Port Vila… and Mount Yasur as final activity on Tanna

You know what is heavenly? The first chocolate bar after three weeks… 😉 I am safely back in Vila and when I arrived at the hotel shortly after 10 they told me check-in was only at 2 PM. The hotels I usually know are flexibel and even if you have to wait for a bit they will clean a room for you. Not at the Melanesian in Port Vila. They made me wait nearly 4 hours and when I went back to reception at 2 they had already forgotten me (although I had been sitting in plain sight) AND my room was not ready. I don’t complain easily but they then realized that I was pissed off. The excuse was that check-out time is 10 AM but the thing is that the three times I am here I have flights at 7 AM twice and the third time I left my room at 8:30… and I don’t think that I am the only one to leave my room early. I don’t usually write reviews in TripAdvisor because you get flooded with emails afterwards but for this hotel I will make an exception. And they won’t like it… there is more from my first week here (the room was not cleaned twice in those 6 nights and the hotel is not cheap so I DO expect them to do that).
OK, let’s talk about more interesting stuff… yesterday I had my last day on Tanna and I went on a special tour – custom-made for me by Wayne. I had wanted to go back to Port Resolution which is on the other side of Tanna and I had stayed there two years ago. Since I had heard that two people had died there during cyclone PAM I wanted to go and see how they are.Before I left I got the news that my flight for this morning had changed so I knew I had to pack my stuff after coming back instead of this morning. My driver asked me if I had a swim-suit with me but I told him that I am not going in the water without wetsuit. 😉
We made a first short stop in Lenakel because I wanted to take a pic of the tree house.

Then we went to the other side and when we got the first glimpse of Mount Yasur we knew he was in a bad mood yesterday. I saw lots of women with head-clothes yesterday which was the first time and Illi (not sure if I spelled it correctly), my driver, said that it was to protect it from the ashes of Mount Yasur.
We went past the entrance to Mount Yasur and continued on the road. First stop (after the photo-stops on the lava-plain) was Shark bay. It is a beautiful, black beach – small though – where we could see the baby-sharks close to shore. Going there we drove through the roots of a giant Banjan-tree.
Continuing towards Port Resolution I could see that most of the forrest in the area is basically intact. There are much more devastated areas on Tanna. The banjan-trees there are all still there (although they might have lost a branch or two).
Before finally arriving at Port Resolution we made a detour to the Hot Springs. It is in the same bay as Port Resolution but on the other side. It is 100 °C hot water coming out of the ground and the locals cook in it: bananas, eggs, potatoes… whatever you can just put in hot water. The women are washing with the water too.
Then we finally went to Port Resolution and the first stop was the Yacht Club where I had been staying two years ago. ‚My‘ bungalow is still there but it didn’t look like anyone can stay in it. Now the rats have it for themselves. 😉 The other bungalows are all gone. They have built three new ones in a more protected place (i.e. without view on the bay).
Then we went on to the wonderful white beach. Leah’s restaurant that so far was on the beach has moved into the village although the house on the beach is still standing.
We spent some time on the beach and Illi went in the water but got back out quickly as he realized that the water (and the wind) were cold… 😀 😀 😀
Then it was time to go back to Mount Yasur and on the pics you can see that he was rather nasty. Initially he stank a bit (sulphur) but then he threw some ash-clouds on us later. This means I will have to have my camera cleaned again after my return. 🙁 I had cleaned it before going on that day-trip but you can see that obviously there had still been dust inside and the rattle of the jeep on the street must have loosened it up. So you will see black spots on my pics that I am too lazy to remove.

What was a first on my fourth trip up Mount Yasur was that we saw a few flashes in the ash-cloud. I would have loved to get this on camera of course but I was not that lucky. Still, it was once again a very impressive experience.

