Friendship is definitely one of our family’s primary values, and one has to admit friends come particularly handy when comes time to celebrate one’s birthday. Azur being Mr. Future, as soon as his 8th birthday party was over, he started drafting up invites for his 9th and was somehow troubled when he realised our plans of sailing clashed with his idea of a big party with his Bayswater mates. From that moment, his focus turned to making sure he’d have enough time in Fiji to MAKE friends before his birthday party. Every day, he would ask the date and calculate how many days were left until his birthday, strategising over how to maximise chances of useful new friendships. In the beginning, we were sailing alongside Tia, who is his age and in his Te Kura classroom this year, then we met other kids on Wild Things III and Offshore Haven, and things were looking promising. However, our itineraries diverged and, on first June, we ended up on our own, in Bay of Islands, Vanua Balavu. A sublime yet remote anchorage to celebrate a birthday, with no friends on the horizon but colourful fishes, side-walking crabs and elusive turtles.
Undeterred, Azur was still finalising his invitations on paint 3D, insisting on his friends’ bringing togs and wondering aloud what sort of presents he would get. I had the unpleasant task of forcing him to a reality check: no friends around and even if there were, they had not been given enough notice and there was no shop to buy last-minute presents from. Fortunately, Azur is not only very future-focused but also extremely resilient, with a rare ability to switch moods in a flicker, and so he immediately lowered his expectations and asked for something more reasonable: a day where he would call the menu and the agenda (as I had done for mine) and, as a gift, a bowl carved out of a coconut. As we took stock of the day just past, with amazing snorkelling, diving and kayaking sessions, crepes in the morning, butter fish and banana cake for dinner – some of Azur’s favourite food, and movie after dinner, we retrospectively declared it his birthday party, sure that this was the best we could deliver given the circumstances. Little did we know that we would top that three days later.
On 4th June, we were anchored next to Qilaqila island when we saw a navy-blue monohull in the distance, making its way through the pass. I immediately thought that, with a bit of luck, it would be our new Wild Things III friends, assumed they’d go towards the popular Shoal Pass and decided to return there too, only to realise on arrival that the navy-blue monohull wasn’t Wild Things but Atreju, a boat we didn’t know, though had come across in Savusavu, recognising the polynesian vaa (vaka/waka) carried onboard. It wasn’t long until Thomas went to greet the crew and convinced Azur to bake another banana cake (barely indenting our banana stock) to share with them for afternoon tea. He reluctantly agreed to, arguing that they didn’t qualify as friends since they were strangers just minutes earlier. That’s how we ate his “real” birthday cake onboard Atreju, in the company of, in lieu of friends, a playful six-year-old mermaid, a couple of teenagers and three grown-up and very friendly Danish travellers who reassured us on our chances of turtles encounters, from their experience, resuming the second half of their circumnavigation after being stuck in Polynesia for two years. We then competed in a fierce stand-up paddle board, kayak and vaa race around the islets (contestants were Obelix, Atreju and Domini’s crew), with kids cheering. And as night fell, we went back to Obelix to prepare dinner, danced on “It’s my birthday”, watched Thomas delight us with a fire poi show on the deck, and ended the day with pizza, movie, failed yoghurt ice blocks and mousses au chocolat.
With Azur turning nine, it makes the whole family one hundred years young! I had dreamt, for the occasion, of a big family & friends’ reunion in an idyllic location here in Fiji, but these things take organisation, funds and willingness from the involved parties, and that would have been one more project to coordinate, which I didn’t have the brain space for. Let’s consider ourselves lucky already to enjoy with this trip of a lifetime, but the invitation remains open, we would love for our dear ones to meet us anywhere along the journey and get a taste of this sweet leisurely life!