In November of 2016, my family and I traveled to the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji. We stayed at a place called Koro Sun Resort. Each day the resort had certain events going on that one could sign up for, for no extra charge. Whether it was snorkeling, hiking through the rainforest, or kayaking to a small island, there was no end to the fun.
On one particular day, my family and I decided to sign up for a trip to a waterfall. At first we thought it wouldn't be as good as everyone made it to be, but when our guide stopped the van at a local store and said, "We need to get a root as an offering to the village folk," we began to realize that the descriptions might be serious.
We drove away from the store, past a beach, and finally we arrived in a very small gravel parking lot, off a dirt road leading away from most of civilization. At least we thought so at first.
Our guide showed us the trail we would be hiking, and eager to go see the waterfall, my sister and I ran towards the trail. But our guide, Romano, told us, "No. Not yet. You forget that we must give the roots to the village chief." So we began walking down another path, somewhat wider, and in a matter of about a minute, found ourselves on the edge of a very small village. The metal houses were built upon green lawns that were inhabited by barefoot, running children playing with chickens, puppies, and full grown dogs. The houses were ramshackle and most consisted of only one room, but still, the people were happy.
You see, when one travels to Vanua Levu, you think when you walk through the villages, "These people seem like they shouldn't be happy at all." But the people are some of the happiest and kindest you will ever get to know. They are not bothered by their small houses. They are simply happy. This is one of the reasons I love Fiji.
Romano asked the chief respectfully if he may present his gift, and she obliged. Around her there were other women, all with handmade jewelry, woven reed tapestries, and all sorts of cool rainforest-made items. After the chief accepted the gift, she told my family, who were the only tourists, "It is good that you have asked my permission to see the waterfall. Once some people went to our waterfall without asking, and bad things fell upon them. At the waterfall they got hurt and had to be brought to the hospital. Nobody who has asked permission has ever gotten hurt."
My family and I looked through the trinkets, jewelry, and woven tapestries, for they were all for sale. My sister bought a nice wood turtle necklace, and I got a tapestry for my grandmother.
Soon it was time to leave the village. My sister wanted to play with the puppies first though, so we had to wait a little while longer. But then, it was time to see the true aim of our trip to this remote place.
We came back to the trail, and began walking. Romano showed the way, but I was hardly paying attention to him. All around us trees, vines, and flowers of all sorts were to be seen. It was a like a huge painting, only better. On one side of the trail there were wild peppers, very spicy, Romano informed us. On the other, papayas grew, wild as well, with elephant-ear plants boasting their huge leaves beside them. Wild coconut and banana trees grew around us too. There was simply no end to the wildlife and plants. Birds flitted around above us, bugs and small animals could be heard in the underbrush. All in all, it was beautiful.
Finally, the moment of anticipation came as we began to hear the roaring, rushing cascade we knew was the waterfall. When it finally came into sight, my sister Lena and I ran the rest of the trail, hearts pounding with excitement. And then we arrived.
Clear, cool water fell down an outcropping of rock about forty feet high. It collected in a pool that eventually went on to continue the river that flowed before it turned into the waterfall. Romano called it a "natural swimming pool".
My parents and Romano arrived, my father and Romano immediately ripped off their shirts and dove in. I was quick to follow, and after me, Lena. My mother refrained from going for a swim. She thought the water was too cold, for cold it was, but not cold enough to deter me.
Romano climbed the waterfall and jumped in, making a huge splash. I must say, he was at least thirty feet up. My father tried to climb as high, but couldn't. He ended up jumping off at around twenty feet. I climbed the waterfall, but only to about ten feet high. It was an exhilarating jump into the water.
We finally returned to Koro Sun Resort. We thanked Romano, and headed to our villa for a rest.
Leaving Vanua Levu was very hard and sad for my family and I. It is a sacred place in my heart, for it is one of the places where nature truly rules. I want to protect this place, for future tourism and simply its beauty. I am determined to keep it the way it is. Who will join me?