Greetings from the South Pacific isles of Fiji! We have come to Fiji to discover new places and activities, to re-discover old friends, visit a village we support through our non profit Ocean of Hope Foundation and find new needs along the shores of these palm swept islands.
Our journey began seven hours later than expected as we had a rare delay in our Air Pacific flight. After many hours sleeping on the floor in LAX, we were off at 4:00am. The silver lining here (remember make travel FUN) was that we landed in the daylight giving us fabulous and rare views of the Yassawa islands. Even the flight crew were glued to the windows for the landing, bet I could have gotten away with not putting my tray table up if I wanted to!!
Today, we are on the island of Beqa where we have just completed our first two dives. Beqa lies off the southern end of the main island of Viti Levu. The diving can have challenging conditions especially during rainy season. Many rivers run off the coast and after heavy rain can bring lower visibility diving as we had today. The tops of the coral heads at Gee’s Rock, however, were vibrant with anthias undulating in the current seeking out tiny particles of plankton for lunch.
After our dives, we had a wonderful lunch, some of the best chefs in Fiji are purported to be on the island. And then off on a hike to check out a local waterfall. It was an easy, though uphill walk about 45 minutes through village farms and across ridges with spectacular views of the lagoon. The last 15 minutes we hiked up the river bed to a lovely waterfall about 40 feet high. The water was a PERFECT temperature to sit under and have our photo snapped, nothing better to do on a Tuesday in our book!
Our busy day continued as we went to see a traditional firewalking ceremony. The legend of the island holds that the gift of firewalking was given to the villages by an eel as a gift for their chief. It is a tradition started only here on Beqa Island. The village men built a fire which burned for seven hours heating huge rocks beneath it. The ceremony consisted of the men using long poles to pull out the burning logs and arrange the rocks flat within the fire circle and then take turns walking across the burning hot rocks. What is the secret to not getting burned? They say it’s no sex and no coconut for four days before…..
Our day was not over yet! After a fantastic dinner we were treated to another Fijian traditional ceremony, a sevu sevu, the kava drinking ceremony. Ridlon was chosen to be the Ratu or chief (this is good since the chief drinks lots of kava and Ridlon likes it!). Kava is made from a pepper root which is ground and then mixed in a four legged bowl into a dirty dishwater like color and consistency. Traditionally it was chewed first then added to the bowl by many of the men but now they use a mortar and pestle to crush the root. Then through a series of claps and ritual chants, the coconut bowl full to the brim (known as high tide) and is passed to the chief and then around the circle of participants. Kava is known to numb the lips and tongue and after numerous bowls to give a feeling of drunkeness. I find that about three bowls is enough to give me a stomach ache but I love the ritual! The taste? Hmmmm remember dirty dish water?
Our day now complete, we wandered out into the moonlight to our bure (the Fijian word for home) to soak in the wonderful day and prepare for tomorrow…more diving, a visit to the village schools and then the school children will visit to show us some of their traditional dances, then Friday….the FAMOUS Beqa Lagoon shark dive! Stay tuned!!!