Taveuni By Air

Please join me for an aerial tour of Taveuni. I've given family and friends aerial tours of Maui many times in my Cessna 172 "Manu-mele" (Songbird), but have not had the pleasure of piloting an aircraft around Taveuni. So, for this tour, I've put together some photos from different flights on commercial airlines to share some of the views of this largely unspoiled island.

Taveuni is about 42 km long and 11 km wide (26 by 7 miles). Ideally, I would like to fly an ultralight aircraft over the island for nice slow bird's eye perspective of the entrie island. Until then, please forgive the missed areas, and enjoy the ride.

First off, here is a map of Fiji so you can locate Taveuni:
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And a map of Taveuni itself, with circled numbers that match the sequence of the pictures.
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Ni sa bula! (greetings) and welcome aboard Pandabonium Air. We have beautiful weather today and you should get some great views of the island. Please fasten your seatbelt and pull it snug for takeoff. We'll be departing, of course, from Taveuni's Matei Airport.

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#1 Matei Airport

Straight ahead you can see the neighboring island of Qamea. On the left there appears to be a hill, but it is actually another island - Viubani - which is 133 meters in height.

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#2 Viubani Island

We turn right after taking off and get a nice view of Viubani Island. Beautiful little gem, isn't it? We'll continue our right turn as we climb. Now we can see Vurevure Bay. There is a tall three masted ship anchored there which is pointed in our direction. See it?
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#3 Vurevure Bay

This is where the Bouma National Heritage Park, which we will now fly over, begins. You can check in at Bouma Village and visit the falls I wrote about in the post "Booming Bouma!".

And next we are passing Lavena Point where the road ends and the beautiful nature hike described in the post "Walk on the Wild Side" starts. The village of Lavena has a population of about 1858 within a 7km radius of the point.

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#4 Lavena Point

The movie "Return to the Blue Lagoon" was filmed there. Great place for hiking, kayaing, and enjoying the forest and waterfalls.

Next up is the southern end of the island with its distinctive volcanic cones. Taveuni's volcano, like Maui's Haleakala, is dormant which means that while it not active at present, there could be an eruption some day. This part of the island was evacuated due to eruptions about 400 AD and was not resettled until 1100 AD. The last lava flows were 500 to 700 years ago. There is a lot of coconut grown down here and some cattle. Great place for horseback riding too, as I shared in "Horseback Riding - Fijian Style". At the village of Vuna, there is a beautiful blowhole on the coast where the sea water shoots straight up like a whale spout.

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#5 Volcanic cinder cones and the South Cape area.

We're turning north now up the west side of the island and passing Taveuni Estates. You can see the golf course in the bottom left part of this view. And if you look at the enlarged view you see the roads of the residential subdivision winding up the hill.

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#6 South end of Taveuni Estates

The peak in the top center of the above view (in the shadow of a cloud) is Nayavuloa which reaches 750 meters about sea level. The mountain ridge in this area is over 1100 meters high.

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#7 North side of Taveuni Estates

In the above view, the golf course club house is at the far right and just left of that is a big grass clearing where the boat launch ramp is and the beautiful Banyan tree featured in the post "Taveuni Tree Trumps Tractor". Center view one can see some homes dotting the hillside.

We skipped the main towns of Waiyevu and Somosomo today. Sorry, we'll have to do that another day. Now we see the northern end of Taveuni again with Qamea island in the distance. On the right is Narova Peak at 210 meters. There are some nice beaches in this area, and small hotels and guest houses. Maravu Plantation Resort is popular.
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#8 Northwest part of Taveuni, Qamea in the distance.

Here's the airport already and in the following view we're "turning from base leg to final" as we say, and you can see how the airport is situated right at the northern edge of the island.
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#9 Turning from Base to Final

Lined up on final approach now, you can look over my shoulder and see what it looks like to the pilot. It may look small to you, but no worries, the runway is three times the length we'll need.
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#10 Final Approach to Matei

Please check to see that your seatbelt is securely fastened in preparation for landing. Vinaka vaka levu (thank you very much) for flying Pandabonium Air today. We hope you enjoyed the tour and will visit us again soon.

