Tuesday, January 1, 2013

YOLO on Pentecost

Pentecost is where land diving, the precursor to bungee jumping began. The young men build their own towers from branches and vines and then made whatever declaration they wanted before they jumped. If they measured correctly and chose the right vine, they would just brush their heads against the soft dirt at the base of their tower. I can't imagine how they know, but there aren't many deaths from doing this here. The jumping is usually in April and May, when they are praying for a good yam harvest, so the towers were empty when we were on Pentecost. The tower in the photo below is that bottlebrush of sticks and twigs in the center of the shot.

A closer view of the land diving tower.  On other islands or at other times, they want money to see this.  But we just wandered in and around it.

The base of the tower.  You can see it isn't built straight.  This isn't an activity where you can afford to make mistakes in judgement.
A thatched hut at Homo Bay on Pentecost; it has glass louvered windows, an unusual twist on the building materials.

A huge elephant ear leaf in the creek at Homo Bay.

A round thatched hut.

Unusually wide planks used for walls on this hut home.

The view from the base of the land diving tower, looking out onto the rows of coconut palm trees that were cut and laid out for bleacher seats for when the Queen of England came to visit.  That's Jim in the lower left corner, to give you some perspective of the size of the audiences they get.  I think cruis ships disgorge lots of tourists to come view this spectacle when it is being held, too.

The waterfall as seen from Waterfall Bay on Pentecost.  The folks here decided they wanted 800 vatu (about $10/pp) to walk us the 10 minutes to see the falls.  We declined and left, to see better waterfalls for free.

The sign from the time when Queen Elizabeth II visited to watch the land diving.  The one claim to fame for this place.

Coconut bleacher seats for the land diving.
 YOLO and Chesapeake from the hill on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu.

We moved up to the northern tip of Pentecost, to Loltong, the center of government for the island.  It was just a small village, but the folks here were very very friendly and we ended up having a meal here at the Vat-Ulo Restaurant, run by Matthew and Mary.  All the food they served is grown intheir own gardens and prepared by them in the local ways.

Some chambered nautilus shells in the Vat-Ulo Restaurant and Yacht Club.  I think these are some of my favorite shells.
This was our first course in our meal--bean snake filled with tuna.
Inside decor at Vat-Ulo Rest.

Lap lap banana.  These are cooked green bananas wrapped in leaves.  Anyhting wrapped in leaves to be cooked is referred to as 'lap lap' and they wrap just about everything you can think of!

Mary gave us some "local curry", the orange root next to some ginger they also dug up for us.  I think it is also known as turmeric and will stain anything it touches orange/yellow.  It even stained my stainless steel knife I used to cut it!

Loltong anchorage.  The restaurant is the leftmost tiny hut you see on shore.

Matthew, Jason, Karen and Mary in front of the Vat-Ulo Restaurant and Yacht Club.  The flower necklaces were part of our welcome to the restaurant.  Vat-Ulo is the name of the rocks in the bay, so the restaurant/yacht club is named after them.

Sweet bananas served for dessert.

Tuna and choko, a main dish

The Vat-Ulo Restaurant at Lolton, Pentecost Island, Vanuatu.

View from inside the restaurant with our yachts in the distance.  Note the guy carrying some bunches of bananas on a stick, balanced on his shoulder.
Below are ceremonial belts/sashes, known as baris, that are woven and hand dyed in patterns.  Mary of the Vat-Ulo restaurant makes these to sell for special occasions.  There was a wedding the day we were onshore and no doubt some of these were worn.

Building a nakamal/community house in Loltong.  One guy was sitting on another's shoulders on one of those crossbeams, hammering a nail to hold a log.  No such thing as OSHA here.  The villagers were sitting around watching these guys build this.

A 4-sided square bean in Mary's garden.

Some cows resting on the beach sand.

These are kava plants.  The roots are pulled up, cleand and dried, and then pounded into powder to mix with water to make the kava that we have been drinking.  It looks like muddy water and has a peppery taste that takes some getting used to, but I like drinking kava!  It's not alcoholic; it just chills you out.  People drink it and share stories.

Karen on YOLO

Another very large bari, to be worn in a ceremony.

The ferry and supply ship came, disgorged its cargo, picked up people and left while we were having our mega meal at Vat-Ulo.

A hand-painted bari drying on a large tree on the beach.

Jason inside the restaurant.

Some of Mary's undyed baris.  She is known locally for her fine weaving.
Mary showing us how a bari is worn.
Big rocks in the banyan fig tree roots on the shore.
While still in Homo Bay, a guy named Simeon paddled out to us and wanted to know if we wanted to buy some fruit or veges.  Or freshwater shrimp.  I ordered some shrimp and Simeon asked if we liked to drink kava.  Linda and I enthusiastically said "Yes" but the boys demurred.  He said he'd bring some out to drink the next night.  Good for his word, he showed up with a 2-liter soda pop bottle full of the muddy brown drink.  We had our friends Jim and Linda from Chesapeake, along with Fredy and Chantal from Micromegas on board with us when he arrived, so we had a party going.  The orange bowl contains the last few pieces of toasted coconut chunks that I put out for dipping into a wasabi/soy/ginger mix.  Simeon didn't like that at all, but the rest of us loved it.

Linda getting into the kava.

Simeon, Karen and Jason

Simeon on YOLO.

Simeon was telling us about his family.  His brother is now Chief Luc and is much more popular than his father was as a chief.  Note the woven bag he wears.  Just about everyone carries one of these on the islands, men and women both.  Like a purse or briefcase, they contain the things that can't be/aren't carried in your pockets. 

Jason and Chantal were explaining to Simeon where we were according to our charts on the iPad.

Fredy and Jason showing Simeon the star finder application we have on the iPad.

Karen playing the flute I got on Ambrym.  It's hand-carved bamboo with fishes and flowers on it.  Tough to play a melody, but I can get a couple of toots out of it.  Have kava, will play...
Back at Loltong, we had two 9-yr. olds paddle out to Chesapeake to visit with us one day, bringing fruit and veges as gifts.  The next day, they each brought their siblings and friends and one went to Chesapeake and these four girls came to YOLO.  The two in the middle are only 4 and 5 years old.  What were their mothers thinking??  They arrived shivering in a leaky canoe with no paddle, just a hunk of round bamboo for an oar.  We ended up taking both boatloads of children back to shore in our dinghies as the wind came up and they couldn't make it back before being swept across the bay.  Good intentions, but we had a hard time communicating for any great lengths as their first language was French and the little ones hadn't learned any English.  We were a curiosity and they wanted cookies and juice that yachties feed guests.   After watching them pick their noses and heads, we wouldn't let them into the boat and I wiped down the whole area after they left.  Sad, but their hygiene leaves a lot to be desired and I didn't want to have any remains they might leave behind.
These are some tiny, marble-sized tomatoes they brought as a gift, along with some island cabbage that I cooked in coconut milk to make a delicious side dish for several meals.

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