Inland from Sigatoka, is the area known as "The Salad Bowl". This fertile valley is dotted with small productive farms and market gardens, supplying much of Viti Levu with fresh produce.
There are dozens of small villages along the banks of the Sigatoka river...many of these are visited by the river safaris tour, if you want to get a feel for what Fijian village life is like.
Once you get away from the narrow tourism corridor of the Coral Coast and head inland, you start to see how Fijians really live. And for those people used to a well developed country such as the US, NZ or Australia, it can come as a bit of a shock. Life is hard, and money is tight for these people. they are subsistence farmers, and rely on selling excess products in the markets, so they can buy the neccessities of life.
I have stayed in a village where the residents still have to trek to the river to get water for their daily needs. And cooking is done outside over an open fire. Something like an empty "Fiji Water" bottle that I was ready to throw away, is a valuable container to these people. It can be very humbling. And yet, little as these people have, they will happpily share it with you and still be smiling.
As you drive inland from Sigatoka, you wind up through some hills, and then drop down into the valley on the other side. This is where the big market gardens are. Many of them are owned by Chinese Fijians, and grow a huge range of produce. Tomatoes, pawpaw, chillis, brassicas, lettuce and other greens.
The further up the road you go, the rougher it becomes. My last trip up there was made in an underpowered Mazda wellside utility. Eight people in the back, and four in the front - in the dark, with only one headlight that cast a tiny pale yellow glow onto the road ahead. To top it off, it was raining and the dirt road was treacherous. Of course the window wipers didn't work either. Constantly slipping and sliding, I was sure we were going to get stuck or slide off the road. Several times, we only got to the crest of a hill by having people jump off the back and giving a push. But that is all part of the fun when travelling the back roads of Fiji.
Only a few miles inland from Sigatoka, is the well known Nakabuta pottery village. You don't have to go here to buy the pottery, it is sold at various market stalls on the Coaral Coast. However, it makes for a very interesting trip, to see how the pots are actually made. Very simple and old techniques, especially in the firing process.
No pottery wheels or electric kilns here; the pots are crafted by hand, and fired in an open fire. Once they come out they get glazed in resin, which not only waterproofs them, it gives them a distinctive dark glossy appearance.
They don't only produce pots. There are necklaces, sculptures, plant hangers, and so on. These make a special and lasting memento of your trip to Fiji, and their prices are not high.