Part 1…Best anniversary day imaginable!…Reeling from a memorable experience at the world famous Namale Resort & Spa!

Inside the reception building, we asked a staff member to take our photo at Namale Resort & Spa as we celebrated our three year anniversary of traveling the world with a tour and lunch at the world renowned resort. 

Where do we begin?  It’s nearly impossible to describe the wonderful day we had yesterday on our third anniversary of traveling the world at the world renowned Tony Robbins Namale Resort & Spa, only a 30 minute drive from our current home in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji.

The drive on a private road into Namale Resort & Spa, situated in a dense rainforest, gave us only a glimpse of the 525 acres of paradise which lie ahead.

Here are a few accolades regarding this upscale resort:

“#1 Most Romantic Resort in the South Pacific”
TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards

“One of the top 50 most romantic places on earth.”
Luxury Magazine

“All time winner of the resorts and great hotels of the world connoisseur choice award.”
Architectural Digest cover

The list of awards and recognition for this outstanding resort are as expected as the memorable experiences made for travelers who visit from all over the world, unsurpassed in many ways in its exquisite beauty, situated on 525 acres of rainforests, ocean cliffs and pristine beaches.

Throughout the grounds, there is minimal structured landscaping as often found in five star resorts, instead taking advantage of the natural beauty and vegetation which provides a backdrop to the many aspects of the resort.

Recently in June, Namale Resort & Spa celebrated its 25th anniversary while it continues to be heralded as one of the finest in the world in its service, amenities and unique design, more than any other resorts one may have visited in the past.

Sure, we could spend this entire post espousing the attributes of this upscale resort but, as our worldwide readers are well aware, we tend to share our personal experiences included into a review of any type of property.

As we neared Namale Resort & Spa, a sense of excitement washed over us both, having heard many positive comment about this property over these past few months we’ve spent living in Vanua Levu.

Over the next few days, we’ll excitedly share many photos and experiences we enjoyed at Namale over an almost four hour period we spent onsite, observing as much as possible of its endless offerings, its exemplary staff and its abundance of natural beauty so thoughtfully incorporated into its unique surroundings.

Its not easy to grasp the magnitude of 525 acres as we rode on a six passenger golf cart with our tour guide and hostess, Filo and friendly driver, Villi.  On occasion, Villi was radioed to attend to other guests and we continued joyfully on foot with Filo. 

Filo was gracious and thorough in her tour of the vast property.  With full occupancy, we weren’t able to see the interior of any of the villas although more detailed photos may be found online at Namale Resort & Spa.

It was a hot and humid day but with nary a complaint we wandered about the vast property on foot able to easily gain access to the many ocean scenes that mesmerized guests who’ve found this astounding resort for their honeymoon, an anniversary, or a quiet therapeutic get away, most certainly at a premium cost.

Many travelers from throughout the world choose to visit Namale Resort & Spa for its seminars held a few times each year, held in its onsite seminar facilities.

The views are varied in their breathtaking beauty.

With rates beginning at approximately USD $1,400, FJD $3017 per night and up, depending on choice of accommodations, this resort isn’t for many travelers. Unfortunately, an overnight stay at Namale Resort & Spa didn’t fit into our world travel budget, although we were appreciative to have had the opportunity for our visit. 

The all inclusive resort is closed to outside dining guests but, accommodations were made for our visit, tour and lunch, all of which far surpassed our expectations.

A few weeks ago, we shared a glimpse of this swimming raft available exclusively for Namale’s guests when we visited the Blue Lagoon from the opposite side of the bay.

As explained by our host, Nowdla Keefe, co-general manager, who’d arranged our visit and stopped by our table during our meal,  80% of guests are from the US, many of whom may have been familiar with its owner and creator, the highly regarded personal and business motivational speaker and finance strategist, Tony Robbins.

Having personally attended several of his US seminars over my business career, many of his philosophies still remain embedded into my brain yet today as is the case for many who followed his wisdom and career over the decades. 

With accommodations for 44 guests, the marina is small but situated in a quiet cove.  Many tourists visit for snorkeling and scuba diving in the coral reef surrounding the property.

However, we visited Namale Resort and Spa with a scrutinous eye, not blinded by past experience, intended to examine its many offerings with our three year’s of non-stop world travel experience, no longer enthralled with opulence as a definitive medium of excellence and integrity.

Each narrow pebbled path leads to yet another pleasing view.

We were never disappointed as Filo wowed us, time after time, over the care and consideration exercised throughout the design, development and the maintenance of this fine property, which in its 25 years, never appeared dated or tired as many five star resorts many may succumb to over time.

Technology was at its most current, as was each of its many recreational areas, utilizing the most up-to-date equipment and amenities. Nothing was spared in presenting an appearance and sense of what would expect to find in an upscale resort built today, even in this remote island paradise.

There is one inviting seating area after another near restaurants and activity areas.  The palm laying on the deck are being used to make a variety of decorative items used in the resort.

Above all, we were most impressed by the gentle, calming nature of the extraordinary conscientious staff, eager to please at every point. 

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share photos of a few of the fine staff members we had the opportunity to meet and engage in conversation, truly one of the highlights of our special day.  Plus, we’ll be including photos of the many recreational and amenities buildings located on this fine property and of course, our memorable lunch.

See you soon with much more!


Photo from one year ago today, November 1, 2014:

Last year’s two year travel anniversary was relatively uneventful with a disappointing dinner in a local restaurant in Maui, although we were happy and grateful to celebrate another year.  For details, please click here.

Our three year anniversary…A special day out…Total expenses for three years of travel and lots more stats…Hold on to your seats!

Us in Hawaii, one year ago. Tomorrow, we’ll post a new photo of us together from Namale Resort. Here’s a link to our two year anniversary.

This morning, we awoke simultaneously at 5:45, both of us saying “happy anniversary, lover!” It’s a special day for us. It’s the third year anniversary of our world travels, beginning on October 31, 2012, the day Tom retired and we left Minnesota to begin our journey.

The first few years we didn’t make much of a deal of the anniversary when we hit the road, leaving our lives in Minnesota behind, leaving behind all we knew and loved.

Our kids, now all in their 40’s had built their own lives with their families, filled with activities, their own traditions, fully embracing the hurried and at times, the frantic pace of life in the US. 

After working all of our lives and living that frenzied pace at times, we were ready to expand our horizons and step outside the “expected” box of retirement and old age. 

What contributed to our choosing this life evolved more from our mutual desire to do so than anything else. In many marriages, one may like the idea, but the other spouse wouldn’t consider it. With my renewed health beginning 11 months before we left, it was three months later until we even conceived of the idea. 

It was hard leaving everyone we love behind.  We didn’t take it lightly. We just did it differently than many Minnesotans who choose to escape the frigid winters and short, hot, humid summers.  Instead of buying a condo in Arizona or Florida as many retirees often do, seeing family once or twice a year, we chose to see the world, although the stretches between visits are further apart.

The kids and grandchildren visited us in Hawaii last December, a little over two years after we’d left and we’ll see them again in 19 months. They’re doing fine without us. A call on Skype is all it takes to see a smiling face and hear a familiar voice. 

Many ask, “When will this end and you move back to the US?” When one is happy and fulfilled, it’s a tough question to answer. Our answer is vague at this point, “When we have to (due to health) or when we want to.”  Neither of those scenarios is in front of us now as we enter into our fourth year.

Although not specifically an anniversary photo this was taken in January, 2013 in the days when we had lots of luggage. We believe we had a total of 17 pieces including several carry-on bags.  Now we have three checked bags and a two carry-on items each.

