Hope springs … ‘Miracle’ water draws crowds to Fijian spa
Thousands are travelling every day to bathe in or bottle mountain water said to have healing powers
The crowds begin to gather before dawn, snaking along the dusty backroads of Tailevu province in eastern Fiji, humid jungle pressing at them from every side. Ambulances and open-topped trucks bearing stretchers pass first, then those who can walk, and finally the healthy arrive, loaded up with empty water bottles to carry home to sick relatives and friends.
All have descended upon a remote spring in the western division mountain range, reputed to have extraordinary healing properties: “miracle waters”, it is said.
For Menausi Druguvale the magic began two years ago when he was afflicted with conjunctivitis and he tramped into the mountains seeking a rumoured spring his father told him could cure his eyes.
“When I went to the main source after cyclone Winston, I showered in the water, and soon my eyes cleared,” Druguvale says.
“So I started to tell people in the village, a lot of people were injured after the cyclone. Then more and more people heard, around Fiji and around the world.” Within months, the obscure, impoverished town of Natadradave, home to 27 families, became a site of global interest.
Thousands flew to Fiji to visit the spring, bypassing the beach resorts and kava bars, and making the twohour journey from the capital Suva to join lines of the sick and injured stretching for kilometres along the unpaved road leading to the water.
With other village volunteers, Druguvale helps some of the thousands that visit every day and night to navigate the slippery path to the stream, where two concrete pipes spurt water into a shallow pool for bathing.
A series of PVC channels has been installed for people to collect bottles of water, which are shipped around the world on the black market in Fiji Water bottles, which draw the least suspicion from customs officials.
Between 2016 and May 2017 New Zealand customs stopped more than 500 people trying to bring in “miracle” spring water.
“In one month, maybe 50,000 people visit,” says Druguvale, who wears a fluorescent vest to help stand out from the hordes of hopeful invalids. “It works [the miracle water]. Every single time.”
With more than 60% of Fijians following a Christian faith, belief in God bestowing a blessing in the form of the spring makes sense to believers, especially as a kindness after setting cyclone Winston upon their vulnerable island, which killed 44 people, and cost an estimated US$1.4bn (£1bn) in damage.
Muscle aches and skin conditions are the most common illnesses people present with, though others with cancer, mental disorders, strokes, blindness, paralysis and burns have attested to being cured.
The water for Druguvale’s spring tastes sweet and nutty, with an ochre tinge after heavy rains.
Professor Steve Hrudey, a water expert at the University of Alberta, Canada said that although he didn’t know of any water that had proven healing qualities, there was evidence that purified water could help with some medical conditions, and the placebo effect could also be very strong. “In the case of the claims from Fiji ... these claims must be based either on something dissolved in the water or simply the cleansing action of water itself,” Hrudey said.
“That said, by definition, claims of miracles rely on faith rather than scientific evidence, so I will not hold my breath in anticipation that Fiji has discovered a new cure for conjunctivitis or any other illness.”
For Druguvale, the reasons for the water’s potency are of little interest; he is just thankful that his village has been healed after the devastation of cyclone Winston, and that he now spends his days healing, rather than harvesting. “It is God, and maybe it is minerals too, and maybe the mud,” said Druguvale: “Me and my father don’t know why. But we know for a long time, it has been special. Would you like a drink?”
▲ Menausi Druguvale, who says the miracle spring cured his conjunctivitis