Sunday, February 17, 2008

Howard and the Landcruiser

Fiji Mountain One Room School The Mountains of Fiji above Nadi

Our second day in Fiji started early in the morning by meeting Howard, the eco tour guide. The good news was that we were the only travelers and we would be using a four wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser, with air conditioning no less. Howard was a very large native Fijian who for several years had played professional rugby in Australia. He proved his toughness by showing that he was missing a couple of front teeth. As a former British Colony, and member of the Commonwealth, the two major sports in Fiji are rugby and cricket. The islands seem to export a large number of their biggest lads for membership on teams in New Zealand and Australia.

Off we went, with me pumping Howard with questions about the government, the courts, and his family. He is married and has a 7 year old son who is already starting to play rugby. We were not long on the road to Suva, when we turned off towards the mountains. The paved road soon ended and we were bouncing along the dirt and gravel road and dodging a lot of ruts. Recently Fiji had a cyclone cross Viti Levu Island bringing a lot of rain and wind. It has made quite a mess of the roads, both paved and dirt. We were headed for one of the tallest mountains in a range going north and south across the island. Because of the rainy season the country was lush and green. As we left the sugar cane farms we rose steadily actually getting into areas of pine forests and magnificent views back towards the bay and Nadi.

Our ultimate destination was to a small village high on the mountain, named (I think) Nosauri. There are very few road signs in Fiji and certainly no written sign for Nosauri. Upon arrival we visited a small rural one room school filled with 9 year old boys and Paul, their teacher. Paul is a former school mate of Howard, and is posted to this school by the government. The village has a total population of about 250. Most of the men of the village are farmers and the women stay home and care for the children, their homes, and the village. Mary Ann broke though the shyness of the kids by taking digital photos of them and then showing them the photos. She accidentally clicked back to a photo of the deep snow on Snoqualmie Pass in Washington, which was quite a hit.

Leaving the school we went into the village and had a tour by Charlotte, the daughter of the Chief. They have a relatively large Methodist Church in the center of the village, and which everyone attends. It is a very busy church, with services throughout the week, and three services on Sunday, starting at 5 a.m. Charlotte then joined us for a short drive to an artesian water falls where we had a tea break. We had our chance to go prancing under the falls, but we passed on the opportunity even though we had our swim suits along. We then headed down the mountain and back to the hotel. It was a good trip and showed us a lot about Fiji that we never otherwise would have experienced. We spent the afternoon resting up for the move to New Zealand and the important time to write and read.

Fiji Post reports just how it was said: In an article about a dispute over de-reserving native land (kind of like taking the reservation away from the American Indians) for the purpose of revitalizing the sugar cane industry the government critic said: “He added that it seems that interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and his ‘mouthpiece’ interim Sugar Minister Mehendra Chaudhry, are doing what any typical ‘landless’ person will do and meddle with the land.”

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