Village Visit

Wednesday August 24th 2022

Once again back in a beautiful bay at Waya Island. It’s early morning and I’m watching the sunrise, casting its deep orange glow across a clear brightening sky; another beautiful dawn promises. As the sun rose gently over the island, the highest rocky peaks were illuminated, casting shadows over the lush green slopes. The heavy scent of woodsmoke from the village, drifts out across the bay in a hazy fog.

For me, Waya is the most beautiful island in Fiji, its stunning terrain comprises of steep, imposingly high craggy rocks and vibrant green slopes, that sweep steeply down towards pink, sandy, palm fringed beaches, with crystal clear water and beautiful coral beds.

Local villages skirt the perimeters of the island, their houses almost invisible hidden amongst the trees, you can just spot glimmers of the colourfuly painted rooftops that peek through the swaying coconut palms, papaya, banana and breadfruit trees, rich, thick, deeply green foliage that’s bending under the weight of the fruit, their foliage glistening as the sunlight reflects off them. The little fishing boats dotted along the beaches are all that draw attention to the fact that there is life there.

I watched a local man, thigh deep in water just off the beach, fishing with a net. He waited patiently each time before throwing the net to haul in sardines, it looked exhausting work, even though the water in the bay this morning was very calm. The morning school run begins around 7:30am, boat loads of children are ferried around to village schools on the other side of the island.

The two islands of Waya are joined by an isthmus which at low tide becomes a stretch of pink sandy beach that enables you to walk from the big island to the little one. A few of the boats cross through the isthmus taking local workers to island plantations and resorts, it’s a faster route than having to take the boat all the way around the perimeter of the island, but when the tide is on the way out the crossing has to be managed with skill; some of them have long poles that they use (gondola style) to push the boat across with, when others just take a run at it, this method I’ve noticed is not always successful as the propeller of the outboard often gets sucked down into the sand and comes to an abrupt halt. But, these people are resilient and eventually, no matter what they manage the crossing.

Yesterday we accompanied Bruce and Kristine across to visit one of the local villages, where we were met by a group of local children who delighted by taking our hands and leading us on a tour around their village and local school.

We walked through the village across the playing field and into each individual classroom where we met a couple of the teachers. We stopped to say ‘Bula’ (a welcome greeting) to the man that I had seen fishing that morning. He was sat on the floor around the fire cooking his catch of sardines, people from another boat in the bay were coming over to dinner on the island that evening.

Bruce and Kristine had generously brought some school supplies to donate, as well as fishing line, snorkels, flippers, and other gifts for the local villagers.

A couple of the local ladies invited us into one of their houses and were happy to show us their jewelry, made from shells, leather and beads, they explained that this is how the ladies of the village make a little extra money. I brought some of my jewelry making bits and pieces as gifts for them. Both Kristine and I bought a few of the necklaces and bracelets, we were keen to support them, and make a donation.

The people we met, and the children were the warmest, most welcoming, friendly people, and I was so relieved that we were not invited to partake in a kava ritual.

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