When we sailed away from Tonga the plan was to sail straight to Tanna in Vanuatu. That did not happen, because the winds abandoned us 20 nm away from the Lau islands (part of Fiji) a full 700 nm away from Vanuatu. Being a bit unorthodox, I decided to put in a highly illegal stop at the Ongea atoll, because it seemed uninhabited in the guides I had.
We motored the 20 nm to Ongea, maneuvered through the very narrow pass, which was completely inaccurately described in the guides I possessed. Then we dropped anchor off a beach to the west off Ongea Ndriki. It was readily apparent that the island was uninhabited. We relaxed and enjoyed the fact that we were on anchor and not motoring in 1 knot of wind. Needless to say we made a little excursion to the beach.
Our surprise was big when a small boat, filled with Fijians, approached us and invited us to their village on the neighboring island. We postponed it till the next day, worried that there might be officials there. The next day, no less than 2 other boats came and invited us, so we lifted anchor and towed the last boat behind us while the people onboard hitched a ride with AI to the new anchorage in the lagoon off their village. After we had dropped anchor we boarded the dinghies and went ashore.
Once we were off the beach, we went through the introduction ritual, where we waited outside the village, while the elders were assembled. We brought with us cava as a gift offered to the elders (no, not sparkling wine, but the root thing that they make into a drink resembling rainpuddlewater). It’s mildly narcotic and numbs your tongue … It’s a replacement for alcohol, which, incidentally, was forbidden in the village.
We then introduced ourselves and before you knew it we were one of the gang. We chatted, Topi played a couple of songs and we played a local game they had. After a little socializing with the elders we were treated to an awesome dinner. We sat on the floor and stuffed ourselves, much like the locals did. Fully fed we returned to the elders, but were soon spirited away by the younger people in the village to their hang-out spot. We then proceeded to drink copious amounts of cava with them.
Due to the shallow nature of their lagoon, we were landlocked ashore until high tide … What a harsh fate: Forced to drink with the locals until the tide was high enough for us to launch our dinghy 🙂
When we had to return a few locals joined us … amongst them the chief’s daughter … It quickly became apparent that they were hoping for a little drink … so we knocked back 3 bottles of rum with them … as you do in festive surrounding.
I gage whether I’ve been a successful host and have put enough to drink on the table if anyone throws up. All our guests were at one point or another hanging over the railing, so I can be proud to go down in their history as a host that doesn’t skimp on the drinks.
The next morning the wind had picked back up again, so we raced ashore during high tide, said our good byes, before we hoisted anchor and set sail for Vanuatu.
Our stay on Fiji, though highly illegal, since we didn’t check in had been awesome and will definitely go down as one of the stops I will never forget.