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Bromo volcano at sunrise, Indonesia

Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands

In the time before time, the people who would become the Fijians were shaped of wet earth, pulled from the sea on a giant fishhook and given more than 300 islands to live on. Or if you want to be a little more prosaic, the people of Fiji were part of the great Lapita migration, which began somewhere around Taiwan and headed east. The first boats to arrive stopped migrating when they found this maze of islands formed by the earth turning itself inside out with volcanoes.

The new Fijians spent a couple centuries involved in internecine war and developed the bad habit of using clubs to bop all strangers. But strangers kept showing up for the simple reason that Fiji, especially the southeast coast of Viti Levu, was geographically wonderful: the kind of spot that made mariners chuck their anchors and start trying to make a living as a settler. And who knows, maybe the Fijians just had tired arms, but by the time missionaries came, powers had shifted and the bopping had stopped.

Today that southeast corner of the largest island in Fiji, the city of Suva, holds three-quarters of the nation’s population. It’s also shielded by shimmering green mountains opening to a calm sea, a land lush with afternoon rains.