When we began this journey three years ago we made a pact: If one of us wants to stop traveling, the other will agree. Of course, if health becomes a serious issue we’re unable to address from abroad, we’d have no choice but to return to the US.  Perhaps, after a period of time and recovery, we can continue again.

However, part of the joy in our lives is the uncertainty of the distant future, an odd sensation for two people who liked to plan well into the future, especially me. And yet, I’m totally at ease moving every few weeks or months. 

Other than missing the people we love, we miss nothing in our old lives. Sure, a TV would be nice or AC on hot humid days but now, we see those as frills we easily live without. Getting dressed is easy each day: shorts and tee-shirt, or…tee shirt and shorts. Life is simple and uncomplicated.

We wish we’d taken more anniversary photos on years one and two but, often alone, we settle for what we can, often taking photos of ourselves individually or on occasion, asking a stranger. We’ll try to do better on future anniversaries. 

Tomorrow, we’ll definitely post a photo of us together after today’s upcoming celebration at Namale Resort where we requested an exception to allow “outsiders” to dine in their restaurant when it’s exclusively intended for “all-inclusive” guests only. 

Luckily, our offer of doing a story on Namale and today’s experience will be posted online tomorrow which results in great exposure for their resort to our worldwide readers. We’re appreciative of the opportunity to visit this world-famous resort.

Now, for the part most of today’s readers are anticipating…the numbers. Yesterday, after reviewing our spreadsheets with every facet of our travels, including all expenses and every aspect of our itinerary.

Tom at the beach at the Indian Ocean on our one year anniversary in 2013. Here’s a link to our one year anniversary.

Also, we’ve included the totals for each expense for “everyday” living with such items as medical, supplies, insurance, toiletries, groceries, data, clothing, dining out, entertainment, postage, miscellaneous fees, and on and on.

Many of you will be shocked when you read these numbers. Others may be pleasantly surprised. But, if any of our readers were to add up every last cent they spent in the past three years their numbers may not be whole lot different than ours.

I’ll lighten the shock of the total by sharing the 37 month total (we’ve included estimated costs for our remaining month here in Savusavu based on averages on our spending to date):

  • Monthly cost (37 months):  USD $6,880, FJD $14,772
  • Daily cost: USD $225, FJD $483:
  • Three year total (37 months): USD $254,572, FJD $546,582

The monthly total was higher than we’d originally estimated. But, when 12 family members came to Hawaii at our expense, our monthly averages increased exponentially. 

Into the future, we should be able to keep our monthly cost around the USD $6,000, FJD $12,882 thus reducing our daily total expense at USD $197, FJD $423, a number we feel comfortable to strive toward into the future.  As we peruse our budget, we see this is entirely likely once we’ve passed 2015. 

As for other numbers, here are a few facts we gathered from the past three years as well:

  •  21:  vacation homes we’ve rented
  •  56:  nights spent in hotels
  •  14:  flights we’ve taken (roundtrips count as two)
  •    1:  trains we’ve taken (the Eurostar, Paris to London)
  • 119: nights spent on a cruise ship
  •  11:  cruises we sailed
  •    7:  rental cars (total number rented, not number of days rented)
  • 16:   total months with a rental car (leaving 21 months using a driver)

None of the above surprised me based on the fact that I’ve been entering these numbers for over three years.  Tom was surprised at first at the grand totoal but as we discussed it further, he was easily able to see how it adds up.

Two years ago, on our one year anniversary on the beach at the Indian Ocean in Kenya.

None of these totals include deposits we’ve paid for future travel. Those numbers will be calculated into new totals for each year as the rentals, cruises, and expenses occur.

There it is, folks. Without storage and a permanent home in another location, its affordable for us to continue to travel the world. Never for a moment do we take from granted our ability to do this. Never for a moment do we take for granted the good fortune, safari luck, we’ve experienced in these first three years.

And most of all, never for a moment to we fail to appreciate each other’s bravery and determination to live a joyful life “outside the box” or our ongoing good health.

Thus, to my loving husband, I say “thank you” for this extraordinary experience. To our family and friends, “thank you” for accepting our decision to travel the world. And, of course, to all of our worldwide readers for “traveling along with us” from your comfy armchair, your ride on the bus, or with your morning coffee or tea at the kitchen table. We have loved sharing each day with all of you.

Photo from one year ago, October 31, 2014:

We didn’t make much of our deal about our two-year anniversary last year which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post for the one year ago photo. It’s a special milestone for us each year and for us, is deserving a bit of hoopla. For details from last year, please click here.

A peculiar event in time…Approaching our three year anniversary of traveling the world…Tomorrow, stats and expenses for first three years…

A friendly man on his horse after a hard morning’s work took time to say, “Bula!”

What we’re sharing today is somewhat hard to believe. If we hadn’t been caught up in this situation along with the rest of the digital-savvy population of Savusavu (the majority have cell phones), we have thought this story was pure folly.

Beautiful scenery on a cloudy day.

Sunday, the first in November, is designated in Fiji is the time to change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time. In this part of the world, it’s not a case of “fall back” as many parts of the world do when changing their clocks back one hour.

(Ironically, the first post we wrote on March 15, 2012, was regarding changing clocks. Please click here for that first post).

But, instead, in this part of the world, it’s “spring ahead” one hour. It’s spring here in the Southern Hemisphere where some things are opposite or different than those in the Northern Hemisphere, including the day of the week.

A horse turns our way as we drive down a narrow road.

This website clearly explains time changes in the Southern Hemisphere:

“Across the southern hemisphere, where summer and winter are reversed, countries that observe daylight saving time (DST) move time in the opposite direction.”

So is the case, here in Fiji. On Sunday, we’ll turn our digital clocks and watches forward one hour. OK, no big deal, right. Well, this past Sunday, one week early, Vodafone, the local cell carrier, turned the clock forward by one hour on all cell phones throughout the area.

A baby pig nursing.

THIS WAS AN ERROR.  Done on the wrong Sunday and left for everyone throughout Savusavu to figure out. We didn’t have a clue. Our phones, without a cell service contract and only a phone SIM card in mine, still showed the “real-time” yet to be changed.

Honestly, we didn’t know a time change was coming. We have no TV, no local news, and no way we’d be notified of this fact. As written in yesterdays’ post, we pay little attention to the time when only a few times of the week, we walk to the road to meet Rasnesh for a sightseeing or shopping trip.

Locals use bamboo to make these fishing rafts.

We’d planned to meet Rasnesh at 11 am to head to the village for our usual Thursday visits to the Vodafone kiosk, the Farmer’s Market, New World Market, and Fiji Meats. At 10:55, we walked to the road to meet Rasnesh, carrying the huge insulated Costco beach bag, the cloth Africa bag, and the smaller insulated bag. 

At 11:05 he still hadn’t arrived.  He’s always early, never late. Standing in the hot sun, sweating in the humid air, we decided to call him. Had something happened? Should we go back inside and wait until his usual call to let us know he’s arrived?

View across Savusavu Bay from opposite our home.

Ratnesh laughed when he heard my voice and realized why we were calling, “Oh, Jessica, you didn’t know about the time change thing, did you?” We did not. We didn’t even know a time change was coming on November 1st when in many countries DST isn’t observed.

Apparently, the entire village in their beautiful easy-going spirit decided to go along with the new time, changed in error, one week early, by cell phone provider Vodafone. We laughed out loud over the unique charm of these people, their gentle acceptance, their laissez-faire attitudes, of “what will be, will be.” 

