Gunu Village, tucked away in a wide bay at the top of Naviti Island, was the first of the isolated island villages that we visited on this trip. Like most Yasawan villages, it is only accessible by boat.
Backed by a line of steep hills, the village is almost invisible on the shoreline.
As we sailed closer, the village seemed to emerge from the trees.
On shore, our crew prepared the lovu for our evening meal –
a traditional Fijian ‘feast’ of fish, pork and vegetables cooked on hot rocks covered by sand.
While they did that, we made our way through the village.
Nothing is wasted when it comes to building shelters.
The cooking area is outside on the left behind the small boy.
I wondered about the old wheelchair by the front door.
The terrain of sand and grass paths is not very conducive to wheelchair mobility.
This was an innovated use of clam shells as building material.
This little fellow’s extended tummy was a reminder to me that too many little ones die too young in these isolated villages, far from medical help and often from nutritious food.
Some very old trees on the shore line framed our ship, the MV Reef Endeavour.
The left side branches from this gnarled and twisted tree had not survived the wrath of Cyclone Evan which hit these islands of Fiji in December 2012. Note that David is wearing a sulu, a material wrap, as he enters the village. Fijian village culture requires that the shoulders and knees are to be covered and no hats are to be worn. It’s always so important to respect the wishes of the hosts when we are guests.
The foreshore of the village with a rainbow was very picturesque. But you can see how the whole top section of this old tree has been broken off by the winds.
While many island homes are now built of concrete blocks with tin roofs, this is one of the traditional houses using coconut as the main building material and thatching for the roof. But there is a modern touch with the solar panel on a pole (right) that provides electricity – a very new addition in the village.
Church is a very important part of the life of these villagers. Many are Methodist.
While most of the dead are buried in a village cemetery outside the village, Pastors and Village Chiefs are sometimes buried in a place of honour in front of the church.
There are not many flowers grown in a village like this, but these adorned the special graves.
This is a typical view in this village –
a small tin roofed dwelling, a new solar panel and trees that have been broken by the cyclone.
Another view of dwellings that have been restored after the cyclone.
These houses are beside an open area that is used as the rugby field… rugby is the sport of choice!
Note again, that each house has a solar energy panel. These were provided by AusAID.
Gunu village was given support after the cyclone through the Pacific Community-focused Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction or PCIDRR for short! According to its web site PCIDRR is “a community based disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiative, funded by theAustralian Government Aid program, AusAID, and implemented through the National Council of Churches Australia (NCCA) and the church networks in the four countries in which it is implemented – Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga. Its goal is to create safer Pacific island communities, more resilient to disasters, so that people may achieve sustainable livelihoods and have more control over their lives.”
Apart from the church, the village also has a community hall where the villagers can get together and where they can entertain guests like us.
The ‘shell and craft’ market is always a feature of a village visit.
And the smiles are free!
David took some beautiful portraits of some of the younger members of the village community.
As the light began to fade, the crew unwrapped the lovu and prepared our dinner to be eaten in the community hall. Personally I have a real issue with this way of ship’s passengers being fed in the village. The meal is not shared with the village people. Although the food is provided by the ship and cooked and served by the crew, and the village is paid for our visit, to me there is something wrong about eating in front of others, especially when the village people are poor and when food is so scarce on these islands.
Inside the hall, before we ate, there was the traditional Kava welcoming ceremony with the men of the village. Later the floor was cleared and the village people sang and performed traditional dances for our enjoyment – always a lot of fun. They then invited the visitors to join them on the dance floor before we wended our way back through the village to the beach to be taken back to the ship.
These village visits are indeed a highlight of a Captain Cook Fiji cruise.