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.

We travelled along a steep, narrow strip of land with a river on each side in the valleys below. We met no one until we arrived at the village of Koro Wai-Wai, which is situated on the banks of a good-sized river at the entrance to a magnificent gorge of rocky peaks and precipices. Here we found the "Buli" of Namosi squatting down in a miserable, smoky hut where we rested for a few minutes, and the hut was soon filled with a crowd of natives, all anxious to view the "papalangi" (foreigner). The "Buli" agreed to accompany me to Namosi, although his home was in another village. Continuing our journey, we had hard work climbing over boulders, and along slippery ledges overhanging the foaming river many feet below. Steep precipices rose on each side of us, and the gorge grew more narrow as we proceeded. The scenery was grand, and rather resembled the Yosemite Valley, but had the additional attraction of a wealth of tropical foliage. Steep rocky spires topped by misty clouds towered above us and little openings between rocky walls revealed dark green lanes or vistas of tangled tropical growth which the sun never reached. We met many natives, who sat on their haunches when the "Buli" talked to them, and clapped their hands as we passed. This was out of respect for the "Buli," who was an insignificant looking little bearded man and quite naked except for a small "Sulu."

We soon arrived at Namosi. It is a large town situated between two steep walls of rock, and was by far the prettiest place I had seen in Fiji, and that is saying a good deal. The town is on both banks of the Waiandina River, with large "ivi" and other beautiful trees overhanging the water; brilliant coloured crotons, DRACAENAS, and other fine plants imparted a wealth of colour to the scene, and many of the grand old trees were heavily laden with ferns and orchids. During many years' wanderings all the world over, I do not think I have ever come across a more beautiful and ideal spot.

The "Buli" was greeted with cries of "m-m-ka-a" in shrill voices by the women, for all the world like the caw of an old crow. I learned that the "Buli" had not been here for some time, but I seemed to be the chief object of interest, and was followed everywhere by an admiring and curious crowd of dark brown, shiny boys and girls, the former just as they were born and the latter wearing a strip of "Sulu." We put up in a chief's house, and after getting through the usual boiled yams, I went on a tour of inspection around the town, but I soon found that I was the one to be inspected. There was a hum of voices in every hut, and doorways were darkened with many heads. Groups of young men, women and children assembled to see the sight, but scampered away if I approached too near. No white man but the government agent had been here for several years, I was told. Thirty-odd years ago they would not have been satisfied to "look only," but would have wished to taste, and many of the present inhabitants would have made chops of me, and were no doubt peering out of their huts to see if I was fat or lean, and wishing for days gone by but not forgotten. Isolated cases of cannibalism still occur in out-of-the-way parts of Fiji, and it is only fear of the government that stops them, otherwise these mountaineers would at once return to cannibalism. Masirewa came out and stood with folded arms among a large crowd talking about me, and no doubt taking all the credit for my appearance, and staring at me as if he had never seen me before, so that I felt much inclined to kick him.

In the evening, as I skinned the parrot I had shot, Masirewa told me how one man had said that he would like to eat the parrot, and that he had replied: "And the white man too." There was a large and very interested crowd around me as I worked, and they were very much astonished when told that the birds in England were different from those in Fiji, and I was inundated with childish questions about England. Masirewa seemed to be trying to pass himself off on these simple mountaineers as a chief, and was clearly beginning to give himself airs, so that when he started to eat with the "Buli" and myself, I had to snub him, and told him sharply to clean my gun and eat afterwards.

I slept the next morning till seven o'clock, and Masirewa told me that the natives could not understand my sleeping so late, and that they thought I was drunk on "angona," of which I had partaken the night before. "Angona" is the same as "kava" in Samoa, and is the national beverage in Fiji. Masirewa now only wore a "sulu" and discarded his singlet. I suppose it was a case of "In Rome do as Rome does," but he certainly looked better in the dark skin he wore at his birth. I was shown the large rock by the river where more than a thousand people had been killed for their cannibal feasts. They were usually prisoners captured in the Rewa district, also a few white men. They were cut open alive and their hearts torn out, and their bodies were then cut up for cooking on the rock, which I noticed was worn quite smooth. Sometimes they would boil a man alive in a huge cauldron.

While staying at Namosi the "Buli" gave me some lessons in throwing native spears, and in using the bow. Whilst practising the latter I narrowly missed, by a few inches, shooting a woman who stepped out suddenly from behind a hut.

I was out most of the day shooting pigeons in the woods close by, accompanied by the "Buli," Masirewa, and several boys. The woods were full of a wonderfully beautiful creeper, a delicate pink and white CLERODENDRON which grew in large bunches; there was also a very pretty HOYA (wax flower) scrambling up the trees. We filled ourselves with the juicy pink fruit of the "kavika," or what is generally known as the Malacca or rose-apple. The trees were plentiful in the woods, grew to a large size, and were literally loaded with fruit, the fallen fruit resembling a pink carpet. Another very good fruit was the "wi," a golden fruit about the size of a large mango. I have seen both cultivated in the West Indies.

On my return to the village I had a most interesting interview with these ex-cannibals, one old and two middle-aged men, thanks to Masirewa, my interpreter. He first asked them how they liked human flesh, and they all shouted "Venaka, venaka!" (good). Like the natives of New Guinea, they said it was far better than pig; they also declared that the legs, arms and palms of the hands were the greatest delicacies, and that women and children tasted best. The brains and eyes were especially good. They would never eat a man who had died a natural death. They had eaten white man; he was salty and fat, but he was good, though not so good as "Fiji man." One of them had tasted a certain Mr. - - , and the meat on his legs was very fat. They chopped his feet off above the boots, which they thought were part of him, and they boiled his feet and boots for days, but they did not like the taste of the boots. They often kept some of their prisoners and fattened them up, and when the day came for killing one, it was the women of Namosi's duty to take him down to the large stone by the river, where they cut him open alive and tore his heart out. Lastly, I asked if they would still like to eat man if they got the chance, and they were not afraid of being punished, and there was no hesitation in their reply of "Io" (yes), uttered with one voice like the yelp of a hungry wolf, and it seemed to me that their eyes sparkled. They were certainly a very obliging lot of cannibals.

