Back on the road and in a different country - it's been very refreshing and an adventure so far. It feels like we're travelling again. Port Vila is a laid back capital city, although pretty small - a good advert for the people here, who are immensely chilled and friendly. We spent our first few days exploring the city, drinking smoothies over looking the beautiful blue harbour and enjoying local food (poulet fish which tastes like chicken!). We also made an attempt to do a "Jen" tour trying to take pictures of the list she gave us but think we've been a little unsuccessful (your old house was shut!) - sorry dude.
Monday morning we went to the Air Vanuatu office and managed to book on a flight to Tanna for that afternoon, returning on Friday. Tanna was a great experience. Randomly as soon as we stepped off our little plane (kinda like a personal ride over the islands, stopping off in the middle of villages and coconut plantations in Erromango and Antian for drop offs!) some truck driver knew "David" so took us to our guesthouse in Lenakel with his family in the back of the truck.
We had a fantastic night in Lenakel drinking kava with all the local boys in a kava shack - they were even buying us shells! An example of how welcoming and friendly locals are. Kava is strange. It's a root that when drank looks a little muddy and tastes peppery/aniseedy - it basically numbs your mouth and makes you a little high/drunk. They say it's better than alcohol coz it's chilled not violent effects!
Oh Caz - you would have loved it. When we returned to our bungalow we had three huge (and I mean huge) spiders in our room. We took photos of two of them for you, but not of the big last one - check them out! It was pretty difficult trying to shoo them out of our room whilst drunk on kava! Oh and they jump! haha!
The next day we were woken by two small earthquakes (I-Lara- actually slept through the second one, quite proud of my skills). After a good brekkie cooked by Helen our host we headed back into the village (although it's considered the main town of Tanna it's still dust roads and shacks) and spent a few hours on a deserted white coral beach occassionally cooling off in the South Pacific. So amazing. Like the night before, we really felt like the only tourists there which was great, all the locals seemed surprised to see us around and wanted to chat - some little girls wanted to play in the sea with us, cute.
For our next 3 nights we went over to the other side of the island (via very bumpy truck ride over the mud and holey roads) and stayed in a treehouse (very cool) that had great views of the volcano (being right underneath) - Mt Yasur. Watching and listening to it rumble and smoke was cool but a little unsettling at first. We walked up to the rim twice - the first time with our guesthouse host and guide Fred, it was pouring with rain but amazing to see inside the crater from that close - you can actually see the red hot lava in the bottom and feel the heat from surroudning rocks. For a few moments we feared for our lives - volcano one side, lightning clouds on the other side and we were holding umbrellas!
After the rain encounter Fred got sick (as did I, some sort of jungle fever!) and we didn't see much of him! Despite feeling like crap I managed to accompany Pug up to the rim before day break on our last day so we could see the lava in the night time (not possible while it was raining as we had to come down before dark). Although frightening it was incredible - like nature's fireworks in action with spewing lava and rocks (vids are better than photos as couldn't work out the camera!), plus we were the only people up there which was awesome.
While on Tanna we got to visit a Kastom village to see the men perform a traditional Nambas (penis-sheath) dance! It was... different but tuneful. Watch the video! We also walked through Yasur's desert like ash plain to a John Frum (he's an American they worship) village where they have hot, volcanic springs running into the sea. Again feeling like the only tourists around!
Our hosts Fred and Nancy, and their kids Eric, Susan and Griffith, were really great and made sure we had a good time. The kids were absolute characters. Nancy's local dishes, such as laplap, were much appreciated. Unfortunately, though we had to return to Vila on Friday afternoon (feeling as I was I was glad to get back to a hot shower and proper bed!)
Although a little expensive we were lucky enough to get up to Pentecost for one of their Nagol ceremonies - these ceremonies happen every April/May (only on Saturdays, at least for the white fellows to view) and involve men from the villages jumping off of towers made from trunks and bamboo with vines attached to their legs, which is supposed to ensure a plentiful yam harvest. It's based on a tribal myth where some guy jumped after his wife off the top of a tree before realising she'd tied vines to her legs and he died. It's like bungy jumping but quite a bit more dangerous.
It was an incredible morning - except for one Aussie fella who I almost jumped at in fury because he was treating the whole thing like disney land and getting in everbody elses photos (p***k) - you'll see who I mean! Some of the men hurt themselves which wasn't surprising seen as how hard they slam the ground. Our photos and vids are pretty good so check them out and you'll realise how crazy it is!
After the ceremony there was a sort of blessing down by the beach with the tribe singing and dancing. We then had lunch and sat on the beach playing and talking with a few of the local children - much better at skimming stones than us! They were so sweet and Lala (the eldest at 12, who's English was amazing) was making fun of Pug for being scary.
Eventually we got back to Vila via tiny planes - but we were lucky enough to fly over another active volcano on the island of Ambrym.
For our last day we are hoping to get a car and drive around Efate. We'll let you know how that goes with roads being as they are here!