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Fiji relies on tourist dollars and it's the islands that bring in those tourist dollars. If people are going to fly all that way then maybe a visit to Bukuya, or a similar village, is worth consideration.

Bringing Home The Bacon

I'm sat on the concrete floor of a room similar in size to an average living room.There's no furniture in here, no windows either, but there is a television.

It's been bought into the village for the very first time along with a sky satellite box unit, for today is a special day.

In the room with me and the six other tourists staying in small straw huts in the village, is in the region of two hundred local men; the only one of which has any leg room is the chief, who sits grinning on his throne in prime viewing territory.

Outside the same amount of children and men of lesser stature crowd the holes, which the architect had intended for windows and doors. I'm engulfed by an overwhelming sense of occasion, perhaps even greater than that which the villagers experience as Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson step into the ring to compete for the title of heavyweight champion of the world.

The noise was deafening as Tyson slumped to the floor in the eighth round and the whole scene was something I had never experienced before. The whole day was like nothing I had experienced before.

I Recall Events From Earlier in the Day

I was one of the tourists being led by a machete wielding Fijian in blue overalls, which had stains from the grapefruit recently devoured during a break on our three hour walk through thick but pristinely beautiful jungle.

It's hot and, in my wayward imagination, I imagine that the Fijian up front is leading us deep into the woods, where he will strike us down with his sword; taking me first, as I would be hardest to catch should the group flee as I am young and athletic compared to those languishing behind.

We will then be offered to the chief as a sacrifice for the village, before the locals perform a hedonistic dance around a fire; whilst half a dozen tourists burn in a cauldron, as 600 villagers lick their lips!

Some children are so hungry they try to sneak under the burning bodies and have a nibble before we're even cooked!

So I drop back to third in line.

I admit, sometimes my imagination can run away. It's been ages since the Fijians relied on cannibalism, I remind myself.

The guide did, after all, catch a grapefruit for each person in the group by throwing sticks up to detach the fruit from the tree; but this could have been a method for fattening us up.

Lunch in Fiji

Getting ready for lunch in Fiji.

During lunch these ridiculous notions of mine pass. I'm even brave enough to follow a local fisherman, armed with his own blade, down the river to hold the shrimps that he pulls from small crevices in the rocks.

Lunch proves to be a little different to the norm. Eel and shrimp in hot honey sauce, served with potato plant wrapped in bamboo.

For dessert there's more grapefruit and as we're now adapted to the jungle the guides allow us to roam as we like; even with machete's, to catch our own fruit.

It's like Lord of the Flies!

Bukuya Village

For me, this is what makes a visit to Bukuya village so romantic.

You're living by their rules; and there isn't any.

We come across a tree of magnificent proportions. There is not a shadow of doubt that in any other country in the world the specimen would be a major tourist attraction with a fence around it and a wooden plaque detailing it's history and ecological importance.

Here, we're encouraged to race to the top.

I agree entirely.... it's still just a tree, after all.

When the tour operator, a shifty looking chap named Peni who operates from a store in Nadi, tells you a tour in Bukuya takes you back to nature he is not joking.

Just because you are European it doesn't mean you won't be sleeping in one of the spider-infested straw huts with shared outdoor shower facilities that consist of freezing cold water and a saucepan.

Neither will you be served coca cola whilst the locals drink Kava from a coconut shell. You'll drink the Kava plant too and after several cups you won't like it (it tastes like dirty water) but you'll drink it or it'll offend the chief; although he wouldn't know who's drinking and who isn't, as he's swaying side to side after fifteen cups of the potent liquid.

This is Life in Bukuya

There are six hundred villagers living in houses varying from small shacks constructed awkwardly of sheet metal, to impressive straw houses for the chief and village elders.

There is a school with a large playibng-field, which the children (all dressed in blue and white uniform) share with chickens that spill over from neighbouring houses.

At the top end of the village there are six buvas, igloo shaped straw huts, for tourist visitors; like us.

Peni had the brainwave several years ago, to introduce foreigners to the traditional Fijian way of life, not only to provide an alternative to the small beach islands where the masses flock, but also to generate useful income for Bukuya village.

Therefore you are treated to huge grins and friendly 'Bulas' from adults and children alike. Still, ultimately you're on a tour so you are catered to and cared for.

If you weren't intrepid enough in the forest to sample fried eel or shrimp, there'll be a cooked meal waiting on arrival back at the village; served with orange juice and not the kava that the locals inexplicably desire.

The experience really is what you make it.

The tour involves driving you down a long, winding dust road, stopping occasionally for cows and wild horses blocking the road, in a small pick-up truck.

From there you will be shown your hut, and you will be told what time dinner is. That's it.

You can decide if you wish to take a walk to the hills or around the village, go pig-hunting with Abele or fishing with Cafe, the self-proclaimed finest fisherman in Bukuya.

If you want to walk two hours to the freezing waters of the waterfall they will take you, should you desire more kava with the chief you'll be welcomed with open arms. If you would like to crush the kava plant nobody will begrudge you a try.

One evening I disregarded all activities and sat under the night sky at its most beautiful (few people in the world sees the stars the way Fijians see the stars) and nobody bothered me for a moment.

In this world of booming tourism, it's refreshing to find an organised trip where there is no itinerary, no set-menu or structure of time. Time here is never time at all, it's 'Fiji time'.

Fiji time means 'as and when I choose to get off my lazy arse and do something'.

They're not angels here, they will ask you in private for 'a donation for the village', which translated means 'donation for my kava' but what they provide here is a good thing.<

Fiji Tourism

Fiji relies on tourist dollars and it's the islands that bring in those tourist dollars..... and if people are going to fly all that way then maybe a visit to Bukuya, or a similar village, is worth consideration.

The towns, after all, barely warrant a mention.

Nadi's only activity is avoiding the swarms of persuasive shopkeepers, whilst Sigatoka can be explored before the bus you arrived in has even departed the station.

As for the largest city in the Fiji Islands, Suva, well I was only there one night but it was long enough for me to be the victim of an attempted mugging.

Colo-I-Suva: It's really, really, really cool!
Colo-I-Suva

If not for the majestic natural pools of the Colo-I-Suva forest a visit to the city wouldn't be worth consideration.

The beaches of Fiji are beautiful, as you can see from the photos in any brochure. The huts don't have spiders in them and the resorts provide hot water and you don't need to catch your lunch.

But who says they're luxuries? Catching pigs is fun you know?

By Ben Morris.

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