A small makeshift hut along the highway.

There was no drama, no angry accusations, no requests for compensation, and no threats to cancel contracts.  They simply “went with the flow” and the “new time” one week early. No questions asked. Many of us throughout the world can learn a lot from these gentle people.

If this happened in many other countries all hell would break loose until it was corrected and in part, we’d expect this response: What about the stock market, airline flights, bus schedules, and the times banks and businesses would open? It would be total chaos, affecting literally every citizen, every business, and every entity in some manner.

These handmade rafts are ideal for hauling as well as fishing.

We asked Rasnesh if he wanted to come to get us in another hour? He explained he was available and would be here soon. We laughed over this peculiar situation. Our only concern was our upcoming appointment for Saturday, our three year anniversary, to be at Namale at noon to tour their facility, take photos, and then celebrate our anniversary with a lunch in their gourmet restaurant.

We arranged it with Rasnesh to pick us up at 11:15 “old-time,” not new Vodafone time, in order for us to make our 12:00 pm appointment. By Sunday, the time should be correct, providing Vodafone doesn’t accidentally change it one more time.

The views are lovely driving along the Hibiscus Highway.

Frequently, based on our travels and GPS on our phones and computers, our clocks often automatically change to the wrong date and time. Over the next several days, we’ll update everything digital to ensure we have the correct time after the “official” time change. 

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with the “numbers” of our three years of world travel, past anniversary photos of us, and links to our early posts. We hope you’ll share this special day with us.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2014:

A colorful smoothie truck at the Farmer’s Market in Maui. Unfortunately, smoothies contain carbs, fruit, and sugar preventing us from partaking in these tasty treats. For more details and photos in Maui on this date, please click here.

Living large…Living small…Living in the moment…

Close to the center of this photo is the compound where our current home is located as seen from across Savusavu Bay as we traveled on the opposite side.
We try to live in the moment.  Overall, we’re good at it.  Today, a bright, sunny day with clear blue skies makes it nearly impossible to do otherwise.  We’re in Fiji, a place we discussed many times as we planned our travels when tropical island holidays came to mind.

In this large life, in the large world, each day we strive to live “small,” wrapped up in the trivialities of our every day, appreciating the call of a mating bird, a determined crowing rooster, an annoyed mooing cow, or the stuttered baa we often hear from a lonely kid goat.

We could only imagine how beautiful our photos would have been on a sunny day which had started sunny and clear, turning to rain shortly after we left.  That’s life in the tropics.  We still had a fabulous day!

We watch the cruise ships, large and small, waft by each day in our magnificent ocean view. Often at night with their lights bright, we easily imagine the festivities and lively banter occurring on deck, knowing in a little over two months, we’ll be doing the same.

When we think of the future, its hard not to speculate, anticipate and become outrageously excited knowing full well what lies ahead of us.  Even after we’ll have visited each continent, there will be so much left to see: the Northern Lights from Norway, a Baltic cruise, the Black Sea, more river cruises, the USA and Canada, and countries throughout the world we’ll have yet to see. 

Our current home in Savusavu is located approximately 1/3 of the way in from the point in this photo.  A photo below illustrates a better perspective.

Perhaps someday, we’ll return to a few places we particularly loved such as Africa and Kauai, Hawaii.  While we were in Mykonos, Greece, I longed to return to live in the pristine streets with the white houses trimmed in blue on the steep winding roads or, in the walled city of Croatia, that easily took our breath away.

We try not to think of where we haven’t been.  The list is too massive.  But, as we discuss the future we can’t help but attach some dreams to the future.  With careful, budget minded living, there’s no where in the world beyond our reach, beyond our reality.  We’ll always find a way to make it work. 

The point, close to our home in Savusavu, from across the bay.

In our old life, my only dream of travel was to visit Africa and if, somehow we never find a way to return, my dreams have been fulfilled after nine months on the continent.  Is it greedy to long to return for one more life changing dose for that which we have yet to see and to return, to once again see that which we left behind?   While we can.

Now, as we languish, quietly and at peace in this exquisite tropical island paradise, without a worry in the world, we try to spend our remaining time in Fiji relishing in its unobtrusive lifestyle, its gentle people and its easy way of life, keeping our minds uncluttered with excessive planning and budgeting. 

We passed several small villages along the way.

Lifting my head from my laptop as my fingers fly across the keyboard, my brain and fingers seemingly one, I need only look up a distance of 15 degrees for my eyes to behold the sea in front of us.  To our left, we find the vast expanse of the open sea.

Across the bay to the distant opposite side of Savusavu Bay, where we recently traveled, we were able to see this property with a steady zoom of the camera.  We were in awe of being able to see the expanse of our neighbor Sewak’s recently graded steep road to the mountaintop, which we visited only weeks ago and the land where Mario’s new home was recently built.  It was magical as shown in these included photos.

Cows are always curious and we laughed when this grazing cow picked up her head to check us out.

Living in the moment should be easy. In my old life, I was always planning the next dish to be served to our guests at the outdoor barbecue on a warm summer afternoon or, the next event to be planned or, the next day, week’s or month’s endless list of planned and on-the-calendar activities.

In this life, awakening to this view, the sounds of nature, and the knowledge that these gentle people are scurrying about, striving to provide us with an idyllic environment, I am constantly reminded not to think ahead, to live in the moment.

How wonderful that this small island has this school for its people, the Montifort Technical Institute.

Here in Fiji as we research future locations, we often lift our heads that 15 degrees as a boat passes by, or to listen more intently to the pleasing sounds of farm animals or birds, all music to our ears.

And when a smiling face, a genuine soul, enters our door eager to please, when asked “What can I do for you today, Ms. Jessica, Mr. Tom?”  More often than not, we say, “Not a thing. We’re good.  Vinaka.”  They’ll make the low-to-the-floor bed, leave towels and toilet paper and once or twice a week do more.  We handle the rest on a daily basis.

Cherishing in this easy life is more than we ever dreamed possible.  We’ve experienced this all over the world, not so much as a result of having household help, but more from having no appointments, no backyard parties, no place we have to be at a certain time.  Our only strict adherence to the clock is on travel days or when shopping and sightseeing when we don’t have a rental car.

It was raining when we stopped to take photos of these fish ponds.

Tom says that he spent 42 years working on the railroad, constantly aware of the time of day. He, too, loves the freedom of our current lives, only wearing a watch on travel days.  We can go an entire day without checking the time, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired.

After a lifetime of “must do’s” these past three years has been filled with “want to do’s” allowing us to live in the moment.  In essence, for us, this is “living large” amid the small things and from time to time, thinking of where we’ve been and what, dear readers, is yet to come.

As we approach our three year anniversary of traveling the world on October 31st, we’re compiling a list of our stats; how many countries we’ve visited, how may vacation homes we’ve rented, how many cruises we’ve taken and much more, including the total dollars we’ve spent in the past three years.  Please check back as these details unwind.


Photo from one year ago today, October 29, 2014:

The last time Tom purchased anything sweet for himself, was fudge from this shop in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii which he devoured within a day.  For more photos of our visit to Lahaina, please click here.

Response to requested shopping photos, cars…Preparing for the next location…Three year ago photo from Tom’s retirement party…

We now purchase all of our eggs from this vendor at the Farmer’s Market closest to the door when the local egg lady, Kusma, was too hard to get to up the steep mountainous road, even for Rasnesh’s vehicle. The tray of two and a half dozen tray of chemical and antibiotic-free eggs is FJD $12.50, USD $5.36.  To date, we haven’t encountered one bad egg.

