• Sonia Ghiggioli

RISE Batiki - Teaching soil school in Fiji - Part 2

Jakob aged 1, with Nerida our milking goat

I've lived on farms without electricity or running water, I've washed cloth nappies by hand, milked goats (that's Nerida the goat with my almost 2 year old son, Jakob in the pic), I've backpacked around third world countries and have grown and fermented, preserved and processed my own organic food with the belief I could attain self sufficiency. The biggest challenges for me were infrastructure and community and a level of idealism with which I approached this dream initially over 20 years ago.

With city living, business and life skills behind me and both the human relationship and extreme weather event kind of hardships, I have been fortunate to secure careers that have allowed me the freedom to add another layer of skill and expertise to reinforce the foundation of my long held dream.

The picture on the left is of three generations of family on Mother's Day on our farm in 1996, my Mum, my Sister, my Son and myself.

I've also realised only the best people will see the best in you. You are truly who you surround yourself with. Friends have the potential to uplift you, support you and help you achieve your dreams.

"Our friends see the best in us, and by that very fact call forth the best from us." - John Black

With the comforting thought of being in a tropical paradise and the heartfelt belief that surrounding myself with other people sharing a noble purpose, joining the social innovative Sea Mercy Team at Suva and embarking on a day at sea together could only be classed as intrepid.

We boarded at Boa Landing with our gear and some of us got onto the barge, others on the motor boat. Our first stop was for coffee and donuts on Toberua, an impressive resort island with Max and Sandy MacDonald, not a bad place to meet, receive a welcome and an induction for the next part of our journey, the once-in-a-lifetime experience of sailing aboard the Uto Ni Yalo.

The Uto Ni Yalo is a traditional Fijian voyaging canoe. It is a wind sailed vessel fitted with solar power for a small engine. It is traditionally carved, holds a great deal of social capital and sailed as part of a voyage from the Cook Islands to Sydney in 2014 to highlight the threat of climate change to South Pacific Islanders.

The crew and a group of volunteers also played an important role for the disaster relief efforts after Cyclone Winston decimated the Fijian Archipelago, and in some instances and alongside Sea Mercy, were the very first people to access the islands and provide help in the form of shelter and food after the tsunamis had subsided. This photo shows a volunteer loading relief supplies destined for Fiji's cyclone ravaged town of Levuka, once the capital of Fiji.

Photo Courtesy of - Uto Ni Yalo Trust

As you can see the Uto Ni Yalo is a large and stable ocean going sail boat, and one we gladly boarded to embark on our Batiki Island adventure. A couple of hours into our trip, and with bellies full of motion sickness tablets, it was apparent that the high seas, up to 20ft I was told, and 30 knot winds we were heading into was too much for our stomachs to handle. We were fortunate to have 3 Doctors on board and a couple of nurses and health professionals, and an ever vigilant crew. As the day went on, and the chill at sunset hit, it was obvious we were not going to be able to meet our mark in these extreme weather conditions. The choice was made to turn around and head back towards Leleuvia, an island eco resort that could feed and house all 20 odd of us for as long as it took for the weather to abate.

Our journey on the Uto Ni Yalo and the next couple of days at Leleuvia brought the whole team together. We were luggage-less and uncertain what the next few day's of weather would bring. We all had to let go of our desire to control our surroundings, and learn the valuable island way of living minimally, sharing what we had, and supporting each and every other person there. We knew now that our journey had just begun...

#LeleuviaEcoResort #UtoNiYalo #Fiji #RemoteIslandSoilsEducation #SeaMercy #OceanVoyaging #CycloneWinston #Friends #FarmLife #DairyGoat

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