2005/08/08

Horseback Riding - Fijian Style

Horseback riding on Taveuni? Yes! Cattle and horses (called ose in Fijian) were introduced to the Fiji Islands a century ago. During the 1930's there was even a horsetrack on Taveuni. When World War II broke out, Fiji was still under British rule, so people prepared for or went to the war and the horses were mostly let loose to become wild. Not so many years ago one might even see wild horses in Taveuni Estates.

Today, there is still a cattle ranch in Southen end of Taveuni and small butcher shop. You can order meat from them and have it delivered to you the next day. I'm not a meat eater, but I hear the steaks are excellent.

A few people still use horses for transportation on the island, and there is small ranch which offers rides up the lushly vegetated cinder cones to an elevation of one thousand feet. Bale - pronouced "bah-lay" - is the ranch owner. He offers rides at very reasonable rates. Ask him about his younger days playing on the Taveuni rugby team - he's got some great stories about Fiji's favorite sport.

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Bale leads the way


The route we took was from the ranch on the "main road" (don't expect paving in this part of the island) West, then onto to trails along small farms of yaqona (pronounced "yangona"), from which the drink kava is made, and up to an ancient cinder cone now covered with ferns and trees. The views along the way of the lush vegetation covering the volcanoes are stunning. In case you are wondering, the last known eruption on Taveuni, was about 500 years ago.

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Bale's homemade cowhide saddle with the horn in the back


The crater, or cinder cone we rode to was filled with taro plants, which is a staple food throughout the Pacific region.
At the top, nearly midway between the East and West coasts, we could see the whole of the South end of the island. The volcanic peaks to the North, vast copra plantations on either side of us, and the beautiful bright hues of Cakaulaleka reef.
In the distance to the Southeast, some of Fiji's 57 Lau Islands were visible. These small coral islands, reachable only by cargo boats which sail sporadically from Suva, looked mysterious and inviting.

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Copra plantation and Cakauleka Reef


On the way back, we took a break and Bale climbed a coconut tree and dropped a few green ones to the ground. Coconut in one hand and machette in the other, he deftley opened them with a few strokes and we were treated to a refreshing drink.

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Bale up a tree- watch for falling coconuts


The rides are 2 to 3 hours long, so if you have a free morning, why not take a ride - no experience necessary - and enjoy the sights of South Taveuni? You'll also enjoy the taxi ride from Taveuni estates which winds along high cliffs on a well maintained road (the bus service uses this route). The vegetation is rain forest most of the way and the views of crystal clear ocean and other islands is quite memorable.

4 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

That sounds absolutely wonderful. I always enjoy reading about native plants (?) like taro that are part of the people and the land.

In Oregon, we have Camas (Camm-us) and Wapato (Wah-pah-toe), but they are displaced enough not to be native foods any longer. Wild salmon can still be found and eaten.

I would like to see these beautiful lands some day and try to sense the reality, as much as an outsider can try, of the people who live in such a grand place.

Pandabonium said...

Mmmm, wild salmon, my favorite fish.

I should do a post about taro. I was surprised to find it here in Japan.

The Moody Minstrel said...

How is taro usually eaten in Fiji?

Pandabonium said...

They usually bake it. I haven't had any in Fiji, but have had baked taro many times in Hawaii. It reminds me of artichoke heart that way.

There is a good sized taro crop in Taveuni Estates where I plan to go. It is sold in New Zealand and Hawaii where it is made into poi.