KAVA IN NAVALA - AND NOTHING LIKE SPANISH SPARKLING WINE !
We set off early this morning to go up the West Coast of the main island and into the highlands to the traditional Fijian village of Navala.
Travelling up the Kings Road from Nadi (pronounced Nandi) we first headed for the “Sugar City” of Lautoka, surrounded by sugar cane and the largest refinery in the islands.
Next stop was Ba, a “soccer mad town”, which is very odd in Fiji where rugby occupies the front and back pages of the newspapers. Here we stopped to go into the main market selling a variety of fruit and vegetables unfamiliar to us but, we were told, what we would be eating later (for lunch provided as part of our tour)– the main ones we could remember was kassaua (related to tapioca) and green papaya.
Just after Ba, the road turns into an unmade dirt track made more precarious by the fact that all the top cover had been washed away in the floods leaving a surface of rocks and potholes!. But the scenery was stunning, volcanic mountains, lush green valleys and the odd river crossing (more brown than crystal clear at the moment).
We had a great view of the Navala village and the traditional bure houses before we entered to outskirts, which is surrounded by mountains and farmland. As we entered the village we donned the sarongs required by tradition and took off out sunglasses (hats are also not acceptable). We entered the house of the local chief having taken off our shoes.
Ok – at this point we need a time out – we were told that in order to enter the village and have freedom to move around we would have to have a kava ceremony. We thought this meant our guide “sorting things out” with the village chief……
Kava is a made from the pounded root of a pepper plant and ceremonially mixed in a large wooden bowl with water and then served in cup made of coconut shells to the visiting “chief” and then his spokesman (can you see where this is going dear readers?) .
Our private tour meant that there was only ONE visiting chief and that as our guide spoke the local dialect HE had to be the spokesman. These days Mrs Chief is also expected to partake as a mark of honour to the local village.
The mixture was made and our guide made lengthy introduction on our behalf and then with a clap and a shout of Bula! I accepted the cup of muddy brown kava which I downed almost in one, handed back, said “vanaka” (thank you) and then clapped three times. Then our guide did the dame and then the village chief. At this point our photographer and Mrs Chief was required to partake and she did so with great aplomb and without pulling any kind of a “face” !!!!!
Formal introductions addressed, we were now free to wander the village as honoured guests and talk to everyone and take photographs. First we went up to the school which was starting to empty out for lunch. We passed the local rugby “ground” – it ain’t Twickenham – but the views are outstanding.
The school covers all the main subjects (pre secondary) and pupils must attain a certain level in English before progressing. Amongst all the science and maths on the blackboards it was very amusing to reach one classroom where the Fijian team for the forthcoming Sevens Rugby World Cup in Dubai had been chalked up in full !!!
Then on to the local catholic church – the traditional papal purple offset by the construction of bamboo and straw.
Back to the Chiefs house for a superb local lunch (all vegetarian), washed down with a “lemon” juice (kava was on offer but politely avoided).
Saying goodbye to the villagers and the younger children, the chief joined us for a lift into Ba . He pointed out various points of interest along the way via our guide.
After Ba it was back along the Kings road and eventually to Nadi – what a fascinating day and a real insight into Fiji past and present.
Before sunset we finished with a swim at our resort which seemed a million miles away from the world of Navala.