The town of Lovoni in the middle of Ovalau
Old posts from my very first travel website and my first backpacking trip (a year in 2000-2001)! These entries aren't very well formed and are strangely lacking in detail, but I thought it would be fun to post them. They were really just quick posts to update my friends and family back in the day.
We booked a tour with Epi, a Fijian local who gives nature tours to his village of Lovoni. We took the ferry over to Levuka on the island of Ovalau and met up with Epi to start our 3-mile hike through lush jungle (we stepped in a lot of mud and crossed several streams) to inner Lovoni village. We passed way too close to spiders as big as your hand. Epi says “don’t worry, they friendly spiders”. For some reason I believe him.
It was a beautiful hike through the jungle.
We ate and drank fresh coconut and ate papaya, all picked by Epi. He climbed the tree to get 3 coconuts; 2 green ones for drinking and a brown one for eating. He opened them with a stick stuck in the ground and a rock. To open the straw hole, look for the three holes and three seams. One seam bisects the straw hole. Epi made a natural straw from a nearby plant stem. Another useful tip - to open the mandarin (orange), stick your finger in the top hole.
He climbed right up and got us some coconuts!
He hulled them with a sharp stick.
Only the third hold should be used for drinking.
He showed us many medicinal plants for jaundice, pain, toothache, diarrhea, and blindness. A vine whose juices will blind you, always grows near the vine whose juices are the antidote. There were many other examples where two plants form a medicine when mixed together and they typically grow near each other. The plants in this rainforest are probably very ancient because they don’t have forest fires.
I asked how the village got all this knowledge. He said when you drink kava (a traditional, slightly narcotic, drink made from he kava root) the spirits can come closer to you. I asked if they still talk to the spirits but he said "No, we have Christianity now." :(
Epi showed so so many of the local plants and what they are used for.
The history of the village is amazing. They have never been defeated in war, “only by faith in the word of God”, but they were tricked by the King of Bau (a tiny, tiny island). The King traded all the Fijian islands (that were not his) in exchange for smoking pipes, booze, guns, etc. With his new guns, he then defeated all of the other Fijian islands but could never defeat Lovoni. So the king used a missionary to offer a peace banquet to Lovoni and then captured the men while they were eating. Some escaped, most were sold into slavery, 3 were sold to the Barnum and Bailey Circus in America!
The Lovoni village meal his family served us tasted excellent. We sat cross-legged on the floor and a cloth served as the table. The tea made from six leaves of a common plant was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
The US funds the Fijian military on peacekeeping missions.
UPDATE: Epi's Tours is still alive and well today!
Our meal at his family's home was wonderful.
Some of the locals in the village. It actually felt kind of strange that they expected you to pose with the kids but whatever.