A week or so ago, one of our readers posted a comment requesting we include more photos of the village of Savusavu, the cars, and the stores where we shop each week. We hadn’t paid much attention to the types of cars in Savusavu. With the suggestion from our reader, we made an effort to notice finding they are the same types of cars and trucks found in any city, nothing unusual. 

This is the Vodafone kiosk where we purchase data almost every week. There is a friendly and fun rep in this store that we’ve come to know, a young woman in her 20’s, very adept and knowledgeable making the experience enjoyable. Usually, there’s little waiting.

Based on what Mario explained all vehicles imported to the island may be as much as 20% higher than the cost in larger countries. Then again, most vehicles are imported to their final destination in today’s day and age.

We spotted no American models with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. Most were models manufactured in Asia and Europe. Few native Fijians drive. Most cars and trucks are owned or driven by ex-pats, rentals, farmers and taxis, local businesses including resorts and hotels, police, and medical services.

This tiny chemist shop has more inventory packed into this tiny space than imaginable. One need only ask for an item and they happily scrounge around until they find it. The owner, of Muslim heritage, refused to allow interior and staff photos which we’ve encountered and respected in Morocco and other Muslim countries. 

As we’ve mentioned, we didn’t rent a car here when the steep dirt road to the house requires a four-wheel-drive including in dry weather. With the outrageous cost of renting a four-wheel drive for three months, well into the $1000’s per month, we opted for highly regarded and never disappointing Rasnesh.

In the past several days, we began researching our next location in Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu.  It’s hard to believe that in 39 days we’ll be leaving Savusavu and flying out on the little airplane to Nadi. We were checking on whether we should rent a car there or not.

This is an example of cars we’ve seen in Fiji, not necessarily including the exterior décor.

Contacting Susan, the owner of the house, she suggested a shuttle company for the 95km drive from the airport to the house and local drivers as opposed to renting a car for local trips. 

The Hibiscus Highway runs through the village.  It was quiet when we took this photo last week.

Checking rates online, the lowest we were able to find was USD $1,400, FJD $2,988 for a one-month rental, plus taxes and fees, most likely ending close to USD $2,000, FJD $4269. Also, many of the shops and restaurants are within walking distance of the house or only a short ride. For the reasonable prices of drivers in Fiji, if we went out every day we’d never spend half as much as we would for a rental car. 

The front door of the Farmer’s Market.  No signage is posted at this entrance.

Apparently, Pacific Heights shopping and tours will be comparable to what we’ve found in and about Savusavu.  For our grocery needs; meat, veggies, and some dairy, even the smaller markets will be able to accommodate us. Susan explained there are a few vegetable stands within walking distance.

A side entrance to the Farmer’s Market. To the far right are the freezers when fresh-caught fish is stored.

As for the local shopping in Savusavu, we’ve managed to find everything we could possibly want or need between the meat market, Farmer’s Market, and the three aisle grocery store as shown in today’s photos. In reality, my way of eating makes grocery shopping easy. What location doesn’t have a source of animal protein, vegetables, and dairy?

The Farmer’s Market is huge with dozens of vendors offering fresh produce. Most of the vendors purchase the produce directly from the local farmers to sell here each day.

Recently, we were asked if we eat dairy. Many have chosen to avoid dairy entirely for health reasons. Were either of us sensitive to it, we’d do the same. We aren’t. We use thick whole cream for coffee and cooking; full-fat cheese, full-fat sour cream (for salad dressing recipes), and full-fat cream cheese (when available), mostly in cooking as opposed to eating individually. 

A vendor stocking his freezer with fish. We’ve chosen not to purchase this fish when most of it is “reef fish” which can cause bacterial infections when sewage flows to the sea, staying in the reef areas.

Neither of us has any issues with digestion. We avoid yogurt when most have added sugars, even in the plain full-fat version. Cultured full fat sour cream provides good probiotics without added sugars. Many sour cream brands sold in the US are not cultured unless specifically stated on the label.

This vendor has been our first stop each week. Typically, we purchase cabbage and tomatoes from her. Last week, we passed on the tomatoes when they weren’t ripe enough for our immediate use.

Many may say, why do we consume dairy when we basically consume a very low carb, starch-free, sugar-free, and grain-free “paleo” type diet?  The limitations of the way we eat including full-fat low carb dairy in moderation have added much-desired variety avoiding boredom from eating a slab of protein, a veggie, and a salad night after night.

These Fijian women were sitting on the floor while one gave the other a massage.

With many recipes in a folder on my desktop including various combinations of the above items including some dairy, we’re able to enjoy a varied and fulfilling diet, many of which can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, including chopping and dicing time. A few take longer but, what else do I have to do with my time?

Taro, a popular starch product commonly used in Fijian cooking.

With Shalote and Usi handling the cleaning and laundry, I have the second half of each day to do as I please. The only cleaning I tackle is sweeping the floor after preparing meals and cleaning the kitchen and bathroom after use. 

Almost daily, I hand wash kitchen towels hanging them outdoors to dry mainly as a means of keeping the ants under control. With a few newly implemented procedures we’ve successfully kept the ants away over the past several days. 

As mentioned, the New World Market has three grocery aisles and is often out of products we use. There’s been no “plunger” coffee for the past three weeks.  We buy celery and carrots here as opposed to the Farmer’s Market.  For some unknown reason, these two items are fresher here.  The woman leaning against the produce bin assists with bagging the produce and then weighs it on a hanging kilogram scale. Tom always pushes the trolley.

After dinner, Tom does a thorough cleaning of the dishes, the countertop, and washing the placemats while I scrub the dining table with hot soapy water to ensure not a single crumb remains. By washing the exterior of the refrigerator each day and washing the handle after each opening, we haven’t seen an ant on the fridge in days.

We don’t purchase much in this aisle, the center of three aisles in the market. It contains laundry and cleaning products on this end and soda and chips on the other end, none of which we use.

It’s taken a while to figure out this ant thing but now, we think we’ve got it covered. We have a small can of ant killer spray which Tom uses outside around the trashcan after a thorough washing in hot soapy water. Daily trash removal is vital to keeping the ants under control.

We purchase little in this aisle when it contains toiletries, candy, paper products, and canned goods. At the far end is another small section with baking supplies, and freezers with frozen meat and vegetables, ice cream, and miscellaneous items, none of which we purchase.

Today and over the next several days, we’re including all new photos of outings and road trips we’ve taken in Vanua Levu, not necessarily related to one another. We’re coming up to two outings, one tomorrow (Thursday) and another on our upcoming three-year anniversary on October 31st (Saturday) with many new photos to share. Please stay tuned.

Have a fabulous day! 

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2014:

A lava flow advances across the pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apaa Street, engulfing a barbed wire fence, near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii on Sunday.
A year ago, we were worried about the flow of the lava from Mount Kilauea which at the time was heading directly to the neighborhood where the two houses we’d rented for the upcoming family visit over Christmas. Luckily, after arrival in Pahoa on the Big Island, the lava diverted its flow and we could stop worrying. Please read here for details.

 Photo from three years ago, taken at Tom’s retirement party, only days before we left Minnesota:

At that point, we were using my cell phone for photos. Oh, how times have changed. Please click here for details.

Part 2, Vuadomo Waterfall…A walk through the rainforest…Our photo together…To “selfie” or not to “selfie”…Botox injections?

