After our delicious lunch at Elizabeth’s house in the village, Topei and Captain took us across to Lelepa Island.
We were dropped off on Aupa Beach and Captain returned to the village to wait for a call from Topei who we follow around the back of lots of rocks and old reef.
The cave is a five minute walk from the beach along a track, through a wood.
We then have a steep climb up a stepped pathway and caught our first glimpse of the wind patterns on the sandstone outer wall of the cave. From up here we could look down to the clear, blue water below.
The cave entrance is surrounded by spectacular wave-like formations in the tuff.
The cave entrance faces towards Artok Island. Fels (or Feles) Cave is a large chamber cave, approximately thirty five metres in height and forty seven metres deep, formed within a layer of ancient volcanic tuff on the west coast of the Island.
In stories about Roi Mata, Fels Cave is commonly associated with his death. After falling ill during a feast at the nearby settlement of Lou Patrou, Roi Mata was carried up to Fels Cave by his faithful tribe. It was thought that the cool and quiet would facilitate his recovery, sadly not long after being settled, he died. Bear stands on the spot where Roi Mata drew his last. Beliefs still held today identify the cave as the residence of spirits of the recently dead, whose footprints leading into the cave can occasionally be seen. This is a sacred place for the people and we felt very privileged to be here.
A gallery of painted and engraved rock art extends almost unbroken around the cave walls, and includes red paintings and hand-stencils, black linear drawings, and a variety of abstract and figurative engravings.
Based on similarities to art elsewhere in Melanesia, the Fels Cave rock art may represent a complete sequence of different styles from first human occupation in about 3100 BC. To this day the locals wait for the whales to enter the bay which signals time to harvest the yams and other crops.
Fels Cave was also Vanuatu’s first tourist destination, and historical graffiti has been added to the entrance of the cave since at least 1874. Topei wanted us to believe RP was Reverend Peter but we thought this was another ‘good story’. What was amazing was to be able to touch the walls and not be held back by barriers and guards.
What we could follow was the calendar of carved dots going from the half moon to the full moon.
We stood for a while seeing what shapes we could find on the back wall...........
............then back out into the heat of the day.
Down the way we had come.
As if by magic we could see Captain on his way, as we waited for him to weave in and out of the reef – the tide was on the way out – we watched a party going on in a coconut. Time to reflect on Roi Mata and his end.
ALL IN ALL INCREDIBLE
SO OLD BUT SO CLOSE