Hiking in the Clay: Day 6

Misty Morning Village

I rose, as I would continue to every subsequent morning, to the sounds of repeating Fijian radio commercials. Bui and I played some billiards, at which she klobbered me, and frolicked in the mist that surrounded the mountain village. Moji, being the stellar village rep that he is, wanted to show Chris and I where Nakavika residents used to live down by the river; in other words, take us on a spectacular hike through the Namosi Highlands for a muddy good time. Every other step sunk me ankle-deep into clay-like slush that at one point conquered my shoe clear off my foot. Many a slapstick slips occurred, and by the time we reached any sort of clearing or stopping point, my shoes were no longer recognizable and our bodies drenched with sweat and dew.

After forging a river about a half dozen times, we arrived at some houses where mothers and children were washing their clothes on the river rocks. This was the village of Bara. We chucked our defeated shoes and socks to dry in the sun and went in a house perfectly equipped for multi-hour lounging.

Padded with hay and woven fern mats, open to the breezes of the mountains, the Fiji juice and pancakes that were delivered to us put the final touch on a supreme afternoon in paradise. Joining us were a few of the men from Bara, including a jovial old man named Phillip who had about three teeth with which he nibbled at a wee core (fruit similar to an apple). We drank a little kava with the fellas before adorning our nasty shoes once more for a river crossing and slippery jungle climb.

Every so often, Moji would point out a plant that was brought here by the many colonizers and foreign influences, one of which was the giant bamboo shoots that loomed overhead while we took a quick breather. The sounds made by these shifting columns were like that of an incredibly old house with rapidly settling furniture. I kept looking above thinking a “timber” moment was in the works, but that’s just the way it is in a bamboo forest. The massive plants seemed prehistoric, and I had a little “wow” moment sitting there under their creaks.

I was utterly exhausted by the time we ascended the last wet trail and meandered through Nakavika’s back end. I could have fallen asleep face down in my dinner but managed to keep it together for a little rugby viewing at sunset. Sitting with some of the ladies and kids, I watched the finely trained men sprint through mud puddles, enjoyed a cloud transformation from gold to purple, and found poetic beauty in the clothesline of flapping clothing stretched across the entire skyline.

When I returned to my house, Bui and I napped so deeply, it took Moji calling my name about twenty times before I rose from a lovely slumber. The brothers all congregated at our house for the day’s final meal. All cheeks puffed out from large bits of taro and noodles. I watched with a grin as the lamp flickered on all our content faces.