Throughout various Fiji tours, your tour guides are likely tell you stories about local tribes and their ways of living. These stories about the travails of tribal people and how they overcome it are often informative, sometimes heartbreaking and other times inspiring. The tour of white water river rafting in upper Navua river was a special travel experience as it involved very interesting stories about the tribal people living in villages on the banks of the river. The stories were eye-opening in that they introduced us to a very different culture. Here are a few stories that we heard during the white-water river rafting experience in upper Navua river.
Winning over a woman’s heart and getting married
In some Fijian tribes, owning whale teeth is considered a symbol of manliness. It is also a sure shot way to win the heart of the tribal woman. Owning a whale teeth is also a necessary requirement to reach out to the bride’s father and request his daughter’s hand for marriage. Tribal men get whale teeth in one of two ways -
1. Save a lot of money to buy whale teeth. It happens to be insanely expensive due to which these men have to save for years and years before they can afford one.
2. Save a little bit of money to go on whale hunting trips with local operators and grab one if they catch a whale. This is a very dangerous activity and men have lost their lives or got severely injured during these trips.
Nonetheless, given the significance of whale teeth to their culture, you will see every bachelor in these tribes aspiring to own one during their prime years.
Work, daily wages and tipping in Fiji
Fiji’s tourism is one of the major sources of revenue in the country. So, a lot of Fijians, especially the tribal population work in the travel and tourism industry. These workers typically get paid only minimum hourly wages and hence rely on tips from tourists as an additional source of income. Unfortunately, tourism provides them with a salary for only five months in a year. The volume of tourists reduces significantly for three out of the remaining seven months and the volume almost goes down to zero for the remaining four months due to inclement weather conditions. These workers save money during the months with high tourist turnout and use it to run their life for the rest of the year. So, tourists are highly recommended to tip them generously. They have to save a part of their income over many years to buy whale teeth to be able to get married and settle down in life. Tough life indeed!
The role of Navua river in farming and hunting
Navua river enriches the soil and helps the tribal population grow vegetables and fruits in the area around their villages. Considering their minimum wages and dependency on tourism for money, these vegetables and fruits satisfy their need for food throughout the year. They also derive benefit from the Navua river in another way. The river is their primary highway to reach the wild forests to go hunting. They walk a minimum of 5 kms to get to the river. Once they reach the river, the villagers make rafts by tying bamboo sticks together, use the rafts to go down the river into the wilderness and hunt for animals. They use sharpened wood and knives to hunt down the animals. After they catch enough animals to feed their families for a week, they use the rafts to get back to the starting point in the river and walk back to their village carrying dead carcass of animals. This hunting routine has to continue even during the winter season. In other words, they have to go hunting even in extreme weather conditions to feed their families every day.
Basic amenities in villages
People in these villages do not have a television or phone in each house. The entire tribe has one television in the community hall. The television is not connected to antennas to watch live programming. It is rather used to watch movies and recorded sporting events in DVD. Some of the villagers go to Sigatoka town once a week and get DVDs of recorded sporting events. Often, they watch these events a week after it happened. However, no one in the village would know the results of the game. They all get together in the community hall and watch the event on television and celebrate as though they are watching it live. One of their favorite pastimes is to play fun games in their villages and drink Kava. Kava is the most famous drink in all of Fiji, especially among Fijian tribes. Kava is made from pepper roots. In small quantities, the drink helps relieve anxiety and relax immediately. Children over 5 years old are allowed to drink Kava in small quantities. In large quantities, the drink induces the same level of intoxication as alcohol. However, Kava does not have the same hangover effects of drinking alcohol. The villagers drink Kava to celebrate any event. They are known to consume a lot of Kava when they are watching recorded sporting events.
With this post, I hope you got a glimpse into the lives of Fijian tribal population. Some of us live in countries where the standards for basic amenities are much higher that we often take a lot of those things for granted. Traveling to deeper parts of Fiji opened up my eyes to a completely different world where the definition of basic amenities is much different. I hope this post will also persuade you to visit navua river, be enchanted by the natural beauty of the place and engage with the tribal population to learn more about their culture.