After a month on Viti Levu, I was ready to make the journey over to the next largest island in Fiji, Vanua Levu, to search for more Cyrtandra species. Flights between islands are pretty expensive, so Gregory and I opted to take the overnight ferry. Unfortunately, the nicest passenger ferry currently operating, the Lomaviti Princess, was full and so we ended up on a shipping ferry run by Bligh. This entailed a 3-hr bus ride to the wharf, followed by a 10 hr ferry ride. Long story short, it was one of the worst night’s sleep I can remember, curled up in fetal position on a table bench in the passenger lounge, with hundreds of cockroaches crawling all around me (and surely on me if I dared to nod off for a second). We finally arrived in Savusavu, a pleasant town situated on a large bay full of expats and retired yachties, at 5 in the morning and hitched a ride to our hotel in a courier truck.
The following day I hired a 4WD taxi to take us up the mountain to Waisali Forest Reserve to meet up with Ranuka, a park ranger whom was to be my field guide for the next few days. The plan was to follow a large stream system that traversed across the mountain range, as stream banks are an excellent place to look for Cyrtandra. Our first day was really successful, finding three different species occurring pretty commonly along the stream (C. dolichocarpa, C. attenuata, and C. cephalophora). Ranuka was an excellent field guide, and a super nice guy on top of it, making for a fun day of work.
The next day he offered to take us to his village down in one of the valleys nearby so I could look for more species along a creek that runs behind their plantations. To be granted permission to enter a Fijian village it is customary to purchase a sevusevu, a gift of kava roots (Piper methisticum), and present it to the village chief. Most large farmers markets in Fiji have stalls dedicated to kava, and it can be purchased as a powder or root, although the root is preferred for the sevusevu. The roots are then pounded into a fine powder and mixed with water to form Fiji’s official drink, kava (also referred to as grog by the locals, as after a long night of partaking in kava drinking leaves you really groggy the next day). With our sevusevu in hand, we drove to Waisali village the following day, where we were warmly welcomed by Ranuka and his family. With the sevusevu presented to the chief we were ready for fieldwork. Passing through the villages haphazard plantations of kava, dalo, and cassava, we reached a small creek and began searching for Cyrtandra. After maybe five minutes of walking I spotted a glabrous Cyrtandra species with large yellowish-white flowers and fruits that looked like green beans occurring commonly along the creek. Although the flowers and fruits are somewhat similar to C. dolichocarpa, I have not been able to key it out as of yet, and it is possible this could be an undescribed species. The other highlight of the day was when Ranuka caught a freshwater eel (called duna in Fijian) in the creek with a few whacks of his machete. At the end of the day, we were invited into Ranuka’s home for some wonderful lemongrass tea and pancakes (kind of like a round donut) made by his sweet wife Pauline. Four species in two days made our collecting trip to Waisali a success, and we were also rewarded with the experience of spending some time in Waisali village.