On the way back the wind made it difficult to see anything on the plain of ashes that we had to cross. There were a two or three spots where it was like diving with no visibility whatsoever. We made it back to the ‚real‘ street though without getting lost (seems to happen that drivers get lost and I can fully understand HOW that can happen 😉 ) and then back to the hotel where I had to get ready for my departure from Tanna. 🙁

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Today’s report will follow tomorrow…

Just got back from another visit to Mount Yasur and it was once again entirely different from my visit on sunday. It was my 4th visit to the volcano and each time was different. Unfortunately my flight to Vila was changed from 10 to 8 AM so I have to pack now instead of checking pics but tomorrow in Vila I will have lots of time to kill (and the internet-connection will be better too) so time enough to do all that once I am back in Vila…

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Found Dorie and cannibal-nudibranches…

Today I had my last dive-day on Vanuatu. Did the first one with Jack on a new boat dive-site that they have done only three times so far. When we went down I saw lots of Dories there… 😉 No Nemo’s though. 🙂 It was a really good dive with about ten different nudibranches. Really cool.

And then I couldn’t leave without going back to Circus with Jimmy and we were not disappointed. Apart from the fact that Jimmy found really cool very small stuff we found cannibal-nudis. One of the white with red dots was eating a seahare. I had seen the white one going in the ground and then the head came up again. Afterwards I realized that it had been digging up the seahare. So Jimmy and I stopped there for a while watching her have her afternoon-snack. Absolut amazing if you think that the seahare was not a lot smaller than the ‚cannibal‘-nudi. Jimmy found another one eating another nudi but before he could call me she went back into the sand. I saw yellow eggs swimming around as well and only on the pics I saw that it obviously were eggs from the white-cannibal nudi as you can see something yellow inside of them. It was an absolutely amazing dive as a finish for my Vanuatu-dives…

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Blue cave divesite and Black magic…

So I went diving again this morning and the Blue Cave divesite is the least damaged I have seen so far. It is still damaged significantly but for the first time I saw a big coral fan and gorgonias. Jack found a wonderful nudi twice and I think the first one just showed her behind (I couldn’t see the other end) and the other one might show her head to the right (not entirely sure though). There were lots of featherstar-babies and you could see that the riff is coming back.

When we went back they dropped me off at the jetty before going to turtle reef with the snorkellers because I had the Black magic tour booked. Again I went with an australian honeymoon couple, this time it was Laura and Tony. I knew a bit what to expect since I had read a report about that tour in a blog but when the guys came screaming out of the bushes it got my by surprise… 😉 We were lead around by Tur (? – don’t remember if that was her name) and she explained things to us. The guy you see up in the banjan tree is the guard. He was crying out when we came over to warn everyone that strangers were nearing. And then there was Jimmy… the two year old youngest member of the village. A cutie who copied everything that the big ones did. 😉 He was the one who was laid on the leaves and then the leaves carried him. We have been told that they carry an adult as well. That is really amazing.

We were shown how the chief put spirits into a stick, then the guys danced around it and in the end we had to get in line and the chief removed the bad spirits from all of us. Then we were shown a bamboo-leave that is really sharp and they use it for the circumcision of the boys (around age 3-4). When we walked over to the next space suddenly Laura was grabbed by her foot and I was glad she was walking in front of me. 😉
The chief showed the ‚Joining of heart‘-ceremony and then Laura and Tony joined heart again (done by the chief) which means that they will never get divorced. 🙂  After that we saw another dance to which Laura joined. And then the men lead Tony anyway and he was made chief… it is sooooooo unfitting for a white skin person to wear the chief-outfit… but it was funny. Tony had to drink Kava as well. Laura and I were asked if we wanted to taste as well but I tasted it two years ago and once was enough thank you very much. 😉

Then we were shown some souvenirs made of shells but even if I would have loved to buy a big conch I couldn’t. Would probably be arrested at the airport when arriving in Germany… 🙂

Pics are not chronological but I guess that doesn’t really matter anyway. 🙂
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Kosaba reef

Yesterday evening I went out again to take pics of the milky way but this time with my Olympus camera and the fisheye-lense. The sky was reddish in the background and I was wondering what it was till today I read on Facebook that this is a phanomenon in the South Pacific that comes up with a more or less intensity.

Today two boat dives since I was lazy the past two days. You can see that the reef has major damage but you can see as well that it has started to come back. So it has been destroyed but it is not dead. 🙂 I found something little and black that seems to have four horns but even though I took about 10 pics I am still not entirely convinced that it is a nudi… UPDATE: I just learned that it is a seahare. Aplysia parvula 🙂 It is really cool that there are so friendly people on Facebook who tell you what you found.

