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2008/02/25 3 days at kirkwood, more than 3 feet of fresh powder
π 2008-02-25 23:43 by Merlin in Snow

While the timing was far from ideal, just after having come back from Fiji, and having had our offer on our new house, accepted, we got a nice storm, and an opportunity for a lot of fresh powder in Tahoe.
It was hard to pass up, especially as Bob was going there for 3 days (including the monday after the storm with fresh snow and nice weather). Unfortunately, Jennifer wasn't able to make it, but I was, and the snow was indeed pretty darn good :)
The weather was pretty horrible for the first two days though, blizzard condidionts sometimes, many lifts closed due to wind, but what was open was enough to get great snow if you were willing to ride blind from time to time :)
Monday, the storm was over, and we got a bit more snow from the previous night, along with nice weather. Many people skipped work and stayed, so the powder got ridden quickly, but Bob and I got the 10th chair up the wall, and I got to ride down the wall in powder for the first time at kirkwood. It was pretty nice :)



The wind on top was really horrid




I stopped around 15:00 the first day, I was cold, wet, and frozen, and the last top lift had just closed




Day 3 was great weather, just too many people were there


You can look at the rest of the pictures
2008/02/15 Diving Fiji on the Aggressor III
π 2008-02-15 23:43 by Merlin in Diving, Trips

A couple of hours after arriving in Suva, we boarded the Aggressor III (which used to be Aggressor II), and found out that they only had 7 out of the 10 possible guest, served by a crew of 6. That was a pretty good ratio :)

The rooms were the standard double bed with single bed on top so that they could host either a couple or two roomates that each get a bed. The room wasn't great, but typical for a boat, and good enough for the trip (no pictures, it's just too tight to get anything useful without a fisheye lens)







The boat's moto was indeed "dive, eat, sleep", and it was close to that. We had 4 to 5 dives a day (depending on whether we had a night dive on a specific day), and that indeed left little time for anything else if you also add dumping the pictures off your camera and sorting them after each time (which I did so that I didn't have 2000+ pictures to sort when I got home).
The food was pretty good, the crew was absolutely fantastic, and the captain was super friendly. He was quite interested in my GPS setup (Garmin Vista HCx on the window, linked to my laptop to nRoute in vmware with Bluecharts maps, to get tracks and dive sites as shown below). In return, he was nice enough to share his windows laptop with a GPRS card that gave occasional internet access when we were close enough to a shore with a suitable cell site.







/p>
If you want it, here's a GPS track of the dives and boating with did in the Aggressor .

Anyway, there go the diving pictures I took (not counting the first one :):





Mmmh, lobster for dinner




Fiji is known for its soft coral. Beautiful colors indeed.






There's a scorpion fish in there, see it?


Ok, you get a second chance


A nice octopus, a bit shy and didn't quite like to be touched :)




A tiny Orang-Outang crab




Ok, one more chance at that Scorpion Fish




Those little fellows hide in the sand, pop their heads up when they think they're safe, and let the current bring nutrients to their mouths



Ok, so you didn't do very well spotting the scorpion fish? Here's some help with a video of a moving scorpion fish
Also, I really like this plant that changes color when you touch it .

You can see more in my Best Of Fiji Aggressor III diving pictures , and the rest of my Fiji Aggressor III diving pictures .

Thankfully, we had a much better equipped photographer, Alex, on our boat, with a DSLR and fancy marine case. He was nice enough to share his pictures with us. You can find all of them here , and a few samples below:











Jennifer and me








If you're cool, you take your sunglasses under water too :)




Alex, the photographer at work


That said, the boat was a bit more than just diving. We were allowed to fish in most of the waters we were in, and caught the occasional Tuna that we ate on the boat. We also stopped ashore one evening for a local Island Fijian Village visit, and the few times we were close enough to shore to get internet access, I was able to swap mails and patches with Ralf on Rig3, on which I was working a bit during the little downtime I did have.



Food was quite good, considering we were on a boat with a small kitchen




We got some good and fresh sashimi from that fish we caught on the boat


All dressed up before the village visit


Bula! (welcome)


The Village kids sang and danced for us


Mixing the kava we drank as part of the Kava ceremony


Drinking Kava | We were invited to dance with them


We loved playing with those little hermit crabs :)






You can find more pictures from the Aggressor III and the Village Visit

Anyway, those days were tiring, but it was a great week. The only minus for the Aggressor is that they boat you back in the middle of the day after only one dive on the last day instead of boating you back at night after a full day of diving, like most liveonboards. Considering that ear plugs are cheap, I don't see why they do that.
The rest was great though, it was a fun week.

