Well, since we’re writing each of these blog entries a day or two after-the-fact, I’m doing my best to remember everything that we’ve packed into our short trip thus far. But there’s a lot to keep track of! Also, for now I seem to be having trouble uploading more photos to the blog, so if you're interested in checking out the visual tale of our travels, go to my page on Facebook.
On Day 2 of our official stay at the Taveuni Palms in Fiji, Katie and I woke up around 5:00am…bright and early. We had been so tired the night before that we passed out right after the sun went down. But the jet lag has actually put us on somewhat of a healthy schedule, so it’s hard to complain too much.
After we’d been up for a bit we had an absolutely delicious breakfast! I had the Mango French Toast (which is now a personal favorite of all the dishes we’ve had on our vacation), and Katie had some sort of Fijian oatmeal. Almost every ingredient used is either grown organically on the premises or at the very least is obtained locally. Following our morning satiation, we then jumped in the resort’s private car with Babbu, a local fellow who made sure to point out every interesting plant or animal as we drove along and also tell us great stories. The agenda for the day was to drive to Lavena, a small village on the eastern end of the island, where we would take a guided kayaking/hiking trip.
When we pulled up to the guide station in Lavena, we were greeted by Samoné, a native of Lavena and our guide for the day. He wore an all-blue outfit of shorts, t-shirt, and cap (which somewhat surprisingly hides a head of graying hair), and gave a first impression that to me felt a bit gruff and no-nonsense. I couldn’t have misread him more. It turned out that Samoné is, by all accounts, a fun-loving prankster.
Our excursion began when all three of us jumped into a couple of kayaks, Samoné in one with Katie and I following behind in another. We followed the coast closely for about a mile before venturing out beyond the barrier reef where we encountered some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen! It’s a miracle we didn’t capsize, but it sure was exciting if nothing else! After about an hour or so, we paddled back inland into a stream that ran from the mountains, and where there were a number of beautiful waterfalls. We then paddled our kayaks a bit further along the coast to another stream with another series of waterfalls, except these waterfalls required a bit of hiking to get to.
First, to refuel ourselves before our hike to the falls, Katie and I found some shelter from the sun in a small hut next to the stream where we parked our kayaks, and we ate the wonderful picnic lunch prepared by the folks at Taveuni Palms (a BLT for Katie and Fijian chicken curry for me served on Roti--a Fijian version of the tortilla--; phenomenal!). We shared our food with Samoné as well, who I think enjoyed it as much as we did. Anyway, lunch behind us, we trekked ahead along a narrow path that wound through the hills, along cliffs, and crossed trickling streams filled with trout. At the end of the trail was the main stream, sourced from some fresh water springs, and here the waterfalls were. It actually took a bit of swimming to reach them, and the water was freezing. But the prize was well worth it. There was a natural rock slide, which Katie and I both made use of (although it was tricky to climb up to) as well as a jumping rock at the top of the tallest waterfall (~50ft). Samoné tackled this latter challenge while Katie and I merely looked on in awe. But the rest of the time, he just would dive down in the water while we swam and then try to pull us under from below while we weren't paying attention. Like I said, he's a prankster!
Following our waterfall outing we actually did not return to the kayaks but instead trekked by foot along the coastline all the way back to Lavena, which was about 1 hr walk. Back in the village, we met one of Samoné’s children and took a few choice photos. Samone´also took the opportunity to explain a few things about a few Fijian goings-on and other trivia: the villagers now do a lot of fishing for sea slugs and export them to China where they’re currently a very popular and expensive culinary delicacy; Noni juice/fruits has been used to cure all kinds of illnesses including cancer, but it smells like the worst body odor you can possibly imagine; the village has no electricity except for the hut that belongs to a Peace Corps member who’s been around for a couple of years; to pass the time, the villagers drink Kava, a local plant root that tastes something similar to muddy water.
I must add more about the village. Upon first look of the villages of Taveuni and specifically Simone's village, you would think of deprivation and poverty. Upon further observation, you realize that not everyone values "stuff" like Americans. I've never seen a happier people than the Lavenians. The children go to school and happily return in their school uniforms, singing and smiling. The men work hard and take breaks to socialize during the day and the women work in the homes taking care of the children and cooking. EVERYONE lives with a smile on their face. These people are not poor. They are full and happy with their lives.
We loved our time with Samoné and hated to leave him, but Babbu picked us back from the guide station and we journeyed back to the resort where we received spa facials to help us recover from the day. I’d never had one before and wasn’t sure what to expect. But I think Katie and I both figured the process would last only a half hour at the longest. It turned out that the facial included what amounted to a near fully body massage, and so we were both splayed out on the massage tables again for another hour or so, and, once again, we both fell asleep before the end. *One side note: when arrived back at the resort from the day’s activities, the decks outside the villa were freshly decorated with woven palm branches and flowers. How the staff finds time to do these marvelous things is astounding!
Dinner followed soon after, and this time Katie and I decided to sit inside (we’d experienced a few bugs eating with us the night before…apparently they like to come out for the twilight hours and then hide away again once the sun’s gone down). Dinners at Taveuni Palms are a pre-designated event, so Katie and I both enjoyed a four course meal of delicious veggie springrolls, a coconut based soup served in freshly cut coconut shells, whole lobsters caught that very day, and homemade mango ice cream.
Once again, following dinner, Katie and I decided to call it an early night. After all, the day ahead was another busy one!