Click Here For Your Own South Seas Paradise


Cooking With Aunty Marialani

As you know, I like to offer a recipe on Pacific Islander once in while. Today, I've decided to do something a little different. I'll let "Aunty Marialani" show you how to cook a special dish she calls "How To Cook Turkey Using Chicken".

Aunty starts with the greetings "Aloha Kakou" ~ may there be love between us (said to more than one person), and "Aloha Kakahiaka" ~ good morning. So, relax, get your pencil and paper ready for write down all da "ingredaments" and watch Aunty Marialani show you how to cook 'em -

Aunty Marialani is one of many characters created by a great Hawaii comedian, Rap Reiplinger (born James Kawika Piimauna Reiplinger).

Rap became popular in the 1970s after forming a three man comedy troupe called "Booga Booga". He went on to do solo tours across the US Mainland playing in top clubs including 'The Aladdin' in Las Vegas, 'Catch a Rising Star' in New York, and at 'The Improv' in Los Angeles. He also won an Emmy Award in 1982 for his Public Television special 'Rap's Hawaii,' which he both wrote and starred in, and took home a bronze medal from the International Film and Television Festival of New York for "Most Outstanding Television Production". His video and recordings are still available through the Hawaii music label "The Mountain Apple Company".

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Booga Booga (L to R) - Rap, Edward Ka'ahea. and James Grant Benton

Tragically, like many talented artists of his generation, he had a problem with drugs and died of a cocaine overdose in January of 1984 at the age of 33. His work lives on though and continues to inspire other Hawaiian actors and comedians as well as entertain us all.


Good Boy! - movie review by Momo

Well, first off, a big WOOF! and tail wags to NZM who told me about this movie after reading my post "Beach Blanket Momo". The movie sounded interesting as it is based on the very history I outlined in that post regarding the migration of my ancestors from Sirius (the dog star) to Earth thousands of years ago. K found the DVD on Amazon Japan and bought it for me!

It's a kid's film about a boy named Owen who wants to adopt a dog (bright boy). The dog he picks out at the pound turns out to be "Canid 3942" who just landed on Earth a few hours before on a mission from Sirius to check on how much progress dogs had made in taking over the planet. The real trouble starts when Owen is accidentally given the ability to hear dogs talk.

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I've read some reviews that criticize certain elements of the film and while some of their points may be valid (such as the way the dogs' lips move when they talk) I think the reviewers are taking the movie and themselves WAY to seriously. I mean, this is not supposed to be "accurate" or even "believable" for humans. How can they complain about accuracy when it is something fictional? The famous critic, Roger Ebert even complained that dogs couldn't fly spacecraft because they don't have opposable thumbs. Get a grip Roger! (Pun intended). When you watch or read for entertainment, isn't the idea to suspend your disbelief for a while and just enjoy the ride? It's a Disney comedy/fantasy film for goodness sake, not a documentary or even a science fiction piece (which usually try to appear "realistic"), so I think they all should lighten up. By the way Roger, in the 1982 movie "Firefox", Clint Eastwood flies a supersonic jet by his thoughts alone. Did you have a problem with that? No, you gave it 3.5 stars out of a possible 4. What a dork. Grrr. Humans can be so inconsistent and frustrating at times.

The dogs in the movie all acted superbly in my opinion and there was a nice variety of breeds and personalities represented. The main character, Canid 3942 is renamed "Hubble" in the movie. Hubble was played by a border terrier whose real name is Flynn. Flynn is not a professional actor-dog, but you'd never know it.

