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 Guardian - - WORLD - Eleanor Ainge Roy Tailevu prov­ince

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.