White Sands Beach and Cave Tour to Visit the Ancestors
After Donald has presented us to Chief Jason and we had paid our ‘Kastom’ fee [about five pounds], the three of us jumped into Baby Beez and crossed the bay to the third beach along. [the one beyond the one in the middle of the picture].
Between the beaches the rock face was very dramatic.
We turned at the last, huge rock and stood to admire it.
White Sands Beach.
We walked just a short way through the brush. Donald told us that normally all this area would be nice and clear, swept with bonfires built to frighten away the wild pigs. White Sands is a popular weekend place to get away from the village to camp. The locals like to keep the beach pristine and enjoy the great snorkelling. Donald said that a ten minute walk through the bush would take us to Bunmavan Cave, where at times of war the women and children were taken for their safety while the men went to war. A few burly warriors stayed behind to guard the women and the children – the pikininis.
We scramble up about thirty feet and look up at the next part of our journey to see Chief Mede and his wives, but for now we stand quietly as Donald asks the spirits for permission to enter.
Our entrance to the cave was anything but discreet and controlled. It was a half slide, half ski, thankfully there were enough banyan roots after the first huge boulder to help and gravity did the rest, It could have been so easy to grab hold of the first bone we saw to our left, so similar to the root in fact. It was only after we were all standing that Donald shone our torch back for these pictures. Away to our right a neat pile of femurs.
A little further in on the left, we saw a bracelet and other bits and bobs, in the dark there can be seen hair fibres and jewellry. Donald told us a story and we had heard the same one from others in the village – some will not visit this site as the spirits are too strong and some are just plain frightened. A young buck thought himself very big by picking up a necklace, putting it on and going home all cocky. No sooner than he got into bed than he was in the middle of a dire nightmare and felt like he was being strangled, there and then he struggled back to the cave, asked for forgiveness and returned the artefact to its original spot.
Further back in the cave we had to be careful where we trod, with roots and the bones in groups all over the cave. Donald said that if a person had died of disease, men from the village would bring it over on a canoe and wearing cloth masks, would throw the body in. As quickly as possible they would strip, wash in the sea after burning their clothes. Months later, relatives would come to compose the bones.
This group was laid to rest on a big stone. In ancient times the people of Erromango buried their dead in caves, nowadays relatives are buried in the cemetery on the opposite side of the river to the village. I asked if once all the restoration had been done post Cyclone Pam, that maybe a work party might come out and tidy the cave. “Maybe.”
A closer look. We could see changes brought on by moisture and that familiar ‘twinkle’ we had seen that caused the Crystal Maiden to sparkle in Belize. Still non the wiser as to what the changes are called.
More bones toward the back of the cave.
A skull close up showing ‘twinkle’.
Not quite sure what the belt buckle has got to do with this set.
The back of the cave.
Above us a couple of tiny bats, Donald says they are the guardians of the spirits. If anything is taken from the cave they will get upset and won’t settle until all is as it should be.
Now for the easy part...........getting back out of the cave. “You go first mum.” Oh joy to my ears from Donald, not. Oh well, nothing for it. I just had to manage it. I scrambled up the shale, sand, stony bit and was faced with the big boulder at hip height. Somehow I mustered enough pull on a banyan root and with right flip flop at a jaunty angle managed to get enough grip on the boulder to my right and pull myself to kneeling at a backward angle on the ‘door rock’. Inching on my knees until I could get out from the overhang to terra firma. Serve you right for wearing flip flops I hear you all admonish collectively.......... I thought I was walking along a beach and into a cave. No one had mentioned that this was an outing for a mountain goat. It was like being a child again, after exploring it was time to get grubby. A bit of a struggle but this is what it’s all about. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love it but my knees are complaining a little, is all.
ALL IN ALL HOW PRIVILEGED ARE WE TO SEE THIS CAVE
HONOURED TO SEE THESE EXTENSIVE REMAINS