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.
Near 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.
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
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
tire of the process first. Eight times they burned down the town.
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.
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.
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.
I met some people at Leleuvia Island, an extended family of Americans who had come to remember their mother, who had brought up the family many years ago in Suva. At the end of a long, hot afternoon, I asked Max, the cutest little 8 year old, what he had been doing.
What else? – said I.
Oh, nothing, just playing in the sand with Sophie (his cousin).
Uh-huh, all day.
That night, after dinner, I went to look at the water, and noticed hundreds and hundreds of sandcastles all over the beach, and in the coconut trees. This photo is what was left after high tide the next day, a couple of hours after the family had left the island by boat to start their journey home. A memory of Max and Sophie.
Sandcastles left over from the day before, Leleuvia, Fiji