Island News

A walk to remember

Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. Sitting in the office on Monday morning, my thoughts focused on what stories I would be covering during the week. I realized I had established
13 Sep 2008 12:00

image Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. Sitting in the office on Monday morning, my thoughts focused on what stories I would be covering during the week.
I realized I had established a contact with Apenisa Naiyalatabua whom I met at Namuamua Village a month ago.
I picked up the phone and dialed his number and the next thing I knew, I was going to go to Wainilotulevu village with our photographer Sophie Ralulu the very next day and return on Wednesday.
Sophie who was very excited and at the same time inquisitive about where we were heading, was bombarding me with loads of questions which I could not provide answers to because I had no idea what was in store for us during the trip.
Instructions given by Mr Naiyalatabua was that we were to come to Navua Market and catch a boat that goes up to the village and that on the way up there, we would stop at Namuamua Village to pick him up – these were all that I knew and the rest of the trip was unknown to us – our life was in Mr Naiyalatabua’s hands.
When we reached Navua and was waiting for the boat to go up to our destination, we met up with some of the villagers from Wainilotulevu who enquired where and why we were going to their village.
When we told them we were headed for Wainilotulevu, they had to ask us again if we were for real.
Apparently some of them were also going up there and they started to pass remarks just to psyche us up for the trip ahead of us.
Some of the remarks were ‘if you have not been to Wainilotulevu then you have not been to Namosi’ and another one ‘are you two sure you are both ready and fit to go there’.
These remarks sort of got me thinking but I know the villagers only meant well and I gave a confident reply of ‘yes’ we are ready.
One of them men also waiting for the boat did not realize I could understand their dialect very well, as I overheard him saying that we would change our minds and come back when we saw the four kilometers of steep hills we had to climb.
I told myself come rain, storm or shine, Sofi and I would make it to Wainilotulevu Village.
The boat ride took us two hours which we enjoyed because of the breath-taking scenery.
We stopped over at a spot to take a dip and it was amazing considering that we were away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
We came to a stop at a rocky place surrounded by mountains and I knew this where we bid farewell to the boat operator.
But the boat operator decided to wait around for a while longer just in case we changed our minds and decided to head back.
I slowly asked Mr Naiyalatabua where the village was located and if it was near our drop-off point.
I got a shocking reply from our tour guide and Daniele Turaga commonly known as Raj as they said that the village was nowhere near, not after walking four kilometers uphill.
Sophie and I were looking around and all we could see were mountains and hills and thick green vegetation.
I took a deep breath, took time to encourage Sophie and said to myself ‘bring it on’ Namosi.
The start of our journey was an uphill climb leaving Sophie and I gasping for breath.
As we reached the top, Sophie reached for her cigarettes while I gulped water to quench my thirst.
I regretted taking a dip as my clothes were soaking wet and contributed to the heavy weight which was not what I needed climbing uphill.
Sophie went ahead with Mr Naiyalatabua while I tagged along at the back with Raj who was laughing so hard after I continuously asked ‘are we there yet?’ or ‘are we anywhere near the village’.
It took ages before I heard Raj give a positive reply to my question of the day and even though he had said the village was near, we were still walking and it seemed the village was moving away from us.
At one stage I asked Raj, can you please run ahead to the village and move it forward.
As we reached the village, we presented our ‘sevusevu’ to Mr Naiyalatabua’s namesake who happened to be the chief.
We then went down to a stream with the village ladies not far from the village to have a proper bath.
When we returned, a hot cup of tea with ‘Punjas’ crackers was awaiting us and Sophie and I tucked in like we had never eaten for days.
We rested for a while but Sophie went a mile with her snoring and I had to cut her beauty sleep short as we had to go to the chief’s house for interviews and photographs of our main story – the main reason of why we had come to Wainilotulevu Village was to see what is probably the largest and oldest whales tooth in Fiji.
When we entered the chief’s house the village men and women were already seated drinking grog.
There was excitement in the air with Sophie and I being present which is why there was a full house in the chief’s house.
The village men jokingly said that if we were still single, they would not let us return home.
I left Sophie to answer that question since she was still single and her answer brought laughter.
Her reply was that if she got married to one of the men in the village, she would never set foot out of the village because of the strenuous four kilometer uphill climb she had to endure.
“I think I will never see civilization again if my husband was from here and I had to live here, the only time I think I will see the bright lights of the city is probably when I die,” Sophie told them.
Out of respect of my tauvus, Sophie and I decided to sit through the grog session until 2am on Wednesday.
Sophie and I only managed two hours of sleep before we woke up again to make our journey back to civilization.
We woke up at 4am to climb downhill the same way we had come and this time the journey was much easier as we were going downhill.
Our only weapon for the journey downhill was our torch light so that we could see the slippery rocks and man-made bridges.
For me, every step I took was a blessing as my body and my feet ached from the uphill climb the day before and I was relieved because every step meant a step closer to home.
By 6am we were back at our drop-off point which was now our pick-up point about to head back to work and back to civilization.
We said our goodbyes to the villagers who had also come to see us off. Despite the strenuous uphill climb, Sophie and I can say with confidence that we have indeed been to Namosi after gracing Wainilotulevu Village with our presence.
Out of all the places I have visited during my time in the media, my trip up to Wainilotulevu Village takes the cake because for me it was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will never forget.

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