Tim in Fiji


I’m standing within the Naihehe Cave in the interior of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, my cheap trainers filling slowly with cold water as the light strapped to my head picks out the rocky walls. Ahead is the “pregnancy gap”, a low passage between this chamber and the next, presumably named because a pregnant woman couldn’t make it through.

Beyond the gap is a set of caverns within which the local Sautabu tribe hid centuries ago, after Christianity had arrived on the islands and the age-old practice of cannibalism was on the way out. It’s still regarded by the locals as a special place, and is the focal point of the Off-Road Cave Safari 

The cave makes a great destination for a day trip, but just as interesting is the way our group reaches it. Leaving the Outrigger on the Lagoon resort for the nearby town of Sigatoka, we join a bus which takes us along the west bank of the Sigatoka River. We’re then ferried across to a waiting four wheel drive vehicle.

This is where the real fun begins. Heading along a rough road, we pass through thick greenery which occasionally reveals the broad river far below. It’s the very definition of “soft adventure” – enough bouncing, jolting and swerving descents down muddy inclines to excite, but without us ever feeling in peril.

The scenery is spectacular, with sheer rock faces surrounded by jungle-covered slopes which are cut through by streams.

We also meet locals as we go, passing small, simple but neatly organised villages as residents wave. On the roadside are locals on their way to farm work, some of them dramatically hefty men wearing headbands and carrying wickedly long machetes, who call “Bula!” (“Welcome!”) as we pass.

As pleasant as resort life is, it’s good to head inland. Westerners think of Pacific islands as being defined by their palm-studded coastlines, but there’s a hell of a lot of interior to Viti Levu and much everyday life going on here. 

I ask our driver, a Fijian named Bill, if the locals mind these excursions to check out their cave.

“No, it helps both sides,” he replies. “The tour company pays a fee to the village, which means they can buy things they need. And I like the work, it’s good to meet new people.”

It’s Bill who’s our translator during the welcome at the village. As we sit cross-legged on mats within an open-sided meeting house, he switches between English and the local dialect. 

There are smiles all round and, shortly, numb lips. For part of the welcoming ritual is a ceremony involving the drinking of yaqona (kava). Its root, when prepared with water, produces a muddy drink with a slightly narcotic effect.

After the cave visit, the group shares a simple lunch of barbecued meat, bread and salad above a waterhole. A jolting jungle drive, a serve of kava and a cave visit, followed by a sausage sandwich with tomato sauce? I call that a perfect island day.

 


Disclosure: Tim Richards travelled courtesy of the Outrigger on the Lagoon resort.

You can get Fiji included as a stopover on a Navigator RTW or on our Discoverer RTW deal

 

 


Published by Stuart Lodge