Rasnesh took this photo of us in front of the Vuadomo Waterfall. We were hot and sweaty but the long trek was worth it!

Many of our readers and Facebook friends have asked us to post photos of ourselves as we explore the world.  Not good at doing the “selfie” thing and usually, with only the two of us at many locations, we don’t have many photos to share of us together. 

Vuadomo Waterfall was larger than it appears in these photos.

We aren’t into “selfie” photos or silly facial expressions photos and as we’ve aged, we don’t believe that photos of ourselves are as appealing as they may have been in our younger years.

Perhaps, what I just said is an oxymoron. We don’t want to be vain in focusing on ourselves and yet, we don’t like how we look in photos as much as we did years ago. Let’s just go with the fact that vanity plays a role in photos of oneself, no matter how old one is, one way or another.

We didn’t see any other tourists walking to or from the falls.

We’ve noticed many of our Facebook friends are great at taking and sharing “selfie” photos. We admire them for that. But, whenever we try to take good photos of ourselves, they usually aren’t anything we’d like to post online and we don’t see the necessity of sharing our own persona in a photo when, if we want to look at ourselves, we can look in the mirror.

Not that getting old is bothering us. It’s just that we wish we had more time and the promise of good health to ensure we could carry on for decades to come. I suppose everyone starts thinking about wishing they had more time as we approach 70 years old, for me a mere two-plus year away.

Tom, five years younger than me, isn’t quite there yet in his thinking. I don’t think about it much, only on the days when I haven’t slept well, feel sluggish, and have bags under my eyes. 

 Vuadomo Waterfall.

When we were in Australia and I had an appointment with a female doctor, after being given a clean bill of health, she asked if I’d like to have Botox injections. She had learned how to do them and said I’d be a good candidate. 

For three reasons I turned her down; one, if I were to have Botox injections, I’d see a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist; two, if I had Botox injections how and where would I have touch-ups…in the Amazon or living on a remote island? Three, I don’t want Botox injections or any type of plastic surgery. Give me a break…I’m trying my best to age gracefully.

An orchid growing in the rainforest.

That’s not to say I’m opposed to such measures if a person chooses to look younger or if one prefers to create an entirely different appearance. Who am I to judge anyone else when I put on some makeup and fix my hair each day? Does that require a certain degree of what may consider as vanity? I can justify it by saying I grew up in California and California girls always did their best to look “ready to go anywhere” at any given moment.

All of us have our routines to make ourselves look exactly how we’d like, our own personal routine and who’s to say or judge what one person does over another? Certainly not me.

The creek running from the waterfall.

Yep, when we go on a day trip, I bring a tube of lipstick. Yep, when we go on an overnight trip, I bring a little black bag with six items that I use every morning to look my best for the day. Does Tom care, one way or another? He hardly notices. At night, when I wash it all away, he loves me exactly the same way. I do it for me.  It makes me feel my best.

A few readers have written suggesting I ditch my cosmetics, cut my hair, and wear baggy tee shirts that I can buy in our travels (mostly with words on them) and baggy khaki shorts. In their well-intentioned suggestions, they think that would be “easier” for me. I thank them for their well-meaning suggestions. That wasn’t me 50 years ago and it’s not me now. 

The creek on the return walk.

I wasn’t a sweatshirt kind of girl, nor did I wear baggy sweatpants around the house on the weekends. Not that I dressed up to clean the house or cook. I’d wear jeans, shirts, or well-fitted tee shirts, comfortable and totally perfect for what I needed to accomplish. 

Now I wear shorts and long-wearing, short sleeve cotton tees with 5% spandex that last through many washings and wearings, purchased at a great online shop in the US, for which I order replacements each year to be shipped with our next box of supplies. 

The clean water was appealing as hot and sweaty as we were.  With shopping ahead of us, we decided against getting wet.

At the moment, I have six of those tee shirts in varying colors I’ve yet to wear as I repeatedly wear my older inventory until it starts becoming threadbare. I’m saving the new ones for the many upcoming cruises, preferring not to wear worn old clothing on a cruise.

In our old lives, I had closets filled with off-season clothing and my own walk-in closet in the bedroom filled to the brim with color-coordinated clothing all hung in the same direction, all on no-slip velvet hangers. 

Tima and Rasnesh, long time friends, after many hikes with tourists to the waterfall. 

Now, I have one suitcase with clothes. Now, I don’t have a clothes rod, only a few shelves for stacking. Now, I have three sandwich bags each with a few extra cosmetic items, just in case, I can’t find them at a local pharmacy. I don’t own a single face cream or skincare product, no body lotion, no hand cream, no self-tanning product, using coconut oil, and insect repellent as needed. 

Vain? Perhaps, in that, I still, and always will continue to prepare for the day as I have all of my adult life. And, I’ll always carry that tube of lipstick whether on a safari in the savanna or on a hot and humid hike into the rainforest. That’s who I am and will always be. 

The water was clear and clean with no signs of human visitors in the area.  We’ve seen no trash or liter in any area of this island. 

Taking a “selfie” and posting it online?  Nah, that’s not us.  We’ll continue to include photos of us together when we have someone along that can take the photo, as we’re posting today, and will again when we soon celebrate our three year anniversary of traveling the world.

A line from Popeye, the sailor man, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” (Here’s the video from 1933).  Guess that line could apply to all of us.

Have a glorious day!

  Photo from one year ago today, October 27, 2014:
Front Street in Lahaina, Maui on a beautiful sunny day.  We enjoyed the walk along the popular beachfront boulevard.  For more details, please click here.

Part 1, Vuadomo Waterfall…A walk through the rainforest…More photos tomorrow…

Typically in rainforests, we’ve observed insects and birds as more colorful than in less dense areas of vegetation. Tima spotted this caterpillar we’d easily have missed.

With Internet limitations and the difficulty of uploading photos at times, it’s necessary to break up the sharing of photos into “parts,” as has been the case in many places we’ve traveled.

We’d considered sharing fewer photos, instead, sharing just the highlights. For two reasons, we decided against that concept, preferring to break up our photos and stories into “parts” sharing those we find most appealing as we work our way through hundreds of photos we may take in a single outing. 

We giggled over this saying advertising a “10-minute” walk to the waterfall which may have been the case for young athletic types but certainly not for us old-timers, walking gingerly to avoid falling!

Our first reason for sharing as many photos as we can over a “series” is the fact that our readers have requested more photos. Secondly, it’s for the ongoing documentation of our travels at an online location that we hope will be available for generations to come. 

Today’s waterfall photos and story will consist of two parts, today’s and tomorrow’s. The trek through the rainforest to the Vuadomo Waterfall was in itself, quite an experience, stopping along the way to take many photos and to revel in the beauty of the exquisite remote jungle.

A short wooden ramp of three logs led to the stone path.  When we ventured across those three logs, I expected a wobbly hike once we were on the rocks.  Tima and Rasnesh waited for us while we loaded an extra battery into the camera.

Throughout the world, we’ve trekked through rainforest after rainforest. In essence, they are all similar in the vast amount of vegetation creating a canopy that at times blocks the view of the sky.This is where the similarities begin and end.

Here’s a definition of a rainforest:


dense forest found in tropical areas of heavy rainfall. The trees are broad-leaved and evergreen, and the vegetation tends to grow in three layers (undergrowth, intermediate trees and shrubs, and very tall trees, which form a canopy) Also called selva.”

rain forest in Science 



A dense evergreen forest with an annual rainfall of at least 406 cm (160 inches).

