We showered and headed down for brekkie. The breakfast was part of the package we had booked. The breakfast is not what I am used to from travelling around Asia it was very basic (toast with fruits, Pancakes with syrup and eggs on toast) with either tea, coffee or juice. I chose the pancakes which were huge fluffy and I added bacon which was $5 FJD (two slices of bacon). The bacon was not the best but like I said this place is quite basic.
S had said not to rush with brekkie as she thought the driver for the tour would be here on Fijian time but that was not the case. Mike arrived on time. He has worked for Fiji Eco Tours for the last 16 years. He said he expects tourists to be on time and thats why he didn’t want us to keep waiting. Today we were visiting Navala Village which is about 2-3 hours from Nadi.. the oldest village in Fiji. It is one of the only settlements in Fiji that remains fully traditional and they have about 800 people living here.
Mike informed us about the itinerary for the day: Visit the Lautoka Market to pick some fruits, veg & cooked food for our lunch.. followed by a stop in Ba town a fairly industrial town & then final stop Navala. The total cost of the tour is $220 FJD and this includes lunch and as many stops as we would like. The tour started at 9am and we ended back at our hotel by 5.30pm.
Whenever you look at promos or ads for Fiji online we see picturesque photos of white sandy beaches, coconut trees etc. What you don’t see is the locals and hanging out with them. I love this part of my travel where you meet the locals, go to the local fruit markets etc. Don’t haggle with the locals as they barely earn any money and they are pretty much hand to mouth and the food and fresh fruit and veg are reasonably priced anyways. Lautoka Market is like visiting a local market in India. The food is much like what I would find back home with fresh bhajiya’s, indian sweets but then to give it a Fiji twist we have cassava, taro, taro pudding, cassava cake, smoked octopus, fish in coconut milk yummy…
There is a huge population of Indo-Fiji or Fiji Indians here and thus the food is influenced quite a bit by Indian culture. We got here with Mike however there is a bus from Nadi that you can take as well. There is also a supermarket called Rajendra supermarket where you can get Bottled water for $1.50 FJD instead of the $6 FJD at the resorts.
After the pit stop with all our loot we head back to the car and get tucked into the fresh fruits. Now this is a side of Fiji I have never seen…huge mountains the landscape is something we would see here in NZ and not here.
There are huge sugarcane fields on both sides and on the horizon turquoise water. Everywhere you look even though its dry season it is lush and green. After about an hour once we have crossed the sleeping giants (mountains) we reach Ba town. This town is very well known in Fiji and elsewhere for its soccer team. They love soccer so much so they have a museum where they display the history of the town but half of it has the history of soccer.
There is a little market to see here quite similar to the previous market and there is a small handicraft shop too. There is a small class running in the back of the shop which shows the locals how to make the handicrafts to earn a living.
After Ba town and a drive down a really rough uneven road we arrive at Navala Village. When you first see the rooftops of the burre (traditional Fijian huts) with the mountains as the backdrop it is an amazing sight to see.
Upon getting to the village we are greeted by Maria who takes us to her Aunty Marama’s house where we will be having lunch and the Kava Ceremony. S had said a lot about the ceremony and she said that it was a way for the villagers to welcome us to Fiji. Mike had picked up some Kava at the first market we had stopped which he handed to Marama who would prepare it while we had a look around the village.
Navala Village used to be practice cannibalism however two french priests made their way down here and spoke to the chief and converted the village to Christianity. They now have a church, a school which is also used by other villages that don’t have one, they also have dormitories for boys and girls (separate) for children that travel from other villages. There are teachers here from outside the village. The children need to travel for about an hour to go to Ba for higher education.
I was surprised to see the influence of Christianity here. They had photos of Jesus and Mary all over the village and even in the houses. The School and church are the only modern buildings here.
During lunch Marama and family sang some Fijian and after discovering I am indian some hindi version of songs for us. The drawback of the day for us was when were asked to buy a souvenir. It wasn’t the cost of it per se but the way we were told. It was done before lunch and so it kinda felt like “Buy a souvenir or no lunch” he he. We each got a bracelet.
After a very filling and yummy lunch we had to leave as we had reservations for S’s birthday which we didn’t wanna miss. Mike said we should walk down to the river and freshen up and he would meet us there. Maria took us down to the river and it was amazing to watch her frolic around like a little kid. I also seen a man on a horse back which was surprising on an island but according to Maria it is the easiest and fastest way of getting around on the rough roads and the fields.
The water was refreshing in the heat.. I had unfortunately worn sneakers so I couldn’t go in for a dip (yucky wet feet in socks feeling). Mike came down to pick us up to head back in to the city.
The roads are so rough that on the way back one of the bars on the 4WD broke and mike had to tape it together with duct tape. He said it was a true Fijian Experience. It took us a while to get back but we had enough time to have a nap on the way back. All in All it was a fantastic experience & i am very glad we did it. We seen a side of Fiji that is not commercially advertised & see how people still live. Navala does not have electricity and hopes to have electricity by June 2015. if you do visit learn “bulla” hello in Fiji as every kid in the village will greet you.
Fiji Eco Tours http://www.fijiecotours.com.fj
$220 FJD per person including lunch.