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Fiji Time: 3:55 PM on Wednesday 23 July

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Udre Udre — the cannibal on top of the hill

Avinesh Gopal Email: Agopal@Fijitimes.Com.Fj
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

IT is said to have been the abode of one of Fiji's most prolific cannibal.

His base camp was reportedly located about two kilometres up in the hills overlooking the sea and the Nakauvadra mountain range.

According to stories, the area was protected by stone walls on three sides.

The walls stretch out hundreds of metres in the hills and some stones have scattered over the years.

Within the stone-walled area was a place where he beat the lali when he was hungry. And there is also an oval shaped area with stones around, which villagers believe was a lovo pit.

The "base camp" of the cannibal is covered with bush and trees now.

Villagers believe he had set up camp at that spot with his group because it was high up and he could see around.

Some big graves are also visible on top of the hill, where there is fresh air and a scenic view.

A few kilometres from the "base camp" was the place where he caged people and where he killed them too.

He was someone who people feared in the 1800s, even to the extent of hiding when they heard the lali beat.

From the stories passed down by their ancestors, the villagers have for the first time revealed where Udre Udre lived.

And my colleague, Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula, and I did not hesitate when the villagers invited us on an exclusive tour of the great cannibal's abode.

Known as Korolevu, Udre Udre's "base camp" is located on the hills opposite Vatusekiyasawa Village in Rakiraki.

After a tiring trip to the Nadarivatu highlands on Thursday, we arrived at Vatusekiyasawa after sunrise on Friday. It was like a blessing in disguise when the villagers told us it was not the right time to climb up to the great cannibal's area. They suggested we make the trip before sunrise on Saturday and be back as the sun rises over the Nakauvadra mountain range.

But we were taken around to other places in Rakiraki where Udre Udre is said to have kept his "would-be meals" and where the lovo was also prepared before he moved to Korolevu.

The exclusive trip to Udre Udre's abode was set for 5am and we headed back to our base camp at the Tavua Hotel, checking out other things along the way.

After having some lovely food, we decided to get some rest in the later part of the afternoon to recover from the long hours of travelling.

We decided in the evening to have an early night, meaning one free of kava or alcohol. But while it was a no kava or alcohol night, Anare and I ended up discussing other things to cover and decided to call it a night at midnight.

Wake up time was 4am on Saturday and after checking out, we hit the road just before 5am while it was still dark. Armed with fruits, fruit juice and bottles of natural mineral water, we set out for Udre Udre's place up in the hills. The first few hundred metres up was nothing until the altitude started taking its toll on us again but we carried on.

Epeli Bukadogo of Vatusekiyasawa, his brother Amani Nailava and Mr Nailava's son Nasoni Nabogi were our guides, with dogs also close by us.

As we entered the forest area, the trio cut the overgrown branches through the track to make our journey a bit easier.

The first spot shown to us at what is said to have been Udre Udre's base camp was a gate-like stone structure to enter the yard. A few metres ahead were the stone walls, with some stones rolled down the hill over the years through natural processes.

While we did not carry out an exact measurement, we estimated the stone walls to be hundreds of metres in length and width.

Mr Bukadogo said the stones used for the walls were only found in rivers, saying it would have been a task to carry them up.

"But from the stories told by my forefathers, there were big and very strong people at that time and they could have carried the stones up," he said.

After reaching the hilltop, we took an almost one kilometre walk across to enjoy the scenic view, including Rakiraki Town in the distance.

With the sun rising, we quickly moved for an almost two-kilometre walk across to the peak and down to where Udre Udre reportedly beat the lali.

By then, Mr Bukadogo's son Josua Naimila of Vatusekiyasawa Village had taken the climb from the other side and cleared the track, waiting to guide us through the final leg of the journey.

Mr Naimila led us through the forest area and stopped at the spot where he said Udre Udre beat the lali when he was hungry, a sign that he was looking for a human to eat.

He also revealed something that would be hard for many people to believe, similar to other stories related to the past.

"I often come up here because I have my dalo farm a bit down. I don't feel anything here when I'm alone," he said.

"But some things have happened, especially to do with stones. I'm not lying about anything and I'm telling you people what I experienced.

"About five years ago, I was digging to plant dalo when I found a small stone which I took home. I left it in my trouser pocket.

"I was sleeping at night when I heard something moving and I thought there were some rats. I checked but there was none. I then saw the stone moving in my trouser pocket and I took it the next morning and left it where I had found it."

Mr Naimila said last year, he found a big red stone at the place where Udre Udre beat the lali.

"I put it at the small gap below the big stone where the lali is believed to have been placed. But that stone has gone small now and it's black," he said, showing the round stone.

After going down the hill about one hundred metres, Mr Bukadogo and Mr Nailava called out to us from what is believed to have been a lovo pit. The oval shaped area has stones a few metres high and villagers believe that several people used to be cooked there at once. From there, it was a few more hundred metres walk across to the place where Udre Udre and his followers got their drinking water from.

As seen during our journey, Mr Bukadogo said there was no source of water in the hills and it was amazing how Udre Udre and his followers got water.

"From what my forefathers told me, Udre Udre's followers blocked a place in the river, which is a few kilometres down from here, and water gushed out from the spot on the hill," he said.

"I don't know how they were able to do that. It could be that they had some kind of powers at that time and that's why they got water from the river up in the hill just like that."

Mr Bukadogo said there was a possibility that Udre Udre ate human beings because food sources were scarce at that time.

* NEXT WEEK: The mystery behind Udre Udre's death.


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