A Kind Of Magic

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My last full day here on Efate, Vanuatu, was packed full of surprises. It started off, as expected, with me heading back to Mele and the ‘Secret Garden’. They had to wait for enough people to arrive before they could put on a show, so I whiled away the time reading about various stories from the different Islands. They had an information section about cannibalism, where they’d stuck various news stories onto boards inside a cave. This was pretty horrific but also fascinating, as many gruesome parts of history are! What were, perhaps, most disturbing, were the photos taken by visitors to the ‘New Hebrides’, as they were called then, who happen to stumble across cannibalism in practice. It was largely done as a form of sacrifice, but also to conquered warriors in order to ‘take on their vitality’, during times of great starvation and very, very occasionally to the missionaries! By the time I’d finished picking through the cave, the show was ready.

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A man from Ambrym, the island where ‘black magic’ is said to originate from, prepared himself to display some magic tricks. Below you can see him kitted out in the traditional sheath from the area he comes from. A couple of men from other islands assisted. Here you can see him breaking open a coconut with his hand. I’m not sure if this is a magic trick, really, more just a demonstration of brute strength!

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This man cut off the leaves of one side of a palm branch, waved it around on the floor for a bit, then lifted it to show how the cut off leaves had been restored!

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The most impressive trick was when the man from Ambrym took a palm leaf, made a pit in the floor and planted the leaf in. It was then completely impossible to pull out! So much so, that one kiwi – who couldn’t handle the affront to his strength – ripped the branch entirely from its stalk in his attempt to pull it from the ground! Very impressive!

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After the show had finished, I headed off, on foot, back in the direction of Port Vila, hoping to flag down a bus on the way as I’d done the day before. Instead, I bumped into some girls wearing grass skirts, asking me to come and watch their show for a ‘donation’. With a ‘why not’ attitude, I followed them into their village where they showed me their bow and arrow, a couple of hilariously uncoordinated dances, and sang to me to thank me for my visit. One of the smallest girls, 10 years old, then took me by the hand and walked me through the village, pointing out her pigs and each member of her, typically enormous, extended family. After I complimented her face paint, she sat me down and got out the powders to draw on my face too!

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Whilst she was in the process of drawing these coloured lines on my face, a man with a sack strolled past and asked me to come and watch his coconut demonstration. Thanking the girls, I followed him to the beach where he promptly shot up a coconut tree! He gave me a coconut to drink, for which I gave him an appropriate ‘donation’, then I carried on my way down the beach.

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I eventually managed to clamber onto a crammed bus, hoping it was heading in the right direction! They tend to only run between Mele and Port Vila really. We ended up winding through all the back lanes of Vila for half an hour before getting to the town!

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It’s now Sunday morning. With a flight in a few hours, I’ve hurriedly put together this recollection of yesterday! Hopefully I’ll have a little more time (and better internet!) in Fiji, in which I can reflect properly on Port Vila itself, and my time here as a whole. If there’s no internet at all then I guess this is it for now!

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Shores of White Sand

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I’ve had a hectic day today – firstly I was trying to get a little work done, then ended up spending hours wandering around town trying to get people to participate in my survey. This was not easy! People seemed to not even understand the concept of a survey, let alone the reasonably complex personal questions I was asking about body image. A few hours later, I gave up and returned to my infuriatingly slow computer to start working through my photos. For some reason the computer, in addition to the internet, barely works. Not ideal.

Yesterday was far more idyllic. I headed out, with a small group, to Lelepa Island – around 30 minutes from Port Vila, followed by a short trip on the boat. We walked across the island to a spectacular beach with the most incredibly clear water.

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Caves where, apparently, the coconut crabs live

Caves where, apparently, the coconut crabs live

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Each area here seems to host its own collection of goodies for beach combers – this beach had tons of small grey sea beans and those beautiful dotted cone shells. The variety of sea slugs out and about was incredible. I even spotted a few nudibranchs in the low tide. They were a little plain though, unfortunately, but still fun to watch as they floated about!

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Whilst admiring this classic outrigger canoe, I asked one of the girls from the island if they still use it – to which she replied by taking me out for a spin!

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The man showing us around his island took us to some caves along the shore. He’d lit it up right to the back with candles to show us the hand prints his ancestors put on the walls when they arrived on the island. This was relatively recently actually but that didn’t seem to dampen the excitement for him! To my delight the roof was covered in tiny little bats trying to sleep. So sweet! They started to wake up and chatter to each other to complain about our intrusion!

