Posted by: monsonmadness | June 22, 2012

Jewel of Fiji river trip

Hooray! The sky is full of clouds, but it’s not raining! We eat an early breakfast and check out. We head out west towards the Navua river base and meet up with our tour group. We had passed beautiful scenery along the way. It reminded us in part likes New Zealand, Hawaii, and Samoa.

Our day tour was amazing. This river is where they filmed the movie “Anaconda” so we were trying not to think about great big huge snakes or eels in the water below us.

First we rode up the river to a tiny village. Our first activity was a Kava ceremony in the Bure (village meeting house). Kava is a traditional drink of the islanders, made from the root of the Kava plant, and it is part of a big ceremony in welcoming guests to the local tribe. When you drink the Kava, it numbs your tongue for several minutes. (Now I am really reminded of the movie, “The Other Side of Heaven”, we watched that right before moving to American Samoa, if you want to know what the islands are really like, you should watch this movie)

Most of you know that Michael and I do not drink alcohol, tea, coffee, or use tobacco or drugs. We avoid all habit forming substances, and had been counseled by our church leaders here that we should not drink Kava. So…we didn’t! We were the only ones who didn’t drink it, and I was concerned that it would cause a stir and then the chief would be offended, but the episode passed without incidence.

Next, we were given a tour of the village, including visiting their kindergarten. It was actually for all children up to 6 (or 7 if your birthday is from Jun-Dec) and there were ten children ages 1-6 when we visited. I was shocked to learn that they only have 30 minutes of education, 6 days a week. Wow! Early childhood is the best time for learning. It’s like that in American Samoa too, they don’t really teach too much before kindergarten, it’s mostly numbers and alphabet and fun and games. The children sang to us and shook our hands. One child cried as we left! It was very cute.

Next we watched the women weaving. The women spend 7-8 hours a day weaving mats, and the men sometimes gather around to watch and “give moral support”. An old 87 year old grandmother was hunched on the floor doing her part and showing the younger generations how to work hard. The women were also decorating tapas with ink, they were really beautiful.

The next stop was watching the boys weaving hats, fans, and baskets out of palm leaves. We learned how to husk and cut a coconut, how to shave it, and then we tasted it!

Then it was over to the lovo where our lunch was cooking underground. It smelled really good.

Inside again we had a traditional Fijian lunch with lots of strange plants and vegetables that only Michael was brave enough to try. As we were finishing our meal, the villagers were playing music and singing for us. The men performed a war dance and the women performed a traditional dance too. I started laughing when a local woman pulled Michael up to dance with her. I was trying to film it, but before I knew it, I was pulled up too, and all of the tourists were dancing with the villagers. It was hilarious. My partner was a young warrior who had a body odor issue, which made me dancing closely with him even more funny. One part of the dance was called the snake dance. We were all in a line behind each other going around in a circle and then the front person put their hand under their legs to hold hands with the person behind them. I didn’t enjoy too much holding the hand of my young warrior friend underneath his grass skirt, but what was worse was the young Australian holding my hand underneath my butt! Oh my how we laughed. It’s the kind of thing that when you’re done, you say, “Oh, that was embarrassing, I’m glad I’ll never see any of those people again.” Not the case. Check out this amazing coincidence…

There were 10 people on our small boat including the Fijian steering the boat, and us. The couple in front of us was from Connecticut, and it turns out that the parents with three children in the front of the boat were from England, currently living in American Samoa! Are you kidding me? He’s from Liverpool, about 40 minutes from my hometown, and she follows my blog! She knows all about me, how many kids we’ve got and their ages… she even asked if we had moved yet, and we meet for the first time on a river in Fiji! What a small world. They are in Fiji for a couple of weeks and just happened to be on this tour on the same day as us. Isn’t that amazing? Hooray for new friends who hopefully won’t bribe us with any photos of holding hands with strangers underneath our bottoms!

After the dancing was over, there were speeches from the chiefs, and then we got to look at the handicrafts from the villagers and see if we wanted to buy anything. They were really cheap, and so we got something for the house, and Michael chose a warrior club! After this, it was back in the boat, and we headed upstream again.

The ride was gorgeous. The colors were amazing, there were tons of waterfalls, and we got to ride in some small rapids as well. Finally, we reached our destination, and pulled the boat over so that we could do a short hike to the waterfall.

After my regret at not getting in the waterfall in Maui, nothing was going to hold me back this time, not even Michael refusing to participate 😦 The water was cold at first, and the power of the waterfall crashing down was so strong that I couldn’t get as close as I wanted to. I swam out twice, and felt like I had swum a mile when I was done. I was weak and shaky, it was like running up a down escalator at top speed for 30 minutes! Nevertheless, it was exhilarating, and I will never forget how beautiful it was looking up at the waterfall as I was floating on my back…

Back in the boat and we start heading downstream this time, but only for a while, as it’s now time to pull over and try out this bamboo raft. Our guide assures us that it can’t possibly sink, and we have no choice but to believe him. Off we float downstream in silence, watching in awe as the mesmerizing waterfalls cascade down into the river. We pass a woman washing her clothes in the river and a man taking his bath. It was a great experience.

Back at our car it is now late afternoon. We explore a local town to buy bread and presents for the kids. There are no white people in sight. Little children are pointing and waving at us.

We head off to Suva, the capital of Fiji. The drive is nice and we are able to find the temple pretty easily. Our accommodation at temple housing is wonderful. It costs $5 each, and we have a view of the ocean! There are only 2 temple sessions a day, so we have to wait until tomorrow to go to the temple, so instead, we daringly drive into the city to find something to eat.

Driving in a city is scary. Driving in a city on the other side of the road than I’m used to, with no map reader or GPS is terrifying. Most of the streets were one way and there didn’t seem to be any other cars, only taxis. There was a lot of honking and under passing, but finally, I found somewhere to park, sighed a huge sigh of relief, and we left the car behind. It is much safer navigating on foot, so we walked down to the harbor and then looked for a nice Indian restaurant. The food at our resort had been terrible, so we were really looking forward to some good food. We found a mall which had a food court with a couple of Indian restaurants so I placed my order and then Michael decided that he wanted Mexican instead! So we each ate our separate meals and were happy that it tasted good! Downstairs in the mall I found a dress on sale and bought that as my Fijian souvenir.

Driving home in the pitch black was even worse that driving in. I only knew which direction to go in, and was hoping we could figure out the rest! Dodging huge pot holes in the road, it was hard to see street signs when suddenly Michael shouted out, “There’s the temple”. Up on the hill, shining like a beacon was the beautiful temple, leading the way for us to get back safely. What an amazing day.

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