It’s six in the morning. I’m anchored over a sand bar with only 5 feet of baby blue water below the keel. I can see seashells and sea cucumbers and yellow leaves that lost their trees. The islands next to me look like a pregnant lady who is very circular or a turtle, depending on how you tilt your head. Then there is the lullaby of water caressing the boat.
I’m still sailing around Kadavu. Because it’s exquisite here. The coral is a rainbow, the people are hysterical, the stars are fire. Some days I go to the kindergarten class in the village and help them make art, weaving and what not. Most days I stare at things underwater. My obsession with saltwater life is intensifying and I’m spending so much of my day swimming around in fins that my bare feet feel odd on my legs.
Kadavu is a real jungle of a place. I’m over here getting wild with lobsters and sea snakes and green moths that are the size of small birds. And night is night. Some nights are as dark as I’ve ever seen and the only light is my own. Other nights the whole lagoon glows with neon jellyfish.
Everybody that lives on Kadavu is a fisher and a farmer. This island is known for it’s kava and marijuana. Weed is illegal in Fiji so people grow it all renegade-style in the bush. Every so often cops fly drones to find the weed farms and burn them down. If the farmer is found, he goes to prison for seven or so years, but it’s rare that the farmer is found.
I don’t know what else they’re growing here because I can’t seem to find any vegetables besides cassava, taro, eggplant, and an occasional carrot. Pretty soon I’m gonna have to start eating like an astronaut on the moon. Freeze-dried ice cream sounds good.
All the people I’ve met here are real high-flying beings and they are as loose as they are rigid. The villages are structured into clans. Some people live on the beach. Some live on the hill tops. Some live in the mangroves, and with the way the branches fall and the water reflecting it all, it feels like they’re living inside a painting. Houses are decorated with turtle shells and flowers and fabrics and photos. Every day at noon a member of the clan bangs the lali (drum made from hardwood) and people stop what they’re doing and pray.
Some of the kids have never ever seen a white person and they look at me with alligator eyes and lolly-pop mouths. The men are flirts and most of them have animal names like, Fish and Bird and Pony. The young ones say, “goodbye, I love you,” by shaking my hand and brushing their middle finger across my palm. It tickles. And an old man spoon-fed me kava then kissed my cheek in the middle of Sevusevu.
Just yesterday five men came by boat to serenade me with a guitarist named Tequila. They brought along a homemade blue water bottle bong and sang the Fijian welcome song “Bula Maleya- Drums of the Islands.” You might have heard Elvis sing it before. When he sings it, it goes like this:
Drums of the island are beating in my heart
You’re with me no matter where I roam……
……If I should journey across the deep blue sea
I’ll never forget these coral shores
Drums of the islands I hear you calling me
And I’ll return forever yours
The women of Kadavu wear Bob Marley sulus and giggle a lot. They’re bunnies. Bunnies in blue moonlight. They say things like “sugar me baby” when they’re thirsty for more kava, or “if it crawls we eat it,” when they’re hungry. They tell me wild stories about how “someone ate an eel and nearly kicked the bucket” or how the village is building a new community hall so they can “dance and run around and act mad!”
I ask people the same questions;
1- What is your favorite myth?
Answer: The one about the giant octopus in Kadavu that killed a mean-looking shark from Taveuni.
2- What can I see if I dive the reef pass?
3- Where can I go to get a whale tooth?
Answer: At the pawn shop
How did people get the whale tooth before there was a pawn shop? That’s what I want to know! Also if you thought the tooth of a whale was worth a lot, have you seen the value of a sperm whale’s poop after it’s feasted on squid beaks? It’s called ambergris and it’s worth more than gold. Floating gold. Sea treasure. It looks like a rock and it’s color ranges from black, to grey, to brown, to white. It’s used in the perfume industry to make scents stick to skin. But don’t go chasing sperm whales darling- they’re endangered, and only one in 100 makes ambergris, and the stuff has to float in the ocean for decades to get hard and have any real value. If you’re meant to find it, you will trip over it or crash your boat into it.
Anyway, today is Sunday, also known as “the day of don’t” in Fiji. As in don’t do anything but go to church. Here in Kadavu every church has three church services and every villager goes to all three of those services.
I’m at the 10:30 a.m. service praying for ambergris. The cocks are crowing and the kids are singing, “When the spirit of the lord is upon us I will dance like David danced.” Angels. All of them.
The minister starts yelling in Fijian about the demons that took over a man that lived in the forest and he’s saying how the people shouldn’t live in the forest if they want to be saved. I don’t like this teaching. I think nature’s the best place to go to get in touch with God.
Church is over in a flash and I’m eating lunch with a chiefly family. They fry me up a red fish with the head still on it. They teach me that “ika” means “fish,” and “nana” means “mom,” and “tata” means “dad.”
Three good-looking men start pounding fresh kava into powder using a massive mortar and pestle. It rings like a bell. We go back to the church where the pews are stacked and the kava is mixed and blessed. People say “mana” over and over and over during the blessing. That word has the same meaning here as it does in Hawaii; it’s “the spiritual life force energy or healing power that permeates the universe.” It can exist within a person, place, or object and it can be either good or evil. Imagine Star Wars.
The grog bowl is passed my way. I clap. I drink. The man who passed me the bowl claps five times. Everywhere else in Fiji they clap three times, but here they clap two extra times in honor of the ancient twins who got lost at sea and discovered Kadavu.
I pass the bowl back. Everyone says, “moca” or “empty” and the bowl moves on. This goes on and on and on until 10 p.m. Somebody might have to come extract me from this island.
*If you are enjoying this journey into the Wilderness of Waves, please consider becoming a Patron! It will allow me to keep diving deep and sharing the treasures I discover with you. XO