Friday, August 19, 2016

Jewel of Fiji Tour

So after getting a dose of the beauty of the palm trees swaying and waves lapping the beach version of Fiji. I wanted to also show Maralee and Lindsey how Fijians really live. The Jewel of Fiji Tour had been recommend to me by a number of people (and it is the same organization that Mason went with our third week in country on his class field trip...though he spent 2 nights we opted for the day trip). Due to a work thing coming up with Richard, we couldn't do this trip the day Malika was at the house (since Richard was unreachable that day and while we would be reachable, we would be unable to get to the school if something came up). So since we were racing the clock to beat the school bus home, we opted to contact the company and as oppose to having them pick us up, we drove to the town of Navau. Traffic was surprisingly light (yeah!) and we waited a bit for the rest of the groups to arrive, we were offered morning tea, got our life jackets, boarded the boats, and were off on the adventure.

I mainly took video with the GoPro, so I played with iMovie and I'll share the highlights of that in a bit. After leaving the town of Navua, we stopped at the village to pick up the chief's nephew who happens to the trip photographer (Lindsey splurged ($10USD) and got the CD which was nice....I did not want to be disrespectful and take a lot of photos during the kava ceremony since they were going over who sits where, what to say, how many times to clap, I've incorporated those photos into the post too).

I did not know I was sitting by the chief's nephew when I was talking his ear looks like he got tired of, he was telling me about a company that is doing a lot of environmental destruction in the area. This company is removing a lot of gravel for road building which has changed the course in a section of the river causing it to flow faster and change the water level making it more treacherous than it was before. The same company was also mining a mountain top improperly and caused a number of land slides. Quite sad seeing the pristine environment being destroyed. He took a lot of photos to document the daily changes they are making (in the video you will see some of their equipment).

One portion of the river was so shallow, we all had to get out of our boats and walk over the rocks as our boat captains drove through the rapids (see the tiny boat to right of Maralee). So perfect time for a photo op. We pass the hollywood celebrity waterfall from the movie Anaconda 2 (you'll have to watch the video to see that beauty....). Our first real stop was another waterfall. It was a short walk to this beautiful waterfall. Pictures really don't do it justice.

Maralee may have gotten an injury visiting a waterfall on a past international trip and may have been told to not visit waterfalls on future trips....don't tell anyone....


The water was quite cold....most of our tour group was from Australia/New Zealand....where it is winter and near it was probably nice and warm here. So they all jumped in and swam. We just waded in to mid-calf and took pictures.....I'll go swimming in there at some future trip back!

After swim time was finished, we hiked back to our long boats. They took us over to the Bilibili. All 3 longboats of people got onto 1 bilibili. What is a bilibili you ask?

A bilibil is a bamboo boat used to float down the river. As you can see our tour guide is standing in the front and using a bamboo pole to navigate the bilibil. Our guide told us that there is only a certain type of bamboo that can be used to make a bilibil (even though about 20 different species of bamboo grow in Fiji). If I recall correctly, it only takes a few hours to build a bilibili and they will last about 3 months.

As we went down the river, our guide told us about the villages along the Navua River. There are eleven villages in all. The first two are reachable by road. The first was where we picked up the chief's nephew and the second was where the rock excavation was being done. The other nine villages are not reachable by road......therefore they do not have electricity and the only way to get to them is by this river. (She said they all typically have A in one for the whole the whole village likely gathered around the one generator powered TV to cheer on the Fiji rugby team for the Olympics...don't know if you anyone heard a commentator make a remark about the villagers during the game). To get fuel for said generator it has to come up this that is expensive too (and you can't bring a big boat as you will see during the video there are a lot of very shallow areas). Our guide told us that, it is expensive for the ladies to bring their produce to the market to sell. They will load all the food onto a small bilibili and head down the river, stay in town for about two weeks to sell everything, and then have to pay an expensive fare to get a boat ride back to her village. The men remain in the village tending to the farming. Very eye opening!!! (One of these upper villages is where Mason and his class stayed for their camping trip).

After our bilibili ride, we got back in our longboat and headed back to the first village we had past. Maralee commented the scenery reminded her of float trips on Missouri rivers....just there were lots of palm trees here.

Our arrival in the village was announce by the blowing of the triton shell and playing of the Lali drum.

Being super parched from the fun we had all morning, we negotiated and got ourselves a coconut (full of electrolytes) to replenish ourselves with (because when in Fiji....)!


They unearthed our lovo lunch (cooked underground).

Our guide picked up each item to tell us what it was.

Chicken is wrapped in the fronds (the thing with braid at the end for easy picking up).

We then entered the bure for the kava ceremony. Prior to arriving, our "visiting village" had a designated chief. So he entered first, sat down in the middle, followed by the other men who sat down around him, and women entered last and sat in the back.

The chief prepared the kava. Water is poured from a bamboo spear over the kava root that has been pounded down (note: that night Maralee & Lindsey could hear our neighbors pounding their kava root).

The cup bearer delivers the kava to people to drink. The kava is in what looks like a half a coconut shell.

The chief from the village we were visiting drank first, then our chief, then the village's elders,

then anyone else who wanted any.....go Maralee!!! The cup bearer brings you the cup, you clap, say Bula, drink it all in one gulp, pass the cup back, and clap three times.

Afterwards, we saw the men performed a war dance,

the women performed at folk dance,

and everyone did the "taralala & tuboto” (Snake Dance) (watch the video to get the full experience with the music....very lively!!)

We then ate our lunch. Lots of traditional dishes to sample. Everything was quite tasty (or we were just extra hungry and anything would have been Our boat crew played music and partook in more

The view from the village meeting house.....beautiful!

Afterwards, the adorable kindergarten class (and one older sibling) sang some songs to us. We learned the history of the village (and how the the tour company is own by the village family, so our money went to support the school....very cool!).

Afterwards, they all shake our hands....too cute!

We learned the difference between green and brown coconuts.

and saw how quickly one can husk a coconut.....

We met 92 she is still weaving mats! We also learned about the mat weaving processing. Mats are made from the leaves of pandanus tree, which are collected, spikes removed, boiled to soften, dried to brown, cut into stripes, which can then be woven.

We also learned about the making of Masi fabric (what the cupbearer was wearing and these wall hangings are made of). It is made from the bark of the mulberry tree that is soaked and then beaten into thin sheets of fabric. It is then decorated with dyes and clays. It was neat to find out that stencils she used were made out of old x-ray films that had been donated.

Turtles are a sign of good luck in Fijian culture. Afterwards, we could shop and purchase handicrafts from the women of the village. I got a really unique turtle covered in crushed mother of pearl shells, as well as the piece she is working on right here!

After our little shopping spree, we headed down the hill to the true, 'oh Fiji' fashion where all you can do is of the three boats had sunk! I kid you not. I attempted to get a photo but my phone was ringing (Clarissa had decided to not do her after school activity that day as planned, so we had a bus mini-emergency since I was not home when she got there). So three boats worth of people squeezed into two boats and we headed back to the town of Navua. It was a really fun day and I can't really pick out what was my favorite part! So without further is the video of our day that I keep talking about......


  1. WOW WOW and WOWWW!!!! You documented this so well - and the photos are gorgeous, I can't even imagine how much more beautiful and intense it all was in real life! Well done!

    1. Thank you. It was surprisingly bug-free too....must be because it is winter time?