Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Fiji time!


Bula!

That's how you say hello in Fiji. And when you're in Fiji, schedules are very loose things. Everything is on "Fiji time." Maybe a little bit early, but most likely a little bit late. (That's my excuse for waiting 5 weeks to post about our Fiji trip...I'm still on Fiji time.)


Our trip to Fiji was a combination of a too-good-to-pass-up travel deal and our desire to see more of the Southern Hemisphere. It didn't hurt that the trip also fell during the week of our seventh wedding anniversary.
I have to say that snorkeling and walking on the balmy beach in Fiji was much more romantic than cold Canberra where winter was already settling in.

From our room at the resort, it was just 15 steps to the water's edge. (On that note, I seriously can't think of anything better than hearing the ocean every night when you fall asleep.) We took advantage of the beautiful weather and went snorkeling every day. Our underwater camera broke the last time we took it out so I don't have any photos of the beautiful sea life. The most exciting things we saw were clown fish (like Nemo from the Disney movie) and lionfish (which are deadly poisonous so I went "Aaaiiieee!" in my snorkel mask and quickly swam in the opposite direction when we saw them).
Broken bits of dead coral that had washed up on the beach.
 While there, we visited two different Fijian villages, both within walking distance of our resort. At the first, we were invited to drink kava with the village elders. Kava is a traditional drink in many Pacific cultures, made from the root of the kava plant. In my opinion, it's one of those things where it's good to experience once...but once is all you need (sort of like Vegemite). The first sip tasted like muddy, gritty water but then the aftertaste is a bit like peppermint and made my mouth go numb.

The second nearby village hosted a firewalking event one night. Perhaps a bit theatrical for the benefit of the tourists, it was nevertheless very impressive. In many cultures, firewalking is seen as a rite of passage. Our photos didn't turn out that well, so if you want to see a really impressive photo of firewalking in Fiji, check out this one on National Geographic.


By far our most favorite experience during the trip was a garden walk with the resort's head gardener, Skipper. It was just me and Drew on the walk, so we were regaled with all sorts of stories about Skipper's life on the island and his connection to the native plants. One of the most interesting plants was a creeping vine that is used medicinally. All you do is crush a couple of leaves in your hand, rolling them into a ball, and  a green watery substance seeps out of the leaves. Our guide said he still uses this liquid if he cuts him self while working in the garden and it stops the bleeding almost instantly (and it's also antiseptic).

Pineapple Palm
I was also impressed with how much they used plants for decoration. For example, below is a photo of a bure (hut) that was used for a wedding. All of the decorations are made from tree bark that has been soaked and dried, then painted with mud inks.  Called masi cloth, it is made from the bark of mulberry trees.


And here's a larger photo of one of the bows. What looks like white fabric is actually bark. And the bow has been tied off with some sort of plant fibers and sea shells. It's amazing how many alternate ways they have to make things out of rainforest materials!

They also weave palm leaves together for use as wall hangings or fans.

Woodcarving is also popular, both for decorative items like the totem poles below and for traditional weapons such as spears. While weaving is considered a woman's job, woodcarving is done mostly by men.
Cycad (tree fern like from the time of the dinosaurs) trunk carvings
Our last night in town was a Sunday night and we were able to see a performance from the local village's choir. Half of the hymns were in English and half were in Fijian. The smallest children were in the front row and they alternated between taking things very seriously (as in the photo below) and grinning and giggling. It was a lovely and fun end to our trip.

Children from the village choir
If you have the opportunity to travel to Fiji, we recommend it. The laid back culture is perfect for a relaxing holiday and the snorkeling is world class and easily accessible.






3 comments:

  1. What fantastic photos--it sounds like you had an amazing time! That second photo, of Andrew in the ocean, is incredible. You should totally blow it up and frame it. :) Happy 7th anniversary, btw!!

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  2. Happy Anniversary : ) Gorgeous photos. This trip looks incredible... Very interested in those medicinal plants!

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  3. Happy anniversary. I'm glad you had a good trip. Your Fiji experience sounds so much better than ours. It actually makes me reconsider my vow never to return to the island. Thanks for sharing.

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