Friday, September 17, 2010

We are tucked away in a great anchorage at Port Sandwich, Malekula Island. You are discouraged from swimming in these waters because a shark attacked a young yachtie a few years ago and she perished. We came here because we heard there was a feast and some dancing to be seen. It has been well worth it, the feast the first day was delicious with many traditional foods, more lap lap and lots of food with taro and manioc. A couple of local string bands played the night away, there were guitars, ukulele and a sting box bass. The bass was just a box with a stick attached to the top with a string strung from the top of the stick to the top of the box. It gave off amazing resonances. The singing was very high, there was a lot of falsetto singing and the harmonies were not what we had been used to with the Polynesians. We danced and joined in the fun that everyone was having.
The next morning a walk had been organized to a waterfall. There are 15 boats in the anchorage and about 8 dinghies full of people set off down the bay. We got off in a mangrove swamp and then took a walk through a very steamy jungle. The palm trees had vines that wound there way up the trunks making their trunks appear about twice the normal size.
We stopped at a bridge over the Murder River. This was the spot where the French and the locals fought in the 1800's. The story goes that one of the French contingent was having his way with the chief's wife so the war was on, thus the name. Cannibalism was practiced until the late 1960's on this island. The French governed here until independence in 1980 and apparently this island did not want the French to leave. Under their rule there was electricity, a good system of running water, and well maintained schools, life was good.
We turned off the road and went to a wonderful oasis. Fresh water babbled over boulders and fell in a 3 meter waterfall. There were pools of water above the falls and everyone stripped down and went in the water. It was a tad dirty but very refreshing after tramping through the steamy jungle. We got back to the anchorage just in time for a delicious lunch featuring some very tasty coconut cake and a wonderful chopped up fruit salad.
After lunch we saw some kustom dancing. It was an all male troop with painted bodies and very little on except the nambas or penis sheaths. They had on the most wonderful masks, they were about a meter high with long pointy tops, and full faces. You will have to wait for the pictures, it is hard to describe. There were nuts shells wound around their ankles and when they stomped to the beating of the drums they would clash together making quite the noise. They carried sticks that used to be used to bash people and pigs over the head to kill them, fantastic stuff.
After that was over we asked the peace corp. volunteer that was helping to get the island organized about how kava was made, She took 4 of us over and we watched kava being cut up in tiny pieces and then put through the grinder, then it was strained about 5 times before we got a sample. I had 2 bowls and felt very relaxed and laid back. One fella said it was good for high blood pressure so I may have to indulge more often. The string band returned and we spent the afternoon enjoying some good music.
Another Fast Passage 39 showed up in the anchorage so we got a chance to go aboard and have a look at how it had been laid out. Our interior was in much better shape than theirs but the owner is a young man of about 30, who lives to surf. He had a useable navigation station that we were very jealous of; maybe one day we might feel the need to do something about ours!!