Typical ni-Vanuatu house
We left off last time with Mark and me heading into the nakamal on Aneityum for a few shells of kava. Our favorite nakamal at Reggae Beach was closed due to a death in the family, so we had to venture deeper into the jungle to find the second nakamal. As we walked down a narrow path we came across a sort of compound - thatched huts with woven leaf walls, an outdoor kitchen (a roof over rocks and a fire), and lots of chickens and children running around. The women were all cooking and carrying around huge trays of steaming taro and lap-lap, a traditional taro leaves and coconut milk dish. There were no men to be found.
We asked a woman where the nakamal was and she pointed down the path. As we walked down the path a little group of thatch huts appeared. These huts are the same kind that you would find at a hokey theme park trying to replicate a south Pacific paradise, except these are for real. Open air huts with walls made of woven leaves, palm frond roofs and bamboo window sills and roughly cut benches made of a fallen coconut palm.
This is where all the men of the village had congregated. There was not one woman to be seen (except me, of course) and Mark and I were the only two white people in sight. To say that I felt out of place is an understatement. But Mark was not daunted and we walked up to "High Times" nakamal. I asked if it was okay if I entered the nakamal because, not that long ago, women were killed if they entered the nakamal. It is a sacred place and women are impure, thus the kava would have to be thrown out as well - a great tragedy.
High Times kava bar
Alas, I was allowed to enter, although I am not sure if ni-Vanuatu women are allowed. The nakamal was very small, maybe 10x10 feet, with two benches on either side. There were two windows, one to pay for a bowl of kava, the other to get the bowl. A high tide costs 100 vatu (about $1), so Mark and I started with that. We got our kava and went outside to sit on a bench and get eaten alive by mosquitos, when we saw Keith, one of the locals who took us diving earlier in the day. Mark bought him a bowl and after drinking our bowls - you down it all in one gulp - we sat down. I was very happy Keith was there because I was sure he would tell me if I made some huge cultural faux paux. We talked a bit but people who are stoned on kava are not very talkative, so we just kind of sat there.
In fact, the whole area was very quiet except for chickens clucking and the occasional crying baby off in the distance. Oh, and except for the fact that all the men were hawking huge loogies all over the place. I don't know if they were sick, trying to get the taste of kava out of their mouths or what, but every guy was spitting. Even in the nakamal, men spat on the floor (granted, it was sand, but still). The grossest part of the whole thing was not the taste of the kava, or even the fact that everybody shares the same shells, but that Mark and I were not wearing any shoes. I must have stepped on 10 loogies before we got out of there.
While I was horribly grossed out I was also quite stoned on the kava, and as Mark and I walked back to the dinghy we both had huge goofy grins on our faces. "Wow, that was a really authentic Vanuatu experience," Mark said. "Yep. Vanuatu is so cool." "Yep." And we both giggled all the way back to the boat.
By the time I got back to the boat I was starting to feel a bit queasy. There could be many reasons for this: 1. The natural effect of kava. 2. Drinking the local water with which kava is mixed. 3. Sharing shells with the locals. 4. Walking barefoot through really gross stuff. Could be any or all of the above, but that kava session was three days ago and my stomach is still not back to normal.
We are now on the island of Tanna. I sailed over here today on Mark's boat Merkava, and we had a nice breeze and sunny skies the whole way. As we neared Tanna, which is famous for its active volcano, we could actually see the huge plumes of ash blasting into the air. I asked Mark, "so, um, are we really going to stand at the edge of that active volcano?!" "Yep." Gotta love Vanuatu. This place is wild.
There is one more reason why I am more smitten than ever with this place (sorry, I know this is getting too long). As Mark and I sailed up to anchor - yes, we did not turn the engine on once the whole 50 mile passage, not even to anchor! - I noticed a nice little right hand wave peeling off the point. After setting the anchor and drinking the celebratory beer, Mark and I headed over to check out the wave. "Dude, we gotta hit it. It looks sick!!" I was totally amped to surf, especially since the last time I surfed was when I bashed my foot on the reef. Mark was not so keen, but he said he would wait out there for me to get a few waves.
I put on my reef booties and jumped in the water, so stoked to be back on my board. I paddled up to the point, watching the inside waves heave and pitch on the reef. The biggest waves on the outside seemed to be the softest and breaking in the deepest water, so I went for those. After catching three nice waves and feeling a bit like I cheated death, I returned to the boat with a huge smile and shaking with adrenaline. The waves were only head high but there was nobody else out and I had no local knowledge, so I was a bit freaked out. However, not only were the waves beautiful but the surrounding white sand beaches and thick green foliage with the occasional thatched hut on the beach, along with the rising moon and the setting sun made for a stunning and epic backdrop. I can't wait for what will come tomorrow. I'll be sure to keep you posted.
At 9/24/2012 9:40 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 20°08.36'S 169°48.29'E
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