Taveuni

For the last week of our 6 month adventure, we headed out to the “Garden Island of Fiji”, Tavenui.

We hiked up to the Bouma Waterfalls, snorkelled the amazing Rainbow Reef, kayaked out to islands and enjoyed ourselves in the tropical paradise sunshine.

Our time in Fiji has been truly wonderful. We’ve definitely benefitted from Fijian hospitality, everywhere we stayed, even Airbnb places, we were treated like family and included in meals. We became accustomed to ‘Fiji Time’, the idea that everything and everyone will probably be later than expected, never any rush or hurry. There’s a laid-back gentleness which runs on feeling and emotion, similar to what we witnessed in Kerala and what we learned of the Aborigine culture in Australia, quite different from the Western perspective we’ve grown up with. In Fiji it probably stems from the consumption of kava which has a mellowing effect and was traditionally used to solve any conflict in communities. We really feel a connection to Fiji now, especially because of our time on Vanua Balavu and the relationships we formed there, we will be back for sure!

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Bouma Waterfalls

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Chilling

Cyclone Winston and Vanua Balavu – Documentary Teaser

For those of you wondering where all the video footage from Fiji is, here’s the deal;

Whilst on Vanua Balavu, as well as teaching, I spent a lot of time filming the area and the effects of Cyclone Winston. I interviewed members of the community about their experiences on the night the cyclone hit and their concerns for the future. I documented daily life amongst the slowly improving destruction.

I ended up with a lot of footage. The plan is to eventually edit this in to a short documentary which will tell the story of the island, how it was effected by the storm and how its people are attempting to move on.

But, for now, I’ve thrown together this informal teaser for you to get a sense of what life on the island is like at the moment.

Second Shipment of Supplies

We recently headed back to Suva for a few days in order to arrange and buy the second shipment of supplies. Apart from the slight set-back of our rental car being stolen, we managed to get everything done in time!

The packages should be sent on a boat to the island next week. We were again able to help all 7 primary schools with items which they had specified to us that they were in need of.

Apart from Adi Maopa, the other 6 are Susui, Avea, Mavana, Maulevu, Daliconi and Cikobia. Many of these schools are very small, consisting of only around 20 pupils and some are on tiny islands off the main Vanua Balavu island. Some lost everything in Cyclone Winston and are now taking place in tents, churches, community halls or people’s houses, using whatever supplies they can.

We were able to buy:

  • 2 tins of blackboard paint
  • 7 Leaves Poetry textbooks
  • 7 Swiss Family Robinson textbooks
  • 7 Making Good textbooks
  • 7 Swiss Family Robinson activity books
  • 7 Making Good activity books
  • 2 large magnetic whiteboards
  • 2 medium magnetic whiteboards
  • 28 packs of whiteboard markers
  • 8 whiteboard dusters
  • 4 whiteboard cleaner packs
  • 4 whiteboard magnet packs
  • 1 Canon Pixma printer
  • 3 black ink cartridges 
  • 2 colour ink cartridges
  • 100 folders with metal fasteners

We’d like to send out a huge thank you again to everyone who shared and donated to our campaign. What you all made possible was amazing and seeing the supplies put to use by teachers and pupils was great. Everyone on the island is very thankful to all of you also. Before we left, we were delighted to hear the news that the New Zealand Government have decided to completely rebuild all of the schools of Vanua Balavu.

Navala

Navala is the only village in Fiji which still has traditional thatched bure for houses. It’s nestled away in the Ba Highlands of the mainland. We decided to head up there to check it out.

We caught a bus up into the hills. Everyone was looking at us on the bus which was filled with a mixture of school children and workers heading home, they all asked if we were staying at the one lodge available for tourists near the village, which we were. As we started the descent, the road became extremely bumpy. The bus rattled along as the sun set over the erupting, rocky mountains and turned them from a glorious golden orange to a deep red before the colour melted away into darkness.