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Village time again

This morning I had planned on going back in the water but at breakfast one of the girls told me that someone else had booked a tour that I was interested in so I quickly changed my plans. I was still tired from yesterday evening anyway so I took the rest of the day off as well. I wanted some more hammock-time this afternoon but not sure where my hammock on the beach has gone…

After breakfast I met the honeymoon-couple from Brisbane with whom I was going on the tour to Lowinia village. So we started our drive via Lenakel (the biggest village on  Tanna) up into the middle of the island. Along the way the driver showed us a mango-tree and told us that the mangos are for the first time having fruits again after PAM hit. Once arrived we were greeted by our tour guide who kept explaining things to us. And then the kids came running… it is always a bit funny to see the blond kids… first we were shown some traditional cooking. They had done the same thing earlier so we could taste the food we had seen prepared as well. The grated white stuff was yams but I don’t know what the leaves were. It tasted interesting. Behind us there was the cyclone-shelter that needs repairing. We were told that the village needs a bigger one especially since rain kept getting in on the ground.

Then we were led to the main place of the village (a big tree that fell during PAM is now a playground for the kids) where the brother of the chief greeted us. Then another guy showed us how to make fire. Afterwards there was a dance with three men, one boy, a few women and the kids. After the two dances the ’show‘ ended with a ’shake-hands‘ of the dancers. Which included the kids. There was a maybe 2 year old little girl who had to shake hands too. She was too cute. And another little girl shyly touched my arm and my hair – I guess because of my white skin and different hair. Then we were shown some self-made items that we could buy but there was nothing that I could use for anything. And then we were off again.

Seeing village life there it became much clearer to me that they just hang around most of the day because there is not a lot to do (unless they cook or grow the gardens). And women don’t get to say a lot. If there are gatherings, women are not allowed to speak officially only men are allowed. Not sure if this is the same all over Vanuatu but at least in this village women are just there to cook, have kids and serve the men… our guide didn’t seem to be too happy about that (I wouldn’t be either…).

After the village-tour we drove back to Lenakel where it was market day. We had a look around but to be honest, I felt a bit out of place. There were only dark-skinned people there and being one of three with lighter skin made me feel a bit weird… nobody did anything to MAKE me feel out of place (some of them greeted us with friendly ‚Hello’s) but I felt it anyway…

The first pic I am showing you is another milky-way shot from yesterday evening. I was too tired to work on it for the last blog-entry. I took it when we came back from the volcano.

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Volcano time….

Today I took a day off (diving) and spent the morning in a hammock… 🙂 I wanted to go on one specific tour but the problem is that they don’t do it for just one person so I have to wait till someone else books it. So I went to Mount Yasur instead. This is an active volcano. Going there we had to go to the other side of Tanna and I realized that the island has changed a lot over the past two years. PAM destroyed it but after came the good. A lot of construction work has been done since, especially on the streets. I was totally surprised that they are not nearly as bad any more was they were two years ago. You can still see destroyed and abandoned houses, UNICEF-tents and houses that have only been provisionally repaired. But when we got back in the dark there were way more houses illuminated (meaning they have either electricity or solar power now) than there were two years ago.

Arriving on the entrance to Mount Yasur the organisation has changed. While in the past you just paid and drove on to the parking lot, now all cars have to remain at the entrance. There is a welcoming ceremony for everyone, there is a welcome and a volcano dance and then the chief drinks a Kava for everyone’s safety. He does that hidden from the visitors so I have no clue if he actually drank it. Don’t think it is a lot of fun to have to drink that stuff every day… 😉 Then we were all loaded into other cars and drove up to the parking lot. From there we were guided up to the rim of the crater. While I understand that they somehow need to ensure the safety of the visitors it was a big like a flock of tourists… 😉
Once up there we went to the crater and it was one heck of an experience. Activity is much higher than it was two years ago when I was there and it was just AMAZING…

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John Frum and some more diving

