Beyond borders | Navigating friendship and heritage on the Uto Ni Yalo

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Excitement to savor the lovo. Picture: SUPPLIED

As dawn stretched across the misty horizon on Friday 23, February 2024, the city of Suva awoke to the gentle rhythm of raindrops tapping against windowpanes.

In the heart of Fiji’s capital, where the Pacific Ocean whispers tales of ancient voyages, the National Sailing Centre in Suva stood as a sentinel, awaiting the curious and the adventurous.

On this damp morning, with the air heavy with anticipation, a group of adventure seekers gathered which included staff of the Embassy of France in Fiji, myself as a member of the Social Innovators group and a few of the vibrant French community in Suva.

Our spirits remained undampened by the downpour. The destination? Nukulau Island, is a speck of emerald nestled amidst the cerulean expanse of the South Pacific.

The journey was more than just a mere voyage across the ocean; it was a rendezvous with history, tradition, and the indomitable spirit of seafaring.

And at the heart of this maritime odyssey lies the Uto Ni Yalo, a majestic symbol of Fiji’s seafaring heritage and sustainable future.

The Uto Ni Yalo stood tall, a symbol of resilience and cultural heritage, beckoning its passengers to embark on an extraordinary voyage.

As we set sail from the National Sailing Centre to the shores of Nukulau, every drop of rain carried with it the promise of discovery, forging connections across time and tide: A journey through time and tradition aboard the majestic Uto Ni Yalo, bound for Nukulau Island.

Despite the gentle drizzle that greeted our departure, enthusiasm trumped the weather’s whims. The heavens opened, blessing our journey with torrents of rain. Yet, our spirits remained unyielding, fuelled by the promise of adventure and camaraderie.

For many, including myself, the allure of sailing by traditional methods was magnetic. The crew’s testimonies, woven with tales of voyages spanning the Pacific to the United States of America, cast a spell of awe and admiration.

The intricate carvings and motifs adorning the vessel whispered stories of ancient seafaring traditions, igniting a sense of reverence. Upon reaching the shores of Nukulau Island, hospitality embraced us like an old friend.

Engaging with members of Finding Island Tours Fiji, conversations flowed effortlessly, transcending language barriers with the elegance of French discourse. The exquisite lovo prepared on the island was the highlight of the trip.

Amidst the downpour, the aroma of Fijian delicacies filled the air, tantalising our senses. From succulent kokoda to desirable mussels, each dish was a symphony of flavours, meticulously curated to perfection.

As we savoured each bite, laughter and conversation danced around us, weaving a tapestry of shared moments and newfound connections.

The rhythmic melody of French mingled with the backdrop of nature’s symphony, creating a harmonious ode to cultural exchange and friendship. For me, this voyage transcended mere exploration; it was a journey of the heart and soul.

Amid the lush beauty of Nukulau Island, surrounded by kindred spirits, I found myself immersed in a moment of profound gratitude and wonder. In the embrace of tradition and community, I rediscovered the essence of adventure and the beauty of human connection.

As we set sail back to Suva, I knew that this voyage aboard the Uto Ni Yalo would forever be etched in the chronicles of cherished memories.

In the heart of Fiji’s waters, beneath the vast expanse of the Pacific sky, we sailed not just as travellers but as custodians of culture, ambassadors of friendship, and stewards of a shared heritage. Vive les tradition.

Vive l’amitié. Vive la Uto Ni Yalo.

  • AVANEESH RAMAN is the content curator of blog The A Connection – https:://theaconnection.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this article are his and is not necessarily shared by this newspaper. For more, log on to www.fijitimes.com.fj
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