We got burnt, firstly. And burnt badly. The raging sun behind those deceitful clouds conspired against us on our first full day in paradise. I know I’m jumping ahead in the report, but by the end of this trip, we both looked like Pepperamis. Where to start with this stunning country of over 300 islands? I guess it best to begin with our day trip to Nataloda beach. Our first experience of white sand and clear blue sea which appeared to stay clear forever as we walked out from the beach. We had our first experience snorkelling too, which was a great box ticker. For me, it was initially a little bit nerve-wracking because for the first time you’re accessing another world past the reef, a dramatic dip, delving into the ‘land of the unknown’. Ednora was shit scared of sharks (which we did encounter later on, all will be revealed).
We set off to our second hostel in a funky, psychedelic van. We genuinely thought that Scooby-Doo and the gang were gonna jump in any minute and we were gonna go solve some crimes and shit.
At the new hostel it was time to get a bit of coalcharrr and were taken on a guided tour through the forest which ended at a waterfall, with a little history lesson on the way. Our tour guide was accompanied by his trusty dog, Chuba, who knew the way inside out. So off the back of the talk, a few key points:
In 1874, Fiji became part of the Commonwealth.
In the early days, before the English arrived, word on the street was that Fijians were cannibals, tribes would eat each other. According to our mate, it was getting a bit mental, to the point where they were eating each other into extinction. He pointed out that had it not been for the English coming, there would be no Fijians left. I wasn’t quite sure how that would have worked out logistically, picturing the dad of the last surviving, uneaten family in Fiji, getting a bit peckish, so puts his kids on a skewer, and then slow cooks his wife at 140 degrees celcius over 5 hours, and then just to get the job done, proceeds to eat himself, but maybe I was overthinking.
Then the English came and brought God with them. To the Fijians they appeared to perform a miracle by moving the reef to get to shore, which meant they were the ‘chosen ones’ and were here for good reason, ordained by the Main Man Himself (God). Alternatively, they may have just had better nautical navigation equipment, but who’s to know. They brought cattle, so the Fijians wouldn’t need to eat each other anymore, signalling the start of a new, Christian Fiji.
The trek was awesome, a proper off-the-beaten-track hike which ended at the waterfall you could shower under. It was only once we were walking back to his village when he told us there were eels in there, which was thoughtful.
He gave us a tour of his village and a welcoming ceremony. This consisted of bringing the locals and their kids to a hall where we all sat on the floor in a circle and were given kava, the Fijian traditional grog. It was an odd drink; a powder pounded from the root of the kava plant, then mixed with water in a big bowl, and shared among the guests. It basically looked like muddy water, and tasted somewhat like it too. Apparently if you drank too much it was supposed to weaken your body and make you feel drunk without the dizzyness. You had to clap once and say ‘Bula’ (hello) to accept a cup. We danced with the kids while the men played guitar and sang beautifully (everyone seems to have amazing voices in Fiji- an X Factor there would genuinely be a tough call) as Chuba watched on, and then headed home. A true local experience.