Friday, November 09, 2012

Flight to Fiji & Lautoka – Nov 6-9, 2012

November 6-8, 2012 - The flight across the Pacific Ocean, which started from my home in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada went about as well as could be expected, considering it was a 26-hour marathon to Nadi, Fiji via San Francisco (SFO) and Auckland (AKL). I didn’t sleep much on the 13 hour long flight from SFO to AKL since the 747-400 aircraft was fairly full, so there were well over 300 passengers with few seats for them to stretch out on. Air New Zealand provided very good service during the long flight: a lovely dinner after we were a couple of hours out of SFO complete with complimentary wine and drinks; then quiet time until they served us breakfast about 3 hours before our arrival in AKL. Of course, I still had another two-hour flight to Fiji before my journey was complete.

It was a relief to get back on solid ground, and feel the tropical air hit my face as we left the aircraft in Nadi. My checked bag arrived, none the worse for wear; I cleared Fijian customs and immigration in a few minutes; hit the bank machine for local currency; and was off in a taxi for the half hour drive to Lautoka.  First Landing Resort is located quite close to where I will embark the Paul Gauguin in a couple of days.  In the mean time, it is nice to have time to get that much-needed sleep in a seaside bure, and adjust to the time difference. My taxi driver assured me that First Landing was known for good food, and he was right. All the meals I have had so far are first rate.

November 8, 2012 – After having some lunch, it is time to get cleaned up, and head for bed for that much-needed sleep.  I sleep most of the afternoon, and wake up refreshed and explore the resort.  There is this Footprint Island, which you can see best from Google Earth if you search for First Landing Resort in Lautoka, Fiji. I’m not sure what the story is behind this manmade water feature.  There is a coral beach in this area, which means it is not soft, white sand, so you need reef shoes to go wading.  The other downside is that the reef is very shallow in this area and close to shore, which means the modest tide in this area exposes the reef and sandy areas each day, which limits ocean swimming. Of course, the resort has a nice pool, so there is no problem finding a place to swim.

Before supper, I take some sunset photos from just outside my bure, and after supper, I take some wide-angle photos of the beautifully dark western sky. The whole of Scorpius is easily observed, and the Milky Way is surprisingly bright considering I am standing in a resort with their grounds lit up at night.  Having a dark ocean westward makes the beautiful celestial show possible. I identify some of the constellations found in the southern sky using Starmap Pro on my iPad 2.  Once I tell the software where I am located, it works really well.  I can see Cygnus flying up from the Northern horizon. Mars is flickering in the atmospheric muck at only 6 degrees above the horizon. Altair, Terazad (red star), Peacock and Toucan constellations are all visible, and a nice globular cluster NGC 6752 pops out. I observe all these treasures using my Canon IS 12x36 binoculars while sitting on a lounge chair on the beach.

After the night sky observing, I’m ready for more sleep, and looking forward to tomorrow in the tropics.

November 9, 2012 – I am up fairly early in the morning, and take some time before going down to have a couple of cups of coffee while looking out over the ocean and the soft colours of the morning. Continental breakfast is part of the room tariff, and hits the spot with fresh Fijian fruit, homemade pastries, and other delights.  

I stay at the resort today, with nothing more planned than to try out my solar eclipse photographic and observing gear while I am still on solid land.  First though, there are fish to watch under the causeway, sailboats drifting by on what seems the edge of the ocean, and I take time to contemplate the shadows of the palm trees as they caress the beach.  This is a sublime place.

I walk over to Vuda Marina, where Craig and Barbara moored their sailboat Sequoia on their trans-Pacific journey I was lucky enough to share with them when they sailed from Opua, New Zealand to Suva, Fiji. I also have my first Fiji Bitter beer today before lunch, which went down well, before I was served a very tasty Fish Curry Hot Pot in coconut sauce with rice.

I get out my solar observing and photography gear this afternoon and have a trial run on the lawn in front of my bure.  It is going to be a major challenge to keep the Sun in the field of view of my camera while on a ship’s deck. Achieving sharp focus is another issue when your observing platform is moving under your feet.  I’m sure we will be given lots of advice about solar observing and photography by the enrichment speakers onboard the ship, but I can already see the challenge.  In any case, I take some useable photos of the Sun, which is all I can do for now.

Turning my attention to the 24 day old waning Crescent Moon proves rewarding this afternoon.  The Moon has a rendezvous with the Sun on the 14th, so it will soon disappear from daytime view and keep its celestial appointment.

I board the cruise ship tomorrow afternoon, so it will be a busy day.  Access to the Internet aboard ship is spotty and expensive, and I’m not inclined to waste time while we are in ports-of-call to search out Internet cafes, so future blogs will be brief and not too frequent until I return to Fiji on the 20th.

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