Even the human actors did a good job, especially Liam Aiken who played Owen. They had human actors do the voices of the dogs (so human audiences can understand it) and they were great. Some of the dog voices you humans might recognize. Matthew Broderick was Hubble's voice. Other voices you may be familiar with included Carl Reiner, Cheech Marin, Delta Burke, Donald Faison, and Brittany Murphy. Vanessa Redgrave was impressive as the voice of "The Greater Dane" of Sirius (sort of the queen of all dogs).

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Anyway, we all thought "Good Boy!" was a fun movie and we laughed a lot all through it and had a great time. We could each relate to the relationship between Owen and Hubble as it so closely matches our own experiences when I came to this home and was adopted by Pandabonium and K - except that I arrived on my paws rather than a spaceship.

So, if you're looking for a fun film that is loosely based on the true history of how us dogs took over planet Earth, and explores the very special relationship that has evolved between dogs and humans, all the while making you laugh, give "Good Boy!" a try. You might "roll over" laughing. I give it four dog biscuits.

Thanks again to NZM and of course special face licks and tail wags to K for buying it. (Um, K, Can we watch it again?)


No Mo Da Kine Haupia?

"Sweet Leilani" Performed by Amy Hanaiali'i and Willie K
(geeve me "chicken skin" every time)

Since 1932, a family business in Wailuku, Maui has been making what lots of Hawaii folks say is "da bes" (the best) ice cream in the world: Roselani. The name Roselani is an Americanization of Maui's official flower, the Lokelani, or "heavenly rose".

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Run by three generations of the Nobriga family, Roselani ice cream is part of a 117 year old company, Maui Ice and Soda. They have never sold out to a big corporation, like so many successful small businesses do these days, and their ice cream has become a favorite throughout the islands of Hawaii. With flavors like Mango 'n Cream, Kona Mud Pie, Classic Macadamia Nut, and Banana Nut Crunch, they offer a taste experience you won't find anywhere else but in Hawaii.

Their orginal favorite, however, appears to be in trouble. "Haupia" is a Hawaiian pudding like dessert made from coconut milk, and Roselani Haupia Ice Cream has been a long time best seller. But recently, the supply of coconut milk, which used to come from the Philippines, frozen with no preservatives, has dried up. They used to use about five tons of it every year. Cathy Norbiga Kim, who runs Roselani, has not yet found a replacement supply that meets her high standards of quality and flavor. She will not compromise their product and has stopped making the Haupia flavor for now. So "no more da kine" Haupia ice cream, at least until a new source of coconut milk is found.
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You can read all about Roselani on their website here: Roselani Tropics. Their history page is quite interesting with some great old photos for those who like learning about Maui in the last century.

And just so you don't feel too sad about missing out on their Haupia ice cream, here is a link for a recipe for haupia dessert from the Culinary Arts Program at Maui Community College: The Wonderful Hawaiian Haupia. So ono (delicious), you know.


The Love Bug?

Perhaps you are familiar with the Disney movies about Herbie, a Volkswagon Beetle with a mind of his own, affectionately called "The Love Bug"?

The original film came out in 1968. Not my cup of tea, but evidently popular enough to justify the making of a total of five feature films and two made-for-TV movies as recently 2005. I guess people think Herbie is "cute". Whatever.

Well, I saw a different sort of "love bug" on the kitchen curtain the other night. Some sort of "stink bug" with what appeared to be a heart shape on its back. A pest to farmers, but I thought it had interesting looks.

Hey, I didn't say it was pretty, but to another bug, who's to say? it was only about 1.5 cm long (1/2 inch or so). I let it go out the window to go find a mate, as it looked like it belonged in a Beatles "Lonely Hearts Club Band". (Sorry about that).


Oh, Wow - Palau!

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Picture from Univeristy of Redlands' OchTamale Magazine

Palau is an independent republic island nation with a population of about 20,500. The islands of Palau are made from limestone corals that were lifted out of the Philippine Sea and have been etched around the edges by the ocean. Of some 300 islands, only nine are inhabited. A beautiful gem, Palau has a delicate ecosystem that must be carefully studied and protected as the people develop the land. The Palau national government has ratified both a population policy and a sustainable development policy.

