Thursday, January 21, 2010

My trip to Taveuni

FIJI SUN NEWS - 22 January 2010

Being denied an Australian visa in December 2009 was one of my most frustrating experiences to date as I had previously travelled there on several occasions, even held a multiple visa and have a clean travel record.

This made me feel like an innocent victim who was being punished because of family connections with the Fiji Military Force. Feeling dejected, I accept an invitation to join some friends on an excursion to Tavueni.

On New Year's eve, I join the Stolz family and Amil Coffin onboard the SOFI which makes its final trip for the year to Taveuni. The Stolz family consists of Dylan, Christopher, Channel and Medaline while Amil is a former Fiji resident.

Mayu, a Japanese student, also joins us on the trip. Apart from being aware that it is the youngest volcanic island in Fiji and commonly referred to as the Garden Island, I have little knowledge of Taveuni but feel comfortable given that the Stolz family are originally from Vunimaqo estate, Waiyevo.

It does not take long for one to realize that Taveuni is both beautiful and blessed. The lush vegetation is indicative of fertile soils and regular rainfall. Farming is prevalent with many planting dalo and yaqona commercially.

Taveuni's relief is characterized by steep slopes and mountains which are dissected by numerous creeks and rivers.

Many water falls can be found on the island and the coastal waters are abundant with marine life.

The forest walk and water falls at Lavena and Bouma were certainly a highlight of our trip. After checking into our accommodation at Lavena village, we decide to make our way to the water falls which is one and half hours on foot.

Without a guide we follow the forest walk track. It charts its way along the shoreline offering splendid coastal scenery including sandy beaches, rocky shorelines and there is an abundance of healthy costal trees and plants. We cross several creeks which flow with crystal clear water.

Wainisaivi is the largest creek we encounter and originates from the famous Lake Tagimoucia.

The hanging bridge is an highlight.

As we across, it sways from side to side because Christopher is shaking it vigorously.

The track makes it way uphill into the forest. It becomes cooler and we experience a diverse range of tree, vines and small plants. Bird as are chirping in the background.

We encounter many skinks and lizards, much bigger than those commonly found on Viti Levu. The environment is peaceful and relaxing. Finally, we reach the end of the track and start swimming to the water falls.

From a distance it appears as one but upon swimming closer does one realize that it is in-fact two water falls which drop into a deep pool of icy cold water. Being in a virgin forest which has never been logged and jumping into the pool is like washing away all forms of stress.

Christopher and Medaline almost give their older sister, Channel, a heart attack when they climb up the steep rock slopes so that they can jump from the top of the highest waterfall which is at-least 35 meters above the pool of water. Medaline is concerned for their safety, especially Dylan who is the baby of the family, because the slope is almost vertical and slippery. She screams on top of her voice for them to stop but like true kai Taveuni's they safely reach the top with Takaeva (a friend from Kioa), take a deep breath before making the jump.

Taking no risks, I decide not to follow them and jump from the second water fall which is about 12 meters above the pool. Banning of commercial logging is one of the best decisions local resource owning communities have made as it would pose serious threats to their pristine surroundings.

After a good nights rest, we walk from Lavena to the Bouma. According to Medaline, the walk is only half an hour but we end up walking the same distance the previous day.

The falls at Bouma is breathtaking and certainly one of Fiji's most treasured heritages. From a creek at the top, water plunges over 95 meters into a large of pool green water.

A naturally formed platform few meters above the pool offers an excellent jumping spot. As Amil says "this is the most excellent waterfall in Fiji and Taveuni is a beautiful place with enormous potential for development". Even Mayu is lost for words to describe her experience of Taveuni. My trip to Taveuni was definitely rewarding.

Having visited the Lavena and Bouma waterfalls and experiencing scenery along the highway from Waiyevo to Lavena, I am far convinced that this has been one of my best holidays to date.

I feel satisfied, refreshed and eager to start the new year. It makes me wonder why so many Fiji Citizens continually go abroad for holidays when Taveuni is only at our door steps. I also convinced that this is not my last trip to Taveuni.

I may have lost the opportunity to travel to the Land Down Under but have discovered the beauty of Taveuni which is now my favorite holiday destination.

Taveuni is a living paradise and I will certainly be back soon to explore more of the island. It is my sincere hope that development is controlled so that Taveuni maintains its heritage.

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