Monthly Archives: August 2022

Lovo Birthday Celebration: Fulanga

Our host family invited us to Sunday service at their church and then lunch at their house afterwards.  However, it turned out to be a huge lovo celebration!  

We left Sugar Shack at 0900 as it takes 15-20 minutes to dinghy to the closest landing near the village.  It is often a wet and bumpy ride.  Once we get to shore, we wade across the water to land where we drench ourselves in mosquito repellent.  Now we are ready for the 20-minute walk into town thru the lush surroundings and over a small dirt path.  We arrive with 5 minutes to spare where we drop off fresh baked banana muffins and homemade chocolate chip cookies for our hosts.

We are ushered to the church where all the cruisers seem to congregate in the back.  The village has about 90-100 people and there are at least 50-60 cruisers.  Even with all of these people, there is plenty of room in the airy and spacious church.

Fulanga Church

Fulanga Church

Above is Matt and I with our host family, Lucy and Nico along with photos of the church and some local children.  The entire service was in Fijian so we did not understand a single word.  However, one of the elders did speak to us in English as he welcomed us all to the village and to their church service.  He said they were honored we should share this time with them.

The singing was lovely and harmonious.  The only thing was a man was playing the triangle and I swear it pierced my brain.  Lucky for me, he fell asleep during the service and was not playing the entire time.

Lovo Birthday Celebration

After service, we were told that the entire village was preparing to celebrate one of the elder’s 70th birthday with a lovo celebration.  We would not be having lunch with our host family, but rather with the entire village. Most excellent.

The men prepared the lovo earlier that morning including 3 pigs, casava, taro root, and veggies.  The lovo has been cooking for nearly 4 hours.  They slowly uncover all the food bundles.

In the community hall, the women of the village, have laid out fabric in a large U shape.  On both sides of the fabric are plates.  Over the next hour the women prepare the food, unwrap the lovo items, cook the fish and finish setting the area for everyone.

Everyone forms groups and chats while we wait for the feast.  The kids are chatter and giggle while hosts share village life with their cruising families.

The Birthday Boy: 70 year old Elder

At the head of the hall is the place of honor for the birthday boy.  In Fiji, they only celebrate 3 birthdays.  Your first birthday, your 21st and your 70th.  You become an elder at the age of 65 (no matter your station).

Palm fronds are placed in the center of each fabric piece and then the food is placed on top of the fronds.  They served hundreds of fish, hundreds of pounds of casava and taro root, a spinach type dish and the 3 pigs.  I am liking this lovo a lot!

Somehow, Matt and I (and our friends Fred and Chris on Sea Jay) end up the main table in front of the birthday elder!  Lucky us!  We get first hand experience with the birthday boy and a few elders during the meal.

It is a bit awkward to get used to eating on the floor (while not showing your knees), and not using utensils (its all using your hands).  But we manage to fully enjoy the very tasty and delectable food.  There was tons and tons of food!  Lots left over which we hope is spread out and shared with the village families.  Sweet lovo celebration.

We discover the Cave of Bones in our last blog.  Events from this blog occurred in early July.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.

Fulanga and the Cave of Bones

Matt and I make another overnight sail from Bavatu to Fulanga (which is also known as Fulanga and Vulaga / Vulanga).  It is only a 100nm sail but we have to time the exit from Bavatu pass and the entry to the Fulanga pass during slack tide which makes it an overnight.

The sail was relatively easy as it started with 17-18kts of wind from the NE giving us a tremendous boat speed of 8-9kts.  We kept enjoying the fast speeds as we knew we would lose the wind later in the day.  About 6 hours later the wind dropped to 8-9kts and then it dropped even lower to 5-6kts.  We did our best to squeak miles out under sail before it got to slow forcing us to turn an engine on.  We arrived just as planned at 0700 which was perfect timing for the pass.  We were traveling with 3 other boats and we all entered with no problems.

The Village

After securing a prime spot for anchoring, we all headed into the village to do our sevusevu (a requirement).  We all brought out sulu (which is a parero / sarong) and our bundle of kava (which the locals make into a drink) and dinghied 20-minutes across the lagoon to the landing.  We tied the dinghy up, removed our hats, put on our sulu and followed the path to the village (a 20-25-minute walk).  Along the way we met many villagers who each stopped, shook our hand and introduced themselves.  So friendly!

We do a short version of Sevusevu because the men are holding a village meeting.  They offer us kava to drink, but we declined as it was a huge crowd and huge bowl of kava and we did not want to try it for the first time with an audience.

