Udre Udre’s abode is a place where one is recommended not to set foot alone, especially if you are an outsider. The area is said to be one that was once occupied by Fiji’s and probably the world’s most renowned cannibal in the early 1800s.
He is said to have lived there with his family members and followers, killing people in the vicinity and cooking them there.
Those who know about the area and the exact location of the renowned cannibal’s base camp or fort would probably not dare to go there alone.
But for some people from a village, which is located metres from the foot of the hill where the cannibal’s home was, going there alone is not a problem.
It was only two weeks ago when villagers of Vatusekiyasawa in Rakiraki revealed to The Fiji Times the abode of the cannibal Udre Udre.
The hill where the renowned cannibal used to live is known as Dakudaku and his village was Korolevu, a place protected by stone walls on three sides.
The area is about five kilometres from Rakiraki Town.
Apart from the scenic view of the sea, islands and the Nakauvadra mountain range, the town can also be seen from the hilltop.
While revealing where Udre Udre once used to live, Vatusekiyasawa villagers also offered a team from this newspaper and the Nai Lalakai an exclusive tour of the cannibal’s fort.
The remnants of the stone walls, a big lovo pit, a water source and the place where Udre Udre is said to have beat the lali as a sign of his hunger for humans are still at the site.
But during another visit to the site last week, the villagers revealed that they had discovered house mounds in the area too. Apart from the house mounds, the villagers said they also know of an area on the hill where Udre Udre and his people may have played a sport popular at that time.
The area has been partly cleared of the trees that have been growing there for years and bearing fruit which can fetch villagers good financial returns.
However, apart from whatever has been discovered at the site so far, villagers say one should not go up to Dakudaku alone.
While they believe that Udre Udre is dead, they also believe his spirit is where he once used to live with his people.
Vatusekiyasawa villager Nasoni Nabogi narrated a story to this newspaper on how two youths fled from the hills a few years ago and in the process created a new track.
“One of the youths’ mother is from Vatusekiyasawa and she got married in Nadroga. The two youths came from Nadroga and were staying in the village,” he said.
“They went to the hill one day without telling anyone in the village and harvested a lot of cocoa. They didn’t harvest any coffee beans.
“After harvesting the cocoa, they went and sat where Udre Udre and his people used to get water from on the hill, which is some distance from where their homes were.”
Mr Nabogi said the two youths sat on the stones at the water source and were facing each other when one of them heard someone step on a fallen branch.
“One of them saw the small branch move up straight but there wasn’t anyone there. The two youths got the eerie feeling and the hair on their arms stood up.
“And just after that, the branches of two big cocoa trees just moved aside like someone moved them. Seeing this, the youths left the cocoa they had harvested and fled.
“They created a new path down the hill because they knew that someone quite big had moved the branches and looked at them, although they didn’t see anyone.
“From what the two youths stated after their experience, I believe that whoever moved those big branches was a very big person, who was not visible to the youths. I believe it was a spirit, probably Udre Udre’s.”
Mr Nabogi said the two youths experienced what they did because they were not originally from Vatusekiyasawa Village.
He said any outsider who may try to go to the hills alone is expected to experience things there, like someone moving and watching them but is not visible to them.
“It’s okay for us from the village to go up there, even alone. We haven’t experienced anything when up in the hills alone,” said Mr Nabogi.
His cousin Josua Naimila, who was our guide on the final leg of the journey on Dakudaku and led us to where Udre Udre beat the lali, echoed similar sentiments.
“I come up on the hills almost every day because my dalo plantation is around here and I mostly come alone.
“But I haven’t felt anything so far,” he said.
Asked why he does not have any eerie feeling when on the hill alone, Mr Nabogi said, “It could be that we from the village have some kind of connection to this place.”
Hailing from a place known as Draqara in the Nakauvadra mountain range in Rakiraki, Udre Udre is said to have moved to the coastal area before moving to Dakudaku.
Vatusekiyasawa villager Epeli Bukadogo said tribal war and cannibalism was rife in the mountain range when Udre Udre moved with some of his followers.
Mr Bukadogo said some people from the mountain range also moved to Lovoni in Levuka. He said Udre Udre and his people also confronted a group preaching Christianity.
According to Mr Bukadogo, he was aware from the stories told by his forefathers and from the documents he had that Udre Udre ate 999 people during his reign.
The Yalo i Viti: Shades of Fiji, Fiji Museum Catalogue 1986 states that from the stones counted, Udre Udre ate 872 people but the number could be around 900 as some stones were missing.
During cannibalism, some of the cannibals kept stones to keep a record of the number of people they ate.
In the catalogue, Reverend Richard Lyth, who was staying at a place called Cokova in northeastern Viti Levu in 1848, said Udre Udre’s son Ravatu showed him the stones his father kept to memorialise the number of human beings he ate.
Mr Lyth is quoted saying in the catalogue that one Methuselah who accompanied him counted 872 stones but there were many gaps in the row where the stones had been removed.
Furthermore, he is quoted as saying in the catalogue that “the whole family appears to have been cannibals extraordinary. Such was a brother of Ra Udre Udre’s called Ratu, such his sons Naburebalavu and Nangavuli.”
In his book, Naturalist’s South Pacific Expedition in Fiji, Otto Degener said one Miss Cumming counted 872 stones, though at least 30 had been removed since Udre Udre’s death in about 1840.
However, there is no documented evidence so far on how Udre Udre, whose grave is a few kilometres away from where he lived, died.
Mr Bukadogo said while he was aware that Udre Udre was dead, he was unaware of how exactly the renowned cannibal died.
He said Udre Udre could have been shot dead by the Colonial government officials.
And since there is documented evidence that Udre Udre had children and siblings, there is also a possibility that his descendants are still alive and living somewhere in Rakiraki or elsewhere to this very day.
This article was the 3rd part of a 4 part Series in 2014 by The Fiji Times highlighting Udre Udre. First published in Fiji times on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
NEXT WEEK:Tracing the descendants of Udre Udre.
Avinesh Gopal Email: [email protected]