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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Since Vorovoro

FIJI | Tuesday, 7 October 2008 | Views [1609]

Presenting my Sevu sevu and Tabua to Tevita's father at their home just outside Nadi, Fiji

Presenting my Sevu sevu and Tabua to Tevita's father at their home just outside Nadi, Fiji

So, where the hell have I been...?!!

Firstly, massive apologies for not publishing this blog years ago! I wrote it after my trip in 2009, and here I am years later reliving those amazing memories and updating my blog. Shocking! Since this trip I have been to many other places, each of which I will write up soon... anyway... back in time we go to 2008 and my wonderful experience in Fiji....

Since I left Vorovoro island on 4th October, my life has been a bit different from the simple travelling thing I'd done up til then. During my last month on the island, where I was chief of the tribe, I engineered an interesting opportunity for myself with Ben Keene and his Tribewanted.com organisation.

In August I sat in on a Tribewanted initiative where we invited some young Fijian 'entrepreneurs' to come onto Vorovoro and tell us their ideas for business. As it transpired they didn't have anything other than the traditional Fijian trades as ideas, but with some input from the tribe and with Ben's direction, we steered one such entrepreneur into the area of providing a service as opposed to a product, and namely into the travel industry. When they live in such a beautiful place, why not make your business showing people around? And so the Tribewanted Fijian trek was born, and three weeks later Junior, a Fijian friend and brother of Vorovoro, lead Ben, myself and 5 other paying adventurers into Vanua Levu on a 2 night 3 day trek, which I wrote about in full here at the time (you might recall reading it).

Since then the idea has developed into something considerably bigger, which culminated in a week long Tribewanted adventure trek into the north east of Vanua Levu a couple of weeks ago.

Where do I come into all this? My suggestion to Ben Keene shortly before the end of September was that he needs someone to help manage the ambitious project of Vitika (which means 'to cut a new path through Fiji') rather than using the already very busy team on Vorovoro or leaving it in the hands of our fledgling entrepreneur, Junior. This was clearly my opportunity to get involved in a longer term capacity with Tribewanted, a brand which I see having a fantastic future on a global scale and in no short part due to the skills, drive, determination and leadership qualities of Ben and a few outstanding key members of the team already in place or connected with the project.

So Mr Keene offered me the opportunity to be involved as long as I helped him out in the mean time by promoting Tribewanted:Vorovoro here in Fiji and try to increase numbers on the island during this quiet annual period of tourism in Fiji. We shook hands on a basic agreement and then I enjoyed my last few days on the island before we got together again shortly before he left to add some more flesh to the idea and make a more formal agreement. Ben left Vorovoro a few days before me and then when it came my time to leave it was not as sad an occassion as it might have been had I been leaving to continue my travels or to come home. I gave a tatau to team Fiji on my last night, which is the traditional Fijian way of leaving a village or family home and said a few words to them there, but made it clear that this was not goodbye. We enjoyed a VERY heavy night of grog that night... I've made some amazing connections with those guys, not least of all with Tevita, the community manager and a very important part of the team here in Vorovoro. Without him being here, this place would not been quite as good as it is for sure. He and I made a big connection, to the point that he calls me his brother, and for my next two weeks I was going to stay with his family near Nadi, as their son and brother!

...and so I left Vorovoro. I had been there for exactly three months. Three amazing, wonderful, highly memorable months. I've met some fantastic people on that island, over 150 individuals by now! There are plenty that I wish to remain in touch with for as long as possible, and several of which I must now surely consider as some of my best friends... what a place! What a time! Thanks Vorovoro, I'll never ever forget what you did for me.

Having been invited to stay with Tevita's family I was set to leave with Tevita and his wife Sila and sister Marama who'd been staying on the island for a couple of months. That morning after waving goodbye to what remains my favourite sight, the Vorovoro beach line and headland, we went to Labasa where I did some things on the internet before heading over to Tui Mali's house to stay for the night. Yes. I was staying at Tui Mali's house, the chief of the Mali district, holder of a seat on the great chief council of Fiji. Having been on Vorovoro for so long, and having been chief for a month, it meant that I knew most of Tui Mali's family and his wife already and had been to his house on several occassions before. I took some food and kava as a sevusevu and when we got to the house I presented it to Tui Mali in front of his two official guests from Suva! They were impressed, and I think Tui Mali probably enjoyed having these dignified guests treated to a white mans sevusevu and tatau to the chief of the Mali district and with no prompting or direction required! (After a big 'Ho Ya' at the doorstep before entering too! ;))