So yesterday eveing I went to participate in an ‚John Frum‘-excursion. This cult is some kind of religion only on the island of Tanna. I had thought that there would be a flag-raising (I had seen pictures of that) but that was not what happened. There was a gathering house in a village where 6 men with guitars were already sitting with some villagers around them. They started to sing then and people started to dance. After a while I realized that women were dancing on one side while the men were dancing on the other side. And the women were wearing special gowns that remind of the Kustom dances. It was a very special evening… they gather each friday evening and when members of the cult come over from other villages they sing and dance till the next morning. Didn’t happen yesterday but I really enjoyed it. It was very dark (just one lamp) so the pics are not the best. Video would be better because without the music he pics are only half the fun… but I have to check when I get back how to best upload them. When I took the pics (standing below the lamp) two guys come to me and asked if I could take their pic. 🙂
This morning we went diving in Blue Hole 2 and that was nice. Inside the big pool the corals are still colourful while outside they have been damaged by PAM. In the afternoon I went with Wayne, the owner of the resort, back to the Circus-dive site where I have already been 3 times so far. Found one new flatworm, one nudi we found the day before yesterday as well, something I honestly have no clue if this is a flatworm… and on that dive-site there are lots of little balls that are actually eggs (not sure if fish, octopus or nudibranches). And I saw one where a little crab was inside and thought it had been caught inside… then I saw another one that had three things inside that looked like nudibranches. So I think that the crab and the nudibranches were inside eating the eggs…

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Second dive day

Today I am not going to tell you a lot but just let the pics tell the story. First there are some pics of the resort and the sunsets. And then dive pics. We were at the house reef this morning and this afternoon we went back to yesterday’s dive-site. Tomorrow I will have to tell you more again as tonight I will go to another event (just not sure how good the pics will be as I didn’t know that they are holding that ceremony after dark). Btw. the last pic is a cloud of eggs. We already saw something like this yesterday… it is like a cloud swimming in the water. Never seen anything like this before…

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First dives on Tanna

So I arrived at my ‚home‘ for the next ten days yesterday afternoon. I enjoyed the sunset during happy hour with a glass of wine and intended to come back for dinner but then I wasn’t hungry so I just went to sleep. And it was the first night of this vacation that I really slept and that till 6 AM… so that is good. Still not hungry for breakfast but I had two dives scheduled so I ate some toast.

And then to the dive-center where we did the formalities. This dive shop is the only one on the island and has been opened about 1.5 years ago so I am one of the first divers here (there aren’t that many divers here). My guide Jimmy and I drove to a small beach about 4 km from the resort and did two shore dives from there. The first thing I saw in the water was a blue-ring octopus and I think it had eggs. Unfortunately I realized a bit later that my flash was not working so the colours on these pics are not really good. 🙁 It is a different blue ring than the one I know from Lembeh. Jimmy and I found some really cool nudibranches and even he was happy because he had never seen some of them before. AND I found my idiomysis (little 2 mm shrimps with BIG eyes). In Lembeh I had seen yellow ones and blue ones but there the have stripes and are either black or blue and yellow. I will try to get some better pics in the next days… here are the dive-pics from today…

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Ekasup Village

While I just enjoyed my first sunset on the island of Tanna (where I will stay for 10 days) I sorted the pics from this morning. Since my flight to Tanna was only in the afternoon I had booked the tour to Ekasup Village which is another Kastom Village in Efate and I am really happy that I did that. It was so interesting. There was much less dancing than I would have thought but that was no problem as we got a lot of other information. For once I was not the only tourist seeing the show but a couple from Adelaide was there with me was well.

