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Tuesday, August 4,2010
Today , since Dave's cold has finally cleared up, we rented a cute little Dihatsu from Discount Rentals and spent a delightful day driving around Efate.
Our first scheduled stop was at Mele Maat to tour the Secret Gardens Cultural Centre. Here we wandered among the gardens and a few houses typical of those found in various islands and read about legends from the islands, customs, magic, cannibalism, the islands' history and creation stories. We both consider this a "must see" for anyone visiting Porta Vila. The guide introduced us to some creatures found in Vanuatu.
This little Striped Lizard, green in this photo stole everyone's heart. It snuggled up comfortable and stared at whoever was holding it.
Dave, however was not so eager to meet this boa constrictor. There are no poisonous snakes on the islands. (Jenn, it's in your genes!)
Boa Constrictor and friend
The coconut crab is very interesting. It is nocturnal and only eats coconuts. It can live to 30+ years and is huge! This one is just a baby. Adults are 40+ cm in diameter. Because its claws can crack open coconuts, they are to be avoided at all costs. Many have lost a finger when not careful!
Don't say you weren't warned!
On Pentecost Island, during the yam ceremony from April to June there is a special ceremony. A gigantic tower is erected with various platforms attached. Male divers attach vines to their ankles and plunge to the ground. If they touch their shoulder to the earth it is supposed to ensure a good yam harvest.
This tradition grew from the legend of a young wife who was repeatedly abused by her husband. She tried to run away on several occasions, but her husband always found her and took her home. Finally, she managed to run ahead and hide herself in a tall tree. When her husband found her, she taunted him and dared him to follow her example. She then launched herself from the tree over a cliff and, to her husband's surprise, landed on her feet at the bottom. Undaunted, he did the same. Unfortunately, he did not know she had attached vines to her ankles beforehand. Accordingly her abuse problem was solved.
This is a photo of a poster showing the Pentecost tower diving ceremony- the world's first bungee jumpers????
The missionaries in Vanuatu really did a major job of converting and tempering Vanuatan customs (and only a couple were ever eaten!). Even the smallest villages have at least one church. Of course, some respect for magic and klever men (magicians or sorcerers) still survives. There are also various off-shoot cults. One of the strangest was begun by a man named John Frum, who claimed that God would never bring the ni-Vanuatu to their full potential until all the Europeans and Americans left the islands. At that time lots and lots of cargo would appear for the people. There are still John Frum Society meetings on a regular basis. This photo of a photo shows some members of the Cargo Cult marching with their bamboo "rifles".
A terrible photo, but it gives the idea. In essence the prediction did come true to a degree when the Americans, after WWII, left behind millions of dollars of abandoned military vehicles and paraphernalia. A vast amount is located at Millionaires' Point in Espiritu Santo. On that island, as well is located of the luxury ship used as a troop carrier which was blown up and sunk by a mine, creating a reportedly fantastic wreck dive.
The Cannibal House at Secret Gardens gives you an idea of the processes involved and rather too many details. Tom from Island Kea and I are treating the history rather a bit more lightly in this photo.
Cannibal Tom and Headless Val
After all this edification, we moved across the road to Mele Cascades. At first we balked at the $15.00 per person entrance fee, but thought better of it and went for some exercise before lunch. It actually was extremely beautiful and physically challenging and worth every penny.
There is actually a series of cascades and ponds and streams flowing picturesquely down the mountainside. The walks and gardens are well maintained and quite safe. It is necessary to cross the stream several times on the way up. On the final stretch to the top, there is a very challenging hike wading upstream to the base of the largest cascade. Apparently there is also a special tour where one can go right to the top and abseil down this long fall. (We didn't attempt it!)
One of the small cascades and pools near the bottom of the hill.
View along one of the streams
Getting closer to the top
As we descended the mountain, we took a side trip to a fantastic viewing
spot. These gentlemen had been
here earlier in the week and came prepared this time- with a picnic lunch and
After all this reading and wading, we were extremely hungry and thirsty. We drove further north and were almost despairing of finding a restaurant in such an out-of-the-way location, when we happened upon the gateway to the Havannah resort. This is an extremely elegant and remote resort with lovely villas (6 at present, 11 under construction). Each villa has a lovely lanai complete with a canopied swing and a tiny (bathtub sized) infinity pool. There is also a lovely sand beach with appropriate activites. The centrepiece of the resort, however, is its restaurant. The price was rather steep, but the meals were to die for! Dave devoured his steak in Aztec cocoa sauce and I savoured every morsel of my chicken breast stuffed with wonderful vegetables in a tangy sauce. Since it was necessary to pay for two course, we also had dessert! I will always remember my frozen nougat with almonds, creme fraisch and orange presented on passion fruit and orange. What a way to live!
Havannah Resort dining room- fabulous!!!!!
After this feast , we continued around the island and just savoured the day and the sensation of driving for a change!