Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A trip to the North...

Unlike in Europe, a trip to the North here implies it's gonna get muuuch hotter. The heat and humidity here are something I was just not prepared for :D
So we hopped on the plane. And off we went. Past the island of Malakula, stopover at Santo to refuel and grab something to eat (no foods & beverage service on the plane...), and off we went again. We would stop at Gaua, Sola and finally Motalava, where we would get off. One of the ideas we had was to stop at Gaua. Daniela, an anthropologist we met in Vila and that came with us, had the dream of climbing the Gaua volcano and waterfall. It so happens that the volcano was very active and it was deemed very dangerous to undertake that project. So we jut flew past the volcano (there is a very bad picture, we have a better one on the way back, when we flew straight over). We actually landed in Gaua, but just to pick up a couple of people and then move along.
Ok, landing in Motalava, we had to wait a couple of hours at the local "restaurant" for the truck to arrive, we met some very nice people, and some Rah islanders came to receive us and bring us to their island.

Rah Island is almost fully connected to Motalava (which they refer to as "mainland"). On low tides one can walk along the reef, on high tides, one must take the "taxi" or canoe, which costs around 10 cento (Euro) or 1 SEK. You can see our transport service coming to get us and Rah island on the other side. When they took our bags on one of the canoes, I just remember thinking: "goodbay camera, books and bags...."
Truth is we were received as royalty. We got a huge reception, almost the whole island was there. There was food, flower necklaces and even an arch made of flowers that we had to walk under. You can see Daniela, Jeanette and the arch behind them.
Although I learned not to question gifts and generosity, it felt kind of too much. As if there was something we were not aware of. Chief Frank's kind speech helped to clear that out. Long story short, and to give you some background, two days before we arrived, TVL (one of the two mobile networks in Vanuatu) installed a tower in Motalava. We read about this on the newspaper, just as we were about to embark on the plane. Landing in Motalava we actually met the TVL crew, who were making their way back home.
Now back to Rah and chief Frank. There seemed to be some problem in the communication prior to our arrival. At some point in his speech, Chief Frank said something along the lines of: "Today our guests will rest, and tomorrow Pedro can give us a Digicell [the other mobile network] awareness speech and tell us about his plans for building up the new tower"! Ok, it was clear now why there was all this fuss... first instinct, I am ashamed to say was to "play along", since we felt kind of nervous about breaking the truth to them. But it took only a couple of minutes till we began feeling bad, so we started explaining to them, and subsequently disappointing them a little bit. But it was all good and we were very very warmly hosted, throughout the whole time.
They quickly prepared a bungalow for us, which was really comfortable, as you can see by the pictures.
The bungalow site, quickly became the main hangout spot for all the pikinini (children).

We ate some nice aelan kakae (island food),
drank kava, and stori (talked) a little bit by the beach in front of the bungalow.
Then we rested, after what was a pretty long day... this is the view from the bungalow on a low tide... you can walk to those rocks. On high tide it's a pretty long swim. Behind you can see the island of Vanua Lava, which we went to after one week.
More to come, either tonight, or tomorrow, since it takes ages to upload all these pictures... and my laptop likes to crash every now and then as well... just for the sake of it!

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