When we arrived with the van a guy with a conch was waiting for us. And while we walked through the dschungel he was blowing the conch to let the rest of the guys know that visitors were arriving. I think the girl from Adelaide was a bit worried when suddenly warriers with black signs in their faces came up from the bushes holding their spears against us and making threatening voices. It was fun but it seemed a bit real. 😉
Then we had two guys who told us a lot of things. The first one started to tell us that with grating bananas, drying that for two weeks and then wrap the dried banana in ginger leaves and put it in the baskets and then in the earth, they have an emergency-supply of food in case a cyclone hits and destroys all their food.
Then he showed us the traditional hunting and fishing methods they use since in the villages they need to be self-sufficient and can’t just go to the next supermarket to buy everything. For me the fishing-stuff was really interesting. They use some sort of fibers (pics 11) and when they see a school of fish they hold it to the ground. The fibers start to produce oxygen which makes the fish dizzy, they come up to the surface and they just need to be collected. The other tool they use is made of spiderwebs (the thing that looks a bit like a paddle). When the sun is out this reflects the sun when they put it in the water. The fish get curious and bite in it – but can’t get their teeth out again.
The next guy told us about medicin. The leaves you see on the pic are for headache (you need to roll them in your hands so juice comes out and that needs to be sniffed on). Then he told us about the chicken-feathers. They have arranged marriages in the villages on Vanuatu. And the guy needs to pay with pigs. The tooth of the pig needs to be in a circle and it takes 15-20 years till that is grown (so they have to start early to grow pigs as otherwise they can marry only when they are retired… 😀 😀 😀 ). Once they have a pig which means they can marry they put the chicken feathers in their hair. And the longer the feather the bigger the pig-tooth… And if both parents have agreed on a match the girl gets a tatoo so all males know that she is spoken for…
He told us a bit of cannibalism too as the entire country once was a cannibal country (which was due to the fact that they didn’t have enough food for everyone). But that changed with a missionary coming to the islands… unfortunately for the missionary he ended up as dinner three years later…
After all that information we were brought to a 200 year old banjan trees and we went inside. The inside of the tree had been shelter for some people in the village during hurricane PAM. Amazing…
Then we got some refreshments and the boys danced one dance and then sang two songs and the show was over for us. While waiting for the van to bring us back to the hotel we chatted some more with the guy who had last talked to us and that was interesting as well. He told us that when he went to Sydney for the first time it was a shock for him… I can understand that if you are used to village life in Vanuatu…

After that I waited in the restaurant of the hotel till it was time to get to the airport again where I met Christophe again who is french but lives in New Caledonia. He has a way to chat with everyone and soon we were talking to Ni-Vanuatu women sitting next to him as well who came here to Tanna for a training.

Arriving in Tanna was really sad. The airport is still missing part of it’s roof and from what I could see mostly all trees are gone. Tanna had been hit by PAM much harder than Efate and I knew it would be bad. It is still sad to actually see it though… transport to the hotel was a short ride and once arrived I enjoyed my first sunset… tomorrow morning I am going back under water. 🙂

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Going back to Vila

After another a bit sleepless night I had another cold shower and unfortunately it looks like the moscitos thought I was breakfast. My entire back is full of moscito bites. 🙁 The downside of outdoor-life…. For breakfast sweet Em had even brought coffee for me. I saw the cargo ship come by and it was strange to see that they had the tailboard open and people were sitting on it.

At 10 my transport was supposed to come but the boat (the yellow one on the pictures) was there already and since I was ready anyway we left a bit early. Initially the sea was calm and we even saw a pod of dolphins. The twin-volcanos were clearly visible as well. For the last part we had to go around a corner and the sea was a bit rougher but not really a problem. Once arrived everything was unloaded and a truck came by to load the cargo and me. Again I had tourist class (in the front). At the airport I met Christophe again who had already been on my flight to Ambrym. He had stayed at the bungalows from the guy who was doing the check-in. Since there were only 6 passengers we all started to chat among us and it was fun and interesting. Once the plane was there I went in the front row and checked if the pilots did everything right. 😉 😀 Again we went to Ulai and then Paama. Christophe and I had a chat with the pilots while waiting in Paama and now I know that the more experienced one was Lu and that the runway on Paama is 700m long (but one way traffic). This is something you will never experience in Europe with all the security measures and regulations. On the domestic flights in Vanuatu there are not even security checks (they don’t allow knifes or things that could be used as weapons in the cabin though).

At the airport in Vila Georgette was already waiting for me and I said Goodbye to Christophe till the next day because we had found that we would be on the same flight again on the way to Tanna. Once I was back at the Melanesian hotel I took a WARM shower but the rest of the day went by without anything else that is noteworthy… So here the pics from yesterday. The cutiepie is Andrea again. She as always so serious when she helped her mom cooking and carrying around pots. 🙂

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Ambrym, day 2

Since the truck was going to get us at 8 AM I had to get up early again. Problem was that I hadn’t slept well. First of all the rats kept me awake and then I got a strong headache (probably due to the blazing sun during the boat transfer). I didn’t like the rat-thing but I had known in advance that this was probably going to happen. When I got up I had a cold shower… thing is – if you don’t sleep in a bungalow with rats and no electricity and just cold water you don’t know the real Vanuatu! 😉 What I find fascinating though is that on the smaller islands they often don’t have electricity and mostly not running water either – but nearly everyone has a cell phone. Don’t misunderstand me, I think they really need their mobile phones but it is some kind of contradiction in itself.

