THE sun was right above me as I sat on a rock at what was once called Nagaga Village.
On my far right, nestled among the mountainous terrain and dense forest, is Abaca Village.
My colleague, editor of the Nai Lalakai, Anare Ravula and our guide Waisale Muatini or Wise as he is commonly known, had taken a walk down towards my left.
This was the place Anare and I had wanted to visit after hearing about it about an hour earlier.
It was the site of Nagaga Village that was buried by a massive landslide on February 22, 1931.
There was pin-drop silence as I sat on the rock after a long walk up to the place from Abaca Village.
My colleague and our guide had gone to the spot where most of the Nagaga villagers were buried while either sleeping or singing around the tanoa.
It was about 100 metres down the hill from where I was sitting.
There were two reasons for me to just hold myself back — surely it was not the fear of going to where most villagers were buried under boulders.
Firstly, I had lost my breath because of the long walk up the hills after a very long time, not forgetting the long night the day earlier.
I could have forced myself to go that further 100 metres or so as I had already gone up about three kilometres or maybe more.
The second reason for me to decide to take a break on that rock was to see or rather feel if I would hear voices as per the story told by Abaca villagers.
As I sat on the rock, beneath which someone could be lying buried, the wind blew from behind me, where Mount Batilamu is.
What a relief I thought after that long walk up to the mountainous region, not forgetting the scorching sun.
But with the wind came some whispering sound, as if people were talking somewhere very close to me.
The hair-raising experience sent a chill down my spine.
At first, I thought it was Anare and our guide Wise playing some kind of trick to frighten me.
But there was silence from the side they had gone to.
I had an eerie feeling that someone was near me. I looked over my left shoulder towards Mount Batilamu, but there was no one.
I looked across my right shoulder but did not see anyone around.
Then I heard the whispers again. Could it be that I was experiencing what Anare and I had been told earlier?
Could it be the voices of the dead? Could it be the voices of those buried by the massive landslide on that night in 1931 when a chunk of Mount Batilamu broke loose and went crashing down towards Nagaga Village.
It was quite spooky. I reached into my pockets for my cigarettes, which I felt would divert my thoughts while I waited for my mates.
I slowly took out the cross that I always wear around my neck, when I realised I had left my cigarettes in our vehicle parked at Abaca Village.
Then there were no more whispers as I sat there on the rock waiting for Anare and Wise, regaining my breath.
Could it be that the Abaca villagers had some merit to their story — that people can be heard talking in the area. The wind can also play tricks on the mind sometimes.
As I sat there waiting for Anare and Wise to return, I looked at the broken piece of Mount Batilamu and wondered what it would have been like for the poor villagers who were buried about 82 years ago.
Finally Anare and Wise came up to where I was and after they had taken a rest we walked down, headed back towards Abaca Village.
I did not tell either one of them what I had experienced but instead kept on walking and chatting as we had done while going up to the buried village site.
On the way down, we took a break again at a place Wise said was another burial ground, the place where people from the old Nagaga Village used to be buried when they died.
At last we were in Abaca after crossing two rivers and a creek, which we had crossed on our way up to the buried Nagaga Village.
The first thing I did was grab some icy cold water coming in the village tap from the top of Mount Koroyanitu, which is behind Abaca Village.
And then it was to a quick grog session in the village headman Viliame Rokoua’s house where other village elders and youth were waiting for our return.
I also did not tell them about my experience.
Later that night in Lautoka, I told Anare about my experience.
Anare had also wanted to feel something. We later agreed that maybe because Wise was with him on the way ahead after I sat on the rock, he did not feel anything.
The people of Abaca Village say they hear voices whenever they are alone near the buried Nagaga Village and also hear cries for help from the area at night.
Recently though, they say, the voices have started coming closer to the village and they say they hear people talking near the village entrance at night.
But when they check, no one can be seen in the area.
Story has it that a deaf woman was able to hear a chunk of the mountain coming, tumbling down towards the village.
But others were just enjoying the yaqona session and singing that they ignored the deaf woman’s alert.
The ignorance was simply because the woman was deaf.
Stories passed down from the three survivors reveal that a part of Mount Batilamu broke after two weeks of continuous heavy rain and strong winds.
There were only three survivors from that massive landslide that buried Nagaga Village, killing about 200 people as stated by Abaca villagers.
The trio — Rupeni Sau, Levani Kubu and Livai Lobau — managed to crawl out of the buried village through a gap.
As they moved around in the area after the tragedy searching for a new site, they came across a huge rock.
The rock gave them a hint of what they should name their new village.
Next week: ABACA