The word to greet everyone in Fiji is, BULA. It means hello, welcome, how are you, etc. BULA BULA means good health and prosperity.
On our excursion today we only visited two places: The Garden Of The Sleeping Giant and a true Fijian village of 500 people.
But the countryside getting there was an attraction unto itself– the coconut palms of the Polynesian islands giving way to rolling hills and pastures where Sugar Cane ruled for some time.
Typical home outside of a traditional village
Our first visit was to the Garden Of The Sleeping Giant, which was started by Raymond Burr in 1977 to house his private collection of orchids. Since then it has grown into a beautiful walking trial ornamented by hanging orchids, island species, lily ponds, palms, bamboo and mahogany trees among them. One could spend a good eight hours here to go through the entire 14 acres. We were there for one hour which seemed to go by in a nanosecond.
Can you see the sleeping giant?
The day before we visited this wonderful garden, we were sitting at the bar onboard ship and this gentleman, next to us, mentions he had visited the garden of the sleeping giant that day and he was disappointed–“not many flowers,” he said…….
Our next visit was to the Fijian village–
“But first!” Our guide said, “We must choose a Chief among the men of this bus to represent us. Do we have a volunteer?”
“I swear I was just raising my hand to scratch my nose, your honor….”
And we had our Chief… Chief David.
Our bus guide then explained. “We first need to present a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) to the executive head of the village, which I will do, and our Chief…. Chief David… must take part in the Kava ceremony and drink the Kava….
Gulp…. The Fijians before Reverend Thomas Baker were once cannibals….. there are many accounts and stories of Baker’s death, but I tend to believe our guide who is a true Fijian that on July 21st, 1867, Baker was visiting a Chief in the mountains and the Chief noted his use of a comb and when Baker gave the comb to the Chief, who began to use it, it became lodged in his hair. Baker then reached and pulled it from his head.
Now there is one custom of the Fijians– once something is given to someone, it is theirs for eternity.
So they beat him to death, threw him into a fire pit and proceeded to eat every part of him… that is until they got to his boots– none of the tribe members could chew through them, so they boiled the boots for three days and tried again, but rubber is rubber and they could not get through them. Today, Baker’s boots and bible remain on exhibit in the Museum in Fiji and one can see the teeth marks in the boots.
Preparing the Kava
Our guide has just presented the Yaqona and we are good to go.
It numbs the tongue and tastes like… well… Kava.
It was a great excursion, exploring the countryside with a guide who walks the walk and knows the history of his island nation.
But it is time to say goodbye to Fiji, this beautiful country and its gentle and genuine people.
I will end this post with the words of our guide (Joe) his Fijian name was to long and unpronounceable so Joe it was.
“For your kind information my dear friends– go with God and be well.”