|Height|| ||1323 metres (4341 feet)|
|Vertical Elevation|| ||600 metres (Navai to summit)|
|Location|| ||North coast Viti Levu|
|Nearest town|| ||Tavua|
|Climbing time|| ||6 hours return|
|Grade|| ||4/5 Climb|
|Other peaks|| ||www.tomanivi.com|
Mount Tomanivi (formerly Mount Victoria) is an extinct volcano located in the northern highlands of Viti Levu. Viti Levu is the main and biggest island in Fiji and with international airports at Nadi and Suva, getting to Tomanivi is relatively easy.
Fiji has pretty consistent temperatures throughout the entire year. However, the best time to climb are during the cooler months, June to August. During the wet season, November to April, expect alot of rain and mud.
The few guide books on climbing Tomanivi all state that you must have a 4WD in order to reach Navai (the starting village for the climb). This isn't the case, although the road is very rough and I'm sure any of the car rental companies would refuse to rent you a car if they knew you were going to try and drive to Navai. However, while we were at Navai a 2WD sedan turned up.
Getting to Tavua means either:
1. Renting your own car (most of the bigger hotels can organise this for you) - approximately $100 per day for a 4WD.
2. Getting a driver/taxi to drive you to Tavua ($300 one-way) from Coral Coast.
3. Catching a bus (we didn't try this, but there are frequent buses running along the coast. Although many these only run between cities, meaning a few bus changes).
We decided to spend the night at Tavua Hotel (www.tavuahotel.com) to make our start time a little later in the morning, however you could easily start from any of the nearby towns/resorts and still get to Navai with no problems. The staff at the Tavua Hotel were also exceptionally friendly and helpful. We booked our hotel, a 4WD (although later cancelled) and guide all over the Internet.
The drive to Navai village took about 1 hour 15 minutes. Head East from Tavua (along Kings Highway) and take the first major turn-off on the right (I think there is a sign for a Goldmine). Once on this road, you basically follow the road all the way. It's reasonably easy to follow as there is only one road for most of the way. You pass a few villages along the way and there is then an obvious fork in the road. The road continues uphill on the right and downhill on the left. Go left (we unfortunately took the right hand turn and only after another 20 minutes and asking someone did we realise we'd gone the wrong way).
We arrived at Navai village a short time later. At the far end of the village, there is a rutted road on the left and a house at the end of this road (about 100 metres long). I'd read that it was normal to visit the village Chief, present gifts etc before embarking on the climb. However, as the hike had already been organised for us, we instead were welcomed into this last house. As we found throughout Fiji we were warmly welcomed by both our hosts and a gaggle of kids (we did bring cookies for the children).
It was here we sorted out 'payment' for the climb. $60 included $20 for our guide and $40 as a village contribution (we even got a receipt).
We followed the trail up a small rise behind the village and slowly left the village behind us. We passed just a few more huts before reaching a crude wooden gate across the track. The track beyond this remained quite good for some distance. The lower part of the trail is used by crazing cattle, and while we only spied a few, there presence was certainly felt (and smelt). Given recent rain (which was about to get a whole lot worse) the trail we were on was very muddy and littered with cow-poo landmines.
Unfortunately the weather (which had been on again - off again rain all morning) finally turned decidedly miserable. It started to rain. Essentially the rest of the walk (another 5 hours) was a mix of light rain, heavy rain and an absolute deluge of rain. The trail we were walking on quickly became a river and everything was eventually sodden wet. While higher up on the walk, the trail was just muddy, lower down (where we were now) was a mix of mud and cow poo. Not nice. But we had little choice. We simply sucked it up and walked through the water.
The trail becomes steeper and steeper, although still not particularly difficult. At 'approximately' the halfway point (I think probably a little less than halfway) we reached an old dilapidated sign. Here we took a breather, snacked on some cookies (our only food) and drank some water.
From this point onward the mountain is actually a very difficult climb. The trail essentially skirts the bottom of an ancient volcano before climbing up a ridge. It then follows along the ridge before reaching a first then a second summit. Climbing this ridge is hard work.
Through brief breaks in the cloud and rain we occasionally spotted Navai village far below us. We had spectacular and scary views, as the mountain dropped away on our left. A stumble on some sections of the trail would result in a 30+ metre fall off the ridge. We found ourselves hand on hand climbing up some very steep sections of trail and our pace dropped right down.
Eventually the trail seemed to go no higher. This is the first summit and is essentially right on the 'crater' of the mountain. From here, you briefly descend again before another steep section and the summit proper.
The rain briefly stopped as we broke through the final trees and undergrowth and spotted a sign marking the highest point in Fiji. Previously called Mount Victoria, the sign is from a bygone era.
I'd thought our descent would be much faster than our ascent and anticipated 2 to 2.5 hours return. In reality, it took almost as long to get back down the mountain as did getting up (and we didn't take any breaks going down).
It rained a whole lot more going down and everything was 'extremely' muddy.
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