After we present our gifts of kava and $50F (for community repairs and support), we are introduced to our host family.  Our host family, Nico and Lucy offer us ridiculously hot tea and cakes and tell us about the village.

There are two villages within walking distance of each other.  Each village has an “Artisan Market.”  Evidently all the men are wood carvers and they give it to the market to sell to help provide for the village.  I purchased a pretty floral bowl, a small carved turtle and a hammerhead tooth (for Jake Martin).

Cave of Bones

There are many things to enjoy in Fulanga, but a must see is the “Cave of Bones.”  We ask our host family if we can go see this cave and visit one of the lookout points.  They arrange for a guide (as they are older and cannot take us themselves).  Our guide is the host family for one of our cruising friends so we all go together.  Balé is very sweet and takes his time walking us up the rocky terrain.  It is a short, but super steep hike up the mountain.  We walked 4.3 miles, went up about 23 floors and managed about 12k steps.

The cave opening is a wee bit small that you have to climb into.  It is surrounded by lava rock which tends to snag your clothing and skin.

Inside the cave are lots of skulls, femurs, and other miscellaneous bones.  Matt decided one skull looked better with his hat and glasses.

It was kind of cool yet super creepy to hold the skulls in your hand.  They seemed so very small to me.

Of course, you have to have a skull and cross bones image too.

Another short, steep hike up the hill to the look out and it was well worth the effort.  One view overlooks the anchorage and the overlooks the two villages.

Here is our group of hikers, Matt and I and our friends on Rapture, Greg and Susan.

The Anchorage

Like many of the other Lao group islands, Fulanga has many towering rocks that jet out of the sea to the sky.  They are covered with palm trees and bushes and completely break up the lagoon.

We find a beautiful spot to anchor away from the other boats, but close enough to our friends that we can dinghy over for dinner.

This sign made me laugh…it is located outside the medical clinic (read the last line)

Dinner on Anima

We met some new friend and old friends (whom we know from French Polynesia) and had dinner onboard Anima.  It was “Rapture”, “Sea Jay”, and “Anima”.  Manuel and Thomas prepared a traditional Portuguese meal with some fresh fish they caught!

We enjoy a Fijian celebration of “lovo” at the bay of Bavatu after hiking 271 steps!  This blog occurred end of June.  Our blog posts are 10-12 weeks after actual events occurred. 

Bavatu Anchorage

Bavatu Bay in Northern Lao

We really did not want to leave the unique and mystifying Bay of Islands, but some of our friends had arranged for a Lovo (Fijian underground BBQ) and we did not want to miss it.  So, we head over to the NorthEast side of Vanua Balavu to a new anchorage called Bavatu.

We discovered that there is a beautiful look out over this bay, Bavatu and the Bay of Islands.  So, we make our way to the end of the anchorage. We tie the dinghy up to a dock and find the hand-made 271 step stair case.  Not all the steps are even, or the same distance from the next, or nailed all the way in.  But, there is a railing, and they get you to where you need to go!  The record for fastest run up the stairs is 53 seconds!

Once you reach the top, you walk through a field until you get to the care takers village which consisted of 8 small houses and a community center.  After you walk through the village, you cross over another huge field (for the cows), until you get to a small dirt path.  You follow this path until it goes up hill, then you turn at the “grave site” (yes, there is a grave here) and then the view takes your breath away!

The top photos show the village and one of the wooded paths, the center and bottom right are the beautiful views and the bottom left is the grave site.

Across the field are the houses of the two plantation owners.  Tony lives in the big white house where his family has lived for generations and hundreds of years!  I took photos of both houses from the top and from the anchorage.

We came across a lot of their animals.  They had a heard of cows, sheep and horses.  Lots of beautiful birds and butterflies fluttered about too.


The locals caught, cleaned and prepared the sheep early in the morning.  They put the sheep and sides underground to cook for several hours before serving.  The food is placed in baskets made of palm fronds, then placed on hot stones.  They are covered with more palm fronds, then plastic, more palm fronds, then dirt.

Each boat brought a side or desert and the feast commenced!

Everyone is supposed to jump off the little deck but I did not have my bathing suit on.  So, Matt jumped for the both of us.

It was lovely to spend the afternoon with other cruisers and the locals of Bavatu.  Tasty Fijian food, local music and lots of laughter.

We so loved our time at Bay of Islands in Vanua Balavu in our last blog.  This blog occurred in late June 2022.  Our blogs run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.  Thanx for reading!