Lovo – any why I don’t eat pork any more

For anyone who is wondering how to cook a lovo (Fijian Earth Oven) here are a few pics.  We had some guests last September, and a big family get together.  In the morning, the pig arrived. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the trailer backing up with my brother in law driving, and in the back was the pig.  I thought that the pig was just being moved on the farm, and had popped in for a visit.

It makes you realize where meat comes from when you have to keep the live lunch in the shade with food and water until it is killed, plaited up in coconut leaves and put on the hot stones and covered with earth to cook for 2 hours.IMGP3572 IMGP3574 IMGP3627 IMGP3633 IMGP3641 IMGP3644

 

I realized that previously when I lived in Australia it was so easy to eat meat, as it came packed in plastic in the meat section of Woolies.

Now we think more than twice about when we “need” to eat meat, as it means killing an animal.  We now have pigs of our own (free range pigs that have the time of their lives!!), and chickens.  We can’t bear to kill the pigs, so I don’t know what will happen to them.  Maybe Piggy and Peggy will die of old age.  I for one don’t eat pork any more.

 

 

 

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All that sparkles – Sarees and simple lives

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Sarees hang on the line in Savusavu

It is always worth taking a bit of a walk off the beaten track if you are staying in Fiji.  To me, it seems that there is the Fiji that many Fijians think that travellers want to see, and the other Fiji, which is intensely interesting but not normally on display.  When staying in Savusavu, you can take a walk out of town towards the Daku resort along the waterfront.  It is really beautiful, with a community of people living right across from the ocean.  Many of the community are Indo-Fijian (Fiji’s population of approximately 900,000 is almost half Indo-Fijian).

From taking a bit of a stroll, you can learn so many things about how people really live.  The water flowing from the pipe will be waste water from the kitchen or bathroom, which flows down a corrugated iron drain, into the gutter, and to the sea.  The family keeps chickens, as most Indian semi-rural or rural families do, as it is a custom that when family arrives, you should feed them only the best, so a fresh bird is needed for lunch or dinner.  I love sarees, and the women always look so beautiful.  When you go to a wedding or function, you would think that all the ladies and girls lived in palaces by the way they sparkle!  However, many of them live in very simple homes, and live very physical lives.  Perhaps the constant excercise also helps them look great in a saree (or sari)!

Natalei Eco Lodge – a hidden treasure

IMG_2616Last weekend, we went to Natalei Eco Lodge.  Contact information, maps, activities here. The website seems to indicate that it is in the Yasawas, but it isn’t.  It is on the main island, Viti Levu, not too far from Suva and Nausori (where Suva airport is located).  IMG_2416

It is amazing!  Out of all of the places I have stayed in Fiji, this is one of the best.  Not in terms of luxury, but in terms of being a real Fiji experience.  If you only get to stay one place and want to leave Fiji with a feeling of what Fiji really is about, then you should go to Natalei.  It is only $75 per person per night including all food.

I took so many pictures, I couldn’t decide what to leave out, so I have added a few too many really.

IMG_2436Natalei is one of the only places that I know, and certainly the only place that I have stayed so far that is really part of the village.  You go through the village of Nataleira to get to the lodge, and it is run by the village people.  It was built many years ago, but some very forward thinking elders.  Our host, Akini, told us that it has been there since he was a kid.

The lodge is right on a black sandy beach.  When you look at the sand, it looks black so you think it could be muddy, but no, it is actually fine and soft black sand.  You can swim at low and high tide, as there is no sharp coral on the beach, as the reef (Moon Reef) is a bit further out.

The bures (huts) are so clean and comfortable.  Each has its own shower and toilet.  The showers are cold water, as in most of Fiji, but it is IMG_2377not a problem as the ocean is so warm, that a cool shower is so refreshing.  There are mosquito nets and fans in the rooms.  The beds were clean and comfortable.

The dining room is on the beach with a huge deck.  The food is out of this world! In the evening there was a lovo feast with chicken, fish, prawns, fresh fruits and salads, fried eggplant, mussels, and so much more.  For breakfast it was pancakes, cereal, juice, fruit, scones and pie, with coffee and tea.  Lunch was a barbeque with fresh salad and fruit, and then there was afternoon tea.

IMG_2342When we arrived, there was a traditional welcome ceremony with many of the villagers singing our welcome, followed by a traditional ceremony, and a meke (dance) by some of the men.  I was honored and humbled.  After that, there was dancing.  The men invite the ladies to dance, and it is similar to a barn dance in a way.  Men can dance with two ladies or one.  The men put their arms around your waist and you stand side by side while dancing, turning and going back and forth side by side.

There is a conference room, and also if you have a large group, you can use the village hall.  IMG_2402

The lodge gets good Vodafone wifi reception if you need to connect.

There are bures for couples, and also larger family bures and dorms.

To get there, it is an hour and a half from Suva airport or Nausori by car.  We hired a taxi which was a bit expensive.

A cheaper way to travel is to get the bus from Suva or wherever you are to Nausori ($1.60 from Suva).

