January 26, 2016
We decided that we would stay off the ocean for a day and explore inland sights The remains of a Tongan hill fort sounded interesting. As often happens one interesting idea led to another.
After our usual breakfast of Wheatabix and Rice Bubbles (aka Rice Krispies) we head towards Sigatoka. It only took two trips around the roundabout to get the right street. It immediately turned into a gravel road with large trucks barreling towards us. We spotted a papaya grove and pulled over to take pictures. A lady and her baby were walking down the road. It was her farm. She invited us in to get a better look. The Mom grows and catches what she eats. She told us that it was Eden and that money was rarely needed. Thus enlightened, we departed.
We followed the signs to hill fort but the formidable gate was closed and we decided to look for help in the village we had just passed through. A good old boy at the bus stop called into a nearby house and we met our unofficial guide, Jeremiah. He took us back and showed us how to get around the gate. Bobbie sat down at a scenic point in the shade. Jeremiah assured us that the trail was easy and that he would go slow. Understand that Jeremiah looked as if he was in training for the Olympics.
We started climb the trail to the Tavuni Hill Fort. Jeremiah would frequently take us on his short cuts which were invariably straight up the hill. Sweat came quickly in the 100/100 humidity and heat. Jeremiah is a descendant of the Flower Daughter of the great king who settled here in Fiji from Tonga around 1800. The descendants of the great chief’s son settled on the opposite side of the river. The Tongans were surrounded by unhappy Fijians who frequently attacked these Tongan interlopers. The fort was build atop this impossibly steep hill. The easiest defense was to roll rocks down on attackers. Jeremiah told us that his folks would go down and harvest the enemy dead for a celebratory meal.
Jeremiah took great pride in showing as the rocks where prisoners were dispatched and cooked nearby. He assured us that his village was Christian and didn’t practice cannibalism anymore. He must have used the phrase “We kill them and then eat them” at least twenty times. Of course when I accidentally stepped on his grandfather’s grave, I wasn’t so sure that the pot wasn’t boiling somewhere. He finally explained that he was the son of the village chief and I had nothing to worry about. Good thing. Peggy was more concerned about snakes. The views were great and we have plenty of pictures of all of us mugging for the camera.
We descended the hill and found Bobbie and the lady who had been sleeping instead of opening the gate. It was OK and we gave Jeremiah a ride back into Sigatoka and almost hit one of his cousins pushing a wheelbarrow near town. Jeremiah showed what looked like an illegal parking spot and we briefly used it. We shortly returned and relocated our car since we are not the chief’s family and I didn’t want to find out what was the penalty for illegal parking in cannibal land.
We did a little shopping for clothes and wandered into what liked a good souvenir store. At least there was a guy in the corner carving with a hatchet. The store owners soon had us taking kava with them. This was the real deal as opposed to the touristy grog we had yesterday. We got the whole story on Kava and its ritual importance to Fijian families. I was staggering a little after half a cup of the stuff. Maybe we were under the influence but we bought a couple of carved pieces that were made locally.
Somehow the subject of teaching came up. The next thing that I knew was that we are meeting him at the store at 9AM in a couple of days. We are buying some school supplies for a remote school that we are visiting with him. No more details at present but stay advised that if we don’t return, you can look for us in cannibal country.
Our new friend showed us a strictly locals restaurant up a narrow staircase and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at $12 for the three of us. We then wandered through the market and took pictures of Kava roots and powder and all kinds of exotic vegetables.
We had planned on climbing the Sigatoka sand dunes in their national park. But the second climb of the day had lost its appeal. We decided to head back to the resort after a quick stop at the Bottle Shop.