"SA veirai dua na matana, ni sa veirai na karua ni matani sucu, sa voleka sara na keba. Ia ma tiko vata na kena oca." (One nipple is visible, when we see the second, we are close to the camp. But not without its aches and pains.)
Nadakuni Village man and guide Nasoni Lewabau was explaining how close we were to where we would set up camp on Friday October 12 before hiking up into the Sovi Basin the next day.
The 41-year-old was referring to one of two peaks on the Medrau Sucu Range, so named because of their likeness to the breasts of a woman.
We arrived at our base camp after two or three more crossings of the Sovi River after the first group.
This had comprised of Ifereimi Rogoira a ranger at the Sigatoka sand dunes and guides who only gave their names as Pauliasi, Vereimi and Sete.
We had left Nadakuni at 3pm and the walk had taken more than two hours. More than two hours of wading across the river with the level sometimes below the knees, sometimes up to the waist and a few times above one's waist. Once in a while we trekked over land. Then, one had to contend with swampy underfoot conditions.
The majority of the group splashed their way into the camp area with the aid of their head lamps after darkness had enveloped the camp area. There were questions as to who had said the trip from the village to the camp site would only have taken ONLY two hours. There were many other questions loudly posed, all in a similar vein.
Backpacks were slung off and aching body parts ignored as the 13-member group, guides not included, set up camp for the night.
Once that was done Vilikesa Masibalavu, who works for Conservation International and also a villager of Nadakuni, and Nasoni were in the water with their torches and spears. Their catch of eels, maleya (tilapia), prawns and ika droka (freshwater fish) supplemented our dinner.
As waited for our dinner, there was no lack of stories describing the journey from Nadakuni to the camp site.
I related to the group what Nasoni had told me about the distance to the camp relative to what one could see of the Medrau Sucu Range. Rupeni Fonmanu, who came from the sand dunes quipped: "If we had gone on for a while longer, there would have been three or four nipples instead of the two."
Lemeki Lenoa told us of when he found himself in the lead of a group. He was walking merrily away and all of a sudden found himself up to his chest in mud. And mud that had a stench at that. Jone Tuiipelehaki who had been right on his heels somehow managed to avoid Lemeki's fate, backed up and told the rest, "Wrong way guys", and left Lemeki floundering.
A cursing Lemeki managed to grab a bit of bamboo and threw it to Jone to help him out of the mud. As we rolled around laughing, Lemeki described how Jone looked at the bamboo as if to say, "Now what I am to do with that".
Fonmanu described that incident saying, "That was really a case of the blind leading the blind".
There was a consensus the place we were was beautiful. Some commented on how we were sitting around yarning without any social lubricant, alcohol or yaqona.
After dinner there were more stories but the group broke up when rain drove people to their tents. Since I did not have one, I bunked down for the night with our guides under a tarpaulin thrown over a length of bamboo held up by two drou saplings. The area where we would be actually lying down had been cleared of larger stones. The smaller ones that remained had been covered with grass, leafy branches and another piece of tarpaulin. As the night progressed, I would begin to understand the meaning of sleeping rough.
As we prepared our own spots, Nasoni decided to hang his torch from the length of bamboo to be our light for the night. As he stood to do some tying, something gave and it was all hands on deck. The bamboo had to be held up, as it was raining everything had to be done quickly, and the tarpaulin underfoot had to be swapped so the side that was wet was to the ground allowing us to bed down on the dry bit.
Laughing about what had happened, conversation died down and soon the only things heard were the Sovi River as it meandered its way down to meet the Waidina River at Nabukaluka Village and the even breathing of the guides as sleep overtook them.
Just when I thought I was comfortable and about to fall into a deep sleep, the small stones beneath the tarpaulin and grass made their presence felt.
That did not dampen my spirits the next morning as I looked forward to the challenge of hiking up the Sovi.
Again there was much discussion as to how many times we would ford the river before we reached our destination. The number floating around was four. That however was quickly discarded.
The leftover from breakfast and some snacks were packed and we were on our way.
There are numerous rock formations along the way, among them Wiliwilitabua and Naioni.
The story about Naioni is that two ancestral gods, both women, had tried to divert the direction of the Sovi. As they piled rocks and boulders, the water backed up and woke up the ancestral god whose domain is where the river flows and the surrounding area. In his anger he speared their "dam", chased the two with such a fury that they, in their haste, discarded their kuta skirts and fled.
The guides said that up until very recently, the remains of the kuta skirts, a growth of kuta had been beside the river. It is now no more.
At the split, or where two streams; one from Namosi and one from Wainimala, meet to form the Sovi, leftover noodles, tuna flakes and tavioka had never tasted so good. Despite the noodles having been cooked hours ago.
After a break, we made our way downstream and progress was somewhat easier as we weren't always fighting the current.
A little after Naioni, we boarded bamboo rafts, bilibili prepared by Vereimi, Nasoni and Pauliasi, to complete our Saturday journey.
Dinner was more freshwater creatures and delicious stuff from a lovo by the banks of the Sovi. That after a few bowls of freshly-pounded yaqona roots.
In the morning it was breakfast then dismantling camp, onto the bilibili back to Nadakuni where our transport waited to take us back to Suva.