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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Travel » » Club Nouméa's Tiki Tour of Vanuatu
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Club Nouméa's Tiki Tour of Vanuatu
bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11126
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2011-07-12 10:51 pm   Permalink

It's great see pictures and reports from the real thing - a remote, unknown island culture. Thank you!

 
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TikiSan
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Joined: Sep 29, 2003
Posts: 252
From: O.C., SoCal
Posted: 2011-07-13 5:42 pm   Permalink

Excellent thread! Really great to see the pics!

 
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-07-21 07:16 am   Permalink

Part 5 - Black Island Village


View of Ambrym Island (note the lava flows)

It was in 1913 that Ambrym Islanders first relocated to the island of Efate. One of the two volcanoes on Ambrym, Mt Benbow, had erupted and wiped out several villages. The Ambrymese displaced by this disaster ended up establishing their first permanent settlement on the island of Efate, not far beyond the outskirts of Port Vila. Called Mele Village, it is now the size of a small town, and is home for thousands of Ambrym Islanders and their descendants.



Black Island Village is a more recent Ambrymese settlement, not far from Erakor Lagoon (see the first photo on page 1). It is on a 3-4 hectare block of land granted by local custom authorities, and is home to 30 to 40 people. Life there is pretty self-sufficient, and they grow an abundance of food.


5 o'clock - coconut milk time

Behind the village is a path that leads to a thickly forested area that conceals the village meeting place.



It is here that village meetings are held, along with celebrations and festivals, under the branches of a huge banyan tree.



Such events are not complete without tamtams, several of which are scattered around the edge of the clearing.



Tamtams traditionally provided villages in Ambrym with a means of long-distance communication. For instance, if a group arrived in the village to trade and the chief was out in the fields, he could be summoned via tamtam. Likewise, they were used to warn villagers if a war party was spotted approaching.

There were no written languages on Ambrym, and various tribes spoke different languages, so inter-tribal communication could be a problem. They got over this by using elaborate sand drawings, which would be left in mutually-recognised locations where trading took place. If a tribe up in the hills wanted fish from a coastal tribe, they would go to such a spot, and leave a drawing looking like this:



It may not look much, but for those who can read it, it says who drew it, what sort of fish they want and how many, how much they will trade for them, and when they will return to do the deal.

Conversely, if a party from a coastal village wanted to get some wood pigeons from a tribe up in the hills, they would leave a drawing that looked like this:



This picture says things like how many birds they want, what sort they want, and when they will come back to trade for them.

In pre-European times, getting around Ambrym was difficult, as there were only rough dirt tracks across the volcanic island. If someone slipped and sprained or hurt himself, carrying the injured man back to the village could be a difficult job. To overcome this, they used to pick up the injured man and carry him using a sling wrapped around his waist that they had made on the spot from leaves:



Apart from tamtams, for music, Ambrym Islanders also play the wooden flute, which is their other main traditional instrument.



The high point of my visit to the Black Island Village was the presentation of a Rom dance:



This is a grade-taking dance, performed only by men. When a man in the tribe wishes to move up to a higher social grade, he asks someone who owns the design of a Rom mask if he can buy it, meets with him at the local nakamal (men's hall) and makes a formal offer (pigs, traditionally). Once he had purchased the mask and has been familiarised with the colour coding and shape of the mask and its accompanying costume, he invites various men from the tribe to enter the nakamal and practice the Rom dance with him. This is done in the seclusion of the hall, and anyone other than this select group who tries to see the dance being practiced is fined a pig and is flogged. The dance preparation period can take several days, during which the new owner of the mask pays for all the dancers' food and drink, with a concluding feast for them on the final night once the dance has been learnt. Then, the next morning, the dancers provide a public performance.



Once this is finished, the costumes are burnt, to ensure that the Rom spirit depicted by them does not hang around to haunt the village and cause trouble.

No village visit would be complete without hanging out at the local kava bar:



As well as being drunk here, this is the hut where the kava is made:



For the record, although bitter and muddy, I thought it tasked OK, and downed it in one go. Western man has invented various nasty liquors that taste far worse than Ambrymese kava. Once you have gulped it down, your lips and tongue go numb for quite a while, and suddenly you start feeling exuberant, positive about all things, and you exhibit warm feelings towards your fellow man and the world you live in. For instance, you begin to notice the strange beauty of the trees at dusk:



The positive effect lasted some hours, and I only had one cup. Powerful stuff!

In the next instalment, we go off to Pentecost Island to see the Naghol...



CN










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[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-07-21 07:19 ]


 
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hiltiki
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Joined: Jun 10, 2004
Posts: 3095
From: Reseda, calif.
Posted: 2011-07-21 08:53 am   Permalink

Is the "local Kava bar" a social gathering place for the natives? something like our local bars?
After following this thread, all I want in life is a super tall tamtam.


 
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-07-21 5:19 pm   Permalink

Yes hiltiki; that's where they get together to drink kava and socialise.

