Saturday, 29 September 2012

Meeting the lovely people of Malekula

We left Maskelyne islands and sailed up the east coast of Malekula. Our next stop was Banam Bay just north of Port Sandwich. It was quite a nice place, big sheltered bay, which is nice because it means we can anchor far away from the shore and be further away from flying bugs and have more privacy.

We happened to arrive late Friday afternoon, so it meant the kids didn't have school on the Saturday and came out in their canoes to fish and check us out. We first spoke with two kids in one canoe and later more boys arrived. We invited them onboard for popcorn, an offer they more than happily accepted. Two more arrived with some fish and I made another pot of popcorn, as there were now 10 boys onboard. They chopped up a couple of the small reef fish, head, tail and all, and gave to me to fry up and that was just a quickly devoured as the popcorn. Some of the boys went ashore and got us a couple of coconuts to drink while others stayed onboard and had fun playing with the binouculars and checking out Sophia. She did need several buckets of sea water after the visit to clean up popcorn and fish bits!

Later in the afternoon Phil and I went ashore to have a look around and find the shop. Some girls showed us the way, which was great, because there was no way we would have found it ourselves. Shop is generous word for a tiny hut with a few cans  and not much else, but we got some more 2-min noodles and met some nice people on the way. On the way back the girls giggled and asked if they could also come and visit Sophia, they must have heard from the boys about their visit, despite the fact that it was quite a big village. Sure, no problem, we arranged they would come the next day after church and lunch.

Sunday morning we had a good snorkel on the reef where we saw lots of Nemos, a black-tipped reef shark and some pretty big groupers. I baked a cake and we started waiting for our visitors. At 4.45 we had almost given up and were about to eat the cake ourselves, but they finally turned up. Three girls were escorted by one boys and two young men, so it wasn't the all girl visit I had hoped for, but it was OK. The girls had fun playing with my hair and were just as interested to see Sophia as the boys had been. They were all very polite, dressed in their Sunday best and we weren't at all worried about them nicking anything. The best part was when we asked them to sing for us. They sang beautifully, mainly hymns in bislama and songs about Jesus providing vegetables for us.

Next stop was Port Stanley. We first went to Norsup, Malekula's main village. It was different to the other villages we have seen because the houses were actually concrete and corrugated iron and not just wood, wowen and tatch. The people were still just as friendly, everyone says hello, smiles and waves. The anchorage was pretty rolly though, so we went further into Port Stanley to Sauro to stay the night.

Our last stop on Malekula was by Wala Island, just north of Port Stanley. Our guide said it was one of the best places to see custom dance. However, we were the only ones there, so we didn't feel like asking them to put on a dance show for us alone. George, the chief's nephew, rowed out and welcomed us and pretty much immediately invited us to come have dinner with him and he'd also show us around the island. Imagine in New Zealand if people invited total stranger tourists into their homes for dinner. They are just such amazing friendly people here. First we had a great snorkel on the reef. Some cruise ships also stop here, like at Mystery Island where we cleared into Vanuatu, and there was the same kind of plastic floating dock and fancy toilet building! Anyway, George took us on a tour around the island and showed us these amazing clearings in the middle of the islands where many many big stones were arranged like tables. We didn't quite catch the whole story, but there was something about Pentecost (antoher island further east), either the people or the stones were from there or going there or something. The tables were used for pig killing ceremonies. We did understand it was unique and the only place in Vanuatu that has them. It was amazing how they would have gotten all these big stones lifted into the middle of the island and arranged like that. The whole place was thick with culture and traditions.

George's wife cooked us a lovely meal of yams in coconut milk, rice and tomatoe omelet. I had brought in chocolate muffins (again). George also had a visitor book we signed. He has built a little guest house, a proper concrete house with real windows and sometimes cruise ship visitors want to come back and stay and also sometimes cruisers. I'll write a seperate blog post with more info, including his contact details as it would be a truly unique experience to visit this beautiful island and be part of island village life.

We fixed a broken switch on a solar powered torch of George's, gave him some old rope, printed a few photos of his family I took, but in return were give a whole bunch of veggies and the lovely meal. They didn't want any money, but asked that we gave him a donation to pass onto the chief for the tour of the island, which we of course were more than happy to do. The whole village had just built a brand new church and had celebrated its opening. Every morning kids and adults row or boat over the mainland where there's a school and they have their gardens (veggie gardens that is). 

We're now in Luganville on Espirito Santo and enjoying things like ice creams and internet again. I have uploaded a truckload of photos on facebook, so check them out, this is hopefully a direct link: Facebook album: Vanuatu II

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