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Enter Monty Hempel, Ph.D. - Hedco Professor of Environmental Studies and
Director, Center for Environmental Studies, University of Redlands (Pandabonium's alma mater) in southern California. Professor Hempel has been an advisor to the government of Palau for some years now. Every year, he takes a group of ten students with him to study the issues faced by Palau as it tries to insure a sustainable future. He has been kind enough to send me the pictures that follow of this year's expedition so that I can share them with you.

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The students learned firsthand about coral reef ecology, snorkeling or diving most of the day, and also kayaked through the Rock Islands.

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Ngardmau Waterfalls in the rainforest.

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One night he took them to a marine lake and told them to jump in. The water was full of bioluminescent organisms which light up when disturbed, giving off a bright glow. I remember experiencing that in the Gulf of California with bioluminescent plankton. It seemed magical. Another marine lake they dove into was full of millions of jellyfish, but not to worry: they have evolved to become stingless. Unlike the tiny one that gave Pandabonium a mild sting on his toe at Kashimanada Beach this week.

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One trip was to a jungle covered island, where the U.S. has built a road to allow development, to study what impacts this may have on the coral reefs. From what I have seen on Maui, if they build storm drains by the Army Corps of Engineers' book, it won't be good, but there are other ways of doing things.

Through these experiences, the course tries to impart to students the understanding that everything is connected. They learn about the effects of development, climate changes, pollution, and over-fishing on Palau's resources.

It all looks like great fun, and I am sure everyone enjoyed themselves. But it was also valuable first hand experience which can be applied to the serious work of preserving Palau for the future generations who will live there as well as the visitors who come to see its beauty. Thank you, Professor Hempel.

Want to see more of Palau? Check out the Palau Visitors Authority website.


Beach Blanket Momo

Monday evening's red sunset fulfilled its promise for a fair morning the next day. K had a day off and surprised me by taking me to Kashimanada Beach Park!
We set up a picnic at a low bench and I found a cool spot in the shade underneath it.

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I'm staying in the shade - under the bench.

I had never seen the ocean before, and it was kind of noisy and scary. My breed started in Tibet, which is a long, long way from any ocean. Pandabonium took me down by the water. I didn't go in, but had fun playing with K and Pandabonium on the sand.

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After a nice lunch - they brought doggy treats and K shared a bit of her banana bread with me - we sat and watched people fish, surf, or skateboard. Then we went over to some animal statues and I had fun playing on them.
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I always wondered what it would be like to be a sheep dog.

A pretty flutterby came around. I don't know why is was so near the ocean. Maybe it was lost. It landed right next to our picnic. I wasn't allowed to play with it, so it flew away.

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The pretty flutterby on the grass.

I climbed on the "flying saucer" and Pandabonium told me the story of the strange woman who washed ashore in a round craft over two hundred years ago. He probably doesn't realize that I knew all about it, as my ancestors came from the Dog Star "Sirius" thousands of years ago to rule the earth. That is why humans are our servants. The ancient Egyptians knew this and built temples to worship us, but it was decided that it would be better to let humans keep their illusions about being the ruling species on Earth. We don't usually talk about it because now days it might cause culture shock if humans knew their true status in relation to us dogs, but I think the human readers of this blog can handle it.

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"That's one small step for a dog..."

Do you doubt it? Think about this: when mankind decided to venture into space, who was the first one they sent? No, it wasn't Yuri Gagarin - it was a dog, of course. Her name was Laika, and she rode Sputnik 2 into orbit in November of 1957. But I digress....

The beach was great fun. I liked the park and the picnic better than the beach, though the fresh air was wonderful. It was especially nice to have so much attention and get to play with Pandabonium and K all day.

I was tired afterward, but it was worth it. I hope they take me there again sometime.

