Aside from a quick jaunt to the public beach near The Fiji Orchid, I sat by the pool at for two whole days before I felt the urge to get off my tush and go exploring. At dinner on the second night, my new friend Mitimiti recommended Fiji EcoTours as a way to see some of the island’s interior. She dialed them up and within a few minutes, I had a reserved spot on the full day tour departing at 9 a.m.
After spending several days in transit and then a few more days languishing in my bure on my own, I was beginning to feel a bit like George Clooney in Up In The Air, so I couldn’t wait to meet some new friends on the tour. Imagine my surprise when I was the only person signed up for the day. Womp womp. It was no matter, as tour guide Mike pledged to keep me company for the next eight hours.
First, Mike drove to a village about 30 minutes from The Fiji Orchid where he passed me off to Adam, a Fijian villager who would lead me through the jungle to a waterfall at the base of Sleeping Giant Mountain. Adam took my backpack, handed me a walking stick and took off toward the gate at the edge of the village.
Adam waited until we were about 15 minutes outside the village to let me in on a little secret – his ancestors were cannibals. Forehead slap – my mom was right! Three days into the trip and I’d encountered one of the many things she warned me about. Luckily, the villagers haven’t practiced cannibalism for nearly 300 years, since the European missionaries came. I kept a wary eye on Adam anyhow, just in case he got a hankering for travel blogger.
It was hot as the devil’s lair during the 90-minute hike, but Adam kept me distracted from my sweating, wheezing and mud-covered shoes by pointing out all the wild plants the villagers use for food and medicine – wild ginger, kava, wild spinach and pineapple. He also warned me to watch out for snakes, boar and mongoose, but we didn’t see anything but one colorful spider.
As someone who has hiked the difficult but rewarding Kalalau Trail in Kauai, I confess I was a bit disappointed once we reached the waterfall. Size does matter in the case of ocean creatures and waterfalls, I don’t care who you are. Still, it was nice to cool off after steaming like a bag of veggies in the jungle. Adam and I perched on rocks in the shade and chatted for a while. He was absolutely fascinated with my iPhone, a purchase that would cost $3,000 USD in Fiji.
After a dip in the pool below the falls, we hoofed it back down to the village for lunch. One of the women had prepared a wild spinach, onion and coconut cream dish, sausage and wahoo. I wasn’t crazy about the sausage, but it was better than eating people, I’m sure. For dessert – bananas straight off the tree!
Next up… the best beach in Fiji and my first taste of kava.