When the truck arrived I got tourist class again. I was a bit embarrassed because someone got out to give the seat to me who obviously lost part of one leg. But he told me that he would just wait till the truck returned. I was still embarrassed but that is how the Ni-Vanuatu (locals) are. When we arrived at the Fanlan-village it turned out that Freddy had left a message that we were coming but the message had not been passed on. So the chief hadn’t known we were coming. Since people were out in their gardens planting yams they were not able to get all the guys to dance for me.
After we waited for a while we were finally called over to the ’show place‘ where the ROM-dance was about to take place. This one was much longer than the Olal-one. The costumes were not that different but the sticks they were using to make the music/noise were different. Again I really enjoyed the show. During the show at some point the school had a break since the kids turned up at the ’show place‘. For them the dancers were not the attraction but they were focussed on me. After the show it was once again ‚Posing-time‘ for some more pics. I took pics in the Fanlan-village as well because it is a typical village of the smaller Vanuatu-islands.

Since Freddy somehow couldn’t reach the truck we walked back to the bungalows. It was a steep path and I was really glad that I didn’t have to walk that uphill…
I spent the afternoon relaxing and watching little Andrea (my 3 year old namesake) playing on the beach and schlepping around cooking pans for her mom. Andrea was a little cutie… 🙂 And reminded me of my niece.

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Ambrym, day 1

I had to get up very early to fly out to Ambrym as the flight was at 7 AM. Turned out that it was too early to get any coffee at the hotel and the cafe at the domestic terminal at Port Vila airport is closed until further notice… So no coffee for me but I survived. 😉
The flight started earlier than 7 AM, they probably wait for everyone to be there and then they just go… the plane was a Twin Otter and it was funny because I could see what the pilots were doing. We had to stop at two more airports before arriving at Craigs Cove where I was going. But since you got a boarding pass with an assigned seat that nobody cares about you probably get the picture that the stay at the small airports were short. The ones who needed to get off, got off, some more passengers came in and we were off again. I got off at the first stop but that was where I learned that everyone else just remained seated… On the first pic you see the airport of Paama and on the second one you see the runway of the Ulai-airport. 😀
After about 1 hour we were in Craigs Cove where Ray came to get me. After a short truck ride we arrived at the boat that was to bring me to Ranlon. First we went to the shop though as I wanted to buy water. It was sunday morning, a quarter past 8, the shop was closed but Ray just called the owner and that very friendly couple sold me my water (and other people needed stuff too). Nothing like ’shops are open from 9-5 and closed on sundays… 🙂
The boat ride to Ranlon was a bit long (about 2 hours) and under the blazing sun with no shadow I think I burned my head. Once we arrived at Solomon Douglas Bungalows Freddy and Em were waiting for me and as soon as I was in the shadow I felt better. Em made me a real good lunch but it was way too much to eat it all. And Freddy started to make plans for/with me. I had already booked a ROM-dance for the next day but Freddy told me that there was another village that does it too. So I decided to watch it twice. And in the evening the women were to do some water-music for me.

