September 7, 2020 ; 4:50 PM
16°97’S, 177°37’E – Turtle Island, Fiji
As you can tell, the wildlife and landscapes of the South Pacific are jaw dropping. But our lengthened time to explore (thanks, COVID!) wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t also get to immerse ourselves in cultures that are so different from our own.
Fijian culture varies from French Polynesia even more than the landscape, and we’ve already had the honor of participating in so much of it.
When a boat comes to anchor in Fiji (outside the main tourist areas), it’s in someone’s territory. For permission to stay in a given bay, the captain and crew of a vessel must go to shore and present kava to the chief. Kava is a root vegetable grown and sold in Fiji that also happens to be a very mild narcotic that the villagers make into a drink (basically, mildly hallucinatory mud juice). Once the chief accepts the kava and the crew participates in a short ceremony of chanting in Fijian and welcoming to the island, the boat is welcome to stay. The village also often offers visitor dinner and/or entertainment, and has a variety of fruits and crafts to sell.
Super yachts and boats like ours are about the only visitors these areas get, due to their remoteness. That also makes us their main source of village income. Of course, there are teachers who live in the village and commute to school with the children, and others who live and work at resorts around the islands or on the mainland and send funds home. But the villages tend to be relatively poor and live simple ways of life. They live off the land and cook only what can be grown on the island or fished from the sea.
Since the chief at our first village (Somo Somo), is 94 years old, we presented the kava but didn’t get to participate in the drink (I guess she was tired, as we met her in her bed). She was a lovely woman and her family and friends catered to our tour around the island and told us stories about the chief and her ancestors. She’s a pretty impressive lady.
We also participated in their traditional Fijian feast. It was a blast, and the food was only 80% disgusting- consisting mostly of boiled, unseasoned root vegetables and fish, as well as seaweed and sea grapes (harvesting these underwater options is another source of income).
The other 20% of the meal was fresh fruit, eggplant, and a delicious, fried spinach patty. I can certainly see why the Fijians are much fitter than the French Polynesians…
After dinner, the village sang and danced for us. They had the most beautiful voices and really seemed to enjoy having us there to perform for. Captain Dave even got dance stabbed in the heart with a spear. We think he’s ready to have a second career as an actor…
The village allowed us to hike and snorkel on their land. Although we thought we found the hiking trail, we quickly lost it and were left yet again to make our way through thick woods. Luckily, Captain Dave was in front, so he got the brute of the spiders and branches. I’m sure he was regretting not purchasing that machete back in Huahine…
It was great to be around kids again in the villages. They came to greet us and played on the beach. We would see another village with lots of kids again soon at our next anchorage, where we were blessed with a magical morning at church.
As we made our way to the chapel through kind villagers who offered me clothes to wear (I was completely soaked during a very windy dinghy ride), we realized we were a little early for church. We hung out front with Maximillian and chatted with Sam, who was interested in our journey, as we listened to Sunday School kids practicing their song.
Since this village was close to a resort area, they get few visitors (especially since COVID), and the kids were very curious to see us. We were thanked for coming to spend time with them rather than snorkeling or beaching, which was sweet. But we know we were more blessed by the experience than they were.
The kids sang “A Wiseman Built His House Upon the Rock”, a tune we were familiar with. Once the adults filed in with traditional Fijian songs, a choir of gorgeous voices moved us. As we expected, the songs and sermon were mostly in Fijian, so I’ll admit I did a fair amount of bible reading rather than paying attention in the 2 hour service. But religion is such an important part of culture to our family that we really enjoyed seeing how it’s practiced and celebrated on the other side of the world.
While I was most impressed and blessed by the villages over the last few days, we’ve been moving fast and exploring more “touristy” areas as well. At The Boathouse we spent a fun afternoon drinking beer and eating cardboard pizza with the other Bitter Enders.
We went on a gorgeous hike as we said goodbye to our dear friends on Influencer, who are headed to Australia this week.
Then Admiral Anne and Captain Dave decided it was time for some time off the boat.
We anchored at Turtle Island, and they spent 32 hours at a 5 star resort, >50% off a one night price, and lived like the rich and famous (typically requires a 6 night stay). They and Serenity First were the first guests since the beginning of COVID 19, and the staff (who live there) couldn’t have been happier to see them.
I know because I was invited in for breakfast (best waffles of my life) and a tour of the private island, which were both impeccable. I’m sure the entire stay was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience, but I opted for some alone time with Gracie Girl.
I spent almost 2 full days of pure bliss- enjoying my alone time, kayaking, snorkeling, exploring the beaches and rocks, listening to whatever music I wanted, and not being nagged for one single moment about anything. IT. WAS. AWESOME.
The Captain and Admiral’s First Mate free time was more eventful (but couldn’t have been more blissful) than my time on the boat. But I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you about it.
Although they haven’t taken me up on my offer this entire trip, maybe the Captain or Admiral will guest write about it. Or maybe what happens on Turtle Creek Island, stays on Turtle Creek Island…
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: Despite my sunny attitude, charming personality, and general lovingness to the people of Somo Somo, I still haven’t gotten to try even a sip of Kava mud juice. What’s up with that?