Monday, October 24, 2011

Mystery of the Vatu Vola

Fiji Times
by Anare Ravula

HIGH and deep into the Dakuniba mountain forest located on the east of Savusavu on the southern coast Vanua Levu, lies a mysterious rock with strange carvings. A joke? Not according to what I and others have witnessed.

This fascinating journey took place so I could gather stories from the village elders, but this one still remains an unsolved mystery today.

It all began a few years ago after hearing stories from 85-year-old Natewa man. Ratu Semisi Bukayaro who witnessed the findings of pure kerosene in some kind of a pond beside the village of Dakuniba in the 1950s.

"Villagers filled their kerosene but then it suddenly disappeared during low tide never to be seen again, " Ratu Semisi had said. According to him, the village elders say it disappeared because it wasn't the right time yet for it to be revealed ("se bera na kena gauna"). Dakuniba itself is within the vanua of Mabuco with traditional links to the Tui Cakau.

I asked villager elder, Josua Tamaiqarikula, aged 74, on what Mabuco meant. He said "mabu" means semi-covered and "co" means grass. "This is a sacred place and there's a lot that's yet to be discovered here in the village and up there in the mountains, but it's not the right time yet," he said. Tamaiqarikula said, he was born at Dakuniba village and holds the leadership position to date, but is yet to be traditionally installed.

Sitting with him for a couple of hours, I listened as he reminisced on stories of his forefathers and village elders told when he was just a boy. "A pool of kerosene was found here twice but then it disappeared again and also up there in the mountains are some rock carvings which we believe indicates where we orginated from," he said.

Rock carvings? Now this revelation interested me, especially after having a few bowls of strong waka from the presentation of sevusevu early on that Sunday morning. Tamaiqarikula said the rock carvings could have been more than 300 years-old because the villagers don't have any proper memory of the purpose of the rock carving itself. With the strong mix of yaqona slowly kicking in, I interrupted the village elder, asking for permission to see the rock carvings myself to which Tamaiqarikula and Inoke Duru, aged 68, both agreed.

Walking across the village lawn, I was excited. This was what I had been looking for, for so long - actually since I started searching for ancient writings in caves within the dense forest of the Nakauvadra range from 2008 to this year. Could this be a link to the unusual writings in one of the caves that was seen by Narara villager Kemueli Penisoni, aged 63, during one of his pig hunts some 33 years ago.

He was awe-struck when he made the discovery but he never got to see the cave again.
But Duru said with stories passed down from their ancestors, they had brought the rock carving or the Vatu Vola with them from Verata in Tailevu. "We are from Verata and we were brought here by Vueti the warrior," he confirmed.

Is it Vueti, the son of Paula from Motoriki whose mother is Buisavulu the only daughter of Lutunasobasoba? Biusavulu is the sister of Rokomautu, the chief of Verata. It could be fitting if it was Roko Ratu from Verata, asking Vueti to accompany them to seek land in Cakaudrove. He said their ancestors carried the rock carving up to the hill to be hidden from the outside intruders who might be searching for it. They treasured the rock carvings as it held something very special to them. "The rock carving holds a lot of mystery that is linked with our land and the people itself," he said

Close to the mountain top, I came across the rock carving - it was broken into big pieces with symbols engraved on it as deep as half an inch. Some of the stones lie flat with carvings facing upwards. The engraved rock of Dakuniba symbolizes an advanced race of man, who dealt with time. The villagers believed the carvings tell the story of a race of mankind during the migration period.

In one of the publication about Dakuniba, Professor of Oceanic Geoscience and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of the South Pacific Patrick Nunn mentioned that the rock carving site was quite unique to be found deep in the forest of the Dakuniba mountain. The villagers said the inscribed rocks was first reported by some foreigners who tried to raise up the flat huge rock with carvings engraved in it. But upon visiting next morning the rock had crumbled due to its weight.

Now, the villagers however have other ideas. They still maintain that the time is not right for the mystery to unfold.

"Then, when will everything about this mysterious mountain be revealed?" I asked.
"E na qai tukuna ga o gauna," (Only time will tell)," was the reply from Duru.