Residents ‘huff, puff’ up 200 steps

Keni Raione (left) with his brother Viliame Tamanikaitani of Naisogowaluvu settlement carry their belongings up the 200-step walkway to the main road at Delainavesi in Lami. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

Naisogowaluvu settlement headman Osea Waqavakacegu says he cannot remember the number of people who have fallen down the 200 metre steep embankment that leads from Nakauvadra Rd to his community.

But one memory remains vividly embedded in his mind.

It was an incident two years ago when his brother fell and died while carrying a box of groceries down the 200 steps that leads to the settlement.

The steep and slippery cement stairway is the only access for the more than 360 people who live in Naisogowaluvu and neighbouring settlement, Nawaigasa.

They have huffed and puffed their way up and down the concrete stairs for the past 70 years.

“We are so close to Suva, about 10 minutes by car or 15 minutes by bus and yet we are struggling every day just to get to the road,” the 56-year-old said.

“If someone is sick, the family has to make it known so that the menfolk can carry the patient up the 200 steps to Nakauvadra Rd, no matter how big the sick person is.

“If someone dies, we have to carry the body up the same steps and all the traditional ceremonies and the things required for them – meat, root crops and even live animals – have to be carefully carried down the steps.

“People here can’t do bulk shopping, they have to think about what they are buying because of the long walk down those slippery steps,” he added.

“If someone wants to build, repair or extend their home, they have to carry all the cement bags, steel, roofing iron and hardware materials down these 200 steps because there is no other way in or out.”

Mr Waqavakacegu said numerous requests had been made over the past seven decades for a road to be constructed into the settlement, to no avail.

“We are the third generation of settlers here and so many governments have come and gone, so many requests were made but nothing has been done.”

He said the two settlements were home to more than 70 households. Infrastructure Minister Jone Usamate said he would look into the issue when contacted by this newspaper this week.

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