Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Back to the civilisation

or a story about the clash between real and fake Fiji

After two weeks spent in Ovalau and Calaqai the time has come to return to the main island. Two weeks of exploring Fijan villages, listening to the stories of local residents and discovering about the effects of the cyclone let us experience the real taste of the islands.

Far away from noise and typical touristy and commercial areas we found our little oasis among the local people and beautiful nature.

But all good things come to an end and we had to leave Calaqai and Ovalau to appear in Suva again. The first few hours in a city were difficult, noisy, with too many stimuli, too many colours, too many sounds and too many people. So we run away again. This time to the nearby Forest Park to walk through the rainforest which hosts chilly and soothing waterfalls.

Our escape didn't last long and soon we were on the bus to Nadi to be disappointed even more.

What was a peaceful backpackers' hideaway two weeks before became now an overcrowded and loud tourist hub. One night spent here was enough to make us suffer from a withdrawal syndrome. At all costs we wanted to come back to our friendly villages.

Instead, we went to Navala. A very traditional Fijan village hidden in the mountains. There are no bus connections from Nadi to Navala and the only way to get there is by bus to Ba and then by a taxi, which takes ages and is difficult to handle in one day. Luckily, we  found a driver who took us all the way to Navala and back.

The village of Navala was built in the mountains some 60 years ago. The houses are made of bamboo in the plan of cross. There's  no electricity and no running water inside. Water is supplied from the mountains, gathered in a big container that is connected to pipes distributing the water to little taps and shower cubes located on the yards. The village is a home to about 200 residents and hosts one primary school. Other schools, as well as hospitals and shops are in Ba, the nearest town, about 40 minutes drive away from the village.

The area is very picturesque and the houses do look unique. But as a tourist attraction Navala is overrated, because... It has become a tourist attraction.

You need to pay an entry fee (25 dollars) and a guide fee (10 dollars). If you're lucky, you will be assigned a knowledgeable, English speaking guide. Otherwise you'll end up like us, with a boring guide who didn't explain much, was quite distant and talked to us in broken English and only if we asked questions. We got to drink local kava in a newly built house. During our visit there were no other visitors and the residents disappeared inside their bures, hiding away from the heat or strangers.

Only children were playing outside in a big rugby field.

 I'm glad we got to see the authentic Fijan villages before coming here. Villages, where people are nice because they are happy to see you, not because they are paid. Villages, where you don't have to pay any entry fee and you can watch the local life and talk to the residents as much as you want to. A pure Fijan hospitality that shines and glows in spite of the ruined houses, knocked over trees and broken electricity lines.