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We promptly moved onto another beautiful snorkelling spot. The coral gardens around the island really were stunning.

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Finally we made it down to the village on the island where some of the ladies were weaving baskets in the hope to sell their wares to the nosey tourists walking about in their homes. They had a series of necklaces they’d put together from the shells with the amusing label ‘neckless’ beneath them… The village was right on the beach, with some of the houses actually built out of pieces of coral.

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Carving up a new outrigger

 

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All in all a beautiful day out to make up for the day in today! It’s taken around 4 hours to try and load photos. Needless to say – I’ve lost patience. Not sure if these are actually going to come through. Attempting to scroll back up to proof read is definitely not going to happen so apologies for that!

 

The Little Clownfish From The Reef

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Yesterday, I decided to spend my only full day here in Nadi by heading out to one of the little islands off the coast. I booked a trip through the hostel then eventually headed on an incredibly bumpy little motor boat, arriving absolutely drenched 45 minutes later. Nearly all of the little islands have each been claimed by a ‘resort’ or hotel. This one was ‘Beachcomber’ Island.

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The people were hilariously friendly. In fact the welcoming through guitar playing and singing seems to happen everywhere: walking into the airport to a small group made me giggle but watching them serenade the boat as we approached the island was even more entertaining. The three of us that were visiting for the day got a further 5 minute session of ‘goodbye song’ before we left, through which we were told to sit about a metre away from them and were not really sure where to look! A few other cultural things were put on such as a kava ceremony.  This is something which I’m sure I’ll become more familiar with when I return so I’ll leave a description until then…As you can see, despite the wind and clouds, the islands are very Maldives-esque. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that it was overcast so I didn’t get fried whilst spending so much time in the water!

The island lived up to it’s name: within the first few yards I’d already found four sea beans and a couple of cowries. I counted 17 of these lovely little things after the day was done! The tide sank pretty low after lunch so I headed out for a couple more laps of the island – I was delighted to find a little black and blue nudibranch swimming about in one of the little pools! So beautiful.

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This was a funny little flightless bird wandering about the place

This was a funny little flightless bird wandering about the place

The island provided the opportunity for me to test out the relatively cheap underwater case I bought for my small camera. It worked perfectly well so fingers crossed that continues! Although the visibility was poor due to the wind, and recent bad weather, it was lovely to be out with a few old favourites: parrot, trigger, angel fish etc. There’s a reason why a chose a song from the ‘Finding Nemo’ soundtrack for the title of this post: All of the clown fish seem to current have eggs or young. They all, consequently, posed beautifully for me above their anemone nests. My underwater accuracy wasn’t adequate enough to get the adorably tiny little nemo specks in the pictures but here’s a compilation of some protective parents!

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Back on land, they had a turtle nursery on the island where they help the little ones to survive the initial stages of life so that they can then be released back into the ocean. So cute!

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I also enjoyed stalking this beautiful little heron about the place as it looked for goodies in the low tide line.

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Overall, a day well spent, I think!

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The Islander

Image“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” 
Oscar Wilde

Last night, after a few introductory games and a fair portion of alcohol, I persuaded the three others that were still up to join me and swim/walk out to this Island. This idyllic little beach is right in front of our campsite! Unfortunately the water itself is fairly revolting, to say the least. The water was so shallow that it was primarily a walk through deep mud in parts, with the usual annoying creatures out to cut you like cockles and small clams! As we walked out, there were a huge number of fish jumping out of the water in front of us as they desperately scrambled to get away. The moon was bright so there was no problem with visibility and the horizon was speckled with little lights from the surrounding islands and the headland behind. As we neared the small Island, however, it became apparent that there were at least two, maybe three, dogs barking at us. Within a few metres of the shore a light turned on in the only little cabin on the Island! A man then emerged shining a bright torch in our faces, clearly wondering why the hell four tourists were standing knee deep in mud in the middle of the bay at 2:00 in the morning. We decided to make a swift retreat!

Parati is such a beautiful place. We caught a heavily loaded bus over to the national park area this morning which was packed with stunning beaches. I’m particularly fond of the large stone boulders dotted about the shore. It’s my group’s turn to cook the evening meal (for 36) tonight though so I’d better crack on with that fairly daunting task!