It lies along the spine of mountains than run the length of the island and reach a height of 1241 meters (4072 ft) at Uluigalau peak. Its size is difficult to determine with certitude because of the marshlands that surround it as well as the vegetation that floats on its quiet surface, but it is perhaps 500 meters (1640 ft) long and half as wide. Smaller ponds are nearby to the south. From the lake at 823 meters (2699 ft.) above sea level, the almost daily rainwaters pour in lacey streams and veils of waterfalls into the Pacific on either side of the island.
To reach the lake one faces a serious hike of some three or four hours depending on the condition of both trail and hiker, up streams and steep muddy trails. Pandabonium has yet to try it. In Fiji's warm, humid climate, the air can feel heavy and somehow makes one's feet feel the same. The rain forests of Taveuni are protected from logging and other development and are home to many interesting endemic species of plants and animals. One gets the feeling of being in another world.
Another world? Ironically, this is the world the way it was before industrial culture defiled it. This is the true planet earth. The process of destruction has only taken a few hundred years using the energy of ancient sunlight stored for hundreds of millions of years in the earth as coal and gas and oil, the power of which most people, even as they use them, do not even come close to grasping. Perhaps they will very soon as the search for alternatives begins in earnest. It will be unsettling. That much is certain.
It is here, in this mist shrouded, primeval setting and nowhere else on earth that the beautiful flower that shares the name Tagimoucia is found.
Rare though it is, the Tagimoucia flower, scientific name medinilla waterhousei, is a member of the seventh largest family of flowering plants in the world - melastomataceae. The national flower of Fiji, it has been featured on several postage stamps.
Like many things in nature that are unique to a certain area, there is a local legend about this flower's origins. Pacific Island cultures had no written languages so knowledge and history were handed down over milenia - often with surprising accuracy - through the oral traditions of story telling and chanting.
I have heard two versions of this legend, the key points of which are the same. In modern times, local legends are sometimes told in a fasihon that the story teller thinks will be best received rather than the way it was told in the past. I have seen this happen with some Hawaiian stories. It is then retold that way many times making it difficult to discern the original story. I suspect that has happened with the legend of Tagimoucia.
One story is that a young girl was playing when she was supposed to be doing her chores. Her mother kept reminding her of what needed to be done, but the girl ignored her. The mother became so annoyed that she grabbed a bundle of sasas (mid ribs of coconut fronds), which she had been using as a broom, and spanked the girl with them telling her to get out of their bure (house) and never come back.
The girl was so upset that she ran away. She ran and ran with tears in her eyes. She could not see where she was going and after a long while she encountered a flowerless vine hanging from a tree and became entangled in it. She could not free herself and lay down and fell asleep crying. Her tears turned from salt water to blood and fell on the vine where they turned into beautiful red flowers.
When she awoke she was able to free herself from the vine and ran home. She discovered that her mother had forgotten all about their quarrel and so they lived happily from then on.
The other version I heard was a romantic one and goes like this: Once upon a time, a princess was about to be forced by her father to marry her predestined husband.
However, she was in love with another man and, in desperation, she fled from the village into the mountains and, completely exhausted, she fell asleep on the banks of the lake. While she was sleeping, she cried and in her dream tears trickled down over her cheeks and turned into beautiful red flowers. ... And the red flowers engendered the Tagimaucia plant.
Tagimaucia means, "to cry in your sleep". Tagi=cry, moce=sleep.
I don't know which, if either, is the original local tale. Which do you like best? Which do you think is the "original"?
In preparing this post, a funny, serendipitous kind of thing happened. I was having difficulty finding pictures to share and started searching on line. There isn't much there either. I never did find a picture of the lake mainly because it is in the jungle and covered with vegetation. (Well, I found one, but I would have had to pay for it.) Also, most of the few flower photos I found were of the wrong flower! Finally, I found this picture of a Tagimoucia blossom.
What is so funny is that I happen to know the person who took it. Her name is Dr. Angela Kay Kepler. Kay (along with her husband, Cameron) has done decades of research and written many guide books about the botany and ornithology of Pacific islands, particularly the Hawaiian archepelago. Originally from New Zealand, she has lived on Maui off and on for many years. How do I know her? She is a clarinetist and we played together in the Maui Symphony Orchestra. Big ocean - small world.
Wendy of Peceli and Wendy's Blog Babasiga found a brochure that she had saved about this flower and posted it on their blog. It has a really nice picture of the blossoms. Vina'a Wendy!