Here is an urban kava bar in Port Vila:



Although it is banned in Australia, and I periodically see media reports about big tough Aussie cops busting evil "kava rings", kava has a positive effect, and is a social drink that makes you want to fraternise with people, rather than making you want to beat them up, like beer does. I have the impression the Aussie police would do better to shut down breweries rather than kava rings, given the amount of social and physical damage that the prevailing aggressive beer-swilling culture causes there (and in New Zealand too, although kava is legal here).

CN

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[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-07-21 17:20 ]


 
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-07-25 03:44 am   Permalink

Part 6 - Land Diving on Pentecost



About a thousand years ago, a sexually dissatisfied husband on the island of Pentecost called Tamalie used to beat his wife to the extent that she decided to run away. Although she climbed a huge banyan tree to hide from him, he nonetheless found her. As he climbed up the tree to get her, she kept climbing higher, until there was nowhere to go but along a branch, where she tied liana vines to her ankle. As Tamalie reached out to grab her, she jumped. Thinking she had killed herself, he threw himself off the tree in despair at his maltreatment of her, and plummeted to his death. Unfortunately for Tamalie however, the vines were just long enough to have broken her fall, and although she hit the ground, she lived. In response to this unprecedented event, shocked local men began taking the precaution of practicing "naghol" (land diving) themselves, whilst banning women from doing it. Nowadays, the ritual is multi-layered, being a combination of a coming-of-age manhood ritual, an expression of freedom and a defiance of the laws of nature, a masculine feat that is a mix of an act of atonement and a "won't get fooled again" statement, and even an opportunity for the men who perform it to discuss their marital difficulties during a pre-jump speech, addressing their women standing below the tower.



The land-diving tower itself is several storeys high. The one in the photo was the height of a four-storey building. The centre of the tower is a living tree that is stripped of its branches and foliage and has scaffolding built up around it. The tower is cross-braced with liana vines attached to trees nearby to stabilise it and increase its loading capacity. The area beneath the tower is completely cleared of vegetation and is dug up to a depth of about 10 inches, with any stones or rocks being removed. This provides the "landing pad" for the divers. Unlike bungy jumpers, land divers hit the ground, landing chest first on the soil, with the length of the vine providing the braking force required to minimise the speed of impact immediately before hitting the ground. With the assistance of a tribal elder, each jumper carefully selects his own liana vines, and they have to be accurately measured and securely fastened to the "sighol" (diving platform) in order to ensure that their user does not plummet to his death.



While the ritual is performed, a chorus of men, boys and women chant and sing, providing encouragement and moral support.

The first jumper I saw looked about 4 years old, and jumped from a height of 6 feet:



Those who choose to dive are trained from a very early age. Small boys like this one practice by jumping from their fathers' shoulders. The lad looked very keen, and had a successful landing:



When the jumper leaps and reaches the end of the vine, his falling weight causes the sighol to break, which also helps to reduce his acceleration just before hitting the ground chest first.

You can just see the boy's legs at the moment of landing here, but this was an exceptional shot. I decided from the outset to take no photos of the divers hitting the ground. It seemed insulting to photograph them face down in the mud, at their weakest moment, when what they were doing was about the freedom of flying through the air.

The next level was about 12 feet off the ground, and three boys, aged about 7 or 8, attempted jumps.



The first boy jumped successfully, but the next one was nervous, and backed out. He was helped off his platform, and it was ceremoniously broken to make sure that no one else used it. There was no jeering, no cries of "what are ya?", and no macho bullshit from the elders or other members of the tribe. Jumping is a personal decision, made by a select few. If you are tense or nervous, you will misjudge your dive and will kill yourself. Unlike bungy jumping, where you simply step off into the void and allow a giant elastic band to act as your safety line, a naghol jump requires careful balancing, and the same graceful launch as an Olympic high diver, except that there is no water to cushion your impact. Quite simply, if you hit the ground at the wrong angle during the naghol, you will break your neck.



The next group of jumpers were late adolescents and jumped from a height of about 18 feet.



One of their number had a bad landing. One of the support vines holding the tower up snapped at the time of his jump, and the tower must have shifted as a result, changing the jumping height slightly, because he had a hard landing. There was hushed silence for about 45 seconds before he painfully stood up with a very big grin on his face, thankful to be alive. The tower was very quickly resecured. In spite of the danger involved in jumping, the elders who oversee the naghol take every safety precaution, and know exactly what they are doing. There has only been one naghol death in recent times. In 1974, Queen Elizabeth II visited Pentecost out of season, when the liana vines were too brittle to safely make a jump. Various bigwigs nonetheless insisted that the feat should be staged for the Queen, and the result was that a man plummeted to his death.

There was hushed silence as the final jumper readied himself to jump from the top level. Four storeys may not sound like much, but when you are standing at the bottom, it looks like a LONG way up

Before:



After:



The land-diving ceremony had been immediately preceded that afternoon by a cloudburst, followed by clear skies that lasted until just a few moments after the final jumper walked away from the tower uninjured. Then it started pouring down.

