HEART­LAND

mailife - - Hike - By DRUE SLATTER pho­tos by FEROZ KHALIL

Fiji’s in­te­rior is a realm of ex­tremes. Deep in the north­ern high­lands of Viti Levu stands Fiji’s high­est moun­tain, Mount To­manivi. Here also lies the head­wa­ters of Fiji’s long­est river, the Si­ga­toka River. Two days’ hike away is where the last recorded in­stance of Fi­jian can­ni­bal­ism played out. This is the ‘Fiji’ that is mem­o­rable. Yes, Fiji is home to stun­ning beaches and is the ‘soft coral cap­i­tal’ of the world. But her heart and char­ac­ter are in her moun­tains and val­leys and the gen­tle lives (that were not al­ways so gen­tle) that are lived there. This re­gion is of­ten over­looked by vis­i­tors and lo­cal Fi­jians alike. Both life and land­scape are less re­fined in these parts, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ac­cess but quite easy to love. “They could film a movie here. You know, those scenes where they’re run­ning into bat­tle.” This is the re­ac­tion from our pho­tog­ra­pher as we walk through the rolling hills of Navosa, one of the prov­inces cov­ered by the “Full Monty”. Five days and roughly 45 kilo­me­tres of trekking through Fiji’s in­te­rior. This was the Full Monty trip we signed up for with Fiji’s only ded­i­cated hik­ing com­pany, Talanoa Treks. Matt and Marita Cap­per be­gan Talanoa Treks af­ter time spent with the Suva Ruck­sack Club ex­plor­ing the var­i­ous walks and trails that Fiji had to of­fer. The need for a ded­i­cated hik­ing com­pany and the en­thu­si­asm of the host­ing vil­lages spurred avid hiker, Matt, to make the leap. De­scribed by one of his guides, Etu, as a “hik­ing junkie”, Matt has left foot­prints across most of Viti Levu and now shares those ex­pe­ri­ences with the guests of Talanoa Treks. “Our long­est walk, which is 21 kilo­me­tres, is mostly down­hill so not too hard. When Matt was plan­ning the hikes, he walked it back­wards - so 80% up­hill. And he en­joyed it!” said Nubu­tau­tau vil­lager and guide, Etu. Spurred by am­bi­tion, (and prob­a­bly over­con­fi­dence in our phys­i­cal fit­ness,) we opted for five days of dra­matic peaks, open vis­tas and sparkling rivers.

Day 1 NABALESERE WA­TER­FALL

One of the best times to visit a Fi­jian com­mu­nity is dur­ing or af­ter a Rugby 7s tour­na­ment. It’s a short, tough game that makes the most of Fi­jian speed and heft, and beloved of all Fiji. A kalei­do­scope of emo­tion sat­u­rates the vil­lage - eu­pho­ria af­ter a win or re­signed de­feat af­ter a loss. We hap­pened to be­gin our five-day hike the day af­ter Fiji won its first Olympic gold medal ever, in rugby 7s.

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