Bula! That means hello in Fijian and you will hear this word, along with the word vinaka which means thank you and also you’re welcome everywhere you go in Fiji. Everyone here is so friendly and they all say it is because they run on what the locals call “Fijian time” or “island time,” where everything operates at a slow pace, without official schedules, completely opposite from the city. We have a hunch that the nightly kava ceremonies where kava, a beverage mixed with water, created from a powder from a dried root of a plant may have something to do with it as well. Locals can typically consume 20 bowls and more a night to achieve a full-body numbing effect. Even the first drink will begin to take effect and start numbing your tongue and lips.
Welcome to Fiji and Bula!
Upon landing at Nadi International Airport we didn’t know exactly how to get to our accommodation at Mango Bay Resort but people were more than helpful here. We mentioned we wanted to take the local bus to Mango Bay Junction and a man helped us locate not one but three buses and helped us board the first one that came. We took the bus for $9.35FJD or $4.50USD for 2.5 hours and were entertained with music and beautiful views including seeing random cows, horses, dogs, cats, goats, and chicken on the side of the road enjoying their luxurious buffet.
We arrived at Mango Bay Resort and called the front desk to pick us up. We were shown to our beachfront bure, it wasn’t exactly on the beach as we were set back by a row, but it was good enough for us to spend a few days resting and relaxing. The resort took us on a tour of the village down the road, Namatakula Village. Namatakula village is one of the wealthier and larger villages on the main island of Viti Levu with a population of around 300-400 residents with its own church and school. When the British colonized Fiji they introduced Christianity which is what the majority population practices today and something they seemed grateful for. Prior to that, cannibalism dominated the society during what they referred to as “the dark time.”
Children playing in Namatakula Village
Two sisters who live in the Namatakula Village
Near the end of the tour or guide introduced us to the Kava Ceremony, a traditional drink on Fiji. There is a saying, “You haven’t been to Fiji if you haven’t tried kava.” Kava is a powder ground from the root of the kava plant. One bag costs $1FJD and it takes 5 bags to make a bowl. The kava powder is poured into cloth and water is then strained through the cloth. We were given a weaker mix to try for our first ceremony. The effects of the drink are to first numb the tongue and lips, then as more is consumed it will numb your head and move towards the rest of your body. Kava is consumed nightly as a ritual in just about every household. We were told that Kava makes for a better ‘lava’ (lover) unless you have had too many in which you will be walking sideways due to your body being numb.
Oni, mixing our kava drink.
The next day we went for a visit to the town of Sigatoka and walked through the market to see the variety of local fruits and vegetables. When we got off the bus we were greeted by a group from the local Krishna Temple who were dancing. After walking through the market, our curiosity of the Krishna’s got to us and we decided to go to the Krishna Temple for a nice vegetarian lunch and to tour the temple.
After our visit to town, it began to rain but that didn’t stop us from having fun with Polynesian dancers who came to perform and we even got to participate with them. May had fun shaking her butt with the dancers, and so did I. It rained for the next couple of days so we decided to move to the town Nadi (pronounced nan-di) where the airport is and where the weather was better. This time we stayed in a hostel on the beach called Bamboo Backpackers that was filled with backpackers and had a different vibe to it, a little more of a party atmosphere, and was my first time staying at a hostel.
Fiji’s Valley of the Sleeping Giant
Finally getting over my jet lag we set out the last day we had in Fiji to visit the Valley of the Sleeping Giant to stop the orchid garden that was started by Raymond Burr who is most famous for his role as Perry Mason on American TV. Strolling around the garden was relaxing and fun. I had never been to an orchid garden and found the garden to be very peaceful with all the interesting flowers and their beautiful colors.
Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Fijian Mud Bath and Hot Spring
Having worked up a sweat walking through the garden, we headed down the road for a refreshing dip in the mud bath and mineral pool at Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pools. After changing into our swimsuits, we covered each other with mud, letting it dry which felt tight on our bodies while it cooled us off a bit before entering the mud pool. It is hard to cover yourself in mud without thinking that you look silly but as we began to do that a van pulled up and a couple from the UK and two ladies from Australia joined us for the experience making it a bit more fun. Walking down the steps and stepping into the mud at the bottom of the pool felt like wading through grass, not sure if that is what it was or just the unfamiliar sensation of walking through mud, we slowly made our way over to one edge of the pool where some rocks that we could sit on were located. As we felt for the rocks the warmth of hot water rushing into the pool could be felt and we proceeded to rinse the mud off of ourselves by splashing and dunking our bodies with the muddy water. Having cleaned as much mud as possible off of ourselves, the mineral pool called for us as some light rain began to fall. Taking in the scenery and letting our bodies relax in the hot water was wonderful. The area is called Valley of the Sleeping Giant because the mountain range surrounding it looks like a giant laying on its back which was fun to look at while we floating and relaxed in the hot water of the pool not wanting our time on Fiji to end.
Covered in mud at the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pools