From Fiji, the land of cannibals.
Yes, they were here. In the eighteenth century when Europeans were sailing around the Pacific exploring, everyone avoided the Fiji Islands. Fiji got the reputation in Europe and early America as the land of cannibals, and Tahiti and French Polynesia got the reputation for paradise with beautiful women and therefore lots of trade. Remember Mutiny on the Bounty? The crew, deciding they didn’t like the tyranny of Captain Bligh, set him adrift and went back to Tahiti. Some of the mutineers sailed off to other islands, settling Pitcairn, and hiding from the British Navy. Nobody went back to Fiji, knowing they would get eaten.
Eventually the Brits ruled the place and imported Indians to work the sugar crops. And now, the blend of Indian and native Fijian people makes for an interesting mix, and some really good Indian food.
When you arrive in Fiji, you go on Fiji time, which means slow. And when you go to an outer island it is even slower. Part of the delay in getting maybe my last blog entry out is that Internet is erratic and slow on Qamea Island, and the urgency to do anything goes away anyway!
I flew an hour north of the main island where the international airport is, to Taveuni, then took a boat across a channel for 15 minutes, and waded ashore. Qamea Island is known for scuba diving but otherwise is a small island with one or two villages set along the beach, 300 residents, no roads and no cars. It feels, and is, remote.
But, the accommodations at Qamea Resort are outstanding, the food is excellent, and the genuine Fijian warmth comes through all the time. Living in a grass roofed hut, bure, on the beach, with tropical water and water toys. A great way to unwind from the madness of Asia.
On Sunday, 11th, I went in a small boat with a few other people to one of the villages to attend a Fijian church service. I had seen and walked past churches in French Polynesia, but hadn’t attended a service and wanted to experience the cultural event. We walked from the beach through the vegetation of papaya, banana and mango trees into the village and up a small hill to the church. The church is an old wooden building with a tin roof, painted in bright colors, and surrounded by jungle, with a few chickens running around. Coming from the church was beautiful singing. We entered and sat on the HARD floor and listened to a service that was all in Fijian language. Many kids and women in brightly colored dresses and men in sport coats, ties, and sarongs. Afterward, everyone gathered outside, the little shy kids worked up their courage to talk to us foreigners, and we retraced our steps back through some of the village houses and to the beach and the boat.
A special event on a special and memorable day.
From here, the exploration ends: now it’s a long flight from Auckland, NZ across the Pacific and of course two flights from San Francisco just to get home, another special place that is hard to get to, Jackson.
I have received many comments from you about the places mentioned, and I look forward to sharing some more stories and experiences.