The truck to go to Olal-village for the ROM-dance arrived at 2:30 (I think) and off we were on roads that are mostly not really roads. You see part of the ‚main road‘ on the 7th pic. I had to hold on tight to the handle. 😉 And I was in tourist-class (meaning next to the driver) while everyone else was in the back – and got wet when it started to rain a bit. Once we arrived at Olal-village the chief made us wait a bit and then we were called to the ’show‘-area. Behind that I think is the ‚taboo-zone‘ where you shouldn’t go unless you are part of the ‚gang‘. And let me tell you a bit about the Rom-dance. The costumes they are wearing on my pics are not the ‚real‘ ones. The real costumes are worn only once during the Rom-festival and afterwards they are burned to the bad spirits can’t stay. Or something like that – I have to look it up. I had seen those costumes on pics and I found them so fascinating that I flew to Ambrym just to see that.
The first dance the Olal-men did was the Lepie-dance, then the Kinkinje-dance and afterwards it was time for the ROM-dance. You will see on the pics that the men have only small palm-leaves on their penisses. They are part of the Small-namba-tribe that uses small palm-leaves to wear (as opposite the Big nambas that us big palm leaves). I had seen small and big namba dances on the island of Malekula two years ago but as opposed to Malekula on Ambrym they never ate humans. So Malekula is really the cannibal-island even if the tribes are the same.
Once the Rom-dance started I was totally fascinated. They costumes is mainly big palm-leaves and they are moving them with the stick they are carrying so this adds more rhythm to the music (they sing and the chief gives the beat). They stamp their feet as well and since the ground was very dry it was a rather dusty dance. And I was in 7th heaven… 🙂
After the dances I had to say my goodbyes (by shaking hands with Chief Sekor and the dancers) and then we were off with the truck again.
Later when it was about to get dark Freddy came to get my from my bungalow and the ladies did a coconut-game first. Then Em did some sand-drawing (you will recognize the turtle that she drew) and afterwards they went in the water to do water-music. I hadn’t known that by moving your arms in the water you can actually get a rhythm and some kind of music out of it. I have a small video of it but I have to see how I can best upload that. Will be after my vacation… So now enjoy the pics…

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Ambrym, second teaser

This morning I went to see another ROM-dance and again I was fascinated by the costumes. Here is a pic of Freddie (he is the owner of the bungalow I am staying in) and the village-chief from Fanlan. Fanlan is the village where I saw today’s dance.

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Long day flying to Ambrym

Today will be only a short entry. I need to save battery, I am tired and I am busy… 😉 So just a teaser for the reports to come. This is why I wanted to come to Ambrym… I already saw the ROM-dance in one village today but will see it again tomorrow in another village. The costumes are what fascinated me so much… img_2600

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Around the island tour Efate

Since I couldn’t dive any more today (my flight is at 7 AM tomorrow morning) I had booked a tour around the island. There is only one street around the island (meaning you can’t just cut short by going in the middle…). I had thought about going with a tour bus but then I wouldn’t have been free with taking pics whenever I wanted and whenever I saw something interesting. And it was a good decision. The tour guide/driver came to get me at 8:30 AM and then we went to Mele beach first. There is a small market and an older woman approached us. I wasn’t sure what she wanted but it turned out that she had been looking at the shirt from the dive-shop that I was wearing… I somehow had not really checked the number of clean shirts that I still had so I had done some washing yesterday evening but they weren’t dry yet. So I had to wear the dive-shirt. And the guides are mostly from Mele-village so the people were curious if I was a Ni-Vanuatu (meaning long-term inhabitant)… 😀 😀 😀 We went up the hill to ‚The summit‘ where I took some of my first ‚Cologne Cathedral‘-pics… The idea for those pics is my sister’s but I really liked it so I instead of a duck this time I have my cathedral with me… After that we continued around the island. You can see the destruction of cyclone PAM everywhere. It was one of the strongest ever in the Pacific and it is very, very sad to see that. In the villages they partly still don’t have new houses yet and those who have them have houses in the sun now whereas in the past they were in the shadow. There are some relicts from WWII there. For lunch we went to the Taka Castom Village. Castom dances are the traditional dances with old songs that the villages all have. They differ from island to island. But first I had the buffet-style lunch with rice, sweet potatoes, chicken/pasta salad, some coconut-milk-pastry and citron-juice. It was really good. Since the other tourists had already seen the castom dance the guys did it again just for me. It was just a 10-minute show though which was OK with me. They had the Welcome-dance, the Bird-dance and a Peace-dance (funny that they do a peace-dance when they try to scare you… 😉 ).
After that we continued around the island and found some really nice, white beaches. The ‚Blue lagoon‘ (big tourist attraction) to me was not really blue though. It was more greenish lagoon… 😉

But let me show you the pics… On this one you still see a boat that has been thrown on the island by PAM (lower right side)
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Behind the cruise ship is the Star of Russia where we went diving yesterday.img_2047 img_2055Monument in Vilaimg_2069 I saw only afterwards that this is dedicated to PAM…img_2089

This market used to be in the shade…img_2092

Mele villageimg_2107

img_2112Shopping Center… 😉

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Ladies restroomimg_2132 Home is where the Dom is… 😉

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Entrance to WWII museum… not sure which things they are showcasing… but the entrance was funny.