Cannibalism is, of course, practically extinct now in Fiji, but in recent years I am told that there, have been a few odd cases far back in the mountains. On one occasion a man told his wife to build an oven and that he was going to cook her. This she did, and he then killed, cooked, and ate her. Whilst in Fiji I met an Englishman who in the seventies had tasted human meat at a native feast, he believing it was pig, and at the time he thought it was very good. I was told that in the old days when they wanted to know whether a body was cooked enough they looked to see if the head was loose. If the head fell off it was thought to be "cooked to perfection," but I will not vouch for this story being correct.

I gave the "Buli" a box of matches, and he seemed as pleased as if it was a purse of gold; they light all their fires here by wood friction, Some of the pet pigs around here were very oddly marked with stripes and spots of brown, black and white. Whilst in Fiji I often came across natives far from any village who were being followed by pet pigs, as we in England might be followed by dogs. Masirewa amused me more each day by his cheek and self-assurance. Once I asked him what he said to the chief of the hut we were in, and he replied: "Oh! I tell him Get out, you black fellow.' "

We left Namosi early the next morning, a large crowd seeing us off, and I was sorry to bid farewell to one of the most beautiful spots in this wide world. We passed through the villages of Nailili and Waivaka, where I called at the chiefs' huts and held a kind of "at home" for a few minutes, the people simply swarming in to look at me. The "Buli" of Namosi had sent messengers on in front to give notice of my approach, and at each village they had the inevitable hot yams ready to eat, which Masirewa made the most of. At the entrance to each village there was usually a palisade of bamboo or tree-fern trunks, and here a crowd of girls and children would often be waiting, and on my approach they would set up loud yells and scamper off, till I began to think that I must look a very ferocious kind of "papalangai." At Dellaisakau the natives looked a very wild lot. Some of the men had black patches all over their faces, and some had great masses of hair shaped like a parasol. One or two of the women wore only the old-time small aprons of coconut fibre.

We followed the Waiandina River amid very fine scenery. The sloping hills were covered with woods, and we passed under a canopy of bamboo, the large trumpet flowers of the white DATURA, tree-ferns, large "ivi," "dakua" and "kavika" trees loaded with ferns and fine orchids in flower. We crossed the river several times, and I was carried across by a huge Fijian whose head and neck were covered with lime. Rain soon set in again, and we literally wallowed in mud and water. I got drenched by the soaking vegetation, so I afterwards waded boldly through rivers and streams, as it was impossible to get any wetter.

At Nasiuvou the whole village turned out to greet me, and I held my usual reception in the chief's hut. The chief seemed very annoyed that I would not stay the night. No doubt he thought that I would prove a great attraction for his people. The banks of the Waiandina River were crowded as I got into a canoe, and Masirewa, in trying to show off with a large paddle, lost his balance and fell into the water, the yells of laughter from the crowd showing that they were not lacking in humour. Masirewa did not like it at all, but I was very glad, as he had been giving himself too many airs. I dismissed my two bearers and took only one canoe man and made Masirewa help him. We went down several rapids at a great pace. It was dangerous but exhilarating, and we had several narrow escapes of being swamped, as the canoe, being a small one, was often half-filled with water. We also had several close shaves from striking rocks and tree trunks. Ducks were plentiful, and I shot one on the wing as we were tearing down a rapid. The scenery was very fine; steep wooded mountains, rocky peaks with odd shapes, steep precipices, fine waterfalls, grand forests, and picturesque villages, and the scenery as we wound among the mountains was most romantic.

Toward evening we arrived at the large town of Nambukaluku, where we disembarked. Except for a few old men and children we found it deserted, and we learned that the "Buli," who is a very important chief, had gone to stay at the village of Natondre for some important ceremonies for a few days, and most of the inhabitants had gone with him. Thither I determined to go, and we set off along a mountain path. The rain was all gone, and it was a lovely, still evening. Suddenly I heard distant yells and shouts and the beating of the "lalis" (hollow wooden drums), and I set off running, leaving Masirewa and my canoe man carrying my baggage far behind, and on turning a sharp corner I came full upon the village of Natondre and a most interesting sight. Hundreds of natives were squatting on the ground of the village square, and about one hundred men with faces black and in full war paint, swinging war clubs, were rushing backward and forward yelling and singing while large wooden drums were beaten. They were dressed in most fantastic style, some only with fibrous strings round their loins, and others with yards of "tapa" cloth wound around them. Several women were jumping about with fibre aprons on, and all had their hair done up in many curious ways and sprinkled with red and yellow powders. Huge piles of mats were heaped in the open square, speeches were made, and the people all responded with a deep "Ah-h" which sounded most effective from the huge multitude. I came up in the growing dusk and stood behind a lot of people squatting down. Suddenly some one looked round and saw me - sensation - whispers of "papalangai" were heard on all sides, and looks of astonishment were cast in my direction. Certainly my entrance to Natondre could not have been more dramatic, and I believe that they almost thought that I had FALLEN FROM THE SKIES, which is the literal meaning of the word "papalangai."