We had been hoping to manage a few days at a homestay whilst in Fiji and despite calling and emailing were getting nowhere. We had heard of a place near Savusavu called Olivias Homestay but were beginning to think it the stuff of dreams. The number was wrong and the email bounced back, so in a final act of desperation we asked a lady in the market if she had heard of Olivia from Nagigi village. “Yes, she’s over there” was the reply. Easy as that!
And so we met Olivia, a 69 year old, formidable, yet wonderful lady. Within an hour or so, she had us loaded onto the bus to her village and no sooner had we arrived than we were being plied with heaps of sandwiches, rotis and banana bread. This theme continued throughout the stay – portions were certainly plentiful!
We stayed in her beautiful house, showered from a bucket, went to bed with the daylight and loved every second. Despite her five bedrooms, Olivia insists on sleeping on a coconut leaf mat on the living room floor – clearly that and her herbal medicine concoctions (fed to us, next time we will stick to the tea and coffee!) keep her young.
Whilst there, we got the chance to visit the local school, full of friendly smiling kids loving getting an education – a far cry from the UK! We also met a large number of her family, including the lovely Helen and Tali (aged 5 and 2) who gave us the run around for a full afternoon. In particular, they had great fun using our cameras, although perhaps the action cam was a better choice than the Digital SLR- Abby came close to a couple of heart attacks when Tali wielded that one!
Another great part of our time was spent learning about the traditional foods grown locally, with a memorable visit to the family farm, which started with watching Olivia swipe violently at a coconut with a machete and ended with a lesson in cassava cultivation, basket weaving and Andrew carrying the said coconuts back home for dinner. Good delegation Olivia!
Overall, a wonderful three days of simple living, fantastic fresh food, wonderful hospitality, watching Fiji beat Uruguay and well rested nights! Like all good things it had to sadly come to an end. We got on a ferry to Viti Levu, in the process somehow scoring an upgrade to a bed rather than the floor. Still don’t know how!
Our next port of call was Colo-I-Suva national park, north of Suva. Having got off the ferry at about 5am, we may have been the earliest ever check in! After a leisurely breakfast and much needed coffee by the lake, feeding bread to the fish, we embarked on a slow walk through the park, stopping to admire the beautiful waterfalls, for a swim in the pools and to watch a mongoose. We didn’t quite summon the bravery to join the Fijian kids on the 6m high rope swing over one of the pools…… They seemed to have a bit of practice and were all a bit adept compared to our anticipated belly flops!
As for now, we are stopped at Beachouse beer in hand and accidentally at a Fijian wedding, en route to the Mamanucas. See you there!