Friday, December 10, 2010

A/NZ - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Day 6

This post took twice as long as it should have....I had to do it twice. For some reason Blogspot locked up but appeared to be accepting what I was typing. Much to my surprise, when it was time to spell check, nothing happened. It was locked up in the "Save" mode. This is an example of why I used Face Book on the cruise. Blogspot can do freaky things. By the way, Blogspot's spelling checker doesn't know how to spell Blogspot. Otherwise, it is a very nice tool to display photos and text.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to re-post the cruise map to refresh your memory on where we are going. I posted it on Face Book and on this blog back in August, but I know that a number of you don't use Face Book. The total cruise is 28 days.

This is Deck 3. It has nice views and is also used as the walking track. A mile is 10 laps. Our cabin was one level below on Deck 2.

Vanuatu is a volcanic archipelago of 85 islands. Each island has one or more tribes on it and there are 85 different languages spoken in the country. The open ocean and thick tropical rain forests kept the tribes apart until recent years. There are still tribes on the outer islands who are isolated and living in very primitive conditions. Before declaring their independence, Vanuatu was know as the New Hebrides Islands. They played a major role in the Pacific Theatre during WWII as the military build-up for the liberation of the Philippines took place. French and English are also spoken in better developed areas.

Port Vila defines tropical paradise.

On a cruise, you see the Pilot Boat at every port you stop in. The Pilot boards the cruise ship before it enters the port to help guide it in. The Pilot is the expert on all the hazards in a port and keeps the cruise ship captain out of trouble. The use of a Pilot is pretty much mandated by maritime law. As the cruise ship leaves the port, the Pilot jumps from it to his little boat while both ships are in motion. He waves good-bye to all the passengers on deck and then the two ships trade a few blows on the horn before separating. Fun to watch.

Even though the cruise ship is large, it can turn on a dime. As a matter of fact, it can stay in one spot and spin using thrusters built into the bow and stern of the ship. You can see the turbulence in the water as the thruster operates.

Sigrid happened to met a German lady on the boat. We shared a few meals with her and her husband, toured together while on shore, and visited a number of times.

This is how they get those huge ropes from the ship tied off at the dock. They start with a small line with a weight attached to it that can be thrown from the ship to the dock workers. The small line is attached to the larger ropes. The dock workers pull on the small rope until it drags the larger one to them on the dock.

Cannibalism was once common in these islands. I learned of three different reasons for cannibalism. The first was just plain old hunger......too many people and not enough food. Another reason was to celebrate the victory/conquest of one tribe over another........maybe a little like building a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. The last reason was the creepiest. When a loved one died, you ate them so you could make them a part of you forever. I don't think that even severe hunger could bring me to dine on someone else.

Sigrid befriends a fine young re-formed cannibal in the photo. She admitted later that she was a little nervous about the photo. We trekked into the jungle to visit the Ekasup Village to see what native life was like.

The roads didn't permit large buses so we went in Mazda's. We were about a 30 minute drive outside of town.

Our arrival was announced with the conch. We were challenged near the village (customary) to determine if we were friend or foe before we entered.

If you are thinking that the village was like Disneyland or a re-created thing just for tourists, you would be wrong. People really live in the village. Of course, they have the advantages of a town nearby now, but this is still home.

In earlier times, a cyclone (a hurricane in the southern hemisphere) could devastate the fruit trees and leave the people with nothing to eat. They found a way to dry bananas and store them in the ground with leaves (see photo) for an extended amount of time. When a storm hit, they had enough food stored to keep them alive until the fruit trees recovered.

Our guides through the village.

He spoke excellent English which he said he learned from visitors.

He also had a great sense of humor.....he wasn't offended by the cannibal questions.

A demo on how they trapped various kinds of wild game.

The spiders are not venomous. The natives use the spider webs to catch fish in streams. Being here is like living a National Geographic story.

Old leftovers. No one has been on the menu since 1985.

Preparing bananas for a meal.

A fruit snack for our group.

Yes, they had stuff for sale. They have to make a living too.

The men did one of their ceremonial dances.

A rocking little band using only bamboo tubes, empty bottles, and a few guitars.

The m/s Volendam. Note the red discs on the ropes leading to the ship. They help keep animals from coming aboard.

Next stop Wala Island.

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