Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A weekend of sharks, snakes and bats

We’ve been very lucky to have one of John’s colleagues, Mike, and his MPhil student, David, here since before Alex left. Mike is a post doc that did his PhD with John, so we’ve known him for a long time. He’s slotted into the big brother role quite naturally – he definitely should have had a younger sister.  With them around, we’re still in sightseeing mode, though the list of sights to see around Suva, which was short to begin with, is growing shorter.

Mike demonstrates how to use a cannibal brain fork.

On Sunday, Mike, David and John went on a shark dive. This is where you go out on a boat, don scuba gear with lots of extra weight and drop to the bottom in around 30m of water to see bull sharks being fed tuna heads. The extra weight keeps you from bobbing around in the water column like a tasty morsel. Once you’ve used up your allotted time at that depth, you come up to a shallower water to see black tips, then shallower still to see white tips. Anna isn’t a certified diver and I’m not certified crazy, so we went to the Holiday Inn in Suva and had lunch by the pool before lounging next to it for the afternoon.

Not as attractive as a pina colada by the pool (thanks for the photo, Mike).

Because John had rented a car to go on the shark dive, we had a car for the entirety of Sunday. We’ve pretty much exhausted the tourist attractions close by, so we set off to Wailatua, north on the King’s Road, home of the Snake God Cave. The condition of the roads here are variable. None of the taxis appear to have any suspension left. Neither did the rental car. The road west out of Suva is called the Queen’s Road and is paved at least all the way to Nadi. North is a different story. The King’s Road has sections that are gritted, some that are paved but with enormous potholes, some that are under construction in variable states and one stretch, around 5 miles long quite a way up north that is paved to a standard that any developed country would be pleased with it.

We stopped just out of Suva to get some kava root for a sevusevu for the chief of Wailotua. Kava root is from a pepper plant that is ground and made into a drink that is associated with a strict social ritual. A sevusevu is the presentation of a gift to a village chief, the acceptance of which confers certain privileges or favours to the giver. It is the polite currency for accessing areas of Fiji that are close to villages.

On arrival to the village a group of children ran out to greet us, one of which wiped out on the gravel and gave himself a nasty gash. Fortunately the rental car had both a first aid kit and a roll of toilet paper in its glove box (for the consequences of not have having suspension, I guess) and Mike put a plaster on the boy’s knee. I missed the giving of the sevusevu as I was parking the car.

Chief Bose is the chief of five villages and played for the Auckland Chiefs for three years as a winger. He led the entire tour barefoot. I think that he probably could have done it without the lantern as well. Despite its name, the cave is full of bats, not snakes. There is the brothy, roast chicken smell of bats, particularly in the bigger caverns. The name of the cave refers to a formation of minerals that look like six adjacent snake heads. The floor of the cave was either slick, wet earth or dry crumbly bat droppings, which I had to put my hands in several times to help myself up particularly steep bits.

The Chief was very attentive to me, either because I was John’s wife or because I looked like the most likely to slip and break my ankle. So while I got polite chat about the possibility of holding weddings in the largest cavern, Mike and David got to see where they used to sacrifice people.

Unlike caves that I’ve been to in the US and Europe, this one was very hot and sticky.  Though interesting, I’m not going to go back in a hurry - at least until our UK neighbours the Bevans come for a visit. Richard can bring his bat detector (Richard is a zoologist – most of my UK neighbours do not have bat detectors). Mind you, you don’t need one of those here – the bats are the size of small turkeys.


  1. So far pictures of food, beaches and sharks, any chance of a few more shots of your new house inside and out?

  2. A post dedicated to our house will be posted in the next week or so. I have been taking photos. xx