CHAPTER 3. Among Ex-Cannibals in Fiji.
Journey into the Interior of Great Fiji - A Guide Secured - The Start - Arrival at Navua - Extraction of Sago - Grandeur of Scenery - A Man covered with Monkey-like Hair - A Strangely Coloured Parrot - Wild Lemon and Shaddock Trees - A Tropical "Yosemite Valley" - Handclapping as a Native Form of Salute - Beauty of Namosi - The Visitor inspected by ex-Cannibals - Reversion to Cannibalism only prevented by fear of the Government - A Man who would like to Eat my Parrot "and the White Man too" - The Scene of Former Cannibal Feasts - Revolting Accounts of Cannibalism as Formerly Practised - Sporadic Cases in Recent Years - An Instance of Unconscious Cannibalism by a White - Reception at Villages EN ROUTE - Masirewa Upset - Descent of Rapids - Dramatic Arrival at Natondre ("Fallen from the Skies").
Toward the end of my stay in the Fijian Islands I determined to make a journey far into the interior of Viti Levu (Great Fiji), the largest island of the great Fijian archipelago. Suva, the chief town in Fiji, and the headquarters of the government, is on this island, but very few Europeans travel far beyond the coast, and my friends in Suva declared that I would have a fit of repentance before I had travelled very far, as the interior of the island is extremely mountainous and rough. After a great deal of trouble I managed to get an interpreter named Masirewa, who came from the small island of Bau. He was a fine-looking fellow, and, like most Fijians, possessed a tremendous mop of hair. His stock of English was limited, and we often misunderstood each other, but he proved a most amusing companion, if only on account of his unlimited "cheek."
I ought here to mention that Fijians vary a great deal, both in colour and language. Fiji is the part of the Pacific where various types meet, viz., Papuan, Malayan, and Polynesian. The mountaineers around Namosi, which I visited, who were all cannibals twenty-five years ago, are much darker in colour than the coast natives, and they are undoubtedly of Papuan origin.
I left Suva with Masirewa on the morning of October 12th, and after a short sea voyage of three or four hours on a small steam launch, we arrived at the village of Navua. I had a letter to Mr. McOwan, the government commissioner for that district. He put me up for the night, and we played several games of tennis, and my stay, though short, was an exceedingly pleasant one. The whites in Fiji are the most hospitable people in the world. They are of the old REGIME that is dying out fast everywhere.
The next day I set out on my journey into the interior, Masirewa and another Fijian carrying my baggage (which was wrapped up in waterproof cloth) on a long bamboo pole. We followed the course of the Navua River for some distance. In the swamps bordering the river grew quantities of a variety of sago palm (SAGUS VITIENSIS) called by the natives Songo. They extract the sago from the trunk, and the palm always dies after flowering. After passing through about four miles of sugar cane, with small villages of the Indian coolies who work in the cane fields, we left behind us the last traces of civilization. We next came to a very beautiful bit of hilly country, densely wooded on the hills, though bordering the broad gravelly beaches of the river were long stretches of beautiful grassy pastures. Darkness set in as we ascended some thickly wooded hills. The atmosphere was damp and close, and mosquitoes plentiful, and small phosphorescent lumps seemed to wink at us out of the darkness on every side. I had to strike plenty of matches to discover the track, and continually bumped myself against boulders and the trunks of tree-ferns. It was late when we arrived at the village of Nakavu, on the banks of the Navua River, where I was soon asleep on a pile of mats in the hut of the "Buli," or village chief.
The next morning I resumed my journey with Masirewa and two canoe-men in a canoe, and we were punted and hauled over numerous dangerous rapids, at some of which I had to get out. We passed between two steep, rocky cliffs the whole way, and they were densely clothed with tree-ferns and other rank tropical vegetation, the large white sweet-scented DATURA being very plentiful. The scenery was very beautiful, and numerous waterfalls dashed over the rocky walls with a sullen roar. Ducks were plentiful, but my ammunition being limited, I shot only enough to supply us with food. I felt cramped sitting in a canoe all day, but I enjoyed myself in spite of the continuous and heavy rain.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the small village of Namuamua, on the right bank of the river, with the village of Beka on the other side. We were given a small hut all to ourselves, and we fared sumptuously on duck and boiled yams. The next morning I was shown a curious but ghastly object, viz., a man covered with hair like a monkey, and I was told that he had never been able to walk. He dragged himself about on his hands and feet, uttering groans and grunts like an animal.
I hired two fresh bearers to carry my baggage, and after we had crossed the river three or four times we passed over some steep and slippery hills for some distance. I managed to shoot a parrot that I had not seen on any of the other islands. It was green, with a black head and yellow breast. The rain came down in torrents, and I got well soaked. We went for miles through woods with small timber, but full of bright crotons, DRACAENAS, bamboos, and a very sweetscented plant somewhat resembling the frangipani, the flower of which covered the ground. We passed under the shade of sweet-scented wild lemon and shaddock trees, but we got the bad with the good, as a horrible stench came from a small green flowering bush. A beautiful pink and white ground orchid (CALANTHE) was plentiful.