In the afternoon I met up with Ash, a driver from the local village of Tau – we were soon joined by Joe, one of the villagers who guides people when they come to visit. The destination was the Tau Cave. Joe’s ancestors used to live in the hills above this cave and retreat into the cave during attacks by warring tribes. Casualties of war were then dragged into the cave, cooked and eaten. The locations where they cooked the casualties in the cave were still clearly evident – they would build fires and heat rocks and then do the cooking under the ground. These locations were strategic – they were near two of the main entrances to the cave so the smoke could easily escape.
This cave wouldn’t have been the most pleasant place to hide in – it is wet, there are small flies, it is dark, there are plenty of bats flying around and the floor is covered with mounds of guano droppings (essentially natural nutrient rich manure).
Climbing high in to the jungle to reach the cave we passed workers building a zip line (the village of Tau is leasing their land to a gentleman originally from Sacramento California who moved here 7 years ago). We also heard the noise of cell phones ringing. Looking down at the trail I saw plenty of shells that Joe’s ancestors had brought up here after many fishing trips from the ocean far below and in the distance. The contrast between how life used to be and how it is now is great.
I had picked up 1/2 kilo of Kava root prior to meeting Joe. After visiting the cave we went back to his village where I enjoyed a Kava welcoming ceremony with a number of the villagers who had just returned from work. Words were said, words were sung, then a hollow clapping of hands followed. A wooden scoop went into a large wooden container, pulling out a healthy amount of Kava drink – which was then given to me. Several more scoops ensued and I downed them all. After this, my mouth and tongue were numb for some time but I experienced no other side effects.
Looking to try some local Fijian food, we returned to a beach-side restaurant – a short 10 minute walk on a dirt road near the Momi Resort. Sandwiched in the middle of a small bay between Momi Seashell and the construction of what is going to be a new Marriott Hotel is nice lady named Lendua – who operates a one room no-name restaurant next to her home. Her family catches the fresh fish in nets in the bay. The prices are great, the food is fresh and she enjoys visitors. Her son Jr. was quite shy and wary of strangers when I first arrived. After several visits he opened up and when I left for the last time, he came running down the path leading to their home waving goodbye.
Fiji is certainly known for its well distributed spring water and its pristine beaches but there is much to learn about the culture, foods and local village life. Joe is an excellent guide – and an afternoon spent with him was very educational. He enjoys introducing visitors to the Fijian village way of life. You can reach him by sending him an email: here to schedule an “insiders” tour of this part of Fiji and or to arrange other logistics for your travels.