Thursday 13 November, 2008 – Nadi, Fiji
This particular day was very memorable for me…
On this day we traveled to Sigatoka (say Sin-ga-toka), which was quite a loooong drive from the Warwick Resort where we were staying. Sigatoka is a small town situated near Sigatoka river, about 69km from Nadi.
We were scheduled to do the Sigatoka River Safari, which includes a jet boat trip down the river (which is really dirty and brown) and then a hike uphill through some tall grass to a village.
The Safari was operated by an ex-Kiwi, andthe safety demonstrations were quite thorough and we were all issued a life-jacket. About 16 of us squished into the boat and we were off. I tried to keep my mouth closed for the duration of the ride. The river was almost like a canyon…there were hills on both sides and the driver told us about the different villages that built forts up there. We passed lots of locals washing in the river. They looked incredibly poor, yet they seem to be the happiest people I’ve come across. They all waved as we passed.
Trekking through the hill was intense. It was incredibly hot, I was wearing black and everyone had to wear a sulu (like a sarong) as a sign of respect, so this made walking through the very narrow trail quite difficult. There were a lot of mosquitoes around too.
When we arrived at the village, an English speaking guide showed us around. What a reality check. I’ve seen other villages in Fiji, but nothing like this. The buildings were very simple, poorly constructed and many of them were falling down. They obviously all slept together in one large room, there were no beds. While walking around the village, we were approached by two young girls who I guess were around 8 or 9 years old. They put beautiful flower leis around our necks and smeared white powder on our cheeks which the guide explained is a sign of welcome and affection. These children know nothing of modern technology, so when you take your camera out, they have the biggest smiles on their faces and they would just pose all day if they could. The people were just so friendly, everywhere you looked there would be a friendly smile and a “bula!”. Obviously this village was getting some sort of compensation for having tourists come through it (although the guide did explain that they go to a different village each time to avoid too much disturbance), but their friendliness was certainly not pretentious by any means.
We went to an official kava ceremony (which traditionally wouldn’t include women). In the kava ceremony the men of the village sit opposite the visitors with the kava bowl in between. We went round each person and introduced ourselves. We explained what a travel agent was. The bowl of kava was then passed around our group, which you would accept with a clap. Some people chose not to do this. A big feast was then put on for us in their dining area – taro, coconut, lovo meat (similar to a hungi), the straws were made of some sort vegetation. We listened to them sing some songs for us and then we got up and danced with them, which was hilarious.
Such an amazing day. I will never forget the hospitality of these amazing people.