Fiji is an amazing South Pacific island country, full of friendly people, beautiful beaches, and more. We spent a few months there, dodging the rain, arguing with biosecurity, and buying a new boat. We also explored major islands and minor, witnessed music and dancing, and partied with the Fijians. Read on to learn about our Fiji favorites.
Visiting Fiji Villages
Our delayed cruising permit kept us from leaving Savusavu, and buying a new boat meant we didn’t get to explore Fiji much. Still, one of our highlights was visiting a village and experiencing their ceremonies.
The custom when you visit a village in Fiji is called sevusevu. The protocol when arriving is to introduce yourself to the chief of the village and present a gift of kava. All the markets sell both kava powder and root, packaged nicely in ribbon for presenting to the chief. The giving of sevusevu is a longstanding tradition and shows respect for the people whose land we visit. Once we perform this gesture, the chief will welcome us into his village.
Five years flies by faster than you realize. Since moving aboard in December 2018, we’ve logged a lot of miles and anchored in many bays. We’ve also spoken – or tried to speak – several languages, and met countless people in the last five years living on a sailboat. As many of you know, we’ve also made changes and mistakes. This year we visited countries we hadn’t visited or even heard of before moving onto a boat. We’re happy to spend the rest of 2024 in New Zealand, over 8000 miles from where we started in 2018. Here’s a small recap of what we learned this year, after five years living on a sailboat.
Wind and Weather
We finished our year in French Polynesia this May, and looked forward to heading west to other South Pacific islands. After French Polynesia, we skipped the Cook Islands because of limited anchorages and strong winds. In fact, the weather this winter all throughout the South Pacific was bad. We got battered by storms en route to Niue, shivered through record-breaking cold in Tonga, and were poured on in Fiji. Our friends in French Polynesia dealt with the same conditions. Fortunately, we left Fiji before a cyclone, and are supposedly safe in New Zealand as long as last summer’s storms don’t repeat.
After six weeks in The Marquesas, it’s now one of our favorite places, in no small part due to lovely Tahuata island. For two weeks we bounced between a few different bays, snorkeling and diving with marine life, exploring the villages, and eating at local restaurants. Add to that marveling at the beauty around us, which is unavoidable in French Polynesia!
Location and Getting There
Tahuata Island is located just south of bigger Hiva Oa, which makes it ideal for anchoring. It’s the smallest occupied Marquesan island, with a village and a few communities with churches. The benefit of its proximity to Hiva Oa is we can stay “away from it all” at quieter Tahuata with the convenience of town a few hours sail, or motor, away.
When I said everything would be easy after our Pacific passage, I spoke too soon. Our trip to Tahuata from Ua Pou was terrible. What should have been a 60nm half-day trip turned into almost 24 hours with no sleep for both of us. The wind kept shifting from side to front, from 12 knots to over 20 to next to nothing. We had to be on guard to change the sail trim and position, which we had to do at least once an hour if not more. What was supposed to be 60 miles became almost 120 with all the tacking we had to do!
The good news is we got a lot of time to recover from the trip in a beautiful place with fun adventures.
As often happens in our sailing lives, plans changed when we visited our second Marquesan island. We thought we’d stay for a few days but we were having so much fun we spent a week in Ua Pou!
About Ua Pou
Ua Pou (pronounced Wah Poe) is another mountainous Marquesan island. We were told the name means “two pillars” for the twin peaks rising above the other mountains, dominating the island’s landscape. Located south of Nuku Hiva in the northern Marquesas, we made it our second stop in French Polynesia.
The third largest Marquesan island with 5 towns and over 2,000 people, Ua Pou covers over 40 square miles.
We happily anchored in the main port of Hakahau, with stunning views of the mountains and near the conveniences of town.
One of the highlights of our week in Ua Pou was culture day. The islanders took advantage of shutdowns for a Catholic holiday and had a big cultural celebration.
An absolutely beautiful town, Villa de Leyva is just a couple hours from Bogota. After enjoying the best of Bogota, make the drive north and spend a few days enjoying the top sights in Villa de Leyva.
About Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a heritage town in Colombia with cobblestone streets leading to its massive square. With churches and government buildings dating back to the 17th century, the town is a National Monument of Colombia.
A popular weekend destination from Bogota, the top sights in Villa de Leyva draw tourists from outside the country too.
TIP: A top weekend getaway from Bogota, arrive in Villa de Leyva on Sunday or a weekday. You will have the place almost to yourself!
The Plaza Mayor
One of the most majestic town squares we’ve seen is in Villa de Leyva. It’s huge, especially for a small town. The buildings surrounding the square are impressive colonial style buildings dating back a few centuries. The square is a place where locals gather, children play, and everyone relaxes.
The square is home to numerous restaurants, bars, and a couple of breweries. Sometimes musicians play to the patrons of a cafe while everyone nearby can enjoy.
We returned a few times to one local brewery where they shared samples and let us wander the square with our craft beers.