Extracts from ‘Fiji and Tavewa’
by Mark Koehler
Robinson Crusoe is a fictional story by Daniel Defoe first published almost 300 years ago (in 1719) about a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote island near Venezuela.
It is thought to have been based on the real-life character, Alexander Selkirk, a Scot who was marooned for four years on an island called ‘Mas a Tierra’ near Chile. In 1966 its name was changed to Robinson Crusoe Island. In Fiji there is the traditionally sacred island of Likuri, also known as Robinson Crusoe Island – just off the Coral Coast, south of Nadi.
These days it is a backpacker resort island and the run-off from the mainland has killed much of the coral. I’ll look somewhere else for Crusoe . . .
. . . Fiji is in the tourism business and is four hours by air, north-east of Sydney. The main island is Viti Levu and the other islands are scattered across one million square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean. Life here is organised according to ‘Fiji time’, which is confoundingly approximate, and much slower than what we are used to in Australia (in urban areas at least).
Fijians are famous for their hospitality and most often you are greeted with ‘Bula!’ (Hello and welcome!) The three main religions are Rugby Union, Christianity, and Hindu – in that order. Kava too, is an institution. It is the traditional Fijian drink made from the root of a type of pepper plant and is a crucial ceremonial element in Fijian culture. It is muddy, mildly narcotic and will make your tongue go furry and your lips numb . . .
. . . It’s quite a mental and visual leap from the ostentatious Denarau to the simple “welcome” blackboard on the beach at Otto & Fannys on Tavewa Island . . .
. . . Overgrown now, David’s Place was a backpacker resort on Tavewa which went broke. Apparently the owner lived an extravagant lifestyle on the mainland with women and booze while his nephews and staff struggled to make ends meet on Tavewa. The buildings are skeletal and mournful. Ghostly now, but it is easy to imagine the energy and buzz amid a throng of young international travelers. Being here in this derelict silence is eerie. I take a few quick shots but it’s not long before I pack the camera gear away and go . . .
. . . Time weaves its magic spell of intrigue upon old things left out on a rock – to sit and rust and fill with sand. For a photographer these things are captivating . . .
. . . The dancing colours and textures enchant and gather me in. Without flippers, I explore and meander, drifting and disoriented. I strike out diagonally across the drift of the drowning current toward the far-off beach . . .
. . . Cemeteries are always fascinating places for historians and photographers . . . it has a meditative calming effect – perhaps someone else comes up here to sit and dream or pray.