Our Living Language   : Most of the world’s rainforests lie near the equator and have tropical climates. However, cooler rainforests exist in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada. The world’s largest rainforest is located in the Amazon River basin. The Amazon rainforest has been described as the “lungs of our planet” because it continuously recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen, with a significant percentage of the world’s atmospheric oxygen being produced in this region. Besides helping to regulate the world’s climate, rainforests host an extraordinary diversity of life. Scientists believe that as many as half of the Earth’s different species of plants and animals are found only in the rainforests, which take up a mere 7 percent of the world’s landmass. By some estimates, more than half of the Earth’s original rainforests have already been burned or cut down for timber or grazing land, and more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are thought to be going extinct daily as a result of the lost habitat. Currently 25 percent of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from tropical rainforest ingredients, and 70 percent of the plants with anticancer properties are found only in this shrinking biome.

We often hear about rainforests in reference to the above described Amazon River basin and the fact that so much precious plant and animal life is dwindling daily having a profound effect on our planet; the loss of plant, animal, and insect species all vital to our existence in a myriad of ways.

Rasnesh pointing out a passion fruit tree, early in its blooming stages.

As we’ve seen and visited all over the world, there are many massive smaller rainforests in many countries, many we’ve visited in our travels, each with its own unique forms of life and vegetation, although each possessing a similar vital aspect to our world’s ecosystem.

I could spend days on this topic even in my limited knowledge, if only from personal experience over these past three years of world travel. And still, we’ve yet to visit the Amazon which is well on our radar, with our next visit to a new continent earmarked as South America, once we’ve completed our short visit to the US in the summer of 2017.   

A budding passion fruit.

Here is Savusavu, we need only to look out the window where we can easily feel a part of the ecosystem in this densely forested area overlooking the sea. Although our immediate surroundings may not be specifically referred to as a rainforest, living in this jungle-like area gives us a perception of doing so, especially when only across this expansive bay in front of us, we traveled by car to Vuadomo, entering a true rainforest on the trek to the waterfall on the privately-owned sacred grounds of the Vuadomo people.

To call the walk to the Vuadomo Waterfall a “trek” is by no means a misnomer. It’s indeed quite a trek. At certain points, I was reminded of the dangerous trek to the Queen’s Bath, (click here for the story and photos), one we foolishly insisted on doing, only grateful for the experience long after it safely ended.

A passion fruit flower.

The walk to the Vuadomo Waterfall was steep and unrelenting with a narrow rocky base at times interrupted by steep uneven steps to navigate to a higher elevation. After all, waterfalls are generally located at an elevation to some degree. At one point, our ears popped.

Rasnesh and Tima escorted us on the tour, steady on their feet in their familiarity with the trek. With Tima insisting on offering me a hand over the most difficult parts, I stopped periodically to wipe the sweat off my hand onto my pants. The heat and humidity were bordering on unbearable.

This time of year in the South Pacific, papaya is getting ripe and ready for consumption as it turns yellow.

As we walked in a single file, Tom and I spoke of the difficult long-ago trek to Petra, Jordan (click here for the story and photos) in the scorching heat of 40C, 104F. Although it was a dry heat, it literally dried the moisture in our mouths, making swallowing difficult. 

However, this trek through the Vuadomo rainforest with a temperature of 32C, 90F, and humidity at 100% (it rained on the drive), we were almost equally uncomfortable, sweat pouring off of our exposed skin.  Not one to sweat much, I was surprised by the droplets of sweat pouring off my face, dripping down my arms and off my hands. Tom was the same. 

These tony chilies are often for sale in the Farmer’s Market. 

At no point, did we consider turning back or complaining aloud. Over wet rocks and slippery vegetation, we continued on, anxious to see the waterfall we’d heard so much about from the locals. All we needed to do was get there and back without stumbling and falling.

We enjoyed the trek, stopping for photo ops that Tima and Rasnesh pointed out in their experience of many times over these rocks. Whether it was a tree with fruit, a caterpillar as shown, or a bird in flight, we stopped to observe, never feeling rushed, especially as Tima reminded us many times, of “No rush, this is Fiji. Nice and easy.”

These huge leaves which Tima referred to as elephant ears are different than the same-named common household plant in the US.

Her thoughtful assistance, insight, and educational comments made the journey all the more interesting and enriching. Finally, after about 20 minutes, we heard the waterfall shortly before it was visible. The sound of the rushing water sent a thrill through both of us.

Ah, Mother Nature, when did you create this treasure, by no means the biggest waterfall we’ve seen but, supremely beautiful even on the cloudy day? Through our research we haven’t been able to ascertain when this loveliness was first spotted by the human eye, nor was Tima aware of this fact.

The grass was wet here making it important to fit our feet onto the individual stone steps.

We could only assume that as long ago as the villagers first settled in Vuadomo they stumbled upon this exquisite gift from their God or higher power, lovingly nurtured by Mother Nature in her exquisite rainforest design, trees to the heavens of many varieties, many fruit-bearing, birds and small creatures each in their own way contributing to the ecosystem.

We were indeed in a rainforest and although it wasn’t the Amazon it was a place where we’ll always recall in the list of the many rainforests we’ve visited in our travels, each unique in its own way.

Still, at quite a distance, we gasped with delight over our first peek at the waterfall which is much larger than it appears in this photo.

The waterfall, although not huge, which we hadn’t expect, was as beautiful as rushing water can be.  With recent non-stop rains the water easily flowed with an intensity we found mesmerizing. 

At the final destination, Tima pointed out a wooden bench suggesting we stop to rest and partake in the magnificence of the waterfall while we recovered from the long trek. The cooling spray from the waterfall was more refreshing and soothing than sitting down, as we languished for a while, enjoying the view.

A creek flowed from the waterfall pool.

After photos, we were back on the trek to return to Rasnesh’s vehicle awaiting us at the entrance to the path.  We’d brought along only one bottled water which by then was almost hot when we each took a few much-needed sips.

Soon, we were back on the highway leaving the area located across the bay from our temporary home to return to Savusavu for our weekly shopping. We were hot, sweaty, and satisfied with the great experience, breezing through the shopping with relative ease, ending up in the air-conditioned supermarket, the only location in Fiji we’ve visited with AC.

Rushing waters in the creek below the waterfall.

Rasnesh had to pick up a traveler from the airport giving us more time in the market than we needed with its only three aisles. While shopping, we met a lovely couple our age, she was from Florida, USA and he was from Canada, who’d been sailing their catamaran in the world’s sea over the past eight years, soon to settle on the Big Island in Hawaii. A lively conversation ensued, making the wait for Rasnesh fly by.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with a new story which will include our final photos of the Vuadomo Waterfall including photos of us (at long last) and our guides. With many more yet-to-be shared photos from this and other outings, we don’t expect to run out. Especially, when in three days, we’ll be out again and in five days, we’re off to celebrate our three year’s long travel anniversary with many new photos of our upcoming celebration and tour of Namale Resort.

Happy day!

                                         Photo from one year ago today, October 26, 2014:

We drove to Lahaina, the most popular tourist town in Maui, surprised by how few tourists we spotted on the streets. The Hawaiian Islands are most busy during the winter season in the northern hemisphere, especially closer to the holiday season. For more details, please click here.

Part 3…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!…

Handmade raft for fishing, which Rasnesh explained is safer than a boat when there’s no chance of being stranded or sinking.