We awoke the next morning and, when we looked out the windows of our small cabin, we were in the middle of a lush tropical paradise. Palm trees and greenery were all around us, birds were calling and we could hear the Ba River rushing by at the bottom of the garden.

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Entrance to Bulou’s Eco Lodge

Ba River

Ba River

We visited the traditional village and saw how they live in their thatched houses, one family has two bures each, one for cooking in and one for sleeping in. Many of them still cook with firewood. Many of the bures had even withstood the strong winds of Winston. However, some which were in need of repair were blown down, so there were a few blue tents in the village for the time being.

Traditional Bure

Traditional Bure

Thatched Roof

Thatched Roof

Kitchen

Kitchen

The Village and its Backdrop

The Village and its Backdrop

Under Construction

Under Construction

The sides of the houses are made with bamboo and the roofs are thatched with a special type of grass, wooden beams hold the structure in place and are tied together with twine. The thatch needs to be replaced about every 3-4 years. It was great to see people still living this old-fashioned way of life.

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We also went on a sunset horse ride which led us up to a peak.

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Tui, our Wonderful Host and Guide

Tui, our Wonderful Host and Guide

We arrived just in time and got jaw-dropping 360 views of the sunsetting over the mountains, with the Ba river snaking around us below. No photo could ever do it justice! We then rode back in moonlight as the crickets sang all around us.

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We spent the rest of our time swimming in the river and grooming each other for the head lice we’ve picked up from our time on Vanua Balavu. #glamour

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We spent three nights in this remote and peaceful area which has some of the most stunning views I’ve ever witnessed. We really enjoyed seeing this area of Fiji which provides an alternative to the popular beaches.

Mago Island

As our time on Vanua Balavu was drawing to an end, we were discussing the various transport options we had available for returning to the mainland. There wasn’t a boat planned to come when we wanted to leave and the flights Fiji Airways runs weekly from the island were quite expensive. 

Fortunately, Manoa is in contact with the manager of Mago island which has its own private plane and runs flights weekly. Manoa has sometimes gotten this plane when he needed to return to Suva for teaching workshops and no boats were scheduled. So, we were lucky enough to be able to bag a free flight from Mago.

The island is actually a private island owned by Mel Gibson, and we would be staying there the night before the flight – we couldn’t quite believe it!

So, after having said goodbye, we got a small fibreglass boat to take us across from Vanua Balavu to Mago, which took about two hours. The island is quite big, one of the largest private islands in the world. It is very mountainous with lots of dense forest which we could see as our boat approached.

The whole experience was a bit surreal. We were put up in the guest house where Mel’s family usually stay. We were fed and looked after by some of the staff on the island. About 60 people live on the island in a small village, all work as staff on the up-keep. There is a primary school for their children. In the centre of the island much of the dense forest has been hacked down, and many cows, horses, goats and sheep graze the land, keeping the grass short and neat.

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Beautiful Scenery

Primary School

Primary School

It looked beautiful. We were shown where Mel stays when he comes, about once every three years. It was actually very modest, an old colonial building which had been there when he purchased the island. It had a patio and a pool with a view to die for. 

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Pool

We were driven round the island and shown all its best spots. Down near the coast there is a large circular bay which has one small opening to the sea, but looks like a lake. There is a small boat and, tucked away on the shore, there is a small house which we were informed can be pushed onto the water and used as a floating home. We could see small sea fish from the water’s edge and even spotted a small shark swimming by. We were then driven up to the island’s highest point to watch the sunset. 

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Serene Water

Serene Water

The best part was the serenity and peacefulness. No noise, no cars, just nature and calmness.

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Sunset

Sunset

The next morning we boarded the small twelve person plane and flew out to the mainland, where we landed about two hours later. The views across the islands, sea and mountains of the mainland were spectacular. We feel very fortunate to have had this experience, even if it did feel a bit strange!

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About to Board

About to Board

The Plane and Airstrip

The Plane and Airstrip

Joseff at the Controls

Joseff at the Controls

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Amazing Views

Amazing Views