Then get the minivan from Nausori to Korovou which is about a forty minute drive ($2).  The minivan departs regularly, every ten minutes, from the petrol station near RB Patel supermarket.

From Korovou get the minivan to QVS (Queen Victoria School).  It is another 40 minutes or so, and the cost is $3.  The minivans go every 15 minutes or so.

IMG_2564Total cost this way is $5.60 each way.  Phone ahead and ask for the boat to pick you up from QVS playing field boat jetty.  You will have to IMG_2435also call when you arrive at QVS and the boat will come and get you. It is only about a five minute speed boat ride from QVS to Natalei.  You can call Akini on 9576327.

If you are driving, go past QVS school, and the road becomes gravel road.  Best if you have a good vehicle.  Just keep going, you will go over two small bridges and then reach a fork in the road where on the right, there is a large bridge.  Take that one.  Go over the bridge, then turn left.  If you get lost, ask at the Dawasamu Police Post.  It is not far from there (maybe 200 metres).

From Natalei you can take a dolphin tour to Moon Reef.  You see the dolphins every day as the dolphins are spinner dolphins.  Spinner dolphins are apparently the only dolphins that establish a home reef.  They feed in the open ocean at night, and then in the morning return to Moon reef to sleep, play and relax, before heading out again in the evening.  You can snorkel the reef also.  The coral comes almost right to the surface in parts, and my husband, who seems to be impervious to coral cuts, could stand on the reef.

Also, you can take a waterfall hike, climb Mount Tova, go horseriding, kayaking at high tide through the mangrove creek, and so much more.

I loved it and can’t wait to go back.  IMG_2437  IMG_2419 IMG_2397 IMG_2381 IMG_2383 IMG_2335 IMG_2328 IMG_2333  IMG_2377 IMG_2438 IMG_2439 IMG_2441 IMG_2442 IMG_2445 IMG_2446 IMG_2447 IMG_2462 IMG_2464 IMG_2468 IMG_2480 IMG_2470 IMG_2483 IMG_2550  IMG_2565 IMG_2578 IMG_2590 IMG_2580 IMG_2574 IMG_2588 IMG_2597 IMG_2600 IMG_2606  IMG_2628 IMG_2639 IMG_2632 IMG_2651 IMG_2659 IMG_2662 IMG_2664 IMG_2667 IMG_2672 IMG_2681 IMG_2604 IMG_2671 IMG_2482 IMG_2476

So many photos!

Some more photos from others in the links below

http://www.honorjourney.org/Nataleria-Part2.html

http://www.outdoorplace.org/paddling/Fiji_Sea_Kayaking.htm

Dance like no one is watching, leap like there is no fear

S0452478Near Lovoni Village, Ovalau Island, Fiji, a gang of village kids joined us for a swim.

While members of our group egged each other on, taking ages to jump, the kids threw themselves into the water which was about 12 metres down with no fear.

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1. Climb to to the top of the hill,

2. suspend yourself from tree branches or roots,

3. leap into water with complete abandon!

 

I was strangely impressed that the little girl was as fearless as the boys, but I shouldn’t be.

Later we had lunch at their house.

Lovoni has an interesting story – the only way up to the village in the old days was single file through the rainforest on a 6 hour trek.  Any warriors that were sent to engage the village in battle were defeated as they were picked off one by one as they walked up the track.

The previous self proclaimed King of Fiji, Cakobau (the great grandfather of Ratu Epenisa Cakobau of

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View of the Chief’s House, Lovoni Village from the doorway of the house where we ate.

Bau Island) had an agreement with the European settlers at Levuka, which was the old capital of Fiji.  He let them build Levuka Town.  The people of Lovoni felt that their chief was the paramount chief and that Cakobau had no right to let the Europeans build a town on their island (Ovalau), and furthermore, not so close to them.  The town was constructed just over the mountain from the village.

Subsequently, it was apparently great fun to regularly hop over the mountain under cover of darkness and burn down the town of Levuka.  The story goes that every time the Lovoni people burned down the town, the townspeople would rebuild.  It became a game apparently of who would

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Midway through the trek, Epi climbs for coconuts to stave off dehydration

tire of the process first.  Eight times they burned down the town.

On the rainforest trail to Lovoni village, with our guide Epi

On the rainforest trail to Lovoni village, with our guide Epi. It seemed incongruous that mobile phones worked in such a remote location.

Eventually, King Cakobau sent warriors up through the rainforest track to defeat the Lovoni people and put a stop to the practice of town burning.  However, every time, the warriors were defeated due to the terrain.

One day, the King invited the townspeople of Lovoni to town for a big feast to say “sorry” and mend bridges (a sevusevu).  Being Fijian, the Lovoni people couldn’t resist the invitation, so off they went to town.  On their arrival though, they discovered that they were trapped, and were sold into slavery in the cotton plantations.  It was a trick.  However, rather than seeing this as a legitimate play of strategy by Cakobau, the Lovoni people to this day carry a lot of bitterness and resentment.

