"I can see purple flying elephants... can you?"

Trip Start Oct 04, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, November 5, 2004

Yet Another early morning wake up call by our guides eager to get us all going before the mornings rush-hour traffic got to busy on Suva's roads! As usual i was last to board, although this time it was the hostels fought. Well what do they expect only having 2 showers for the men and 2 for the women for 40 people. A man needs time to exfoliate and moisturise in the morning! Because i was rushed, i left my sleeping bag behind. Officially my first bit of lost luggage!

Now everyone that knows me well, knows how bad I am at losing things, i'm onto my tenth wallet in 4 years! So it would be no surprise to them that i lost something, probably actually more surprised I'd lasted this long! Dan has actually made a list of things I've lost and to date it stands at:

Sleeping Bag
Flip Flops
2 Pairs of shorts
3 t-shirts
2 pairs of sunglases
3 travelplugs
Hair wax - my most important loss!

and the list goes on!

I suppose i should be grateful that i lost the sleeping bag in Fiji and not in Canada, at least its warm here!

Driving out of Suva, it was hard to believe that this was the first place in the country that we have seen traffic lights. This state-of-the-art technology wasn't to last though as we were to drive North inland along the comically named Banana Highway. Tourists seldom venture along this route as half of it is still un made gravel tracks. Its been called the Banana Highway because most of it follows along the banks of the Wainibuko river, where the locals used to transport their Bananas on bamboo rafts (Bilibili's) to the markets at Nausori, 50kms North of Suva.

To say that the roads were partly made was an understatement. There were even some parts that were still being laid whilst we were driving over them. The roads were no way wide enough for 2 lanes of traffic, so one one occasion, we had to wait for the steam roller to reverse back over his newly flattened road, to let us pass. It was obvious that other drivers have been impatient waiting, as we spotted 2 vans on their backs down by the river bank! I could see why they say not many tourists venture out this way! I doubt their rental car insurance policy covers them!

We really must have been a rare sight in this neck of the woods as everyone we passed would stop what they were doing and happily wave hello to us. Children on their way to school would run cheerfully along the street, trying to catch us up. This country was just so friendly.

We arrived in Nabita around lunchtime. This small village (8 huts and the village Bure) was literally in the middle of no where. We had been brought here to experience what real village life was really about But mainly so we could all drink Fiji's local drink, Kava.

Feel free to skip this bit if your not interested in the history of it!

Kava is an age-old herbal drink that was the beverage of choice for the royal families of the South Pacific. Believed to originate from Melanesia, kava grows abundantly in the sun-drenched islands of Polynesia. Although drank for centuries by the islanders, it was only during Captain Cook's voyage to the Pacific in 1768-1771 when white man first encountered the plant and its consumption in sacred ceremonies.

According to Cook's account, natives chewed or pounded the root and mixed it with water to produce a brownish, often bitter brew which they then consumed for its psychoactive properties. Its special anti-depressant components fight the "blues" and bring on a happy, tranquil state. This traditional drink still plays a key role in Fijian, Samoan, and Tongan societies where it is drank in ceremonies meant to honor visitors, unite participants and validate their social identities.

A member of the black pepper family, kava's active properties stems from the kavalactones found in its roots. The roots are dried then pounded into a powdered form that LavaKava mixes and delivers to you.

Before entering the Bure, we were all told strict instructions that had to be adhered to so not to offend the local chief. A few of them are:

* Do not for any reason take alcohol or cigarettes into the village.
* Take off all footware when entering
* When sitting, men must sit with their legs crossed, women legs to their side.
* Men to always sit on the right and women to the left and if needed men at the front of any women.
* No Laughing
* No refusing Kava till at least 2 cupfuls have been drunk.

There were more but i cant remember them! Walking in, all faces dead straight, we sat against the wall, men separated from the women as we were still regarded at the more important gender, how we enjoyed bringing that up time and time again on the bus later!

Whilst on the bus, Rob was duly elected as our Chief so took prime position in the middle of the Bure opposite the villages chief. To say he looked a bit anxious was a bit of an under statement! (see photos). After much Fijian was spoken between the village chief and our guide (the welcome ceremony), the Kava was mixed up and distributed first to the chief, then to Rob, and then individually to all of us.

I don't think i have ever tasted anything so disgusting. The worse thing being you have to actually clap after to say thankyou! Its hard to describe what the taste is like, but if you can imagine cloudy water, that tastes like old socks with a hint of pepper, you would be going in the right direction! The thing is, its considered rude to turn it down, you have to have at least 2 cups (half a coconut shell) before you can politely refuse, so we had to endure more of it!

Sadly for Rob, being Chief, he didn't have this option so had to keep drinking until the concoction ran out - 6 cupfuls later! I had managed 3 cups, giving up after the third as i thought being sick in the Bure probably wasn't best thing to do! Dan actually managed a quite impressive 5! He was quite gutted he missed out on the sixth helping?! How he could like that stuff was beyond me, but he ended up buying more in the airport to bring home, so he must have done! Although i think he might find it hard to find people to drink it with him!

Back on the bus, most people just sat holding their stomachs, very very quiet! None of us had felt the hallucinating quality's we had all been promised, but we did all have numb lips! At least we felt something!

Part 2 of the day, and the best thing we have done so far this trip, to come!
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