Bula from Kadavu - Little New Zealand
From a little distance offshore, it’s amazing how much Kadavu really does look like NZ. It’s a bit of a mystery why the locals call Kadavu “Little New Zealand” - although it does have a lot of similar plants. Whatever the reason, they seem to really like kiwis (and the All Blacks) so its’ all good for us!!
Kadavu is mountainous, lush tropical jungle like stuff with small villages of 100 – 150 people mostly spread out along the beaches and rivers. There are only a few main roads and the main transport is the long boat with outboard – they’re about 20 foot, fibreglass capable of carrying several families and animals when required – and they go like hell ! The bush has great birdlife – much of it only found here - the most spectacular being the brightly coloured red and green Kadavu Parrot. The most weird would have to be the “barking pigeon”, which if someone hadn’t told us – we would have thought it was a dog for sure – they “woof” at each other across the valleys day and night.
Sunset on the hills
Kadavu is still traditional and relatively untouched by tourism. We are travelling in the company of another boat with friends of ours from Gulf Harbour, and so far we have not seen any other yachts. All the islands, bays and reefs are the domain of someone here, so we have to seek permission to anchor and swim etc. Anchoring in a bay in front of a village is basically like putting your tent up on someone’s front lawn in NZ. The traditional way of seeking this permission is known as “sevu sevu”. In the Suva markets we bought bundles of Kava root so we can do sevu sevu when we plant our floating house in someone’s front yard. The system is that as soon as we anchor, Carl puts on his sulu ( traditional black wraparound men’s wear – yes a dress ! ) we go ashore and generally someone will meet us on the beach. The villages often appoint this “meet and greet” dude who will then be our escort. While someone goes and finds the chief or headman, our escort takes us to the meeting hut – often raised a bit higher than the other buildings around it, just with pandanas mats where we all sit cross legged. After a bit of chit chat, the Chief says we can present our gift, the boys hand over the kava and we are formally welcomed and given permission to anchor, to swim on the reefs and walk about the village as we please. They are super polite about it all and thankfully the ritual hasn’t extended fully ( yet ) to having to sit round and drink kava (known as “Grog” by the time its drinkable), as this is a very prolonged affair and the stuff tastes pretty foul. Kadavu is also the “Kava Capital” of Fiji – they grow the best and strongest kava here – so it’s strange to buy Kadavu kava in Suva and then bring it back and present it to the guys who grew it in the first place.
Kavala Village The locals hang out in the shade
A tour of the village may follow with the church always being the biggest building and everyone coming out to say hello as you move around. We have even managed to scare small children to the point of screaming and running away as some of the little ones have never seen a white person! They call us “palangi” which is the same word they use in Tonga (pakeha equivalent I guess), but here they also call us “kai palangi” – which is a bit disconcerting given the drum beating into the evening and their strong cannibal history of Fiji J. We are also currently 5 nm from a famous surf break called “ King Kong “ which is beneath a huge volcanic hill covered in tropical rain forest – the scene can really send you back in time and into Peter Jacksons movie !
The mighty Kong lives here
We are currently in about the middle of Kadavu in the “capital” called Vunisea. There is an air strip here and some shops, and we were told that there was a market on Friday mornings where we could buy some fresh fruit and veggies. Everywhere we asked if we could buy fresh stuff we were told to come to Vunisea on Friday as the villages really only grow enough to feed themselves – they generally don’t have an excess to sell. We were also told to be very early as everything sells very fast – so here we are – up and ready with our bags and small change on the beach in front of the market tables at 7.00am with not a single person to be seen!! After some hours it transpired that there was a school sports day the day before so what there was to sell was sold the day before – sigh…..
Walking down the one road in Vunisea is a very time consuming task. The Fijians are incredible friendly and mega polite. They cannot walk past you without saying Bula Bula with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. Most of the men will stop and introduce themselves, shake hands and then the standard questions that we get asked everywhere start. They generally include”
· Where are you from? (Carl always says “Big New Zealand” and because they call themselves “Little New Zealand” they seem to find this very funny J)
· Is it your first time in Fiji?
· How long did it take to sail here and was the sea very big and rough (accompanied by fearful looks)
· Where have you been? (which they repeat word for word)
· Where are you going? (which they also repeat word for word)
· Do you have any children? (usually very sad that we don’t – I say I have one very big child – being Carl – which the woman always seem to find very funny)
· How old are you? This is not considered impolite – they just seem to like to get all the relevant information on you!
· They may want to know how long were going to stay and do another round of handshakes before saying how lovely it was to meet you and how they hope to see us again. They are truly gracious and friendly people.
Meanwhile – we are just about adjusted to living back on board. It’s still a small space for two people (even if we are on our honeymoon J) and the little floating house has its challenges for sure. Sometimes we really wish it would just stop moving!!. Everything down to brushing your teeth gets a bit of a pain if you’re constantly moving. A flat anchorage is truly a blessing!! We are now totally dependent on rain water – which we catch on our big shade covers and forward water catching tarp – all going directly into our tanks. We have perfected the art of using 1 litre of water each for a shower (using a small garden pressure sprayer), we do dishes once a day and use salt water for all rinsing. Clothes washing is done only in streams when we find one clean enough or using the rain water that we collect in our kayaks or the dinghy during a heavy downpour. Fortunately we seem to spend most of the day in our togs in and out of the water which is a constant 28 degrees!
However, for any of you who think we spend all day lounging in the sun on palm tree fringed beaches - it hasn’t been all sunshine and topless dancing girls – we’ve spent a week thankfully anchored in really sticky mud in the mangroves sitting out a big blow and rain, and its hot and humid as hell a lot of the time. We can however see why Fiji is called the “soft coral capital of the world” – it is truly astounding underwater – incredible colour and a very large array of tropical fish – and heaps of them. Lots more coral and fish than we have seen in any other Pacific Island – so we’ll no doubt be telling you more about that in future blogs. We hope to head back up to the Great Astrolabe Reef in the next few days to hunt down the elusive Manta Rays – so hopefully some more water stories to tell after that!!
We’ve just come back from the local weekend rugby game (when in Rome ……).
The famous huge Fijian feet!! They call themselves "The flying Fijians"
When loading up the dingy with banana’s (someone we met yesterday felt sorry for us and walked 8km to bring them to us today) and coconut bread, the inevitable introductions and questions from a passer-by start up – “where do you come from?” he asked. “Big New Zealand” (ha ha ha) – “Oh” he says - “Do you know Peter?”
That’s about all from us.
Hope you’re all well – lots of luv