When we think of how easy we have it; stores from which to purchase food and supplies, means of transportation, sources of entertainment and the income and ability to purchase items that which makes life more convenient, we stop and reflect on how fortunate we are.

As they say, “everything is relative” which may mean that everything is quantifiable in terms of each individual’s perception or opinion. Perhaps for villagers throughout the world living in a modest self sustaining environment, they are as comfortable in their existence as we are in ours.

Handmade ladder outside of a villager’s house. We speculated this ladder is shared from house to house as needed.

As much as many would like to believe, “in a perfect world” we all deserve the exact same degree of life’s comforts. But, us humans have grown through generations under varying conditions to which we’ve become adapted, not unlike the animal kingdom.

Other handmade rafts were ready for fishing along the inlet.

Our higher power or whatever we believe or not, didn’t create us to be identical. Otherwise, we’d all look exactly alike. Whether we were created by a god or evolved through millennium, we are different for many reasons, not always known to us, not intended to be known to us, hopefully to be respected and treated equally by us.

In time and space we find our human selves possessing a powerful tendency to make the best of it. No doubt, some fall behind, there again for unknown reasons and some reach out a helping hand as typical of the Fijian people. No one is left to flounder unaided by their fellow women and men.

A pig and a few ducks living off the land and sea.

They are happy in their existence, unfettered by worries of working technology, (other than their ability to communicate through the modern use of cell phones), unencumbered by bank balances, the success of a portfolio or the growth of a retirement fund. 

Clothes dryers are unheard of in many parts of the world, regardless of their modernization. A bench is located under this beautiful tree for quiet reflection with ocean views.

Retirement itself is a non-issue. When one becomes too old or disabled to care for themselves others step in to provide care and sustenance. There are only three nursing homes in Viti Levu, Fiji, none on this island of Vanua Levu.

As we drove down the road to the village, passing an old man, Rasnesh yelled out the window, “Bula, Tutu,” which translates to “Hello, Grandfather.” No, the old man wasn’t Rasnesh’s grandfather. He was an old man, weathered and tattered walking down the road with a big smile on his face, waving at us foreigners as if he knew us as well. We returned the waves, arms flailing out the car window, shouting heartfelt greetings of “bula!”

Tima explained these are crab holes located all over their grassy areas. Crab, shrimp and other fish are a good source of food for the villagers often caught in the nets as shown in the next photo.

The Fijian people regard one another as all related to one another, to love, to nurture and to care for as we’ve mentioned in a prior post. We’re still reeling from this heavenly (literally, heavenly) cultural anomaly in the today’s modern society.

A fishing net drying on the grass is regularly used by the villagers.

As we wandered through the village, we reveled at the natural resources the villagers of Vuadomo have utilized, not abused, in an unfettered and sustaining manner. Weren’t such resources were made available for all of us to use gently, not consume with a voracity that destroys their ongoing future existence and value for generations to come?

Oh, this could get political. I’ll shy away from that context, stepping back from pontificating on these delicate topics. Except, forgive me for adding, that in this day and age we have the human intellect and technology to develop new means of power and fuel and yet politics stand in the way. 

Seeing this starving puppy broke our hearts. We must accept that in Fiji and many other parts of the world, dogs are not regarded with the same love and care familiar to many of us. Their function is for protection, not intended as a pet. Although, we’ve found exceptions such as in Badal, our daily visitor, who is well nourished and loved by his Fijian owners and all the neighbors. 

I’ll put the soapbox back under the sofa saving it for conversations between Tom and I. We’ve found it best to be “apolitical” here, as one of our readers wrote to us in the past month, agreeing we’re best to continue to maintain such a stance.

Papaya grow prolifically in Fiji and are a staple in the Fijian diet.

These people lead a simple life, joyful in their surroundings, powerful in their religious beliefs, strong in their familial ties and able to nourish their bodies, hearts and minds in an uncluttered lifestyle, leave us holding them in high regard with memories we’ll always treasure.

This, dear readers, is what makes our travels so meaningful and powerful to us, as we as individuals and as a couple “living in the world” find personal growth and fulfillment we never imagined in our older years.

Tima offered us the use of this public restroom they’d built for visiting tourists as our last stop before heading into the rainforest for the steep and rocky trek to the waterfall.

There is no old building or bungee jump that could fill our hearts with such reverence and respect. For this, we are eternally grateful. For this, we accept our limitations in our travel knowing full well that ultimately these experiences, these memories, will continue to shape us as human beings long into the future.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with the trek through the rainforest to the Vuadomo waterfall with many more photos!

                                               Photo from one year ago, October 25, 2014:

Although we never stay in the direct sun for more than 45 minutes, we loved the time we spent by the unheated pool at the condo in Maui. For more details, please click here.

Part 2…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!

Upon arrival in Vuadomo, Tima,  standing on the right, came out to greet us warmly shaking our hands and leading us toward this structure where handmade crafts are offered for sale by the local women.

Nothing we do in our travels is more fulfilling than meeting the local people and having an opportunity to share the treasures found in their area, on their lands and in their villages, those which they hold in reverence and high esteem.

Most likely, these craftswomen of Vuadomo sit here all day waiting for tourists to arrive. It isn’t necessary to call ahead to let make them aware of our pending arrival. We didn’t see any other tourists while we visited, only one passing taxi on our way in.

Witnessing these treasures through their eyes and ours gives us a perspective, if only for a flash in time, of how they live among one another, cherishing the land and nature to provide them with everything they need.

As we entered the area of their marketplace, we were warmly welcomed and asked to sit and relax for a few minutes on the benches provided as shown on the right in this photo.

So is the case for the villagers of Vuadomo who have managed in their creativity, to utilize the beauty of their surroundings on the lands owned by their ancestors, to create a source of revenue to offset the costs for those aspects of life not provided by their gardens, their livestock and the seemingly endless sources of food from the ocean adjoining their lands.

Ratnesh explained he may bring tourists to see the waterfall a few times each week. He isn’t charged for entrance to the village on each occasion. Only the tourists are charged the token entrance fee of FJD $10, USD $4.64 per person, plus the gift of kava for the chief.

Yes, we were a little taken aback to see they had cellphones but, we saw no TV antennas, no satellite dishes, no cars, and no other motorized means of transportation. They do have electricity, septic systems, and well water.

The women were friendly hoping to sell their handmade jewelry.  Instead of making a purchase, we left a tip.

Many of the 80 residents, living in a total of about 16 modest homes, had small garden plots with plenty of chickens and roosters. We heard the sounds of goats but didn’t see them, although pigs and piglets were plentiful wandering freely throughout the property, most gathered by the water. We saw no cows in the immediate area.

A worn but adequate house in the village.

It’s a simple life with idle time spent in the evenings drinking kava, in the same manner, many others throughout the world gather for “happy hour” or enjoy alcoholic beverages with meals. 

Tom was equally fascinated as I was, as we wandered through the village with Tima.

Tima explained that drinking kava peaks the appetite. Often, there will be a variety of home-baked sweets available for “snacking.” It’s all a part of the ritual, a part of their everyday lives.

These chickens and roosters were outside the chief’s house (Tima’s grandfather).

Most of the villagers we encountered were rotund as a result of this pastime pleasure. Diabetes is rampant in Fiji, becoming worse each year. Ratnesh explained that with free medical care with accompanying free medications, many Fijians accept this condition as a part of life. Some Fijians have lost teeth due to years of drinking and chewing kava along with other health-related conditions.

Some of the homes were in ill repair while others were more up to date.

