Wind whipping your hair around, adrenaline pumping through your veins and fresh water spraying your face…what could all this add up too? A river safari of course!
Today we took a LOONG drive – are we getting tired of driving long distances day after day? Yes. Was this adventure worth the drive? YES!
It took a little under and hour and a half to drive from Nadi to Sigatoka. We learned on our drive that the Sigatoka river is the longest river in Fiji reaching to nearly the very farthest Northern point of Viti Levu to flowing out to the sea just past the town of Sigatoka.
Sometimes traveling with a little one can raise extra mommy concerns. Even though this is a high energy and fast boat I was assured that they had babies on board as young as a year old. So knowing Harmony and her adrenaline junkie self she would be just find after we got her life vest strapped down to her size.
Traveling up the river was amazing! Having spent a little time in small boats when I was in the Navy I found myself smiling relating my experience in the Navy to now. This boat however is VERY different from the Navy RHIBs I used to ride around in. First of all this boat was specifically designed to be on the Sigatoka river, due to major changes in the rise and fall of the water levels these vessels were designed to be able in as little as six inches of water!
Our ride up the river was also very picturesque but more than that it was an eye opener and informative. Our Captain, Captain Jack (yes I chuckled when I heard his name), would make stops along the river where he would (not even kidding you) pull right up on the bank and give us a history about the river, the people, languages, schools, I mean the list goes on and on for the amount of information that we got on our ride. When Capt. Jack wasn’t giving us a history lesson we would be zipping past the “people of the river”.
This isn’t what their actual nickname is but it is a perfect way to describe them. It was a hot and muggy day and you’d see moms washing clothes against the shallow and smooth rocks while their naked babies were cooling off in the river. Teenagers were taking a break from tending the fields to water their horses (the horses by the way NEVER FLINCHED as the boats were whipping around corners…that’s amazing!), but you could clearly see that these people’s lives revolved around this great river.
Once we arrived at the village the ladies had to put on the sarongs we were given at the shop, per tradition, women aren’t permitted to show their knees or legs if they are wearing tight pants or shorts. It was a hot and sweaty 15 minute walk up to the entrance of the village where our guide greeted us with a loud and proud BULA!
As most of our tours, we were first taken to the Chief’s hut for the traditional offering (sevusevu) of the Kava (Yaqona) ceremony to welcome us into the village. Though there was something, an atmosphere, about this ceremony that was more authentic than the other tours we’ve taken. Usually, it was one or two men from the village welcoming us, but every man in the village. They asked us individually where we were from and what was our occupation, if you were a woman you were also asked to state who was your man or if you were available.
Everything about our experience in the village felt REAL. It wasn’t just a show being put on like we had seen on a few other tours we had taken, the women were doing their daily chores and not waiting for us to leave so they could continue on with their lives. The children were siting closely with their mothers or being passed around if they were being fussy, “it takes a village”, I really believe that that phrase was coined because a missionary came to Fiji, saw how these villages operated and went back home and said “well it takes a village to raise a baby” and from then on it stuck. I have no idea if that is true but it would make sense to me, everyone is involved with everyone’s lives here. No one family stands alone but the entire village works as a single entity.
We were served an AMAZING lunch, that is something I will greatly miss when I return home is the flavors and the FOOD! Oh yum! After lunch, it was almost like a Medieval Court, the minstrels struck up in song and everyone in the village grabbed a partner to dance! Everyone but me and Harmony in my family got nabbed a few times, which made me laugh.
I can never get over how happy it makes my heart to see how Harmony is welcomed in other countries and cultures. She almost a celebrity when we travel, EVERYONE loves babies, but sometimes it is more than that, seeing the women and children in the villages interact with her – you can see where they were loving her as if she were one of their own. I could keep gushing on about this particular tour but after lunch, singing, kava, dancing and being given lei that was handmade by one woman in the village during our lunch (to ensure the flowers were at their freshest and prettiest states) it was time to head back to the boats.
Our ride back to the jetty was much shorter this time but on our way back we were promised that part of the fun of these boats is their ability to maneuver, what did this mean for us? 180 degree, Tokyo drift style turns that would ensure – no matter where you sat – you were in the splash zone! If you ever find yourself in Fiji this is a tour I would HIGHLY recommend. It was fun, interactive and informative all at the same time!
One more grand adventure before it is time to sing Isa Lei to Fiji…
Traveling Photographer Out!