Erromango: Cannibals, Burial Caves and Genuinely Friendly People !
Still feeling the thrill of our close encounter with the volcano, we headed further North up the chain of Islands the next day, and arrived into Dillon Bay, in Erromango by lunch time. Dillon Bay is a protected anchorage and it is also known as Williams Bay, because of John Williams. No, NOT the composer, but rather the missionary who, along with fellow missionary James Harris, unwillingly became a martyr, after being killed (and eaten...) on Erramango in November 1889.
|Unlike the unfortunate John Williams, we had a MUCH more welcoming experience in wonderful Erromango|
This island was another pleasant surprise for us. The day after our arrival we took the dinghy into shore to visit the village. We were greeted by Jason, the chief’s son and by David, our friendly and patient tour guide. David took us around the village and through the farm lands and bush and to a favourite fresh water swimming hole where the kids had a refreshing dip.
|Meg going for a fresh water swim|
We then had a lovely lunch at another villagers house. Donald and his wife had prepared an absolutely lovely spread for us, all made from local vegetables and fruit, fish and rice. Our host, so generous and inviting, was also amusing: I had to smile when, as part of his welcome speech, he told us that he calls every new comer he meets by either “Mom” or “Dad”. What ever his reasons, I think it is also a very clever way for him to get away with not having to remember everyone’s names ! ;)
|Donald and his wife|
Donald went on to share his life philosophy with us: That no matter what our religious beliefs or the colour of our skins* , we are all part of the same big family and together we all form a unit...we are all connected to one another.
|Chris (from SV Scintilla) serving herself to our lovely lunch|
To prove his point, the beautiful meal he provided for us was offered absolutely free. If there was anything we had to offer in return, he would gratefully accept, but there were no obligations. And so, when we found out that Donald’s wife ran a preschool all on her own (Some days up to 49 kids show up!) we were happy to donate a whole bunch of craft supplies, and Mark also offered to help Donald fix his freezer. We were happy to give back.
*It is something one may have to get used to here....being openly called “white skins”! This is completely without malice or any negative intent. It is so far from racism although, perhaps hard for some of you to believe, it is simply a fact to them; we look different, and they find no reason not to mention it, they sincerely appear to mean no disrespect at all. It just made a few of us giggle when we first heard our new moniker.
The burial caves;
It wasn’t until after the arrival of the missionaries (after John Williams), that the people of Erramongo started to burry their dead in the ground. Before this, they used to bring their dearly departed into some sacred caves, where they were left, uncovered, for all of eternity. We had the privilege to be invited to visit this sacred site.
Before entering the caves, David had to “introduce us” to the spirits, so that they would not be angry with our intrusion and take revenge by haunting us in bad dreams later that night or tormenting our children. In order to achieve this he said a few words to them in bislama and then we were told we could enter.
|Meg entering the first burial site|
We entered two grave sites. The first cave, which one had to enter through a narrow opening, had been damaged by a recent land slide...but the bones and personal effects (bracelets etc..) had been lovingly recovered and placed back on the surface of the ground inside. The second was a former chief’s grave. We had to climb up a steep face to a ledge in the rock where the chief, his wives and former assistant had been laid to rest.
|The climb up to the second site|
Yu Tok Tok Bislama ?
Bislama, the “pigeon english” they speak here is a phonetic language. When you first read the public notices scattered around the villages, you don’t understand what you are reading. As soon as you start to read it aloud, however, the message starts to decode itself....in its simplicity and down to earth way to communicate.
wat nem blong yu ? (What is your name ? “blong” literally means “belongs to”)
Nem blong mi M-C (My name is MC)
Now it is your turn ! See if you can decipher this notice from the Health Committee:
|Hint: This is a recipe for making an electrolyte solution for children (pikini) who are suffering from a certain unpleasant digestive disorder (Sit Sit Wota). Wan= one Tu= two|
Efate and the Capital : Port Vila
After one more day sail, we arrived at the Island of Efate, and the capital of Vanuatu: Port Vila. We were happy to be able to go out for dinner and eat ice cream again. We fetched some groceries and got reconnected to the internet. Other than these guilty pleasures, we went to visit the excellent National Cultural Museum and the great handicraft centre with its small but very informative Volcano Museum.
“Sandroing” (Sand Drawing)
|Edgar doing Sandroing|
Each drawing is a story, passed on from generation to generation....it may be told or sung as a song, each drawing is different. The first one represented the expression of deep love for another, the second the arrival of the English “Black Birding Ships” into Vanuatu and so on. I think I speak for everyone who witnessed the demonstration by Edgar when I say that it was mesmerizing... visual arts but in its most “alive” form, what a thrill !
And…..just so you know...
….I am not the only one who thinks so: In 2003, UNESCO proclaimed Vanuatu’s sandroing to be a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
We also were treated to some traditional wooden flute playing and an interesting tour of the fascinating displays of the history of Vanuatu (Which, you may know, used to be called New Hebrides, I found out today). If you are ever in Port Vila, do yourself a great favour and go and see it for yourself !
Coming up on our next blog:
We travel North again, exloring more of the stimulating and wondrous Islands of Vanuatu….
Until then, as always, we are sending you lots of love, from the 4 of us here on board S/V Amelie!
4Ms at Sea
Do you know how to milk cows ? Do you dream to travel to a beautiful and remote paradise far far away ? Well….have we got an opportunity for you !!
Stay tuned as Mark tells you all about this exciting and unique opportunity…coming soon !