Last weekend we were lucky enough to have a family trip out to Qilaqila (Bay of Islands). So many people had told us it is a must visit place on Vanua Balavu. We went with the Head Teacher, Manoa, his son, also called Manoa, and his niece, Kasa. Joeli, Sera, Selina and Maria also came. It was so lovely to be able to go somewhere with the family and have some fun together.
We first had to get a truck to a village called Daliconi on the other side of the island. As this is in a different region to Lomaloma, we needed to meet the chief and present our sevusevu in order for us to be allowed to travel to the bay. A sevusevu is a gift of some kava root to the chief of an area, it is a must for any foreigners wishing to enter a village to do their sevusevu. The kava root is pounded into powder and strained into water to make the local version of alcohol, which is colloquially named ‘grog.’
We were also able to visit Daliconi school which is one of the primaries we were able to help with our supplies. The school consisted of one building which got completely taken away by Winston. The school now takes place in a large Unicef tent which is pitched on the floor of the old school building. We were able to see that all of our supplies had been put to good use. The card and permanent markers had been used to make posters and the blackboard paint had made two temporary blackboards. We spoke to the Head Teacher and were really pleased to find out that the New Zealand government have decided to pay for the rebuilding of the school.
We then got the school boat out to the bay. Some local fishermen came along to show us around and to drive the boat. We weren’t really sure what to expect but the name, Bay of Islands, kind of tells you exactly what it is. It’s an area full of tiny islands of volcanic rock poking out the sea. The islands have small trees, vines and bushes growing on them. They are all varying in shape and size. They all ‘go in’ at the water’s edge where the sea has slowly lapped the rock away. This creates quite comical shapes out of the really small islands. Sometimes the sea had eroded gaps and holes into the centre of the islands which you could see through. The sea in the bay was beautiful light blues and turquoises, we were told that from a bird’s eye view you can see seven different shades of sea water in the bay. It was definitely great to see and to marvel at.
We were taken to three caves, the first of which is called the Diving Cave due to it’s deep, pool-like shape once you enter. The rocks were covered with sharp and colourful coral. The second cave we were taken to is called Vale Ni Bose (Meeting House of the Gods.) This cave was about 20m high once you crawled through the small entrance. There were small bats circling at the top. The cave was round and had several large, window like holes out into the open, each at a different height from the ground, meaning the daylight streaked in beautifully. It was really interesting to find out that this is where the Fijian chiefs hid and tried to come up with a battle plan when the island was attacked by Tongans in the 1800s. The windows were used as watch towers by the guards while the chiefs held their meeting. We were also taken to the place where they hid their ships during the war, a large bay which only had one small entrance which could be guarded. The Tongans defeated the Fijians and the village next to Lomaloma, Sawana, has got Tongan descendants living there to this day, with Tongan influences in architecture and culture.
The third cave we were taken to was the Writing Cave, a large, cavernous enclave where many people have scratched their names into the rocks.
A couple of the fishermen went off spearfishing while we headed to a beach for lunch. We reached a small cove were we settled down, played rugby and ate some food. There were many palm trees which were bent all over the place, having been blown down during the cyclone. The fishermen returned with their catch of Red Cod and barbecued the fish on some hot coals. We ate the freshly cooked fish with some cassava, it was sooooo delicious and sumptuous, dipped into chilies in vinegar.
It was then time to head back to the main land. Whilst waiting for the truck back, the men drank grog and we played volleyball with the villagers. On the journey home, nicely tired by the sea air, we fell asleep.