Take me on a Sea Cruise
Lost in Time in Fiji
The Royal Treatment
Enjoy Stress Free Travel
Climbing the Volcano
Hong Kong: Lived it, Loved it
Island in the Stream
Christmas in Jakarta
Travels with Barney
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in Time in Fiji
and story Herb Colling
something otherworldly about cruising the Yasawa Islands off the
northwest coast of Fiji. To see villages with no electricity or
running water, no phone or appliances, or other amenities is almost
disconcerting coming from a society that takes these things for
Mata Ni Meke - female interpretive Fijian dancers perform
one village of 200 people, the children play along the beach, or
between the grass huts. They have no toys. They travel 20 minutes
by boat to an elementary school in another village. When they pursue
higher education, they attend high school on the main island. They’re
shipped off to stay with relatives, or live in a boarding school.
They take jobs, and rarely return. There’s nothing for them
there, nothing left to motivate them to hold on to their old way
Paradise – the Republic of the Fiji Islands (offical
name) is about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
and includes 332 islands, of which approximately 110 are inhabited
families cook and eat their meals outside on the ground, and then
retire to thatch-roofed huts with very little furniture. For the
most part, the villagers are fishermen. They sleep in hammocks,
or on reed mats. There is no glass in the windows, no locks on the
doors as there are few trappings of wealth in this simple society
which time has passed by.
our visit the villagers hold a kava ceremony and perform a Meke
(meh-kay), consisting of traditional ballads with symbolic movements
to conjure legends, love stories, spirits, and the fanciful native
history of Fiji. The Vakatara, men who comprise the orchestra sit
and chant, while the Mata Ni Meke, or Matana – the women –
do the interpretive dancing. Grass skirts, and tie-dye sulus (wrap-arounds)
are the order of the day.
kava ceremony is almost a religion in its own right. Made from the
ground roots of the pepper plant, and when mixed with water, kava
is a turbid brown liquid claimed to have medicinal properties and
a relaxing effect.
chief mixes the brew with his hands in a communal bowl, then scoops
out a cupful, and offers it. Before drinking, the recipient claps
hands once, downs the liquid in one gulp, claps three more times,
and says, ‘Bula’ (Fijian for hello). He hands the cup
back, the chief stirs the liquid with his hands again, and fills
the same cup for the next participant.
two cups. It tastes like India ink. I feel a slight tingling in
closest link to the modern age is the Yasawa Princess, our Blue
Lagoon cruise ship for 40 passengers and 20 crew. Staterooms are
well appointed with a three-piece bath, air-conditioning, and a
porthole to gaze at passing islands. The food in the dining room
is first-rate. Even onboard, there are few modern conveniences.
By day, cards, conversation and the scenery, are our only entertainments.
Crewmembers play guitar and serenade us in the evenings.
Bures, simple thatched huts, are still in use on many Fijian
Nasimasima on Nacula Island, the land is parched and brown. The
rainy season is late, and the shrubs rattle in the wind as we climb
to the top of a hill. The stiff, grey limbs of the trees creak and
groan as we watch the waves crest shoreward on the scrubby windward
side. We view the island from a weather station used as an observation
post in World War II. The Allies held this outpost to keep tabs
on the Japanese fleet as it steamed toward the more strategic Solomon
head back to the sheltered beach for tea and Lamington’s,
a decadent chocolate and white cake smothered in sliced coconut
with a light cream filling. It’s sinfully delicious, especially
with tea and particularly during a morning of trekking and wading
in the surf along the sandy beaches of the Yasawa Islands.
our snack, we snorkel and swim amid blue, pink, purple and green
coral in bloom. Sadly, the budding heads are struggling for life
on a reef of largely broken and dead grey and brown coral. The fish
– while colourful–– are timid and small, an indication
of over fishing, and surprisingly for this relatively remote part
of the world, too many tourists. Even as we watch, a diver snorkels
by with a spear gun. The dart aims at a smallish fish, impales it,
and bounces off the coral on the bottom.
night, we are treated to a spectacular sunset over the hills of
the island. At first the light glistens whitely on the sea but as
night approaches, the sun yellows, darkens to orange, then rapidly
sinks behind the hills as a fiery red ball. The clouds and sky,
tinted a pinkish, bluish-purple, deepens by the minute as the day
morning, we’re on Nanuya-Lailai Island: coconut palms, gentle
breezes and wavy surf. We feed bread to goatfish, and watch them
swirl around our legs. Snorkeling on a reef just off shore, we see
purple starfish, yellow and brown damsel and angel fish, the aggressive
trigger fish with its distinctive blue slash across its beige and
yellow head. There are brown sea cucumbers, and more of the pink,
purple and green coral heads.
on the beach, we snooze in a hammock for two slung between trees.
We read books in the on-shore breeze. We kayak, swim, and then circumnavigate
the island. Passing local grass bures or huts, we follow the beach,
which skirts the warm waters as they lap the shore. We walk knee-deep
in the clear water looking for more sea cucumbers, and juvenile
starfish, which are buried just below the surface of the soft, white
night, we enjoy a Fijian feast or Magiti on the beach, with food
cooked in a lovo or earth oven. Like a luau in Hawaii, or hangii
in New Zealand, the food is wrapped in hand-woven baskets of coconut
leaves, and then buried on hot stones covered in wet burlap bags
and sand. A fire heats the stones for about two hours, and then
the food is steamed for another four.
feast on fish, pork, and chicken, which falls off the bone, sweet
potatoes, taro, cassava and tapioca, followed by sliced mango, papaya,
bananas and other fruits fresh from the tree. As we dine by the
light of torches under the stars, the music mingles with the cool
evening is more meaningful because we know that the next day we’ll
be tying up at the wharf at Lautoka, an industrial sugar and port
town on the main island, where we’ll say goodbye to the Yasawa
Princess, and our new found friends.
again, the guitars will play, and the crew will sing as we hug and
kiss everyone, collect our bags, and, in our otherworldly way, head
off toward our next adventure.