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Navuma's rise

Kameli Rakoko
Saturday, October 21, 2017

THEY breed them tough up the hills of Tilivalevu in the district of Nokonoko in Nadroga, 15 kilometres north of Sigatoka Town.

The next time you travel through the town on the Coral Coast, take a glance up the hills on your right and you will notice a high-rise government transmitter reaching for the blue skies.

On the interior side of that transmitter lies Tilivalevu Village, the home of new Fiji Flying Fijians hooker Ratunaisa Navuma.

They are a stoic breed of people and not only are they tenacious they enjoy doing things the hard way as if to conquer the elements dished out by nature is their destiny.

The Tovolea club, Nadroga and Drua hooker is among six Drua players been named in John McKee's Flying Fijian team to tour the Northern hemisphere in November with sevens hero Semi Kunatani and Drua halfback Frank Lomani included. Tilivalevu village sits on rugged terrain and living there is so tough that most of the villagers have resettled in other villages and other parts of the province.

But wherever they live Tilivalevu villagers are known for their rugged physique having being finetuned through the ages by life but ready to conquer what comes their way.

Many have joined the army, are teachers and hold top positions in different government departments.

"All cyclones that come to Viti Levu affect us because we are right in the middle of their paths," Taukei Qwaranimalai, Jiuta Naikalawelawe, the tribal head revealed.

This writer was privileged to be executive officer (assistant Roko) at Nadroga/Navosa Provincial Council for three years and Nokonoko was one of the five districts I served.

To avoid being blown off by the wind or hit by flying corrugated iron and debris, the whole village would leave their homes and lie on the leeward side of the steep hills, covered in tarpaulin and mats until the cyclone subsided.

Houses get blown off every time a cyclone came for any part of Fiji and application for evacuation centre has fallen on deaf ears through the past decades.

One of my first projects was to ask Telecom Fiji to install a battery-operated satelite telephone on the village.

When there was an emergency or someone fell sick, someone would go on horseback into town, 15 kilometres away, to get a carrier to transport the sick.

Government's Ministry of Agriculture have done their part in the 1970s setting up a cattle scheme and vegetable farming is the villagers' main source of income.

The fresh prawns deep in the canyon like streams are the main delicacies.

On a normal day you would see farmers like village headman Takunawalu Rogoiyata, better known as Moko, ploughing the land from dawn with two different sets of bullocks.

When one pair tires out he uses the other pair. The bullocks rest, but the giant hillman doesn't and you would not dare offend him or make him enjoy himself during a kava session because he will drown you with giants piala.

During droughts, water is dragged by bullocks from the rivers, deep down the valley and the farmers haul water tanks to water their plantations.

Navuma has moved two villages down to Nadroumai and that is where the bus is available.

Rivers are plentiful, but they still live and farm on the same rugged terrains.

The roads at Tilivalevu are so rugged that owning your own vehicle is not profitable.

The livewire hooker has joined forces with Nadroga champion coach Esala Nauga in his Tovolea side and the weight training facilities given by the Prime Minister's Office had helped a lot in finetuning the naturals into international level.

He played 7s rugby for Davetalevu Rugby Club in the Coral Cast Sevens and would be also in Fiji Airways 7s coach, Gareth Baber's telescopic sights

Size does not matter for Navuma. He may be smaller in stature compared with other international hookers, he has displayed in recent Fiji Airways Drua games his capabilities of taking on any opposition and always coming out at the top.

That majestic transmitter up Tilivalevu pointing to the heavens silently summarises and symbolise the resolve and general attitude of its people towards life's challenges.

The sky's the limit, it says. Navuma has just proven it.

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