Savusavu is known for its geothermal hot springs, and many more are to be found scattered around the island of Vanua Levu. There’s a particularly notable outcrop in the remote village of Nakabolou, where a series of specially constructed stone pools were once built for the use of the village’s chiefly rulers. Much of the complex is now overgrown and inaccessible, but we’ve been encouraging one of the local landowners to cut back the vegetation and open up the area. He’s been working hard and has created a very pleasant setting: bamboo chairs and a table, and small garden around the two hot pools.
They are VERY hot; you can just about get your feet into the top one but it would be a painful submersion; the lower one is a little less hot but probably a bit too muddy to want to actually lie in. You can also walk up to the shed where the landowner is drying out the copra. He’s laid a corrugated iron sheet over the hot spring and the steam heats it to a high temperature which acts as a hot plate to dry the coconut flesh. All around he’s been cutting back the bush: we know that there are the remains of an ancient village somewhere, so we are waiting to see what emerges with interest. It’s still a work in progress but well worth the trip.
The magic of the outing lies as much in the drive there as anything else. The road is tar sealed to Vunavesi, and then it’s a dirt track up the valley. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle as the road crosses a couple of rivers and goes up and down some sharp and rough hills. It follows the river, dipping up and down. The hills rise steeply on either side; down in the valley there are bamboo groves and occasional cleared spaces for growing cassava and dalo, but higher up its covered with thick vegetation in many shades of glorious green.
We always arrange the trip with Sailosi Qomate, who has been a friend for many years. Sailosi has quite exceptional knowledge of the area and knows just about everyone. He comes along as our mata ni vanua – spokesman – to ensure that we observe the correct protocols with the local villages, and make introductions along the way. He’s also a font of information on Fijian life. So ask us to pack up a picnic and we’ll take you off for a fascinating half day trip. And – here’s a fun extra – take along your bathing costume (actually, it’s best to wear it as there’s not much privacy for changing) and on the way back we’ll stop by the river and you can have a plunge in the fast flowing fresh stream.