That afternoon I popped down into the local village of Vuo where some of the team and tribe were attending the villages annual celebration and church fund raiser. It was nice to meet up with some of them there and share some grog with the village elders for the afternoon. As per usual I saw lots of Fijian people I knew from my time on Vorovoro and before long I was up dancing on the green in front of the crowd with one of the Fijian ladies to the live bands' music. This got the party started and lots of people joined us! After the tribe left I stayed behind with the legend that is Pupu Epeli, who has worked on Vorovoro from the very beginning and is a close personal friend of Tui Mali. Later that night I went back to the house to be greeted with dinner and then a grog session with Tui Mali and Tevita! It was to be a long night, luckily my travels tomorrow didn't begin until in the afternoon...

The following day Tevita announced that he was not travelling with us and would follow on later, I was to make the trip with his sister Marama and lots of bags in tow! We'd chosen to use the over night ferry from Savusavu on the south side of Vanua Levu to Suva, the Fijian capital on Viti Levu, which meant two bus journeys too, all of which takes about 20 hours. Our trip ended up taking 24 hours from Tui Mali's house to Tevita's house at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant near Nadi. The boat was about three hours late from Savusavu! It was very uncomfortable on the boat and after carrying my own bags and the extras given to use by Tevita to take home to the family, we arrived exhausted having had limited sleep and been waiting all that time. At the house I was introduced to Tevita's mum and brothers' wife and child as they were the only ones home at that time. We had an hour until Tevita's father finished work, at which point I would be presenting a massive sevusevu to him. Tevita had given me a tabua, which is a sperm whales tooth, the highest accolade that one can give to another in Fijian culture. It is normally a gift between chiefs, a gift between families at a wedding or given between villages when an important elder passes away. Tevita is the prophecised chief of the Raa district in Viti Levu, Fiji. It is a huge district and he is a big deal, so has access to many of these tabua. The fact that I was about to present one to his father from myself (as Tevita instructed!) was a little bit daunting to say the least.

When Tevita's father arrived we shook hands and said hello, I even got a sniff, which is something I've only ever experienced coming from female Fijians! We then prepared the mat, tanoa and seating, with me sat at the top of the mat, and I readied myself for my sevusevu. I opened by saying a line I'd learnt a few days before... 'Vaka Turaga Na Vanua Nakarotubu', which kind of(!) translates as 'head man from the village of Nakarotubu'. I presented to him my sevusevu of some bags of food (including sugar, flour, tuna, chicken, cooking oil and potatos), some mats from Vorovoro and a bundle of kava roots. I also then presented the tabua as I'd seen other chiefs hold them and told him I was very proud to be linked to his family through Tevita and that the whole of Tribewanted and Tui Mali sends this offering to him. He recieved it in traditional Fijian style and then we mixed a strong bowl of grog and drank together. It was a relief to get it over with! After that one and the sevusevu to Tui Mali, I think I can sevusevu anyone now!

Finally I could take a shower (under a hose of cold water of course) and have a rest. Marama had been kicked out of her bedroom and onto the spare bed in the rear, mozzie infested veranda... Fijians are generous to a fault! So I had a comfy bed for my stay in a private room.

In the following weeks I met and networked with various hotel, restaurant and bar owners, promoting Tribewanted and Vitika. I met a huge number of travellers both at the airport on arrival and in the various backpackers hostels, many of which were arriving with a full itinerary (of mostly island hopping and partying) or for only a short time, so it proved tricky to get people to travel to Vorovoro, even though they loved the idea of Tribewanted and what was happening up there. I did however meet enough people who had arrived without pre-booking something, and help them arrange their transport to Vorovoro and get up there, which helped fill some space on island during its quieter period. I also signed a couple of people up to the Vitika trek. I arranged promotional grog nights with Tevita's amazing brothers coming along to run the sessions, sing traditional Fijian songs and generally have a good time. Also I attended a LOT of grog sessions at home with the family, who had many many relatives and neighbours come over to see me!

I really enjoyed staying with the family near the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Taking the bus into and out of town every morning and walking along the lanes and saying Bula to everyone on route was wonderful.

My time here flew past, and before I knew it I was heading back to Vorovoro to finalise the trek details with Junior and get going on my next adventure!

Sloggs :)

Tags: adventure, family, fiji, nadi, promotion, trekking, vanua levu, volunteering, vorovoro, work


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