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Plaque on the church in Lovoni commemorating the defeat

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Finally, after about 4 hours of trekking, a view of Lovoni village in the distance

They tell me that the current chief, Ratu Epenisa of Bau has apologized, and that as a concession, the Lovoni people are the only Fijians who are permitted to wear hats in the presence of the Chief.  I am not really sure if this is true, but if it is, then it seems to me that still they have been tricked, as this is not a sign of supremacy, but a reminder of their humiliating defeat a hundred and fifty or so years ago.  It is a sign that they will not let go of the past.

That sentiment seems to cloud the village, and the village of Lovoni, despite the people’s protestations of supremacy, appears dismal and gloomy to me, especially compared with their rivals, the Bauans of Bau Island.  It is amazing that the Chief of Bau ruled Fiji from a tiny island such as Bau.

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Me, about three hours into the trek. We trekked from the sea, which you can see in the distant background

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Lovoni village

 

 

We were also told that since that disagreement and defeat such a long time ago, that the people of Lovoni no longer eat fresh fish from the sea, as they used to trade with Bau.  They are inland people so they used to grow crops and trade with Bau for fish. At lunch we were served boiled vegetables in coconut juice (lolo) with tinned tuna.  I am not sure of the truth of this tale, or whether it was a bit of an economy measure and excuse fora  poor example of Fijian hospitality.  I must say that even at home, my husband would not allow guests to come and be served tinned fish, we would get a fresh fish.

 

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Photo of the Chiefly Island of Bau from the air. Photo source http://www.panoramio.com/photo/76361845

 

Moment of Triumph – a photo of Thunder

Moment of Triumph - a photo of Thunder

This is one of the ways kids celebrate New Year here in Fiji – bamboo cannons. The idea is that you cut a piece of bamboo, and make some small holes in the dividing parts. You then stick a wad of kerosene soaked fabric on one end, and blow. After a while a puff of smoke (seen here) comes out one end and it makes a massive “fboommmmm” noise that can be heard for miles. Of course, not an activity for the feint hearted, but one that is allowed for kids here. Note the lit beer bottle to right. This kid at Lovoni village on Ovalau Island Fiji persevered until after about 10 tries, he finally triumphed! The picture actually doesn’t do the sound justice – like trying to take a photo of actual thunder (no lightning). But then, that is the way with Fiji: the photos always look so quiet – nothing prepares you for the noise of Fiji.

Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess

I love this photo of my friend Kim, who visited from Canada, taken at Naumoidmada Beach, near Rakiraki, Fiji. I love it for two reasons:
Firstly, because she really looks beautiful with her skirt swaying in the afternoon breeze.
Secondly, because it looks like an add for Fiji, as if she is in a resort village, with luxury lurking just behind the scenes, or just out of shot.

In reality, we were visiting my friends who run a little village bakery on the beach, far far away from any tourist amenity. They have dogs, and piglets that think they are dogs, and go walking on the beach with you, and eating their food out of coconut shells with the dogs. Just out of shot on the right of Kim is the pig pen. Behind, you see the village kids taking their afternoon raucous swim. We ate a home cooked meal with Momo (our friends’ uncle who received us traditionally and welcomed Kim and Ari to the village with a kava ceremony at which my husband was the traditional spokesperson or mata ni vanua) – fish cooked in fresh coconut juice (lolo), fresh squeezed lime and fresh chili on the side, cassava and greens. It was the perfect meal and the perfect day.

The Chiefly Island of Bau, Fiji

 

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Signing the visitors’ book at the Chiefly home of Ratu Epenisa Cakobau – photo courtesy of Jeff Moag

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Chiefly Island of Bau.   I am a big reader of Fijian History so it was a real thrill for me to meet Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, the great grandson of the King of Fiji.  With other guests, we went to Ratu Epenisa’s home, where I signed the guest book that Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain has signed, on the table that the Deed of Cession was signed in 1874 when Fiji peacefully ceded to Britain at Levuka, on Ovalau Island.  100 years later to the day, Fiji became independent of Britain.  The date is 10th October, and this date that marks both occasions is celebrated as Fiji Day.

The table top is coming off of the table bottom, and it was in the lounger room next to the Christmas tree.

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Ratu Epenisa Cakobau waving goodbye to us at Bau Landing. Photo courtesy of Jeff Moag

I loved my visit to Bau Island and learned so much that I didn’t know.  My husband’s mother’s village was a defender of Ratu Epenisa’s great grandfather in the tumultuous days of tribal warfare, and so our family has a special traditional relationship with Bau Island and the Chiefly family.

Ratu Epenisa presented such a humble and welcoming face to us, and I felt so at ease and found him very easy to talk to.  The village children however, when we walked past their game on the playground on the way to the church, sat down mid-game, almost like a game of “what’s the time, Mr Wolf” and would not stand up until he passed.

There are no crops planted on the island, so the island looks beautiful and well kept.  I asked Ratu Epenisa about this and he explained that no one is allowed to plant crops except for his family, and they all must go to the mainland to harvest or buy root crops.

The villagers are divided into classes – the fisher classes (one class for around the shore line which uses fish traps made of sticks, and another class who are the open water or deep sea fishermen), the planting class, the warrior class etc.  This structure still remains today.

I even got invited back to bring the kids – what a gracious man!