Pandabonium Goes Poetic

No, Pandabonium has not started to write poetry. I don't even play a poet on TV. However, San Fransisco poet and editor of the poetry ezine "Ya'Sou!", Joanne Olivieri, has chosen one of my photos for the cover of the October issue, which is now online. So take a look at Ya'Sou! and enjoy the poetry and the picture. By the way, "ya'sou" is Greek for "to your health".

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Kashima Jingu in Autumn

Jo also has a website featuring her own award winning work HERE. Be sure to check out her poetry chapbook "Red Lanterns", which was named Poetry Chapbook of the Year 2005 by Muses Review magazine, and was inspired by a trip to Hong Kong.

Thank you Jo, I am honored.


Digital Fiji

Digital and Fiji are not two terms that one is likely to think of together, but it is the name of a new blog that covers exactly that. It's a rare treat to find a new Fiji blog. I was going to say this one is quite unique, but being a Fiji blog already puts it in that category.

Digital Fiji is written by Chris Hammond-Thrasher who says, "after a decade of IT consulting in Canada, my family and I sold everything and moved to Fiji. Now I manage the IT shop in the largest library in the South Pacific".

[Not everyone who reads Pacific-Islander will know that "IT" stands for "information technology". Well, now you do.]

Chris is the kind of person, and services, that Fiji should welcom. He is also someone doing what most of us just dream about. So check out "Digital Fiji", leave comments, ask questions, and encourage Chris to write up a storm.

So much to blog, so little time...

Last night, while walking Momo, the sky showed signs that Typhoon #13 was nearly spent and had passed. It had been a terrible storm that caused the deaths of at least nine people in Kyushu - far to our south and west - and of which we had only experienced the periphery as its path was up the middle of the Sea of Japan, on the other side of the country from us. The clouds were breaking up and the setting sun was starting to paint the sky in luscious sherbet flavors. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. I wondered if that would hold true.

After we got home, I grabbed the camera, yelled to K to look out the window (she was busy doing something or other to her hair as women are wont to do and couldn't hear me, so at first thought something was on fire or that I had hurt myself), and then rode my bike to a nearby field for a good view. A few mosquitoes had dinner "on me" as I stood for however long it was and watched and took pictures of the deepening spectacle before me, only slightly annoyed at being bitten.

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"And I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world.' Oh, yeah...."

Click to hear "What a Wonderful World"


Alien Encounter!

Though the beaches here just can't compare with those in Fiji or Hawaii, I do love the sea and still enjoy going the beach. There is a beach park I've been curious about that is just a little north of us - about 12 km (7.5 miles) as the crow flies. I've also wanted to visit a new farmers' market that we've passed on the the way to Mito City. Sunday was a good day to do both and as luck would have it, they turned out to be next to each other.

The park is called Kashimanada Beach Park and is just south of Otake - a popular summer swimming and surfing beach. This park is fairly new and has nice improvements. One portion of the road leading to it is still under construction. We visited the farmer's market first and found some good buys to pick up later. On the wall are photos of all the participating farmers, so you can identify who you are buying from.

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From the market there is a wide path leading to the beach which runs into the road that also goes there. Dogs are allowed, so maybe we'll bring Momo next time. There is a nice grass area by the beach where in one corner some concrete cows, sheep, and rabbits graze. A wooden observation tower offers a panoramic view up and down the coast. It was overcast, with a patch of blue directly overhead. The air was warm and clear enough that we could see the tall stacks at Kashima Harbor some 26 km (16 miles) to our south. A concrete path runs along the beach.

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Looking down from the platform of the observation tower I saw some kids playing on what appeared to be a round shipwreck or flying saucer.

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It was a very cool climbing toy with a long slide of rollers coming off one side and a rope climbing wall on the other. A sign explained the saucer shape.

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There is a bit of local folklore that dates back to 1803 during the Edo Era when the area now known as Ibaraki prefecture was called Hitachi. The story is called Utsuro-fune no Banjyo (A Foreign Woman in the Hollow Boat) and is about a woman who drifted ashore in a strange looking craft. She wore clothes that the local people could not recognize, had pink skin and red hair with a long white hair piece attached. She spoke a language that they did not understand. She kept a box, said to be 60 cm (24 inches) long, in her possession at all times and what it contained remained a mystery. Her craft had carpets inside and measured 3 ken, or about 18 feet, in diameter.

