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Walking the pathway of the ancestors

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, January 07, 2014

IT was a privilege to step on it and walk for some distance.

Like centuries ago, the path is still treacherous and one wrong step can see you landing several hundred metres down.

There is peace and tranquility in this part of Fiji, with the only noise coming from insects in the dense forests.

Some distance ahead is a river with cold, clean water gushing down from high up in the Nakauvadra mountain range.

This part of the mountain range holds stories of two people who are very well known as far as history is concerned.

One of them is reported to have been the first iTaukei to set foot on Fiji while the other was a chief and a great soldier.

Travelling to this part of the country was always on our calendar, mine and that of my colleague Anare Ravula, the editor of the Nai Lalakai.

It was so because the area holds the story of Lutunasobasoba, who is said to be the first iTaukei to arrive in Fiji, landing at Vuda in Lautoka.

But there have been recent claims that the first iTaukei to set foot on Fiji landed at Vitawa in Rakiraki and settled in the Nakauvadra mountains.

However, as we made our way out of Tavua Town towards the highlands, the burning heat of the Western Division could be felt.

As we entered the dense forests and made our way closer to Nadarivatu, the temperature changed because of the altitude.

Our guide Tuinamo Narisia asked us to try some water coming right up from the mountains and so clean and refreshing it was.

It was nice and cool when we arrived at the Nadarivatu Government Station, the area where Lutunasobasoba had once set foot on.

The excitement grew as we were led through the track at the edges of the mountain — a part of the Tualeita or the pathway through the ridges.

As we walked on the edges, Mr Narisia, 50, told us that it was the same track that Lutunasobasoba and his family members had taken, starting from the mountains at Sabeto in Nadi.

But there was something else that we were looking forward to, although walking on the same path that Lutunasobasoba had walked on was exciting.

It was the river bringing nice clean water from the Nakauvadra mountains that was another place that we wanted to see.

The noise of the water falling hundreds of metres down can be heard from about 100 metres away from the spot we were headed to.

On arrival at the spot, we were shown the remnants of what once used to be a gate at this part of the crossing through the river and where Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna often reportedly went to.

Struck with awe, we just stood and watched, it was the pond in the river where the late Ratu Sukuna is once said to have bathed and meditated.

Mr Narisia said Lutunasobasoba followed the mountain ridge from Sabeto after getting off in Vuda and came through Nadarivatu.

"From the stories passed down by my forefathers and as told to me, Lutunasobasoba wasn't the first person to arrive in Fiji. When he came with his relatives, people were already in Fiji," he said.

"People used to sleep in caves before and they looked for places high up in the mountains because of the tribal wars, which started over land claims.

"Lutunasobasoba became known because he often won the battles. He walked through this place on his way further up the Nakauvadra mountain range."

Mr Narisia said while the track was known because of Lutunasobasoba, the river that falls in between the track was of more significance too.

"Ratu Sukuna's swimming pond is in the river, which sits on the pathway followed by Lutunasobasoba and his children.

"From what has been told by my forefathers, Ratu Sukuna used to bathe in the pond and also meditate at the site and enjoy the view. He is also said to have spoken to his ancestors' spirits there.

"He always wanted Nadarivatu to be a town and that will come into fruition soon as the government has identified land for a satellite town here."

Mr Narisia said people who walked on the pathway alone could hear people talking nearby and some movements.

"But in fact, there's no one there. It's only the spirits of the ancestors who maybe trying to tell us something.

"I swam in the pool that Ratu Sukuna bathed in only twice and I haven't been there again to swim. I stopped bathing there because of some eerie feelings.

"I got very scared when I was bathing there the second time and I haven't been there again to bathe although I go past the place now and then.

"Anyone alone at the river will have that eerie feeling, just like someone is around," he said.

Mr Narisia said his forefathers told him that cannibalism was also rife in the Nadarivatu highlands once.

He said the spirits felt by people in the area did not harm anyone, saying "maybe they are trying to give us a message".

Apart from having some eerie feelings on the pathway and at the river, Mr Narisia said some other places in the vicinity were "sort of haunted".

Mr Narisia said a part of Fiji's history was ingrained in Nadarivatu, where some famous European people had also settled once.

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