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We left Samoa on Saturday and woke up enroute to Fiji on Monday. Yes, we lost Sunday due to the International Date Line but Regent served Champagne and caviar anyway. It was most likely a token of support for the bedraggled passengers as we endured a terribly stormy night on the rollercoaster of the Pacific. We arrived late in Fiji which meant flipping the two Fijian ports, Lautoka and Suva and the cancelling of our snorkel excursion.

Since it was Valentine's Day, we decided to have lunch on our balcony. It was delicious (and romantic) and we managed to do justice to a bottle of champagne, hoping for a long bus ride to our afternoon jaunt to the thermal mud baths.


The mud baths were an experience we will never forget! We had two bus loads going - about 40 people. It took about 45 minutes to get there on mostly paved roads until we tuned off onto a gravel road to reach the pools. The Fijian countryside is lush with considerably more infrastructure and business than we saw in other South Pacific islands.


Our guide told us that the original inhabitants of Fiji came from Tanzania and the people have more distinctive African features than we have seen previously on this voyage.




We were greeted with flower garlands and then participated in a welcoming ceremony and then off we went to the baths.



Step one-slather yourself and your partner with mud. Step two - let the mud dry. Step three-wash some of the mud off in a muddy pool with mud up to your knees. Step four-enter another thermal pool to attempt to get whatever is left on you off of you. Step five- enter the open air hall to get a massage. (Note to self: next time wear a ratty, old bathing suit. Fijian mud is tenacious!)



Even though we sort of showered in a communal area, we still had considerable residual mud hanging on. I was told that Fijian mud is medicinal for the skin. I'm just glad that I wasn't the masseuse!


We then had a closing ceremony with singing and clapping and we were on our way home.

In honor of Valentine's day, the lounge and restaurant lights were changed from blue to pink and the women received a rose as we arrived for dinner. The sunset was extraordinary.


We sailed overnight to Suva, the capital of Fiji. We had an hour to kill before our 6 hour excursion to the Suava river so we walked to the municipal market which was just outside the port area. Along the way we got a good dose of Fijian culture as locals tried to entice us to purchase a tour, or jewelry or clothing. The custom is to offer a handshake and the greeting "Bula" (pronounced boo-lah) which loosely means hello, goodbye, love, or to your health - and it is impossible not to smile as you say it!

The markets always fascinate me and they were selling the things that Fijians love to eat - pineapple and taro and eggplant, and peppers of all shapes and sizes.


They were also selling reeds wound up like a wheel for making or repairing mats that serve as carpets in their homes


Our excursion was fabulous. We traveled by bus through the Fijian countryside to the Suava river. The weather was now overcast and it started to rain as we were being given life jackets, ponchos and garbage bags to stow our gear. The river was high and muddy due to recent torrential rains and we were warned that we might have to walk around some rapids that were too dangerous for the long boats to navigate with passengers on board. We boarded the long boats, six passengers to a boat and started our 45 minute cruise.


As luck would have it, the showers were brief and the sun came out as we navigated through farmland until we entered a deep cavern with lush vegetation, lava embankments, and waterfalls all around us.


On rounding a bend, we encountered the rapids but our driver decided to gun the motor and go for it. We got soaked and at one point the motor was at full speed and we made no progress against the flow of water.


The point of the excursion was to swim beneath a waterfall. We climbed onto the riverbank and followed the path to the most exquisite site. The rushing water fell about 5 stories into a crystal clear pool. After a bit of a swim, we got back to the boat for the trip back on the river for a welcome and lunch in an authentic Fijian village.


The Fijian Village was on the riverbank and we were greeted by men drumming , bare chested, wearing raffia skirts.


We were led to the community house for a kava ceremony. Two men were appointed our leaders and they would be the first to drink the kava. It was a very serious event and this ceremony welcomes us and, more importantly, makes us honorary members of the clan.


When the ceremony was complete, the men performed a traditional dance (aggressive movement as opposed to the jubilent sensual dancing of Polynesia - but, after all, Fijian were cannibals!)


We then had lunch. One line consisted of Subway style sandwiches and the other line was traditional Fijian cuisine. We chose Fiji but I did notice that Subway had the longer line! The food was interesting...chicken cooked in an underground pit, curried pumpkin, rice, white and purple taro, and, the star of the show, sautéed taro leaves in coconut cream. By the way, after the ceremony, we could try the kava. It had an earthy, medicinal taste, somewhat bitter, and, it left your mouth somewhat numb, reminiscent of the ma la effect in Sichuan cuisine.

We then returned to the ship in a torrential storm.


Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in Fiji Tagged suva lautoka

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