Unable to communicate, and thoroughly puzzled by the woman, they cast her with her craft back into the sea. The story was written about in 1825 and 1844 and the details were probably embellished such that the craft became round with a metal reinforced hull and glass top suggesting a submarine. Modern versions try to make the case that it was a space ship. More likely, the woman was Russian or some other nationality and the craft was a simple boat. It does make for a interesting story though and the basis of a great climbing toy by the beach.

Just when I had convinced myself the story was just a legend, I saw a strange woman climbing up the rope from the craft! Was it an alien? Was I experiencing a close encounter of the third kind?

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No. It was just K. Besides, this is Japan, and I was the only "alien" around.

The beach is posted "no swimming" due to the strong currents, but that didn't stop one guy from doing a bit of windsurfing. I was surprised to the find the water relatively warm for this latitude - or perhaps I should say not as cold as I would expect.

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We walked south along the beach until we came to one of the elevated boardwalks that parallel the beach and allow one to walk at tree top level through the pines. There are paths at ground level as well.

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The only "Alien Being" to be found at the park yesterday.

At the end of the boardwalk is a path up the slope and we took it, coming out of the pines in a neighborhood of homes next to the market. When we got there we bought some veggies and headed for Hokota City where we would have lunch.
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This dog waiting at the market reminded me of Snoppy facing a sign that reads "No Dogs Allowed", and also that it might be fun to bring Momo down to the beach park sometime.


Respect for the Aged Day

In Japan, September 15 is "Respect for the Aged Day" (Keiro no Hi). The holiday is being celebrated on Monday the 18th this year, I suppose because Monday is a more convenient day to have off. On this day, Japan thanks everyone over the age of 70 for their contributions to society and wishes them a long life.

Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country, as well as the highest ratio of centegenarians with over 20,000 folks over 100 years of age. The quality of life index for older people is high too.

But I'm not posting this to talk about longevity or demographic trends. Rather, this is about the ancient - and really fundamental - social pillar that this day represents and which is being lost in many parts of the world: that we should respect our elders.

In honor of this day, I offer the following educational video in which an impatient yuppie (explicative deleted) is taught a lesson in respect for the aged.

Happy Respect for the Aged Day.


Flight To Taveuni Island, Fiji

I just came across a short video on YouTube of a flight from Suva International Airport at Nausori to Matei Airport on the island of Tavuni. It captures some of the beauty of flying in Fiji over lush vegetation, rivers, clear ocean waters and coral reefs. Here is a map showing the route.

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The aircraft is a De Haviland Twin-Otter operated by Sun Air (soon to be purchased by Air Pacific, Fiji's international airline). The actual flight would have taken perhaps 40 minutes or so, but this video condenses it to just 2 1/2 minutes. Enjoy.

Here's a brief rundown of the flight. After takeoff they head northeast and out over the Moturiki Channel. At about 1:06 you see the southern tip of Wakaya Island. Next is the east coast of Koro Island. When it gets to about 1 minute 27 seconds, you see Taveuni. The camera then looks out to the left for brief shot of the southwestern tip Vanua Levu and Rainbow Reef (on map below), a popular SCUBA diving area. At 1:46 you get a good bird's eye view of little Korolevu island and the beautiful reefs that suround it. This is where K and I paddled to on kayaks, which I wrote about in the post "Kayak & Snorkel Korolevu - Fiji". In the background is the area of Waiyevo town, all but invisible. Finally, the camera follows the plane's shadow on final aproach over water and beach to a smooth touchdown at Matei.

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Sun Air Twin Otter at Matei, Taveuni

I hope you get the chance to visit Fiji and fly to Taveuni sometime.