-reader, sun protection, hat, notebook and pens: that should be it.

Now all I have to do is count the sleeps until I leave New Zealand’s cool autumn for the warmth of Fiji and some boutique sailing. Fiji Princess can host up to 68 passengers; it’s 55 metres and can get into bays and islands that are impossible for large ships. Seems they can get so close to shore, that they can tie to a coconut tree and we could swim to the beach. Sound pretty darn good!

Did I mention, swimming with manta rays? Exploring water caves? Sign-up to have my blogs sent to you by email (above right) and get my blog (s) about this boutique cruise that I’ve been invited to join in the warm Fiji waters.

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