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Published: January 1st 2008
The view of the mountain from our lodge. Challenging us to the climb.
Well, conquest may be a tad of an exaggeration but still...it was a long way to the top!
After 7 months of residence in Fiji, finally, in September, I embarked on my first proper hike up a mountain. This was Mount Koroyanitu in the North West of Viti Levu. The trip was organised by the Rucksack club, an organisation that has been a lifesaver for me. Without them, I don’t think I would have seen any of Fiji at all, as with the travelling I do for work I hardly have any weekends to myself and it gets almost impossible to organise trips round Fiji itself. The Rucksack club is basically a group of people who give up their time to organise trips around the main island of Fiji and some of the nearer small islands. There are trips to the beach, as well as hikes up mountains and walks along rivers. All you have to do is join the club.
About 20 of us set off from Suva in a convoy of cars one fine Friday afternoon for the weekend trip to the mountain. First we had to drive round the west coast of the island, past Nadi
and on to Lautoka. Mount Koroyanitu is inland from there near the village of Abaca. At Lautoka is where the fun started as, in the rapidly encroaching darkness, we turned off the sealed road and headed into “the bush”. It was a bumpy and at times worrying (for the cars) ride to the village of Abaca at the foot of the mountain. The village were the hosts and “owners” of the trip we were doing and we had to visit and drink kava with them before settling in the visitors lodge and preparing for our trek the next day.
We all packed into a large house for the kava ceremony, which was a very friendly affair. After all the serious business was over of the ceremony was over, some funny moments were had as we all got asked our names and where we are from. Fijian people love laughing, so pretty much any excuse will do and we were happy to oblige by attempting to speak Fijian, which almost always (in my experience) sets Fijians off into fits of laughter.
Once we had finished in the village, there was still a short drive up to the lodge. This
was even bumpier than the road before and nearly killed off one of our four by fours. A great “klunk!” was heard and then the car started making some strange sounds. By this time it was well and truly dark though, the car made it to the lodge and we resolved to look at the problem the next day (in the end there was no major damage and the car eventually made it back to Suva).
The lodge was very well stocked and furnished. We found that we didn’t need the bowls, cutlery and cups we had brought with us as these were all provided. There were also more bunk beds than we thought, which meant that I did not need to sleep in a tent afterall (woohoo!) Although it was pretty late by this time, it turned out that it was James’s birthday so we stayed up long enough to eat a little banana cake and wish him Happy Birthday, thus getting to bed even later than planned. We had a big day ahead of us the next day. I snuggled up and was asleep the minute my head hit the pillow.
The next day it was
get up and go. There was glorious sunshine and I got my first peek at where we where exactly. And it was beautiful, of course, as we were perched on a small hill just opposite our main objective, the mountain. But first, a little distraction. We walked to a waterfall just 15 minutes walk from the lodge. There were lots of rocks scattered around the waterfall, so there was plenty of clambering, hoping from rock to rock and general climbing around to be done. We scrambled and splashed and refreshed ourselves, ate an apple and headed back to the lodge for lunch and to pack for our little expedition up the mountain. The plan was to head out early afternoon hike up in time to watch the sunset from the top of the mountain and then spend the night at another lodge at the top of the mountain.
We set out on time, as the rain started to fall but that was a good thing because it was quite a steep climb and the rain provided some cool relief. The views were stunning from the outset and the photos might give some indication, although as per usual they don’t
do it justice. The rain was light and refreshing instead of heavy and soaking, so it worked out quite well.
As made our way up the hillside, at first the path was pretty easy and smooth, then it got narrower, muddier and a bit trickier, then we entered the jungle and things got distinctly more up-hilly and humid. This is where the last patches of dry on my T-shirt disappeared. My shorts were already soaked through. Trees and greenery everywhere and lots of steep steps to struggle up with my heavy backpack (at this stage a definitely wished I had brought fewer things).
Emerging from the jungle we were nearly at the “summit”, but first we visited a little outcrop of rocky crag which had a spectacular view and was a little respite before the last “push” to the top. The last part of the path was well and truly steep and well and truly muddy, so muddy and steep it was hard to get a foot hold and at several points I thought I might slide back onto the poor person behind me. But it didn’t happen and we all arrived safely at the lodge.
pretty knackered by this point. It was a long 3 hour slog up to the top but it was worth it and we were rewarded with amazing view from a sheer cliff face and that stretched across the valley all the way to the coast. We could see Nadi, Lautoka and even the Mamanuca islands lying peacefully in the ocean in the distance. In fact, in the fading light it looked like those islands were floating in the sunset coloured sky. I was at peace.
At after a huge dinner which we cooked thanks to all the helpful cooking stuff at the lodge (we had to carry up our own food and fuel but pretty much everything else like pots and pans, plates, cutlery was available at the lodge), it was time to settle down for some card playing and a few drinks. The lodge was very comfortable and reasonably warm and staying up and having fun was no problem at all. Then falling asleep was equally easy.
I woke in the early hours as the sunlight started to come into the room. I got up quickly as I knew the view would be lovely first thing in
the morning. I was right. The light was completely different and the view was clearer with every twist and turn in the landscape below outlined in the morning light.
Breakfast was very relaxing, warm out on the deck of the lodge. The sun had come out. Sooner than I would have liked it was time to head back down. All good things have to end sometime I suppose. The walk down was uneventful, apart from the very steep, very muddy section, which on the way down had to be negotiated on my arse as there was no foothold to speak of. That was the only hard part though. The rest was relaxing and the views were of course still there to be seen.
The rolling, patchwork, multiple shades of green of the Fijian countryside as far as the eye could see. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it soon.
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