The Real Fiji: Discovering Nalauwaki

DiscoveringNalauwakiMy trip to Fiji back in 2011 was somewhat of a last minute decision. After backpacking around Australia, dodging the huge storms they had experienced that year, I arrived back in Sydney a week earlier than I had originally planned. A week to spare before my flight to Singapore surely meant just one thing….. Fiji baby! Well it was either that or kill time in Australia’s capital which I had already explored from top to tail. Yep, Fiji awaited!

FIJI BABY!

Seeing as I only had 7 days to explore as much as Fiji as I could, I had to be wise with how I spent my time. I chose to travel via Awesome Adventures. They offer island hopping and everything else you need for your time in Fiji. They’re not an organised travel company, just an easy way to book your trips to, from and in-between islands as well as your accommodation and transfers. I’d thoroughly recommend them and say this is the certainly the best way to Navigate Fiji’s Tropical Yasawa Islands.

Fiji Cruise

DISCOVERING NALAUWAKI

It was during my stay at Octopus Resort on the island of Waya that I first heard about the small village of Nalauwaki. The village elders come to the resort each evening to play music for the guests and to carry out the traditional Fijian cava ceremony.

Ocopus Resort

Ocopus ResortNalauwaki Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

After the ceremony I sat with the village men, drinking far too much cava and chatting about the ways and traditions of their island and village. I soon learned that the elder of the men was the village chief and the younger men, his sons.

These guys were such welcoming, fascinating and curious people. Spending just a little time with them (all be it getting merry on cava) was an amazing experience and a highlight of my time in this incredible country.

Nalauwaki

The chief and his eldest son said that we should visit the village the next morning to meet their people and spend some time with the kids at their newly built school. What an offer! I was definitely doing this!

After all the cava was drunk and the men began their trek home across the island to their village, I spoke with the Manager of the resort. She told me that past guests had visited the village and were so inspired to offer their help and support to the people that they raised money and returned to build a school for the children. The Manager visited the village on a daily basis to spend time with the children, take supplies and help teach from time to time. She extended the offer to join her with a couple of other guests at 7:30AM the next morning……

7AM arrived and for those of you who haven’t tried it, cava gives you a hangover that differs to other hangovers….. in fact it’s not so much a hangover and more a continuation of being drunk and slightly stoned. It seemed however, that I wasn’t the only suffering head that morning…..

Nalauwaki

I joined the guests who were coming to visit the village (2 ladies and a young couple with their 3 year old boy) on the beach and we set off across the island. The views of Waya island were incredible as we climbed up one side and down the other to the coastline that led us to Nalauwaki.

Nalauwaki

NalauwakiNalauwaki

Nalauwaki

CULTURE SHOCK

I don’t quite know what I expected my initial reaction to be on my first glimpse of the village but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the poverty and culture shock that awaited me.

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

The village chief welcomed us at the beach and led us through his village. It was made up of sheet metal shelters and huts, a couple of wooden buildings and a beautiful little church. As I have noticed all around the world in areas of poverty, churches tend to be the most well built and maintained buildings of the lot. There was no exception here.

Nalauwaki

As we walked through the village your eyes were drawn to individual villagers going about their morning routines. Be it, cooking, sweeping the floors of their homes or collecting water, they were all busy at work.

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

Then we arrived at the school. It was so lovely to see how much hard work had been put into building the school and all through donations and fund raising by previous visitors. This small amount of people had allowed the children of Nalauwaki to have an education in a far more stimulating environment than they have had in the past. In a word, inspiring!

Nalauwaki

I don’t think I have ever been welcomed in such a warm way. The kids took a moment to look us up and down, weighing us up before making a beeline for us, hugging our legs and greeting us with loud shouts of, ‘BULA!’

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

We sat on the floor with the children and helped the village tutor with his class. The kids were amazing. Such character and energy with such eagerness to learn. They were especially taken with the young boy who was visiting the village with his parents. For many of them, if not all, this may well have been the first time they have seen a caucasian boy of their age. They were obviously fascinated and had great fun together in the time we were there.

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

Soon it was time to leave them to their daily business, hike back to the resort and tell the other guests of our mornings adventure. But not before a fond farewell from the village chief and his sons before they headed out along the beach to fish for the village’s supper. We were told that we would never forget Nalauwaki and to make sure we come back and visit just as soon as we could.

Nalauwaki

Nalauwaki

My visit to Nalauwaki is up there with the best experiences of my life so far. It wasn’t only a culture shock but an insight into the real Fiji. The Fiji that was hiding behind the luxury hotels and pristine beach resorts. A Fiji that is actually far more special and beautiful than any of that luxury holiday stuff.

I’m sure Fiji makes for an incredible holiday but if you want to see this beautiful country’s true identity then travel around Fiji and if you’re ever offered the opportunity to visit a local village, grab it with both hands! The chief was right, I would never forget Nalauwaki and I plan to return with Gabby in the very near future.

Nalauwaki

Vinaka Nalauwaki!