CN






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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-07-31 03:40 am   Permalink

Just a small technical question - how do I correct the typo in my name in the thread header?

Or could one of the moderators do this for me?

Thanks!

CN
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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11126
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2011-07-31 11:21 pm   Permalink

C.N., I have always wondered about this Pentecost Island ritual that was so prominently depicted on the South Seas Adventure Cinerama posters



Your description is the most coherent and insightful one to be found on the net yet. Thank You, great work.


(She doesn't exactly look like she is listening to her hubby hollering down his relationship complaints to her)


 
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-08-02 02:38 am   Permalink

Quote:

(She doesn't exactly look like she is listening to her hubby hollering down his relationship complaints to her)





CN
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-09-17 8:02 pm   Permalink

Part 7 - Tour of Efate

To close the tour, here are some photos I took going around the island of Efate.



Monument to the first 4 Samoan missionaries in the New Hebrides, who landed on Erakor Island, in Erakor Lagoon (see the first photo in Part 3), in 1845.



Ladies doing their washing down by the river (Rentapao River).



Coconut plantation near Enam.



Eton Beach (pronounced "ET-on", not "EE-ton", and nothing to do with the English school of the same name).



A private residence, Eton Village.



Piglets, Eton Village.



Hunting/catching/shooting/killing ban sign in Bislama.



Old hut near Bethel Village.



Sara Beach, with the island of Emao (an extinct volcano) in the background.



Beach mutt, Sara Beach.



Lunch, Sara Beach restaurant.



Sara Beach restaurant.



The ring road. Efate is the only island in Vanuatu with a sealed road running around it. It was built with a combination of aid and engineering assistance from Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand.



The location of the TV series "Survivor Vanuatu", now used as a picnic spot. The protagonists in the TV series could not be said to have been "roughing it". They were only about 25 minutes' drive away from Port Vila by sealed road, and had running water, showers, toilets etc. The series did however provide employment for 330 Ni-Vans whilst being filmed there.



John, the guide, and a totally inauthentic leftover carving from the "Survivor" series. Seconds before, I saw him scowling at it, but he spotted my camera before I could take a shot of him in that mood.



Mele Falls, a popular swimming and picnic spot just outside Port Vila.

That wraps it up. For me, John the guide summed up Vanuatu the best: "Vanuatu - friendly spiders, friendly snakes, friendly crocodiles and friendly people!"

CN







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[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2011-09-30 01:10 ]


 
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Q-tiki
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Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 196
From: East TN
Posted: 2011-09-29 08:21 am   Permalink

What a great thread CN! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Mahalo and CHEERS!


 
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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2011-10-02 6:29 pm   Permalink

No problem Q-tiki! I hope people enjoyed it.

Now if I can only work out how to fix my typo in the thread header...

CN
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hewey
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Joined: Sep 14, 2004
Posts: 4278
From: Sydney, Australia
Posted: 2012-01-21 8:22 pm   Permalink

Amazing thread mate, you've put a lot of work into this I hope you dont mind if I put up some of my Vanuatu holiday snaps? I figure it makes sense to keep it all contained in one thread on TC.

For any TC member a trip to the National Museum is a MUST, really interesting place.




Traffic can be crazy at times


Cultural show at a local village. The village uses the cash to pay for medical expenses and put the kids through school

Getting to know the locals!


Remnants of one of the old WWII airstrips used by the US, theres still a bit of WWII items left around the place

An old bomb

A fighter plane which the pilot had to ditch into shallow water offshore

An old tracked tractor



We hired a dune buggy for a day to do a lap of the island. This is in front of our resort






We stopped in at a turtle hatchery

In this pool you can see a 70yr old turtle, rays and reef sharks

And this is in the ocean itself



Yes, we got very wet!



Locals fising on Erakor Lagoon

Waves breaking onto the reef at the entrance to Erakor Lagoon


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[ This Message was edited by: hewey 2012-01-21 20:34 ]


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hewey
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Joined: Sep 14, 2004
Posts: 4278
From: Sydney, Australia
Posted: 2012-01-21 8:32 pm   Permalink

We stayed right on Erakor Lagoon, thats our room upstairs and to the right

Our view

The lagoon is famous for its starfish, which are everywhere

Sunset over the lagoon

Our view of the lagoon at night


As Club mentioned, there are tikis everywhere!



We also did a tour in these offroad buggies - so much fun


Did I mention it was a little messy?


Cooling off after a day out with a cocktail in the swim up bar


And the wood carving on display at the markets is pretty amazing too

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Club Nouméa
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Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 340
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2012-01-22 8:28 pm   Permalink

No problem Hewey.

Actually, I held off starting this thread for some weeks because you said you had been to Vanuatu and had photos, so it is good to see them.

And it's a great set of photos! You got to see various things that I didn't see, so they fit in nicely. And I am still kicking myself for not taking any photos at that crafts market, but I was in a daze from all the carvings when I was there...

CN


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[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2012-01-22 20:29 ]


 
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