Fijian feast is cooked underground

 

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Our catamaran, the Fiji Princess, gets tied to a coconut tree: the Yasawa Islands setting idyllic, and we are to have a Fijian feast onshore, followed by a concert by the local village.

Coconut has a special place in the Fijian diet and, grown in most coastal areas, it’s not only for food, but plays an important role in the economy. It is also used in many ways in the lovo (earth oven); as a basket, as the steam producer then to cover the food.

These photos are of the demonstration we saw of a food basket being made.

Some of the foods cooked in the lovo were Taro (dry starchy root crop), Kumala (sweet potato) whole chicken and a large leg of pork. After the burning wood was removed the meat, and vegetables placed in the hole in top of the hot rocks, covered with banana leaves and cooked for about 3.5 hours. It’s considered a healthy meal because of the lack of oil – it is quite similar to the (Māori) hangi or the (Hawaiian) luau or (Samoan) umu and has a smoky flavour.

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After showering, washing off the salt water we had played in, we return to the island, where a kava ceremony was being held, and before long we watch our dinner being dug up.

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While the pork was dry, the crackling on the pig was fabulous (I think it had been grilled somehow after being cooked in the lovo) and my favourite dish was the entre. It’s a ‘raw fish’ dish made up of Walu (sometimes called Spanish mackerel) with ‘miti’ – a coconut-based sauce. The fresh fish is marinated in lemon juice and left to “cook” for several hours. The thick coconut milk is added after it is “cooked” together with finely diced tomatoes, chillies and salt – this is the ‘miti’.

the pork is carved
the pork is carved
Raw fish (kokoda)
Raw fish entree (kokoda)

Dinner over, we move to seats in a clearing among the coconut palms – by now it’s very dark and before long we are entertained by beautiful singing and dancing at the ‘meke’. I often feel uncomfortable joining in traditional dancing anywhere, but the Fijians seem to love a conga line, making it easy for all, including me, to join in!

 

NOTE: Kava is used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the Pacific.  In Fiji a kava ceremony often goes together with social event and while on ‘the Princess’ it happened three times – including a ritual presentation of the bundled roots as a gift and drinking the ‘grog’ is accompanied by hand-clapping before and after drinking from the coconut shell. It is made by pounding the sun-dried kava root into a fine powder, straining and mixing it with cold water.

Apparently the effects of a kava drink vary widely depending on the kava plant used, and amount drunk. Most on board didn’t drink it but for those who did their eyes became droopy or sleepy looking it seem the active ingredients have a half-life of about 9 hours.

New Zealand is concerned about the risk of driving after mixing of alcohol and kava. On the other hand, it seems a national league team uses it after games to unwind.

Note: the KiwiTravelWriter was a guest of Blue Lagoon Cruises

 

50 shades of green and blue in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji

‘They’ say, one picture is a thousand words: if this is so, sit back relax and enjoy this 2,800 word slideshow about the 50 shades of green and blue in the northern Fijian waters and the Yasawa islands.

Recently I was invited to cruise, for 4 nights, five days on the Fiji Princess – a boutique catamaran that can host a max of 64 guests – I loved the days of relaxing, sailing, eating, beach visits, snorkeling, visiting a village for dinner then the next day the only High School in the islands, eating Fijian food, and enjoying an eclectic group of fellow travellers from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Belgium, UK, Germany – and maybe others.

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To see more of my travels and lifestyles of the people of these remote island sign up to follow my blog (top right – no spam ever, only an email when I publish a new blog)

 

The princess comes home – it’s a shock

It’s hard to wake up at home after being treated like a princess on the catamaran, Fiji Princess. It’s a shock to the system.

Having a whole crew look after you (and a personal smoother-of-the-way as well) it seems a sense of entitlement sets in!

How do you want your eggs, scrambled, poached, omelette, whites only? No problem, take a seat and I’ll bring them over. And so you sit, in a lovely salon on the back to the boutique ‘cat’, to eat fresh tropical fruit, bacon, eggs, pancakes and, or baked beans along with your toast and coffee.

The crew catch their prefered breakfast when they can
The crew catch their prefered breakfast when they can

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Now, back in my fabulous apartment, I have to make my own breakfast; make my own bed, clean my own bathroom, and wash my own towels.

No more smiling, friendly, Fijian faces to greet me with a cheerful ‘bula‘, and no warm sun and sea – the three hours flying north – on Fiji Airways – had made a big difference to the New Zealand autumn weather: flying south has made the same change, but this time, negatively.

Guess I’ll just have to adjust to no attention, no-one asking if I want a croissant, more shade, massage, water?

I’ll have to return to being the person providing all the attentions I want and all the things I need like clean linen and great food – being my own supplier of princess-like attention, and dream of the fabulous four nights  and five days aboard the ‘Princess’. (#fijiprincess)

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Would I recommend the Blue Lagoon Cruises … yes, in a heartbeat.

More blogs and photos will follow about local food, resorts, sun and sand, Yasawa Islands, snorkeling, paddle boards, and the volunteer programme that supports these isolated villages and schools – and for now, I will go and prepare some dinner for this disposed princess.

As ‘they’ say ‘toughen up Princess.’

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Packing for a cruise – keep it to a minimum

Revisiting this post …and reposting.. as I’m off on another small cruise. This time a river cruise on the Mekong – China’s longest river

So will re-read this to remind myself to keep its light – my goal is carry on luggage only: that means 7kg (15lb) for most of the worlds airlines.

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One of the great things about cruising is that you unpack just once. The only cruising I have done is on a river cruise in Europe, and sailing on private yachts in the Mediterranean and along the Great Barrier Reef. However, in four or five days I will be on the Fiji Princess, a Blue Lagoon catamaran, sailing around some of Fiji’s (mainly Yasawa) islands.

So what to take? Firstly, for the Captains dinner a colourful long dress (although it’s not a need to dress for dinner each night) and swimwear, including sarong & aqua shoes, and I have the basics covered (nightwear and undies too of course). Add a pair of trousers, 2 shorts and 4 tops to mix and match and that’s it.

The extras are what takes up space and weight – toiletries, flip-flops (or jandals as we Kiwi call them) my trusty Teva’s for hiking, sunglasses, a necklace and couple of earrings – plus an umbrella for the sun.

Add my camera gear (spare batteries and charger) my tablet and keyboard for writing blogs and posting photos on Facebook and Instagram, a book, e-reader, sun protection, hat, notebook and pens: that should be it.

Now all I have to do is count the sleeps until I leave New Zealand’s cool autumn for the warmth of Fiji and some boutique sailing. Fiji Princess can host up to 68 passengers; it’s 55 metres and can get into bays and islands that are impossible for large ships. Seems they can get so close to shore, that they can tie to a coconut tree and we could swim to the beach. Sound pretty darn good!

Did I mention, swimming with manta rays? Exploring water caves? Sign-up to have my blogs sent to you by email (above right) and get my blog (s) about this boutique cruise that I’ve been invited to join in the warm Fiji waters.

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