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)!

The Day God came to Sigatoka

IMG_1039 Afternoon sunset on the beach near Sigatoka Town, Fiji.IMG_1032

The sunset was so clear and intense,

it seemed like God had a spotlight right on me!

Mustn’t have been my time….

 

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Savusavu Sunrise

IMG_1666Sunrise over Savusavu, Fiji.

It is only when the sun is rising that you get a full idea of the depth of mountain ranges behind this sleepy yachting town.  Savusavu is a picture perfect safe haven for boats.  Situated on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of the Fiji Islands, it has a special place in my heart as my honeymoon destination.

World’s Toughest Job – Would you apply?

 

Going to school freshly pressed and ribboned, Savusavu, Fiji

Going to school freshly pressed and ribboned, Savusavu, Fiji

Watch this ad agency video – World’s Toughest Job – Would you apply?

This is worth watching to the end.  Thank you Tommy for sending it to me.  I wanted to share it with everyone!

Koronivia Road Peak Hour

Koronivia Road Peak Hour

Not many people ride bikes in Fiji – the road conditions are just too tough. Koronivia Road, a long road that goes from Kings Road Junction to Lokia Landing, is a gravel road with only two states of being – dust or mud – corresponding directly to rain or no rain. This photo was taken while walking home one day in “peak hour”. Peak hour means normally that you can see more than one vehicle.

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

 

Momo and the pigs

 

Turns out we don’t have the only free range pigs in Fiji!  Recently we visited friends who live right on the beach near Rakiraki.  Momo (uncle) feeds the pigs out of coconut shell bowls.  They wander around, walk on the beach, and when they want milk, scamper in through a little hole in the pig pen to mum.

Momo and the pigs

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 Flying Prince

The Flying Prince

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One of the many “Flying Princes” based in Rakiraki Town

So many bus companies in Fiji, all with great names, and old fashioned retro painted bodies. Open air buses are a favourite of mine, and this is my favourite named bus company in Fiji – The Flying Prince – which runs the service around Rakiraki Town. These photos were taken on one of the most scenic and also one of my favourite drives in Fiji – the road between Rakiraki Town and Naumoimada beach – one of the only white sand beaches between Suva and Lautoka. If you ever get the chance, take a bus ride from Suva to Rakiraki to Ba to Lautoka to Nadi. It costs about $20 all the way. The local Flying Prince from Rakiraki to Naumoimada Beach is $1.80. You can get the Sunbeam, Intercities or

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Between Rakiraki and Naumoimada

Vatakoula Express from Suva or Nausori to Rakiraki and then change if you want, or take a few local bus trips around Rakiraki. If you are not sure, the big buses are called “the bus” and they are often express, but the local buses are called “the stopping bus” which means that it will stop anywhere at all along the route to pick up and drop off. This is the most fun way to go as the village kids get off and on on their way home from school. Once I saw an old man walking a bicycle by the side of the road. Tied to the bike was a rope, which led a massive cow who walked behind. I was too slow for the photo, as that time I was on “the bus” not “the stopping bus”!

 

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Between Tavua and Rakiraki

In my opinion, the bus ride from Nausori Town (which is actually where Suva airport is) and Rakiraki which takes about 3 hours is the nicest scenery by far on the main island of VitiLevu. When you get to Rakiraki, the Tanoa Rakiraki is a quaint old hotel with every modern convenience and a nice place to stay. I love it there, the owners make you feel at home, and it has a pool that you can cool off in, lawn bowls, and tennis.

Oh, we were just playing in the sand….

Oh, we were just playing in the sand....

Max and Sophie, my two little friends, made these sandcastles one day whilst just hanging around in the sand at Leleuvia Island. Max, Sophie, one day I will email your mums and let them know we all thought of you after you left when we found these!