Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/663

This page has been validated.
645
AMONG THE FIJI ISLANDS.

erably extended. Organized facilities for travel do not exist; but the traveler's path will be smoothed if he brings introductions to some leading official, or to one of the principal traders or planters. If he wisely cultivates the society alike of the official and of the non-official class, he will realize more profoundly than he ever did -before the great truth that there are two sides to every question. To this unfortunate antagonism I shall return later. Meanwhile I recall, with mingled sensations, a voyage of a fortnight in an open boat along the northern shores of Viti Levu, the principal island of the group, and about eighty by fifty-five miles in extent. The preparations for such a voyage are at all events simple. Of personal luggage the less the better—say a change of raiment and a mosquito-net, or "screen" as they call it in the colonies; for provisions, besides a tin or two of biscuits, some tea, whisky, and tobacco, you require only an assortment of the useful but most innutritious "ironclad"—i. e., tinned meats, here in universal use, and curiously in great demand among the natives, probably owing to the little trouble they involve. Hardly a coral strand in Fiji so romantic or remote but it may be found strewed with the empty tins. Judging from their effect on myself, I should cite them as a most potent cause of the decline of the native population!

We started punctually, Vaka Viti[1]—that is to say, having been trysted on board for Saturday at daybreak, we got under way on Monday afternoon. Indeed, only a man of exceptional energy like my conductor could, I was assured, have performed such a feat. Meanwhile the delay had nearly led to our spending a night al fresco on the Rewa River, whose famous mosquitoes would have left little of us to tell the tale. These Fijian rivers are of great size relatively to the extent of the land, and the delta of the Rewa forms the eastern extremity of the island. We had intended, accordingly, entering by its southern mouth, some miles distant from Suva, to ascend the stream some way, and thence down another embouchure to the northern coast. As it was, night overtook us soon after entering the river; and, although we at last sighted a light which indicated a house, there was much grounding on mud-banks, and retracing of our course, and weary hours of pulling, before we reached the desired point. My host being on an official tour, and thoroughly acquainted with the people and their language, there was but little difficulty about our reception anywhere—not that any respectable traveler could have much difficulty among these amiable people. Hospitality here, after all, is a simple matter, for native food is plentiful, and there is usually room for everybody, besides that the chief of the village has often more houses than one.

  1. Fiji fashion, according to Fiji notions.