09 October 2010 | Uraparapara
This is Benoit writing. I was trying to get a lift to Asia from where I’ll ride my bicycle back to France when Bubbles picked me up in Vanuatu. Nice to meet you guys!
On our way up to the Solomon, we stopped in 2 other islands of the bankes archipelago: Vanu Lava and Uriparapara.
We first moored into a remote bay. There is not much there: a twin waterfall flows into the sea. 3 families are living there, leaded my chief Jimmy, and 3 more families leaves a little further with their own chief, Nixon. We’ve been litteraly adopted by chief Jimmy calling us his sons, introducing us to our brothers and sisters and only allowing us to call him ‘Papa’. We spent our first afternoon digging up some Kava, cleaning and grinding it. And at night, we shared it listening to some amazing custom stories. What a peaceful night. The next morning, we decided to go for a dive. The reef here is very small, but full of tunnels. Alex and Isaac went first. I went second, on my own. I didn’t dive for 4 years, and never alone…OK, I remember: keep cool and breath, that’s easy. 3o feet of water above my head, I get into one tunnel. Scary! 30 minutes later, I’m back on board. I still have visions of colored fishes passing by, deep dark caves and underwater loneliness. NUMBAONE! While Alex and Isaac are hiking, I’m sharing more stories with my local family. When they came back, we went for a swim in the waterfalls’ small lake, standing up in between or behind the powerful curtains of water. I even had the opportunity to jam with local girls, but water music is not that easy, it’s an art! While Isaac and I were enjoying Kava, Alex went on a night dive with chief Nixon to bring back some unknown weird lobsters. It looked really archaic to us but when local people said it was better than lobsters, we had to experienced that. Lobster on one side, weird one on the other side: we all agreed, old school is the best!
It’s time to sail now. Chief Jimmy and son are on board, we’ll drop them of after the waterfall, the next baie. As we are passing by some caves, Jimmy tells us a legend. “Once upon a time, a child had stolen his uncle’s nuts and hide into a cave to open them. He had been punished, stuck inside the dak hole for ever by falling stones.” So Alex and I took the dinghi and went as far in until we faced that wall. The outside light was no more bigger than a fist; in the gloom, we it looked like a child song coming for us… Back on Bubbles, the dolphins joined us to drop of Jimmy and kept on playing while we started to sail toward Uriparara.
I wondered how this island would like. When you look at the sea charts, you can see that’s just a volcano. But you’ve got one way into the crater, and there you moore! And there we moored. We are in the crater, indeed. We are surrended by steep sharpened mountains covered up with thick jungle except one river like way out to the open sea. Today is public holiday. 8am church. 9am, children singing while raising up the national flag. Then, time or chilling, making new friends, always. 3pm, custom dances. I had never seen music be played like that before: the are just beating up some wood sticks on a wood covered hole. Here comes the drum kick. and they are playing some bamboos to get the drum snare! Kids, Isaac and old fellow Selwyn are dancing crazy on it ! Then starts the string band with chief Nicholson for leader. Now the wall community is here, laughing and dancing together. Then Isaac starts wild crazy Alaska’s dances, followed by the old man and I. Then it turns out into a dancing show. Isaac starts some hip hop like spinning moves and everybody likes it. Soon the young man are learning. Music and fun keeps on going late that night, ending up with Kava and new stories. Next morning, Isaac and Alex went hiking to the spine to get amazing point of views. But they got stuck in the thick jungle. “Impossible to climb here”, says the guide. And up the went, Tarzan like climbing to the spine. For myself, I had a quiet day, learning more about local customs and drawing watercolors. Last canoe rides with the kids, and the sails are flying high again, toward the Solomon islands this time!
When I first got in Vanuatu, I read: “Many call it paradise, we call it home”. Now leaving, this comes to my mind: “Here is the paradise. It’s damn hard to leave: people here make me feel at home.”