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American pool (from WWII)img_2199

Taxiiiiii… (over to the islands)img_2207

Two more WWII-relicts. Not sure what the first one is but the second one is a helicopter landing areaimg_2210 img_2215

Thanks PAM… 🙁img_2221 img_2232 img_2238 img_2242 img_2244 img_2254 img_2262

I was not really sure if I should trust that bridge to hold the car… 😉img_2263 img_2267

Lunch entertainment in Taka villageimg_2272

And the start of the castom dance 🙂img_2279 img_2287 img_2292 img_2298 img_2306 img_2319 img_2322

One of the very old banjan trees… it survived but I assume it lost lots of branches and leaves…img_2332 img_2339 img_2340 img_2342

The not so blue Blue lagoonimg_2358 img_2363 img_2365 img_2382 img_2391

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Last dive day on Efate

Today I did two more dives on Efate. The first one was on a wreck called the Star of Russia. It is 80 m long and 13 metres wide and in it’s days it was a sail-boat with the 3 masts. It was built in 1874 and sunk in Port Vila around 1953. A lot of parts have disappeared over the years so that it is becoming a skeleton. 😉 Unfortunately the visibility was really bad and since the ship is in around 35 metres there was not a lot of light. So the pics are not the best ones. We did the second dive on a reef again and from the pics you can see that it was actually a very nice dive… healthy corals – which is good of course. Other than that I don’t have a lot to report…

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Better diving today

Today I did three dives and they were much nicer than the ones yesterday. We went to dive-sites that had not been totally destroyed by cyclone PAM last year. It was good to see corals that are actually alive and kicking. We started in some kind of cave and afterwards the visbility was incredible. I tried to catch that in one of the pics with the divers. Unfortunately a lot of stuff was swimming in the water so there is lots of backscatters on the pics (the whitish spots). Two of my three co-divers today were… german. 😀 Didn’t really expect that. But they live in New Zealand.

After lunch break we did the third dive and there at the end Luaki showed us the remains of a canon from WWII. Aaaaand at the beginning of the second dive I found an IDIOMYSIS (it is the pic with a little yellow spot 😉 ). Love these little creatures… unfortunately it disappeared when I wanted to show it to Luaki.

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First dives…

Let me start with telling you about dinner yesterday… the restaurant is to the left and the right of the pool. When I went downstairs yesterday I found that on the right where they seated me we were four single women and one guy and the ‚more than one‘-tables were on the other side. What did strike me as quite funny was that all women had the same position of chair at the table of four while the only single guy had the position at the opposite side of his table. No idea why all the women somehow chose the same seat at their table… 😉 My order seemed to have been difficult as I said a Rib eye steak with potatoes and pumpkin and a mushroom sauce. What she wrote down was Tenderloin, potatoes and pumpkin and pepper sauce… Yeah, I know it is not easy to remember three things that someone just said… I caught the pepper sauce on time to get the mushroom sauce but I hadn’t heard the tenderloin. But I have to say that the meat from the happy Vanuatu-cows was REALLY GOOD!

OK, let’s start with today… I stayed awake a bit longer yesterday evening but I woke up at 3 AM again anyway and wasn’t able to get back to sleep. So I wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to do three dives when I am tired to the bone. And actually I did only two as I felt slightly nauseous after the second dive. So this afternoon it is relax… At breakfast Rosalyn came to my table to chat with me. She works here at the hotel and is one of the real friendly staff. She told me that she is from Tanna which is the island I will be for more than half of my time in Vanuatu.

The first dive was at angkor reef, only I didn’t see the angkor. 😉 Lu showed it to me but usually I so focused on small stuff that I don’t see the bigger ones. 😀 Diving there made me a bit sad because the impact of the cyclones was quite visible. Lots of destroyed coral. What a waste… but that is nature. On the surface break we went a bit closer towards the coastline and again the impact of PAM is quite visible. So many dead trees… 🙁 The second dive was better, that dive site seems to have been hit a bit less by the cyclones. Towards the end of the dive I started to feel a bit sick so I went ack to the hotel after the second dive. Now I am going to sleep a bit and tonight is BBQ with entertainment at the restaurant… Enjoy the pics… 🙂

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