Comparable to overuse of alcohol, overuse of kava and addiction is not uncommon, especially in the male population. Apparently, women drink kava on social occasions and celebrations although not as regularly as men. These old traditions live on through generations.

This structure is used for ceremonial rites and kava drinking.  We’d seen similar structures when we visited the Masaai village in Kenya.

As Tima took us through the village, we had the opportunity, if only for a short time, to imagine the lives of these gentle, kind people. There’s never been a single moment since we arrived on this quiet island that we have felt unsafe. 

Breadfruit is abundant in Fiji. Tima explained the sweet fruit is commonly used in meal preparation.

Their joy for life at a slow pace with little anxiety is evident in almost every Fijian we’ve met, whether they are native Fijians or Indo-Fijians whose ancestors immigrated from India and who practice Hinduism. Please see this link for more on the Indo-Fijians who encompass 43% of the population in Fiji.

Tima showed us (me, Tom, and Ratnesh) the “lali,” a wooden drum in varying sizes from 2 to 3 feet which is used as a church service bell, alerting the villagers that it’s time for the service. With “Fiji time” it may not be at the same time each week.

The Vuadomo tribe are practicing Christians with a church located on their property as shown in the photos below. The pastor, who doesn’t live in the village, visits weekly or as needed to conduct services. We were both surprised by the size and beauty of the church as we gingerly stepped inside, careful not to tread too far into their sacred space.

This quaint small church is ideal based on the number of villagers in Vuadomo, named as a memorial to a former pastor.

We had no idea that the tour of the waterfall would include so much more. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces as we wandered about the property, in awe of these people and the home they’ve provided for themselves with resourcefulness, simplicity, and dignity.

There are no pews or chairs in the church. Sitting on the ground is common for Fijians of all ages. 

How fortunate and humbled we are to have this inside peek into the lives of others so far away from whence we came, not only in distance but also in lifestyle. They, too, like us, are eternally grateful for the treasures they’ve received through hard work and determination and ultimately, the gifts they’ve been given by the grace of their chosen higher power.

The houses vary in degrees of maintenance and care based on each owner’s preference.

In the realm of things, none of us are any different. We find our place in the world doing our best to survive and thrive with the tools we have available. We often feel sadness and angst over what appears to be poverty when in fact, many of those we perceive as poor look at our lives of over-abundance, thinking how rich they actually are.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and stories of the resources in the Vuadomo village that provide sustenance for the villagers. Please check back!

Photo from one year ago, October 24, 2014:

We’re always happy to have a dining table and chairs as opposed to sitting at a countertop for meals. The condo in Maui had everything we could possibly want or need. And yet, we’ve found we do well without a TV, dishwasher, AC, or other modern conveniences. Even now, in Fiji, we manage with a less than comfortable bed and daily visits from armies of ants. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!

The Fish Shop where we purchased kava for the chief.

When Rasnesh picked us up yesterday morning, the sun was shining and we were set for more sightseeing.  After the first 20 minutes in the car, the clouds rolled in and it began to rain. We weren’t deterred. 

Rasnesh explained that prior to visiting the village of Vuadomo, we’d stop in Savusavu to purchase the customary Fijian intoxicating Kava, for $5, USD $2.29, to bring to the village as a gift for the chief who would provide permission for us to visit the waterfall and his village. 

There are several ATMs in Savusavu easily assessable from either side of the road.

Low on cash, we stopped at an ATM when we’d also need cash to pay the chief the entrance fee to the waterfall of FJD $10 USD $4.59 per person. Cash in hand, we walked the short distance to the local Fish Shop to purchase the kava.  We never noticed any fish in the shop with its two pool tables and hanging and drying kava plants and a variety of kava “paraphernalia.”

The kava, a brown powdery substance, is made in the same manner as loose tea.  Its steeps for 10 to 15 minutes, and is stained before drinking. See this website for more details on the modern-day preparation of kava.

Shalote, one of our two housekeepers, explained that the locals also purchase kava from this shop. Ratnesh explained he doesn’t partake due to his religious beliefs, although many locals of strong faiths feel comfortable enjoying the relaxing benefits of this potent drink.

Although our visit to the village wasn’t specifically to witness a kava drinking ceremony, the villagers frequently partake in the drinking of this “beverage” for its intoxicating effects, as one would partake of alcoholic beverages.

Actually, we were somewhat relieved that our visit didn’t include a kava drinking ceremony. Tom’s picky taste buds would surely prevent him from wanting to try the drink and I steer clear of anything intoxicating for health reasons.

Pool tables in the Fish Shop where kava is purchased.  Note the hanging kava branches along the wall. Fijian people rarely drink alcoholic beverages but, may on occasion, drink a beer after kava.

Many tourists choose to participate in the traditional kava drinking ceremonies as a “tourist attraction” offered by local tour operators. Ratnesh explained there is only one local tribe offering the ceremony that he’s aware of on this area of the island which must be arranged in advance.

Kava powder in hand, as shown in this photo below, we were back on the road to our destination stopping at many points for photos. Along the way, the rain stopped and although the sun didn’t return until later in the day, we were thrilled to be out once again. 

Kava branches were hanging to dry.

It was a fairly long drive from the main highway to the village, where we meet several villagers and had an opportunity to have Tima show us what life is like in a small Fijian village tucked away in the rainforest with easy access to the riches of the ocean bordering their property; fresh fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Vuadomo is a small village down on a long and steep dirt road where 80 villagers reside, most related to one another, with only a few children in residence. 

The chief owns the land where the village is located making this experience especially interesting to us. Visitors arrive daily and the fees charged for access to the village and waterfall aid in providing the village with a source of income. 

This is the bag of kava we purchased to bring to the chief as a gift, asking for permission to see his village and the waterfall on his land in Vuadomo.

Upon our arrival, we were shown an open area where several locals women sat on mats showing their jewelry and crafts hoping tourists will make a purchase. Instead of making a purchase for items we didn’t need or want, we chose to leave a tip with Tima at the end of our visit.

The tribal women spoke excellent English and we engaged in idle conversation with several of them when they asked us where we were from. They suggested, as traditional, that we sit on the bench and relax for a bit. We did so, enjoying a cool breeze in the sticky humidity while we sat on the bench in quiet contemplation, reveling in the peaceful surroundings.

Apparently, these bags contain a kava mix. See this link for more information on the processing of kava which is done throughout the world, including in the Hawaiian Islands.

After a while, Tima escorted us on a tour of the village. Her grandfather, the chief, waved to us while he was working on the exterior of his house. Preferring not to disturb him, we continued on as shown in these photos in awe of the simplicity of their everyday lives while intrigued with their resourcefulness and their gratefulness for their lives. 

These “wrappers” are used for those who prefer to smoke kava.

Tima, 23 years old, explained that when the day came that she’d find a husband and have a family of her own, she’d relocate to her husband’s village. We wondered how she’d possibly meet someone when this particular tribe didn’t pre-arrange marriage. We chose not to ask respecting their privacy and customs.

The cashier in the shop where we purchased the kava is behind this protective cage. Although the crime rate is low in Savusavu and on this island in general, with the volume of money coming into this shop each day, the owners must have felt such precaution is necessary.

Tomorrow, we’ll return with Part 2, for the story and photos of the village, the lifestyle of the villagers, and how they are able to sustain themselves on available resources.

Photo from one year ago today, October 23, 2014:

In the post, one year ago, we shared food prices in Maui at the largest grocery store in Kihei, a 20-minute drive from our condo where we continued to shop during the remainder of our stay.  For details, please click here.