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.