Excerpt from thenationalnews.com
Standing on a hillock, I look down at parrot green fields dotted with wild stallions and cassava and taro patches. I am in Sigatoka Valley, in the middle of the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. Once the stomping ground of tribal chiefs, today it is known as the “salad bowl of Fiji” because of its abundant fruit and vegetable gardens.
“Naihehe literally means the place to get lost and even today, if you come here without a proper guide, you can get lost,” says Tia. Long ago, this space was a refuge for villagers looking to escape marauding tribes and then the Christian missionaries who tried to convert them — a safe fortress where they could subsist for months on the fish found in the small creeks within the caves and the yam and fruit that grew around them. In 1743, 100 people hid here for 79 days. It is believed that cannibalism ended in these parts in 1867, with the arrival of the missionaries.
Just as I think the worst is behind us, we come to a point where the ceiling drops almost to the ground, with a small space beneath called the “pregnancy gap”. Biting back my acute sense of claustrophobia, I crawl through the narrow opening, which earned its nickname because it was said that the gap would reveal if a woman was pregnant, as she could not make it through if she was. It also prevented attackers from entering this inner cave.
The view on the other side makes it worth the effort — a cavernous space like a Gothic cathedral, where a European couple have even exchanged vows, according to Tia, with 400 candles lit for eerie illumination. He shows us spaces that in the past were named after their use — the chief’s swimming pool, the priest’s throne and the cooking oven, a small recess in a large pillar formed by a stalactite and stalagmite.