Standing at the ridge, Iliesa Ramode scans the horizon, catching sight of the snaking Sigatoka River before following it down to the sea with a sweeping gesture of his hand, past the sand dunes and right to Yadua Village.
Ramode was trying to trace with his hands, the route his ancestors took when they first came into the Sigatoka Valley. We were standing at a ridge above Volivoli Village and overlooking the Queens Highway speeding past us from left to right. This ridge was the first village site for Iliesa's mataqali, the mataqali Vatudagia or the 'Stone carrier' clan.
From this old village site above Volivoli in Sigatoka, if you look out to sea, one can see Beqa Island and Wainiyabia Point in Serua. Inland, you can see the hills above Sigatoka Town and much of the coastal valley which was shaped by the Sigatoka River.
The mataqali Vatudagia came to settle in Sigatoka from the highlands of Tavua and they were led by the people of Yadua village, the yavusa Koronikula.
The Yavusa Koronikula was led by Navukula and his priest Rogoira and Vuakulu, who is the ancestor of the mataqali Vatudagia or stone carriers. The name was given to them because when Navukula and Rogoira moved along the coast to mark their lands, Vuakulu was carrying the rock that marked these places.
I had the privilege of joining Tuinayau Komaimua, a former Park ranger from Yadua Village, Iliesa as well as Savenaca Delai and Senivalati Qarau who are the National Trust of Fiji park rangers.
Our trip began with the presentation of the sevusevu to the turaga ni mataqali Vatudagia, Ilaisa Vokulu. From there, we then went up to the hills before following a small patch of forest which frames the entrance of the Volivoli Cave.
The Volivoli Cave has been the subject of many archaeological and scientific expeditions since the 1970s. The Volivoli cave is the only archaeological site in Fiji and is the only true fossil deposit to be found in Fiji.
One particular find which was made there, was the discovery of fossilised crocodile bones.
The discovery was made by Trevor Worthy and Gavin Udy, two scientists from New Zealand.
The fossilised bones were taken to Australia for identification by Doctor Ralph Molnar. Dr Molnar named the fossilised crocodile Volia athollandersoni, commemorating Volivoli, the place of its discovery. The Volia has already featured on a Fiji stamp. According to scientists, the Volia is relatively small in size, growing up to two or three metres long and lived some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Some other birds and reptile fossils found in the Volivoli cave included a giant pigeon, iguana and giant frogs.
Armed with this information, we were taken inside the cave, and as some of you may suspect already, this was something new for Iliesa because this was the first time he was setting foot on the land of his forefathers, even though he lives just a kilometre away. With two torch lights, we made our way down into the cave.
The entrance is wide and it immediately drops into the ground. Just a few metres in, Tui began his tour. Even though he is a vasu to Yadua, Tui's knowledge of the area is well known amongst the villagers. He showed us the layers of mud deposits with shards of pottery, showing the different times of occupation of the caves.
Tui's explanation is not only accurate but he shows so much reverence to the place, a place where he says, people can trace their history and learn about their past.
As we descend into the dark depths of the Volivoli cave, the passages become narrower and at times we have to crawl in order to reach a chamber.
As the passages get narrower, the chambers become bigger. At times the descend is so steep and slippery as we encountered flowstones.
Stalactites and straws hang from the roof of the cave while stalagmites formed over thousands of years rise from the floor of the cave.
Many times, we come across seashells which have been strewn across the cave floor by the stream that runs into the cave. As the chambers get bigger, so too was our awe, especially Iliesa, as this was the first time he is hearing the history of the cave.
Tui explained that preparations have already been made to turn the cave into a public attraction but that is still to be confirmed. He says, they have already installed pipes in the cave, to ensure that the water flowing into the cave does not damage the paths that visitors will follow. Air filters and measures have also been installed in the cave, to measure the air and the amount of oxygen present in the cave.
As we made our way back into the sunlight, we headed straight from the hill just above the cave. Here we saw the remnent of the Mataqali Vatudagia village. There are about seven house foundations on top of the hill and one lies just a few steps away from the lookout where Iliesa was standing and trying to work out his ancestry. Tui showed us a lovo pit and a rock which was white in colour.
According to Tui, the rock is the place where they kill people to be cooked in the lovo. He says the rocks are white because of the body fat from roasted humans which had melted onto the rocks.