Anyway, you can find all the pictures from the Aggressor III trip , including Alex's.
2008/02/09 One week on Beqa (pronounced Bega) Island, south of Mainland Fiji and Diving
π 2008-02-09 20:58 by Merlin in Diving, Trips

Our redeye flight from Melbourne to Fiji was uneventful (although it made for a pretty short night). We did however have to deal with the Australian bullshit of 7kg per carry-on, and some overzealous enforcer who was determined on having me check in extra stuff and pay luggage penalties). Ultimately, I managed to put 6 to 7kg of weight in my jacket and pockets, and pass the checkpoint, but it's just annoying and turns me off from flying through/to Australia. Bunch of morons...

Anyway, we arrived in Fiji after a short flight and we were greeted at the airport by our driver who drove us 2.5h around mainland towards the south harbour where we took the boat to Beqa. On the way, he had some time to stop us at a market for us to visit, and enjoy local fruits (and a bag of chips for Jennifer :) ).
From there, we took the boat to Beqa and spent the following week there, relaxing on the Island after our two daily morning dives.


The dives took 45mn to 1h of boating to get to, and weren't breathtaking for the most part, but they were good enough. Our last day of the week, the shark dive, we weren't as lucky as some others were, as we only had 2-3 sharks that didn't stick around very long. The visibility was also very murky, but that's mostly what we got that week, and it was better than the previous week when they got a hurricane.
A few pictures below:





The little buggers were hungry :)








This was a cleaning shrimp. It would also clean your teeth if you let it






Wreck dive...


Baby lobster. Still a bit small to be eaten :)
















this fish had a hook in its mouth, and escaped being caught


You can find more pictures in the Best Of Beqa Dives gallery, or find all of them here.
If you want it, here's a GPS track of the dives around Beqa Island , with a few samples below:





However, the nicer part of being on the Island, was our beach bure (buré), with outdoor shower, private pool, and coconuts that we got just pick up from the ground (more on that later). Then, each day there was some kind of Island related activity, namely a visit to a waterfall, a visit to a local village school, learning how to deal with coconuts and cook with them, and of course the typical Kava ceremony (local mildly narcotic drink). Having our guide show us around and share his culture with us was very nice.



Our bure




Nice parrots


We indeed had fruit bats flying around during the evening and night


Top of the waterfall hike


Part of the school visit


Kids get to play with machetes in school while I was told not to run with scissors


One of the weekly activities was a dance show by the warrior clan kids from the local village







As for coconuts, we indeed got busy with them, it's not everyday that you have coconuts in your yard. Those things were everywhere... The first day, Jennifer banged a coconut on stones until she was able to peel out the outside tusk. That took close to an hour and a lot of sweat :)
The next day, I got inside one with the saw in my swiss army knife, but that also took a lot of effort (close to 30mn).
We later went to the coconut class and found out you could open them in less than 1mn with a machete in a stick (you make the stick sharp, and impale the coconut on it). Of course, I knew a machete would help, but my swiss army knife wasn't quite the right size :)









The green (young) coconuts were easier to cut with my swiss army knife, and had little meat, but lots of juice





You can also look at the remaining non diving pictures (i.e. village, activities and other) in Beqa

As an added bonus, the Island even had a point to point internet radio link, although the owners weren't very open to my putting a wifi access point on it :) and getting my laptop to work on it proved to be a bit difficult, albeit possible.
Anyway, a week after having arrived, and 6 days of diving, we went back to the mainland to catch our transport to Suva, the capital and where we'd be boarding our one week live on board boat.
2008/02/08 Finished one week in Beqa Island, South Fiji, next: live on board boat
π 2008-02-08 01:03 by Merlin in Diving

I managed to get some radio point to point internet connection on the island to send those few words.

We had a great week on the island: two dives in the morning, and Island activities in the afternoon. The time went by fast. Tomorrow, we're transferring to a boat for 1 week of live on board diving, and then flying home.
I doubt I'll get any internet on the boat, even if they claim to have Email :), so I'll be back online in about a week.


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