Today, I decided to go to Suva, the capital of Fiji, on a cultural mission as it is not too far from where we are staying in Pacific Harbour. I stood on the road for a short while before a lovely Fijian woman helped out and flagged a minibus. The 1-hour ride cost only $5 (just under £2). An added bonus was that I got to travel in a minibus decorated from floor to ceiling in floral-motif carpeting - it was straight out of the 80's - you know what I'm talking about!
As you enter the Fiji Museum, the central display (in the maritime section) is the double-hulled canoe or Waqa Drua (named "Ratu Finau") made in Fiji in 1913. The last canoe built of its kind by craftsmen who knew the old methods from the 18th Century. It was acquired by the museum in 1981 and lovingly restored.
Across the hall sits the interesting Bilibili house raft "No Come Back". Rafts of this type are used for transporting farm produce from inland parts of Viti Levu where there is no road access to the coastal markets. Today, river transport of this kind is still in use for the river villages in the far interior and it is still possible to take an organised, if somewhat 'touristy' trip up the river at a town called Navua.
The Fiji Museum is a fascinating showcase of the multicultural history of this group of islands. From the Melanesian migration, to the Polynesian exploration, to the effects of European trading and settlement, to British colonisation and the wholesale 'import' of Indian workers - all these have left an indelible mark on the traditions and cultural landscape of the country. I hadn't realised just how many different nationalities had passed through or settled in Fiji! I was so inspired, that I bought a book on the history of Fiji.
Wandering through the cultural maze worked up quite an appetite so I ambled across to the Suva Bowling Club (oh, how Colonial of me!) where lunch consisted of a simple tuna salad. My visit happened to coincide with the ANZ 56th South Pacific Bowling Carnival so I watched some of the action!
On the way back to the bus depot, I stopped at Frank's, a retail store that sells souvenirs, where I bought a few things Fiji-related. I also stopped at the central fruit and vegetable market for some green mandarins which were a lot sweeter than they looked. Couldn't find any of the papayas I've been consuming for breakfast, but figured that I'll get them at the hotel anyway!
Dinner was the Lovo and Meke (Fijian dance) Night. Lovo refers to the Polynesian-influenced cooking tradition of slow-cooking food on top of heated stones. In New Zealand, it's referred to as a Hangi (I think that's how it's spelled) and a hole is dug in the ground where the food is placed over the white-hot stone and then covered again. The difference with a Fijian Lovo is that it takes place above ground and the heat is trapped by an elaborate cover of palm and coconut leaves - effectively forming a tight lid and steaming the food in it's own moisture. In effect, it is a fusion of Polynesian and Melanesian cultures - the staff prepared a "Magiti" (a Fijian feast) of local-inspired delicacies.
I have taken the trouble to copy the menu as it was presented to us, word for word:
Fijian Rou-Rou soup (Fijian taro leaves or 'spinach' soup)
Ota Salad (local fern with Miti)
Baba salad with Miti (raw coconut milk)
Nama local sea grape salad
Ika Kokoda - Fijian raw fish marinated in lime juice, coconut milk & tomato & onion relish
MAIN COURSES FROM THE LOVO PIT:
Marinated Whole Chicken (Toa)
Palusami (like spinach)
Root crops: Dalo, Cassava & Kumala
Baked fish with lolo
Vudi Vakasoso - plantain banana cooked in coconut cream
Tavloka yaca - cassava cake
Fresh tropical fruit salad with passion fruit syrup
Macaroons filled with tropical-flavoured creams
P.s. In case you were wondering - it was ALL delicious!