Sunday, September 27, 2009


This traditional ceremony is still practiced in the remote villages. We were anchored in Yalobi Bay on the South end of Waya Island, which is part of the Yasawa Island chain in the Western part of Fiji. Some of these small islands are uninhabited, many now have rustic 'backpacker' resorts. Yesterday, on arriving, we rowed to shore and asked for the 'Tui Waya' which I assumed meant the chief or headman of the village. The children pointed us to an elderly man sitting on the beach under the palm trees lining the shore. We approached him and were invited to sit on the sand with him. He was sitting with a young woman named Tamma who operated a backpacker resort in the village. This was the first time since we have been in Fiji that we have attempted the Sevu-Sevu ceremony. We placed the bundle of Yaquona root before us on the sand. This plant, sold in most markets in the cities, is ground up and mixed with water to make kava, a mild narcotic that men, traditionally, though western women have been seen to participate, consume socially. Our brief encounter with it in Tonga found it to be very mild. Tui ignored the proffered gift at first and smilingly asked us questions about where we came from, where we had been, our families and Toketie. He told us the village did not have a chief at the moment but after sharing conversation for a while, he agreed to accept our gift, clapped his hands three times and welcomed us to the village. We were now formally under their protection and as guests could wander freely. Tui asked us what we would like to do while visiting and we mentioned hiking, as the island was mountainous, much like some of the volcanic islands in the Marquesas. He said there were many trails and advised using a guide.
Today the sky is clear, the sun is very hot and there is no breeze. It is very peaceful in the bay. We rowed ashore and decided it was too hot a day to attempt a hike. On seeing us, Tui and Tamma waved us into a grass hut with open sides with a long table. He asked if we were interested in any crafts they made and began to spread out before us an assortment of necklaces of amacite, shells, seeds, sharks teeth, as well as some decorative cloth made into sulus or wraps. We picked up a few gifts to take home and walked the length of the beach along the village. Several other families welcomed us, one young man knocking a coconut from a tree and hacking the top off for us to drink. Another older lady took us into her grass hut to show us her crafts, of which we bought a small blue beaded necklace, supposedly mother of pearl.
Later in the day, the wind came up from the South and was blowing directly into the bay. We swung on our anchor close to the reef lining the shore and the swells started to build, foretelling an anxious night on anchor watch and little sleep. Nature had once again intruded into our tranquil paradise.
By first light, we were bouncing in the large swells rolling into the bay and the anchor alarm was going off indicating less than six feet between our keel and the reef. We pulled up the anchor and motor sailed our way back to the big island for the shelter of Saweni Bay where we had been so comfortable before.
So we are back in our quiet little bay and the sun is shining again. We will probably stay here and work on the list of boat chores Toketie seems to endlessly acquire. It is peaceful and sheltered and good holding. There is only one other boat in the bay at the moment but last night several came in for the night and left early in the morning. We can swim here and there is a beach to explore and if really desperate, we could walk up to the highway and catch the bus into Lautoka. But for now we are relaxing and thinking of people and places far away. In November, we will be back in Victoria and that may be a shock to our tropically acclimated systems!
For the moment, we are out of wifi range so we can only be reached via winlink!

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