Matacawalevu is a small Yasawan village with a long name!
It’s pronounced mar-tar-tha-wa-lev-oo and it means long beach.
And it is a long beach on the shores of a clear blue channel between two islands.
It’s the village that David and I know best in these islands because we spent a week in this area in 2003.
This was a great opportunity to revisit and catch up with the people.
From the ship, we could see the small church tucked behind the palm trees.
Helping the village people to paint their church was the reason for our last visit here.
It was a wonderful way to get to know them.
We transferred across the fairly narrow channel to the village from Reef Endeavour in the small boats.
As usual it was a wet landing on the beach.
It’s a delightful beach for walking along and the water was warm for swimming. Many passengers chose to spend their time doing just that.
Traditionally, the main income for this village is fishing and, these days, fibreglass outboard motor boats line the beach. As many of the young people find work in nearby island tourist resorts, they can now afford and need these more reliable newer boats not only for fishing but to get to and from work in the resorts and to get supplies.
Seeing the remains of some old style wooden boats tucked in the trees, reminded me of our time here in 2003 when we travelled between islands in the area in boats such as these One particular day comes to mind. It was on the Sunday after the church painting was finished. We were going from our very rustic, sand between the toes accommodation at Oarsman’s Bay Lodge on beautiful Nacula Island to Matacawalevu for the church service. When we were about halfway there, with not another village in sight, the fuel in the very small outboard motor ran out. As we bobbed about on the waves, with very little freeboard and no life jackets, we wondered just how we could be rescued – no mobile phones here then! It was Sunday. Everyone in the nearby villages would be at their own church services. No one would be out fishing.
Our rescue came in the form of another small wooden boat carrying a family to a nearby village where a relative had just died. They changed course to come to see why we were bobbing about and, in good Fijian fashion, gave us enough of their fuel for us to finish our journey. I only hope they had enough fuel left to finish their journey! Fuel was ( and is ) expensive and the village people have little money. To share theirs with us was a great and timely gift.
Matacawalevu remains a traditional village in which visitors must first visit the chief person, the Ratu, and ask permission to visit his village before speaking with any of the village people or wandering around the village.
So those of us who wanted to visit in the village, first went to the Ratu’s home, to request that permission. Of course we were dressed appropriately with shoulders and knees covered and wearing no hats. Shoes were taken off at the door. Men entered first followed by the women. Unfortunately, it was not explained to us on this occasion that we should not sit with our feet pointing out towards the Ratu. Being westerners used to sitting on chairs, it’s often difficult for us to sit on the floor, legs crossed in the Fijian way, especially as we get older. The Ratu overlooked this indiscretion on our part and gave his permission for the visit! The ship pays the village for us to visit and that is another way the village earns some income. And of course, the women of the village have a shell and craft market.
One of my priorities was to check out the church! It still looked good.
The rusting iron roof on the main church had been replaced on another Rotary visit.
I noticed that the smaller roofs over the entry ways are still in need of renewal.
The church is a very important part of the life of this village
I spent my time whilst in the village chatting to people I had met here before.
As I walked through the village, I noticed several houses still not repaired after the cyclone.
Paths between houses are mown strips of grass.
I didn’t realise until I got back to the ship, that my long sulu had gathered hundreds of grass seeds.
When back on the ship, I spent a good hour or so removing these stowaways from my sulu!
As usual in a Fijian village, there’s a central field for Rugby!
People in these houses have a ‘grand stand’ view of the inter village matches.
David found this little one bemused by the visitors.
Greg enjoyed catching up with a young man he has mentored for many years.
I spent quite some time chatting with an elder villager about the food problems after the cyclone.
While his wife was at the craft market, he was cooking lunch for the family
– fish he had just caught in these pristine waters.
He cooked it in a little coconut milk with a small amount of onion.
They would eat it with a little of the rice left from their emergency supplies.
Their vegetable of choice, taro, is still growing following the cyclone.
The village people in these islands take great care of their reefs and fish resources.
They understand the need for careful conservation because fish is such an important staple in their food supply.
When snorkelling here, you don’t see as many large fish as you do on coral reefs in other countries.
But these reefs are full of young fish – it’s a natural form of farming fish.
After a cyclone, fish is generally the only source of nutritional food.
We were sad when it was time to say goodbye again and return to our ship.
But that night, we had the fun of a crew meke, songs and dances enjoyed by all.
I’ve added a few videos of the night’s fun – I hope you enjoy them.
Please be patient if they take a little time to load up.
And from here, in the wee small hours of the morning, we set sail for the main island of Viti Levu.
We were to have sailed to Denarau to farewell some passengers and pick up others,
but the weather was not in our favour and we sailed instead for the port town of Lautoka.
More of that town in the next story in this Fijian saga.
All Photographs © JT and DY of jtdytravels